Namdaemun Market is one of the popular places and most visited markets in Seoul, South Korea. The ‘great south gate’ (transliteration for ‘namdaemun’) market used to be the center for selling local farm products only.
Exclusively, Namdaemun used to sell mainly farm produce including crops, poultry products, fruits, sundries, furniture, handicrafts, and such traditional and local items.
Although you will still see some of them today, Namdaemun now is dealing a much wider array of products (international and recent technological items).
Such products include utensils, textiles, electronics, fancy jewelry and accessories, imported goods, beauty and health products, among others.
It is believed that around 90% of children’s clothes being sold throughout the country come from Namdaemun Market.
Almost 6,000 small shops sell products either retail or wholesale. It is where you can get the advantage of getting a price of more than half of an item compared to the mall or more prominent shopping centers in Seoul.
The visitors of Namdaemun could reach more than half a million a year?a combination of local visitors and international visitors
Right…without any further ado, let me outline what you can expect at Namdaemun…
What Good Has Namdaemun Market Offers
You will be walking within the narrow streets lined with colorful stands bedecked with mixtures of various products. Around 2,000 kinds of items are available at cheaper rates.
If you are looking for a specific souvenir (or for your own consumption!), search in advance or simply head to Namdaemun Market and ask anybody. They will kindly tell you (maybe some are not so nice!) your right direction.
Here are samples of items you can by…
Yes, I can assure you that it is worth buying items at Namdaemun because they offer cheaper prices of all products compared to other places.
Here is a concrete example:
If you buy a souvenir (say a buchae - a traditional Korean fan) for 5 USD in a regular store, you will pay only 2.5 or 3 USD at Namdaemun. And if you buy it in a fancy mall or department store, you will pay double (maybe less)!
And if you buy more, then they will give you more discounts! Happy? :)
You can buy both imported and local products here. I should say that some local products could be priced higher (but not expensive) than with those imported products.
Why? Because the locally-made products cost companies more due to higher labor cost in Korea. Whereas if the product, say made in China and other Asian countries (except Japan?expensive labor cost), is imported it can be cheaper.
Quality? Reasonably good! Be wise when buying… and try to bargain if you can!
If you are already in Seoul area, you can walk your way to Namdaemun Market at any time and any day.
Namdaemun NEVER sleeps. Well, many stores are closed at night, but many are also available at night. Some are OPEN 24 hours. Yes, I brought some friends who visited me, and they were very delighted to buy souvenirs much cheaper than in another place!
Buses and subway lines are traveling and stopping at Namdaemun. Simply listen to the bus announcements and get off when the recorded announcement mentions the place. (By the way, you should also push the bus’ button for your stop).
By subway, take Seoul Subway Line 4 and get out from any exit.
Truly there is the “Han River Miracle” which brought South Korea to its present economic boom. This Asian tiger is ranked 12th of the world’s economic powers. So, you can see in Namdaemun Market the blending of both the old and new culture.
At Namdaemun, you will discover a various array of products that reflect the difference of age and development. You will see very traditional items (such as bamboo and silk fan printed with traditional Korean and Hanja characters) and modern products (such as rechargeable handy electric fans).
However, despite the contrasts between the old and the new cultures and technology, you will interestingly feel their harmony and sense of connection.
For example, you will find that although Koreans are wearing the most recent and stylish dress (or clothing), you will see that the ‘hanbok’ (Korean traditional clothing) is something brought to the next level, some bars higher than before.
You will see beautiful Korean hanboks competing for both local and international designs. Woman and man models catwalk in runways are wearing the captivating traditional clothing. Just as an example!
Yes, you will find Korean restaurants that sell their traditional methods of preparing their food. However, due to the international influence and experiences of Koreans abroad, some changes in the taste and menu have been introduced.
Personally, it seems to me that Korean food is not anymore that hot or spicy compared to before. You will also notice that many Korean restaurants are successfully selling ‘fusion’ style of Korean food.
So, pick your restaurant (sikdang in Korean) when you are in Namdaemun. They offer a cheaper price than in most places in Seoul.
Of course, you can also find Western-style menu even from restaurants that serve Korean dishes. It is quite commonplace nowadays to available food of your choice in Seoul’s restaurants (except for the specialized Korean and other traditional restaurants).
However, if you are really looking for more choices of non-Korean food, find the bigger hotels nearby and get what you want.
Koreans, as skillful chefs, can easily learn to cook ethnic cuisine. They do now open restaurants that offer foreign food including, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Western and others.
Due to the influx of foreign workers as well as immigrants (or expats), you can find international and national restaurants all over Seoul and other places in Korea where international communities abound.
The presence of international communities means lots of choices of food menu!
If you came to shop and want to stay longer in the area as your base, you can find various accommodation ranging from a budget to world-class facilities.
Hotels, motels, guesthouse, and such accommodation abound in Namdaemun Market area. Most of them are established across the market’s exit areas.
The advantages of staying in one of the hotels there is their accessibility and closeness to other attractions and destinations in Seoul area.
When you are in Namdaemun Market, you will find what you’re looking quite quickly as the products are organized as sections.
You can find children’s section quickly because they are located in the area close to the subway station. It’s such a generous method of accommodating kids who cannot spend long hours exploring the vast market area!
If you cannot find your sought-for product quickly, just ask anyone or from a tourist guide center (more on this below) to help you out.
International atmosphere can be observed here as many vendors can speak foreign languages.
Know that in Namdaemun Market, you are in an area with international atmosphere. That’s because many shoppers from all over the world come to buy their souvenir or gift(s).
Namdaemun as a market is over 600 years old. It has been a center of international commerce in the past and especially during the Joseon Dynasty.
One of its most famous landmarks is the Sungnyemun Gate (or commonly referred to as ‘Namdaemun Gate’). It is the gate that lets visitors in and out in the past.
The historic gate is where local officials send off international envoys or send off troops to protect the country from foreign invaders.
But back to the market, you will also find vendors who are speaking in tongues ? many can speak foreign languages to accommodate foreign shoppers.
Namdaemun Shopping Center
Sungnyemun Imported Goods Shopping Center (숭례문(남대문) 수입상가)
You can purchase imported products from this shopping center. Although it seems crapped with various products, it is interesting to discover what they are selling here.
I have also been here many times and fancied by their imported products: vitamins and health products, skin and beauty products, cameras, canned goods (chips, beans, meat, etc.)
To find this center, head to Daehan Hwaje Building (B3F-22F) building and you will find two underground floors with imported products.
Jangan Accessory Shopping Center (장안 액세서리상가). It is where you can purchase bundles or individual accessories as a gift, personal use, or as business purposes.
There are many tourist information centers surrounding Namdaemun Market which could be useful for your shopping day.
Tourism Information Center 1
It is located around 50 meters from Exit #5 of Hoehyeon Station. Heohyeon Station is the most convenient stop if you decide to shop, stay in a hotel, access public transports, and even explore travel attractions.
The center has staff that offers assistance to foreigners who speak English, Japanese and Chinese. The center is available from 9-6 PM. Phone: +82-2-752-1913.
Tourism Center 2
This information center is situated between Burdeong Children’s Clothing Shopping Center and Jungang Shopping Center. It offers information in English and Japanese languages.
This center is especially managed by Namdaemun Market to assists visitors and provides more details about the market.
They operate from 9-5 PM and available for a call at +82-2-753-5728.
Namdaemun Tourism Information Center No.2
Located between the Burdeong Children’s Clothing Shopping Center and the Jungang Shopping Center, the center provides tourist information in English and Japanese.
Operated by the Namdaemun Market itself, visitors can receive detailed information about the Namdaemun Market.
Close to Namdaemun Market, you can explore many attractions. Some of them are just a few minutes from the market, and some are about half or one kilometer from it.
Here are some of them…
Certainly, there are more to explore in the area than time you can spare.
Thanks for your visit and hope this article helps your search. Please, share if you find this useful.