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Namdaemun Market – 남대문시장

 

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Namdaemun market has been a place that I have visited often because it is so close to where I live. When I first came to Korea, I lived on Kyunglidan-gil, so getting to Namdaemun market was just a short bus ride away from there. If you’re coming from Noksapyeong subway station, the 401, 143 or 406 busses headed north will take you close to the market entrance. Get off at the Shinsegae Department Store stop, and the market can be found right behind the two buildings of the department store. It’s quite a contrast to see a traditional market directly behind a major luxury department store. Also, the market is accessible from Hoehyeon (회현) subway station on line 4, the light blue line. The market’s official website (namdaemunmarket.co.kr) offers a lot of history, vendor information and directions in English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

The Namdaemun Market is special in that it is the oldest and largest traditional market in Korea. It’s name comes from it’s proximity to the main southern gate of the old city.

 

Namdaemun market has a little bit of everything – clothing for adults and children, accessories, snacks, produce, kitchen supplies, souvenirs, beauty products, some traditional goods, stationary, flowers and more! I noticed many shops selling eye glasses, so this is a great place to purchase quality eyewear at a great price. Goods are available to purchase as wholesale, or for personal use. They didn’t have anything seasonal for the holidays this time of year, but around Christmas and Valentine’s Day, I have found holiday items in the past. Perhaps the most useful seasonal item I stumbled across on my recent trip were mosquito nets to put over your bed. I’m very sensitive to mosquito bites, so these nets are essential for me. I highly recommend them!

The market is a mixture of vendors selling items in the street on tables, small store front shops and some larger buildings selling a variety of goods. I prefer to shop in the stores lining the streets because I enjoy the energy of an open, outdoor market. The hustle and bustle of the crowds walking, the aroma of fresh foods and the chatter of customers making deals with vendors are what make shopping in traditional markets a unique experience.

Since this market is located centrally in Seoul and close to many major tourist attractions, this market is very popular for international tourists to visit. Last weekend when I went to the market, I saw many tourists enjoying the shops and buying souvenirs. While wandering the market, tourist information booths can be found to help answer your questions. There are also guides dressed in red t-shirts and hats that are friendly and approachable. They can help direct you to a specific store, help you with translation and offer recommendations for popular items to shop for.

I found this useful map near entrance gate 2 of the market, but others can be found along the edge of the market. If it is your first time visiting the market, the map suggests a tour route to take you through the major streets. The major paths are great and I also think the charm of this market lies in the smaller alleys that can be explored.

IMG_2217Some of the alleyways are devoted to restaurants serving traditional Korean dishes. One alley I walked through was all bibimbap restaurants! The setting is very casual with the meal being prepared right in front of the customer as they sit on a stool at the counter.

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A little tip and perk about shopping in a market is that most prices are negotiable. Even if you don’t speak Korean well, this market has a large number of tourists, so using simple phrases and a calculator can help score you a better deal. On my most recent trip, I bough a small, good quality pot for my new kitchen. The price was market 38,000 won and I managed to get the price lowered to 30,000. Yay!

This market is convenient to shop in because it is open so late! The hours are 10:00 am to 3:00 am. I’ve never been in the night time because I prefer to go to bed early, but during the summer months, shopping late would be a great way to avoid the heat.

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