[Weekender] A wealth of multiplex malls to choose from

Whether it is groceries, clothing, furniture, jewelry or electronics, shopping has never been easier than in South Korea, where it is possible to buy just about anything from the comforts of one셲 home using a smartphone or computer.

Regardless of the convenience, thousands of Koreans today continue to head to city centers to visit shopping malls, which have evolved from singular department stores into mega 쐌ultiplex malls urban hotspots offering not only shopping opportunities, but also a wide range of entertainment and dining options.

Some go to watch a movie, enjoy a concert or relax at a spa, while others are drawn to the idea of strolling on a sunny rooftop park or observing marine animals in an aquarium.

For those unsure about which mall to hang out in, the following are ones that stand out among the crowd.

Lotte World Mall

Despite safety concerns since its grand opening in late 2014, the brand new Lotte World Mall in Jamsil, Seoul, is the country셲 largest multiplex to date, spanning 428,934 square meters.

Lotte World Mall is the perfect hangout venue for shopaholics seeking more options in their shopping choices. About 1,000 brands can be found throughout the shopping complex, which is divided into the luxurious Avenuel mall and the main shopping center featuring hundreds of stores and restaurants.

Flaunting an eloquent design and marble walls, Avenuel showcases not only big luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermes, but also 33 labels launching in Korea for the first time including jewelry brand H. Stern and Italian grocery store Peck.

Even the pickiest diners will likely find something at the top two floors of the shopping center, which houses an artsy dining area offering a wide range of popular domestic and foreign restaurant brands, including several entering Korea for the first time.

Walking by the Korean restaurants, visitors can also get a feel for what Seoul looked like in the past, as the area has been specially decorated with city relics including old posters and a rusty bus replica to represent Jongno-gu in the 1930s and Myeong-dong in the 1960s and 1980s.

Set to reopen Tuesday, Lotte World Mall셲 aquarium showcases 650 sea species and an 85-meter-long underwater tunnel. Reopening the same day is혻the cinema complex, the largest movie theater in Asia, which can accommodate 4,600 people across 21 theaters. One theater is even equipped with the world셲 biggest cinema screen.

A modern performance hall built so the audience completely encircles the center stage will open in September, while construction of the 123-story Lotte World Tower will conclude in 2016, completing the gigantic multiplex mall.

Common Ground

Tired of getting lost in huge malls? Looking for a humbler, yet more creative shopping experience?

Then the recently opened Common Ground shopping complex near Konkuk University Station in Seoul may be the one for you.

Established by the fashion unit of Korea셲 top chemical firm Kolon Industries, Common Ground is the country셲 first mall built by stacking 200 large shipping containers.

Seeking to attract younger customers, the unique shopping space features 56 fashion and lifestyle brands launched by younger and independently owned businesses, which sell a variety of unique products. Well-recognized labels, even those owned by Kolon FnC, are nowhere to be found inside the container park mall.

Located on the roof of the containers are 16 restaurants, cafes and bars that are popular in Seoul including Analog Kitchen and Dore Dore. Sitting on the benches overlooking the handrails, visitors can get a panorama view of the mall, with the night view particularly stunning.

Another unique part of Common Ground is its open space area, reminiscent of a parking lot or an urban playground, between the container malls. In the middle are food trucks, where people can swig a beer or grab a burger. On weekends, a flea market opens under a different theme every week.

Shinsegae Centum City Mall

For those living in Busan or planning a must-visit to the seaside metropolis, the Shinsegae Centum City Mall in Haeundae is a must-visit destination for people looking to both shop and relax.

In an aim to become an urban shopping 쐒esort, Centum City in Haeundae features not only a variety of stores and dining choices, but is also equipped with exclusive facilities ranging from a sports club, ice rink and movie theater, to a spa, rooftop park and even an indoor golf range.

At the core of Centum City is Spa Land, an upscale traditional Korean spa equipped with 22 bathing pools and saunas filled with therapeutic spring water. Spa visitors can dine, sleep, meditate or even exercise inside the facility. A special relaxing room allows users to have a private rest while watching TV or reading.

Another standout feature of the mall is an outdoor family theme park named Zooraji Park, located on the roof level. The park is divided into five differently themed spaces including one featuring life-sized dinosaur figures and a water-fountain garden. A pirate-themed playground is a particular hotspot for families with children.

Those looking to get more active can visit the ice rink, which is open throughout the year, or the indoor golf range located across four floors inside the mall.

Shinsegae Union Square

Right now, most of Korea셲 well-recognized multiplex malls are located inside Seoul. However, this will change once the Shinsegae Hanam Union Square shopping complex in Gyeonggi Province opens next year.

Upon completion, the mall will surpass the Jamsil Lotte World Mall in size and become the country셲 biggest mall at 44,436 square meters.

Seeking to establish a new multiplex mall in the outskirts of Seoul, Shinsegae has invested roughly 1 trillion won ($925 million) in the mall.

Like other major multiplex malls, Union City Square is set to become a multifunctional space offering a variety of shopping, dining and entertainment facilities.

By Sohn Ji-young ([email protected])