Renting & Wearing a Hanbok in Seoul, South Korea
Wearing a hanbok while walking the historic streets of Seoul seems to be the quintessential thing to do when visiting South Korea. And as I have personally done that myself, I must say that it’s a fun way to embrace Korean culture and get stunning pictures to make your trip more memorable.
There are various places where you can rent and wear a hanbok in Seoul, including places where you can wear it for free!
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What is a Hanbok?
The design of the hanbok was influenced by the geography and climate of Korea, and has been handed down through the generations to present times.
For example, the roomy design of both the chima skirt and the baji pants is meant to make the clothing ideal for sitting on the floor, as most traditional Korean homes are completely devoid of chairs.
In the past, the hanbok used to be worn as a daily outfit, but nowadays, it is reserved for formal or semi-formal occasions such as festivals, weddings, and special ceremonies.
In 1996, the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism established “Hanbok Day” as a way to encourage its citizens and visitors to wear the beautiful costume with pride.
Best Time to Rent a Hanbok in Seoul, Korea
Renting a hanbok in Seoul is available all year long, but in my opinion, the colder months would be ideal. I’ve never visited South Korea in summer, but I assume the hot weather would make it rather uncomfortable to wear the hanbok when walking on the streets.
I visited Seoul in the middle of winter and while the temperatures went as low as -18 degrees Celsius during the day, it was nice and warm inside the hanbok. Besides, the dress will be layered on top of whatever you’re wearing underneath.
If you’re planning to take hanbok photos at one of the palaces, do check the opening time. Four of the five grand palaces in Seoul are closed on Mondays, while the other one (Gyeongbokgung Palace) is closed on Tuesdays.
How to Rent a Hanbok in Seoul, Korea?
There are many hanbok rental shops scattered around the city, mostly near the palaces and other touristy areas. It’s important to know that the quality and choices of hanboks, accessories, and services may vary from one store to another.
For example, some shops may offer free hairdressing service with each hanbok rental, whereas some may charge it separately.
For women, the accessories you can rent include sun umbrellas, hand fans, small purses to match your dress, and hair ornaments. And as for men, the typical accessories that are available for rent are hats. Men’s jackets have various lengths — from the normal waist-length to long ones that go down all the way to the ankles.
You’re free to enter a few shops and browse until you find a hanbok that you like. Mine was an off-white jacket and a pink skirt with gold embroidery (it was actually more like a tube dress than a skirt). The jacket was either made for children or I was just too big for it, as it barely covered my chest.
I opted to have no accessory or hairdressing, because I like my hair down. And because as usual, I was penny-pinching.
If you really can’t decide on which hanbok to choose (they’re all so beautiful, it’s hard to make a decision), you can ask the sales assistant to help pick the right one for you. The staff are mostly very friendly and eager to help.
Once you have chosen your hanbok, they will help you put it on. Next, all you have to do is leave your passport with them as a deposit and you’re free to go and explore for the duration of your rental.
Bear in mind that you will be asked to pay extra if you damage the hanbok or return it late.
Booking Your Hanbok Online
For a hassle-free hanbok rental process, you also have the option to book online. Klook has several affordable packages to offer. The great thing about booking online is that you get to skip the queue, ensure the best prices, and read previous customers’ feedback.
Some of these packages even include photography service by professional photographers, which is perfect if you’re a solo traveler and want to take lots of photos without having to ask random strangers for help.
If you have never heard of Klook before, click here to read my review and get a discount code for your first booking.
How Much is It to Rent a Hanbok in Seoul, Korea?
The price for hanbok rental will vary depending on which area you go, the type of dress you choose, and what services or accessories are included.
Rental shops in touristy areas will typically be more expensive than those in less touristy ones. By the same token, an intricate lace dress will definitely be more expensive than a plain traditional one.
If you go to the many rental shops near the palaces, expect to pay around KRW 17,000 (USD 15) for 3 to 4 hours or around KRW 25,000 (USD 22) for a one-day hanbok rental inclusive of accessories, locker service for your backpack and jacket, a tote bag to put your valuables in, hair-styling service, and staff to help you get dressed.
If all you want is a hanbok without all the extras, try looking for a shop that charge these separately so that you get to pay cheaper for just the hanbok.
Compare the prices on Klook to get a better idea:
Best Places for Hanbok Photos in Seoul, Korea
The Grand Palaces
There are five Grand Palaces in Seoul, namely the Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Gyeonghuigung, Deoksugung). They’re all located close to each other, so you can visit them all in one day if you like. But since they’re pretty much similar in architecture, visiting one or two would suffice. The good news is they’re free to enter if you’re wearing a hanbok!
At each palace, there are many hidden nooks and crannies where you can take photos without people in the background. Hanbok rental shops are available on the streets surrounding the palaces.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Situated right between the Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung palaces is the Bukchon Hanok Village, another popular spot for hanbok photos. Similar to the palaces, the village also has a lot of hanbok rental shops.
Pretend you’re a princess in a bygone era as you walk through the historic streets with traditional wooden houses and shops. As the village is quite a huge area, you’ll never run out of spots to use as your backdrops. Just remember that there are people living in those houses, so please be respectful.
Other than Bukchon, there are two more traditional villages in Seoul: Namsangol and Jeonju.
N Seoul (Namsan) Tower
This 236-metre tall building is also a good place for hanbok photo shoots with the spectacular aerial views of the city in the background. Additionally, there are also love locks decorating the viewing deck, making it a great backdrop for a romantic photo shoot with your partner.
If for some reason, you only want to have a hanbok photo shoot indoors, there are a few hanbok studios around Seoul that offer this service. You get everything that you could get from the normal rental shops, plus a photographer.
The only downside is that you can’t take the dress outside, but it’s perfect if you don’t want the hassle of walking around in a hanbok, especially if the weather is unfavorable.
Where to Try a Hanbok for Free in Seoul, Korea
Renting a hanbok comes with several advantages, such as the extra accessories and services, being able to wear it outside, and the longer rental period. However, if you’re short of time or budget, there are a few places where you can try a hanbok for free in Seoul.
M Plaza, Myeongdong
Wear a hanbok for free at Seoul Global Cultural Center on the fifth floor of M Plaza. The hanbok experience is available on a first-come-first-serve basis from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last admission at 3:30 p.m.) from Monday to Thursday. The rental time is limited to only 10 minutes and there are photo backdrops of the palace and throne chairs as your props. You can also get a similar experience at the nearby Myeongdong Tourist Information Center.
A traditional changing-of-the-guard ceremony takes place every day at Deoksugung Palace except Mondays. Visitors can wear a hanbok or the traditional guard uniforms for free for 10 minutes at the rental booth in front of the palace main gate. The experience is available from Tuesday to Sunday, at 10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m., and 3 p.m.-4 p.m. except when there is heavy rain or snow.
K Style Hub
Located on the 5th floor of KTO Seoul Office, this new tourist hub opens at 10 a.m. and offers many activities for tourists, such as learning to cook Korean food and experiencing tourist attractions in Korea virtually through VR technology. At K Style Hub, you get to wear a hanbok for an hour, which is the longest of the free experiences. It’s also possible to wear it out of the store with a deposit and a passport.
Incheon International Airport
Additional Tips for Renting a Hanbok in Seoul, Korea
- Can men and children rent hanboks too? Yes, most rental shops provide hanboks for men and children. The rental rate for children’s hanboks are usually similar to the ones for adults.
- What to wear underneath a hanbok? Wear something lightweight such as a tank top and shorts in the warmer months. In winter, you can put on a layer or two of thermal wear, bearing in mind that if it’s too thick, it will appear bulky under your hanbok jacket.
- What shoes should you wear? If you’re of average height like me, the dress will likely cover your shoes, but if you’re taller, make sure you wear something presentable to complement your dress. If you’re planning to walk a lot, comfortable shoes are a must.
- Remember to bring your passport when renting a hanbok as most rental stores require that in addition to or in place of a cash deposit.
- Can you leave your stuff at the rental shops? Yes, most rental shops provide lockers for customers to leave their jackets and backpacks. To be safe, do not leave any valuables. You can rent a small purse to carry your cash and phone in. Some shops include this in the hanbok rental fee.
- Can you get a partial refund if you return the hanbok earlier? No, you can’t. But you will be asked to pay extra if you return in later.
- Can you rent a hanbok if it’s raining or snowing? Yes, you can. Just be careful not to trip or let your hanbok get too dirty, or you may have to forfeit your deposit.
- If you book online, try to arrive several minutes earlier than your appointed time slot to give you some extra time to browse and choose your hanbok.
Final Thoughts on Wearing a Hanbok in Seoul, Korea
I think this would be an even greater experience for those who are big fans of Korean drama series or old Korean movies. A stroll in the traditional village while wearing a traditional dress and occasionally bumping into people with similar attire would surely invoke those scenes from the movies.
Even though I don’t really watch Korean dramas or movies, it was still an enjoyable experience for me because I love the pretty designs and fabrics, and also how well they go with the traditional building architecture.
Is wearing a hanbok considered cultural appropriation?
Not at all. In South Korea, it’s actually considered cultural appreciation, which was why the government introduced “Hanbok Day” — to encourage more locals and visitors to wear it, as well as to make it better known internationally.
You might get a few curious looks, but that’s only because they think it’s cute to see foreigners in their traditional costume. So, don’t be surprised if locals ask to take photos with you in a hanbok.
Have you ever worn a hanbok in Korea or any traditional dress in a country you’re visiting? Share your experience in the comment section below.