Having been to Dongdaemun, I figured that it was time for us to also explore the other famous ‘-daemun’ in Seoul: Namdaemun.
I’ve heard extensively about this being a really big market in Seoul, and people come here to buy all sorts of things. I wasn’t exactly looking to buy anything, but I always have fun exploring Korea’s markets (see Dongmun Market in Jeju, and Jagalchi in Busan). It’s a great way to see what the locals buy & eat, and what the general price level is (I find that common household stuff can be a good indicator and comparison of prices, especially if you want to know if a foreign country’s standard of living is more expensive than your home country).
Opened in 1964, Namdaemun Market is the largest traditional market in Korea with shops selling various goods. All products are sold at affordable prices and the stores in this area also function as wholesale markets. Most of the goods are made directly by the storeowners.
Namdaemun Market is even open overnight, from 11:00pm to 4:00am, and is crowded with retailers from all over the country. When day breaks, the site of busy shoppers bustling around the market creates a unique scene that attracts tourists worldwide. Namdaemun Market sells a variety of clothes, glasses, kitchenware, toys, mountain gear, fishing equipment, stationery, fine arts, accessories, hats, carpets, flowers, ginseng, and imported goods.KTO
You thought it was an exaggeration when they say that Namdaemun is the biggest traditional market in Korea? I tell you, it isn’t!
This place is filled with so many stores and stalls selling everything you can think of. You want pots and pans? You got ’em. Ahjumma-style fashion? You’ll be spoilt for choice. Souvenirs? Oh definitely yes!
Something you probably won’t find here (or at least, too much of) are trendy, fashionable clothes. Most of the ones I’ve seen are catered to ahjummas and ahjussis. That being said, these are really very cheap – you can get a simple tee for less than 5000 won, if you are not fussy and just looking for something comfortable to wear at home.
Tip: If you see a building in the market where people sell jewelry and accessories, don’t be too happy. These are wholesale retailers and they only sell in bulk, or at the very least, a few pieces of the same design. They do B2B, and will ignore buyers like you & I who only purchase a few pieces. Consider yourself lucky if they don’t get angry and chase you away!
You can also purchase dried foods, snacks, candies, and even all kinds of liquors (!) here in Namdaemun. We bought a few packets of dried foods and nuts – these are sold quite cheaply, and the stall owners will definitely give you a discount, sometimes even a few small packets of snacks as well!
As for the liquors, we didn’t buy so I don’t know if you get the same perks and discounts 😅you could ask, of course, but the stall owner may get a little annoyed if he or she realizes you aren’t actually buying anything.
Namdaemun Market is pretty crowded, and you can imagine that it gets even more crowded indoors because everyone wants to escape the cold/heat (depending on which season you visit).
If you get tired and hungry from the shopping, there are quite a few dining options. By dining options, I refer to food stalls, not restaurants LOL. There are quite a few street food stalls can be found just outside exit 5 of Hoehyeon Station. Many of these stalls sell typical Korean street foods such as dumplings and noodles, which are very good for warming your bellies in winter.
For those who are looking to buy cameras + gear in Korea, you’ll be absolutely thrilled by the options near Namdaemun Market. Apparently there is a Namdaemun Camera Market – I’m not too sure about that one, but you can read up about it here. Personally, I saw quite a few camera shops in the Hoehyeon Underground Shopping Centre, and some of the models there caught my eye, so that may work for you as well if you can’t find the Camera Market!
Is Namdaemun Market very touristy? Mm, I think not quite. Of course, there are certain stalls that are clearly aimed at attracting tourists (especially those selling souvenirs), but the general target audience here really is, well, the locals. I can’t imagine who else would be buying carpets and kitchenware here, unless you are one of those who actually make the effort to bring these bulky things back to your country.
Even if you have nothing in particular to buy or purchase, I think Namdaemun Market is a stop that you should make if you aren’t visiting other markets in Korea. What better place to observe the locals and see what they buy on the daily, right?
Address: 21, Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Hoehyeon Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exit 5.
Namdaemun Market & Hoehyeon Station Bus Stop
Green Bus: 0013, 0014, 0015, 7011, 7013, 7017, 7022
Blue Bus: 130, 104, 152, 162, 163, 201, 202, 261, 406, 500, 501, 502, 503, 504, 505, 506, 507, 701, 708
Red Bus: 2300, 2500, 9411
Airport Bus: 605-1