Hanbok Experience: Renting Traditional Hanbok in Seoul
This post is shamefully late, but not one that I could give up. Renting hanbok and wandering the old palaces in central Seoul is probably my most favourite tourist pastime here in Korea, and luckily for me it’s easy and affordable.
Renting hanbok to explore Seoul’s palaces
Back in May when Barbara was visiting from the UK, my friends and I got together and went for a ramble round Gyeongbokgung in some beautiful hanbok outfits to see the palace (and take pictures, naturally). We hired our hanbok from ABC Hanbok which is conveniently located on the corner of the street to the right of the main palace gate, just over the road from the right side entrance to the palace grounds.
The beautiful Barbara
Choose, change, and go!
I’ve hired from ABC Hanbok twice now, and had a good experience both times. On entry, you select your 치마 (chima – skirt) and 저고리 (jeogori – traditional jacket). The women working there can help you match them, and will point you in the right direction when choosing a skirt as the options vary depending on your height. There are both basic and deluxe hanbok, with the basic being a little simpler and the deluxe featuring embroidery, embellishment and lace. After choosing, women are directed behind a curtain into the communal female changing area where the shop staff will help you get into your hanbok (men are allocated a space on the shop floor as they do not need to undress completely to wear their outfit), and once you’re done you can choose some accessories for your hair.
Getting snap happy!
Wandering the grounds of Gyeongbokgung is quite magical while wearing hanbok. There are lots of other people also sporting the traditional garb, both Korean and foreign alike, so you don’t stick out like a sore thumb (well, at least not too much). My friends and I had a lot of fun taking all sorts of pretty and silly photos, and our rental time was up before we knew it.
So. Much. K-Drama.
Let’s talk money.
Renting hanbok doesn’t have to be expensive. At ABC Hanbok we paid 15,000W for 2 hours and 30 minutes wearing basic hanbok, but they have many different time options ranging from 1h30 for 10,000W to 1 day for 40,000W. The extra hair accessories cost 1,000W each, but they’re included in the rental price if you go for the deluxe outfits. An added benefit of wearing hanbok to explore the palaces is that you can enter for free! All you have to do is go to the ticket office and get a free entry ticket and you’re good to go.
My top tips!
Underwear – Ladies: if you’re going in the winter time, wear a light-coloured long-sleeved top, or if you’re renting in the summer, either wear a light-coloured, plain bra or a light vest top. Besides looking better under your jeogori, you also have to strip down halfway in the changing room, and the shop staff will get a little up close and personal! So, if you’re a little uncomfortable with that you might want to be a little more covered up.
Weather – You will get hot in your hanbok, but the sleeves don’t tend to offer much in the way of thermal assistance. Winter wanderers, both male and female, may want to wear thermals under their outfits. Whereas, summer Seoul-goers might want to forgo unnecessary layers!
Luggage – For ease of carrying things, wear a pair of shorts or trousers underneath your hanbok so that you don’t have to carry round a bulky bag. You didn’t see the Joseon era women sporting Karrimor rucksacks! Another idea is to wear a bum bag (that’s a fanny pack, for you American-English speakers!) that you can stick your phone, money and locker key in. This will fit comfortably and invisibly under your chima – those things are pretty roomy!
Accessories – If you’re going for the photos (and who isn’t going to snap a few pictures while wearing such beautiful clothes?), make sure you plan the rest of your outfit ahead. If you want to go with the theme, make sure you’re wearing some pretty shoes or sandals. However, if you want to be a little ‘edgy’, stick your converse on and wear your sunglasses for optimum ‘cool’ (I’m cringing at myself too, I promise). In the same vein, do your hair before you get to the shop – your rental time begins once you’re wearing your hanbok so you don’t want to waste precious minutes sorting your barnet out! There are lots of pictures on Oneday Hanbok’s Instagram that can help you figure out how to wear your hair in the common style.
Camera – DON’T do what I did on my first outing in hanbok, which was (unknowingly) take a camera with a dead battery out and leave the spare batteries in the locker at the rental shop. I carried my bulky DSLR round the palace for 2 hours and couldn’t even take any photos! Check that your camera is fully charged and you have space to take an obscene amount of snaps – it’s inevitable!