How to Rent a Traditional

How to Rent a Traditional ‘Hanbok’ for a Day in Seoul, South Korea

If there is one activity in Seoul of South Korea that you absolutely must NOT miss, it is to try on the elegant Korean traditional clothing called as ‘hanbok’!

TRIVIAThe term ‘hanbok’ literally means “Korean clothing” but it just basically refers to the traditional clothing for both men and women from the Joseon period that was typically worn as semi-formal or formal wear during traditional festivals and celebrations. Wonmen’s hanbok typically consists of a jeogori (blouse shirt or jacket) and chima (wrap-around puffy skirt); whereas men’s hanbok also comprises of a jeogori but paired with loose-fitting baji (trousers) instead.

Much like how Japan has kimono rental shops, South Korea has tons of hanbok rental shops for tourists — and as the name suggests, you can borrow and wear a hanbok for a day (or more) through these places whilst you venture out to the cultural centers in Seoul to make unique memories and snap wonderful photos.

In fact, my own hanbok rental escapade was one of the most amazing things that I did in the city, and I’m sure it will be the same for you! Besides, aside from the fact that you can have the chance to feel as though you’ve been transported back to the Joseon period or to a set of an old K-drama, the experience itself is even supported by the Koreans as a part of promoting their history — so yes, it’s one way of immersing yourself with their vibrant culture too! And if these reasons are not enough, wearing a hanbok grants you FREE entry to the palaces in Seoul too (to be discussed later on in this post).
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How to Rent a Hanbok for a Day in Seoul

» Where to rent a hanbok?

Naturally, there are a LOT of hanbok rental shops in Seoul — however, if you want the best, I highly recommend renting with Seohwa Hanbok. Apart from its prime location, it has more intricately-designed hanbok garments that are set at an affordable price! To illustrate:

Hanbok Rental.

Other Hanbok Types from Seohwa

Seohwa Hanbok

What’s more is that a matching tote bag and several hair accessories were already included in Seohwa Hanbok’s base price. Also, it’s close proximity to the Gyeongbokgung Palace was a big plus for me!

SEOHWA HANBOK
Where to book: KKday
Hours: 9:00AM to 7:00PM daily (6:00PM last hanbok rental order)
Telephone: 03-6886-4256
Google Maps: B1, 11 Jeokseon-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
(Near the train station [link] or you can also see this illustrated map of directions)

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» The cost and duration of the hanbok rental

As you would see on the online booking platform, Seohwa Hanbok has 3 rental options:

  • 6 hours: ₩17,900~
    • This 6-hour package is only applicable when you book with KKday, otherwise the shop will only offer 4-hour package if you do NOT book directly with KKday.
  • 1 day: ₩27,900~
  • 2 days: ₩37,800~
  • Additional hours: ₩5,000 per hour

CONVERSION: $1 = ₩1,070~ = Php 52~
(As of May 2018).

The fees above already includes:

  • Complete hanbok ensemble (inner and outer clothing, for men and women [Small to XL sizes] and children [Extra small to XXL sizes])
  • Staff help to assist you in putting up your hanbok (they can speak both English and Chinese)
  • Tote bag for packing your valuables
  • Locker bag (for storing your other bulky items in the store)
  • FREE access to mini salon area complete with elaborate hair ornaments (daenggi, headband, etc.) and hair styling accessories (iron, pins, etc.)

Between the 6 hours and 1 day package, I suggest getting the 6-hour rental because there isn’t much of a difference from the 1-day pack (where you need to return the hanbok at the closing time of 7PM) . After all, the shop is generous enough in adjusting the start time of your rental if, let’s say, you took a while choosing your hanbok attire.

Example: You’ve set an appointment at 9:30AM but you only finished fitting your hanbok and arranging your hair at 10:30AM. Seohwa Hanbok will then be kind enough to re-adjust and make your start time at 10:30AM and end time at 4:30PM. This leaves you with enough time to explore some other places in the day.

BUT please, do NOT be late, or else there will be an added penalty of ₩10,000 for every hour that you’re late. Besides, if you arrive early, you’ll have more hanbok designs to choose from and there won’t be too much of a crowd yet either.

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» How to book your reservation

It’s simple and easy! Just go to KKday to place your hanbok rental request. To date, they have several time slots available (since dressing up in a hanbok can take some time), namely:

  • 9:30AM
  • 10:00AM
  • 10:30AM
  • 11:00AM
  • 11:30AM
  • 12:00PM
  • 12:30PM
  • 1:00PM
  • 1:30PM
  • 2:00PM
  • 2:30PM
  • 3:00PM
  • 3:30PM
  • 4:00PM

Once you’re done paying for the booking on KKday, you will receive your e-voucher within 48 hours. You just need to print this and show it to Seohwa Hanbok on your scheduled hanbok rental date and time.
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» My experience and tips

The staff at Seohwa Hanbok were friendly and patient, and the overall process from “check-in” to “check-out” was seamless. Here are some tips to take note of…

  • Date of hanbok rental: Most palaces and city highlights are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so it’s best that you do your rental on days between Wednesday to Sunday.
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  • Arrival: It’s best to come as early as 9:00AM so that you have ‘first dibs’ on the array of choices for picking out your hanbok rental. Take note that it starts to get crowded by 9:30AM.
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  • Choosing a hanbok: Surely, you’re free to pick out the color-pairing and design that you like, but for the best classic look, I recommend a light-colored top (white or light yellow) paired with a brightly-colored skirt. Through this way, you will not only appear slimmer but you’ll have vibrant photos too! Meanwhile, take note that you will have 2 fitting chances (where a staff will be assisting you) and if you want more than 2 fittings, there’s a charge of ₩2,000 per fitting; but don’t worry, in case the hanbok is not your size, you’ll be given an additional fitting chance.
    • Take note that shoes are not provided; but they won’t be seen anyway since a hanbok typically goes over your shoes. So for footwear, I suggest wearing your most comfortable shoes because you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking as you enjoy Seoul with your hanbok rental.
    • Take one of Seohwa Hanbok’s free tote bags and put inside your valuables (e.g. camera, money, etc.) and then leave your bulkier stuff with the store as they will keep it for you.
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  • Hair & makeup: You will need to do your own hair and makeup — rest assured, Seohwa Hanbok has an amazing salon complete with hair accessories and gear (nevertheless, it’s advisable to do your hair before arriving at the store in order to save time). For hairstyle suggestions:
    • Try doing a braid and then tie a daenggi on the end of the braid like this. (A daenggi is a traditional Korean ribbon made of cloth to tie and decorate braided hair). If you want a more elaborate braid, try doing a saeang-meori or jjok-jin-meori.
    • You can also do a stylish bun by following the instructions in this video and then wearing a headband provided in-store (or not, it’s your choice).
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  • Deposit: Typical of any hanbok rental is to leave your passport and a cash deposit of ₩50,000 to the shop (which will be given back to you after your rental period). If you’re with other people, only 1 ID/passport will be asked.
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  • Hanbok rental return: Make full use of the time allotted to you (if you return earlier than your end time, don’t expect an appropriated refund). Additionally, always remember to take good care of your hanbok rental because if they see any damage or visible filth, you will then have to pay a cleaning fee

Seohwa Hanbok.

Hanbok Itinerary Guide

If you’re at a loss on where to go during your hanbok rental duration, I highly recommend doing the following route:

  • Visit one (1) of the ‘Five Grand Palaces’: The following 5 structures are considered as exemplary works from the old Joseon period and each of these magnificent palaces is truly a sight to be seen. However, if you ask me, Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung are the best of the five — so, you can choose from either of these two for your visit, or if you are fast and can squeeze in some time, then doing both will be optimal.
    • ★ Gyeongbokgung: This is the closest palace from Seohwa Hanbok (it’s just a few steps away) and if you can only go to one palace during your Seoul trip, I propose going here because it is the main royal palace and also the largest of the 5 (even often called as the most beautiful too).
      • The Changing of the Royal Guard (Sumunjang) ceremony is held for FREE daily, except Tuesdays, at 10:00AM and 2:00PM in front of Gwanghwamun or the main gate of Gyeongbokgung. If you can’t make it to these time slots, you can also witness a Guard-on-Duty Performance in Gwanghwamun gate at 11:00AM and 1:00PM or a Sumungun (Gatekeeper) Military Training in Hyeopsaengmun Gate at 09:35AM and 1:35PM.
      • If you’ve got time, you can check out the huge golden King Sejong Statue at the nearby Gwanghwamun Square. (King Sejong is best remembered as the inventor of ‘Hangeul’ or the Korean alphabet.)
    • ★ Changdeokgung: This was the 2nd palace that was built after Gyeongbokgung and it has since been recognized as a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO in 1997. An interesting feature of this place is its ‘Secret Garden’ because there are only a limited number of admission slots per day that are given out. If you’re lucky, you can get the chance to go in if you want to!
    • Deoksugung: This palace is famous for its picturesque stone-walled road (which is often featured in K-dramas like Goblin). And much like Gyeongbokgung, Deoksugung Palace has a Changing of the Royal Guards Ceremony and it is held at 11:00AM, 2:00PM, and 3:30PM daily, except on Mondays.
    • Changgyeonggung: This used to be the residential quarters for queens and concubines of the king, and it later became a park with a zoo and a botanical garden during the Japanese colonial rule (today though, the zoo and garden are relocated to Seoul Land).
    • Gyeonghuigung: Located near Deoksugung Palace, this site served as the secondary palace for the king in the latter half of the Joseon period. For a time, Gyeonghuigung was of a considerable size but most of its major structures have long been disassembled and moved to other parts of Seoul.
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  • Visit Bukchon Hanok Village: (Nearest subway station: Anguk Station, Exit #2)
    Not too far away from Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung palaces is this village that is home to hundreds of traditional Korean houses or ‘hanok’ that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. With this in mind, this makes for a great place to visit with your hanbok attire.

    • To get here, look for the Bukchon-ro street. It will be hard to miss because the tourism board had recently appointed staff there in red clothing to help tourists and distribute maps. Basically, there are 8 major view points to see in Bukchon Hanok Village and those that you must NOT miss are the Gaehoe-dong areas that are typically appointed as Views #3 to #7. If you’re coming with elderly companions, take note that there are a bit of uphill climbs in this area.
    • Unlike other hanok villages (like Namsangol Hanok Village), Bukchon was not built for tourists as it is rather a residential village inhabited by Seoulites. Therefore, make sure to keep quiet so as not to disturb the locals.
    • As you leave Bukchon, drop by the nearby neighborhood of Ikseon-dong. Much like Bukchon, it’s one of the oldest hanok villages in Seoul; but in case you want to escape the crowds, it would be a great idea to explore this hidden gem!
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  • Drop by Insa-dong: (Nearest subway station: Anguk Station, Exit #6)
    As you make your way to the last stop of this route, you must not skip on the neigborhood of Insa-dong in the Jongno-gu district of Seoul. After all, its streets are one of the best places in Seoul when it comes to culture and crafts (perfect for souvenirs!). If I may also share another tip, try to stop by Ssamziegil which is a unique building wherein each of its levels are connected in the form of a spiraling walkway!
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  • Lunch: You can either have it at Bukchon Hanok Village or at Insa-dong. There are a lot of cafes and restaurants in these areas so you won’t have a difficult time picking a place; though if I may put in my two cents, do check out Jokagbo at Bukchon (across the street near the entrance to the village) or Gogung at Insa-dong for their bibimbap (mixed rice bowl).
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  • Visit Namsangol Hanok Village:  (Nearest subway station: Chungmuro Station, Exit #3)
    Located at the foot of Namsan, this village was built to feature 5 traditional houses of different social classes from the Joseon era, all relocated to this spot from different locations in Seoul in order for guests to understand the daily lives of its past people. Of all these 5 houses or hanok, only one is open to the public which is the house of Yoon-ssi of Okin-dong. It has been transformed into ‘Yoon’s Tearoom’ where visitors can learn about Korea’s tea culture. If you’re interested, you could join the tea ceremony program for only ₩7,000. (For a list of other activities in this village, see this link).
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» READ: For a detailed Seoul itinerary guide, read here.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Hanbok SpringGyeongbokgung Palace from Shutterstock.com

◘◘ Can males do a hanbok rental too?
Yes of course! Even children can rent it too.

◘◘ Is it possible to just try on a hanbok for FREE?
Yes. If you hold a Discover Seoul Pass, you can wear a hanbok of your choice outdoors for 90 minutes via HANBOKNAM, or take photos with a hanbok in the indoor studio of Namsan Seoul Tower Hanbok Experience Center. However, if you do not have a Discover Seoul Pass, Korea Tourism Office’s Main HQ allows you to wear simple hanbok and take shots of yourself in it indoors.

Is there a service where I can just rent a hanbok indoors and have a professional photographer take photos of me?
Of course! You can book this kind of experience via KKday for just ₩15,000~ (or USD$14~ / Php 730~). It even has the option of doing outdoor shots.

◘◘ Is it cultural appropriation to wear a hanbok in South Korea as a foreigner?
Not at all. Koreans never refer to it as cultural appropriation because they deem it more as cultural ‘appreciation’. Besides, they like it a lot when other nationalities take an interest in their culture, customs, and clothing — which is much like Japan’s attitude towards foreigners renting their kimono.

◘◘ Is it possible to rent even on a rainy or snowy day?
Absolutely! Seohwa Hanbok will just make sure that you wear a hanbok that won’t drag along the ground — yet of course, just be careful as you might slip on the snow or get stained by mud.

◘◘ After changing into my hanbok, can I leave my stuff at the rental shop?
Yes, you can leave your stuff in the rental shop, but make sure you bring your valuables with you by putting them in the matching tote bag that they will be providing.

◘◘ Is there anything that I should bring to the rental shop?
No, you do not need to bring anything since all of the items that you will need are already available and provided for in the rental shop. In summer, the shop suggests wearing thin underwear such as a tank top because of the heat, and in winter they recommend that you wear thin thermal clothing such as heat-tech shirts, which have excellent heat retention as well as leggings to keep you warm.

◘◘ Can I take my time choosing a hanbok?
Sure thing! But try not to spend too much time or else you won’t have enough time to go around Seoul.
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» PRE-TRAVEL GUIDE

When is the best time to visit Seoul in South Korea?
I suggest coming during autumn, but of course, if you want to witness cherry blossom season then spring is a considerable option too.

  • Spring: (March to May) The city becomes a hit what with all the flora that start to bloom and bud. And of course, much like Japan, the city has cherry blossoms which tourists often seek. Given this demand, there tends to be a slight increase in costs, but the weather and season is quite desirable.
  • Summer: (June to August) This is arguably the peak season in the city so things get busier and costlier. It doesn’t help either that this is the vacation month of schools and Korean companies so everyone is out and about. That’s why if I were you, you should avoid these months — also because the weather can get quite humid with occassional downpours.
  • Autumn: (September to November) This is the best time to visit Seoul because weather is pleasant, prices are more affordable, and crowds are thinner. However, do take note to avoid Chuseok or Korea’s autumn harvest festival.
  • Winter: (December to February) As the temperatures drop, prices and airfare also drop. Take note though that it can get very chilly; but, supposing you’re not that sensitive to the cold, this can be a fun time given all the amazing ski resorts and festive atmosphere.

ADDITIONAL TIP: Arrive and start your Seoul itinerary before the weekend. Example, if you’re visiting for 5 nights, make sure to come from Wednesday to Sunday. I say this because most places, museums, and shops close on Mondays and Tuesdays. Moreover, a lot of cosmetic stores hold sales starting on Thursdays and up to the weekend.

Where to get the best flight deals to Seoul?
International visitors typically arrive at the main airport called as Incheon International Airport (ICN). To get here, I recommend browsing through Skyscanner to find the best flight deals from your point of origin. If you’re from the Philippines like me, Skyscanner also scans through the budget airlines such as Air Asia and Cebu Pacific in order to find which of the 2 has the cheapest rate on the dates you choose.

Where to best stay (for accommodations)?
To search for the best hotel accommodation in Seoul at the best prices, I suggest checking out Agoda and Booking.com. But if you’re rather interested in renting comfortable houses or apartments, check AirBnB.

As for ‘where’, these are the top 5 districts in the city: Myeongdong (best for shopping), Hongdae (best for a hip youthful scene), Insa-dong or Jongno (best for culture), Gangnam (best for luxury shopping), and Itaewon (best for nightlife).

If you want particular hotel names per district, I prescribe that you read my ‘Best Hotels in Seoul article.

Helpful Korean phrases
Hello (formal): Annyeong haseyo
Hello (informal): Annyeong
Thank you: Gamsahamnida
You’re welcome: Cheonmanyeyo
Yes: Ye/Ne
No: Aniyo
Goodbye (to person leaving): Annyeonghi gaseyo
Goodbye (to person staying): Annyeonghi gyeseyo
Goodbye (informal): Annyeong
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Excuse me (getting attention): Sillyehamnida
I’m sorry: Joesonghamnida
Is there someone here who speaks English?: Yeogi-e yeong-eoreul hasineun bun gyesimnikka?
Help!: Dowajusipsio!
Cheers!: Geonbae!

Do you need to apply for a Korea Tourist Visa?
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Overall

Hanbok

If you’re looking for a unique activity that will totally immerse you in a South Korean travel experience, renting a hanbok and strolling around in it for a day is something that you should NOT miss!

After all, it makes for a wonderful memory and a great opportunity to take amazing pictures. Enjoy!

RENT A HANBOK WITH KKDAY

How about you?

  • What do you think of doing a hanbok rental?
  • Would you like to try it out too? Why or why not?
  • Or have you rented a hanbok before? How was it?

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4 comments

  1. They are so stunning! I still very much enjoyed reading about it and living vicariously through this article! I also loved reading and learning a bit of Korean phrases!

    Reply
    1. I'm happy to hear that!

      Reply
  2. What is completely amazing about reading this article is I never would have thought of this! I am not a world traveler but this would be so amazing.

    Reply
    1. I hope you get to try this though! :D

      Reply

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