Namdaemun Market is the largest traditional market in Korea with over 10,000 stores that line the streets around Namdaemun (Gate), the main southern gate of the old city wall. It boasts one of the largest distribution structures in Korea, providing local products, daily living essentials, food products, medical supplies and more to retailers and consumers across the country. Due to the wholesale nature of the market, shoppers can comparison shop for the lowest prices on all sorts of goods. Namdaemun Market is also packed with interesting things to see and eat, making it a popular destination for both locals and international visitors alike. So whether you’re looking for traditional oriental medicine or imported drugs, traditional Korean food or imported snacks, hanbok attire or a Halloween costume, Namdaemun Market is the place to go.
The oldest traditional market in Korea
Namdaemun Market first started under the reign of King Taejong (1367 – 1422, the third Joseon king) during the Joseon Dynasty (1392 – 1910), when the government built shops around Namdaemun and rented out the shops to traders. The market began to take its form as a trading marketplace during this era and continued to prosper until the Japanese took over management of the market in 1922 during the Japanese occupation. This went on for several years until the liberation of 1945 when the Koreans took control again, but the market continued to have a rocky history due to the onset of the Korean War and it was not until 1954 when the Seoul Namdaemun Market Co. Ltd. was founded that the market began to take hold again. In recent years, the market has undergone massive renovations and there are plans to renovate the market even more in the future.
The most comprehensive market in Korea
Namdaemun Market is renowned for its vast size and the variety of goods it offers. With the exception of construction materials, the market sells nearly every item under the sun including clothing, food, living essentials, etc. So it comes as no surprise that Namdaemun Market is always bustling day and night. Retailers from all over the nation flock to the market at night and local consumers flock to the market during the day. Many tourists come during the day as well to experience the charm of a traditional Korean market. The market's success is largely due to its independent distribution system. Although the shops are small, most of them produce the goods they offer themselves, allowing for customers to purchase goods directly from the manufacturers at wholesale prices.
Tourists browsing the stalls
On top of wholesale prices, Namdaemun Market has sales.
Namdaemun Market is always bustling at any hour of the day and night. Every night, merchants from all over the nation swarm here and in the mornings the market comes alive again when overseas tourists arrive to experience the charm of a traditional market. At the north of the market (the entrance from exit 5, line 4 Hoehyeon station), there is a plethora of stores lining the street selling imported goods and accessories. This is a particularly good area to buy souvenirs, so it is always popular with overseas visitors. Walking down the street and taking a left leads to a food alley selling mainly “Buchimgae” (vegetable pancakes) or “Galchi Jorim” (braised scabbard fish), as well as diverse stores selling handicrafts, home-furnishings and children's clothing. At the end of the street is a marketplace for agricultural and marine produce. There are many street stalls scattered all along the street selling various goods at bargain prices, and stalls offer gift-boxes of dried seafood especially for overseas visitors.
Customers of all ages
Specialized shopping zones
Namdaemun Market sprawls over 24 blocks, with each block featuring a different specialized shopping zone, the market's clothing zone being the largest. More than 6,000 of the 10,000 shops that make up the market are clothing and accessories stores. Because many domestic retailers and foreign buyers come here to purchase goods at wholesale prices to resell in their stores, Namdaemun Market is considered to have a huge influence on the fashion industry. The ladies’ wear section is particularly popular, offering quality fashions in casual wear, formal wear, leisure wear and much more. But ladies’ wear is not the only type of clothing that is widely available; as much as eighty percent of all children’s wear traded in Korea goes through the children's wear section in Namdaemun Market. If you want to shop for children’s wear, it is best to arrive early since the shops here close at about 3 or 4 p.m.
Namdaemun Market also has markets that specialize in imported goods including agricultural and marine produce, drugs and vitamins, electronics and clothing. It is also a good area to buy souvenirs, making it very popular with international visitors.
There are many more blocks, or specialized shopping zones, that sell various other goods. For more detailed information on what goods are available in each block, please refer to the map.
Clothing for all ages
Shoppers in the children's clothing section
Namdaemun Market is also a great place to go for traditional Korean cuisine. Many of the restaurants here have been around for many decades, withstanding throughout the market's long history. These long-established restaurants still receive favorable reviews to this day. Specialty dishes of the market include galchi jorim (braised scabbard fish), kalguksu (handmade chopped noodles), jokbal (braised pig’s feet), kkorigomtang (oxtail soup) and dakgomtang (chicken soup) and other local favorites. Various street vendors selling Korean snacks from carts are always popular with peckish shoppers and add to the feel of a genuine Korean traditional market. Among the snacks, yachae hotteok (vegetable pancakes with brown sugar filling) and buchimgae (vegetable pancakes) are particularly popular.
Folk art items and the kitchenware shopping zone
Ginseng and gift-wrapped gim (laver) in the health food section
Galchi Jorim alley
Jokbal (pig's trotters) alley
“Patrolling Tourist Information” is a new concept in tour guide services, and refers to tour guides who are fluent in English, Japanese and Chinese who patrol areas frequented by tourists including Namdaemun Market. They can be readily spotted by their red vests that bear the ⓘ logo, the first letter in “information”. The guides offer interpretation, directions, shopping guides and any other information related to tourist attractions. Instead of waiting for tourists at tourist centers or information booths, these guides go out onto the streets to assist tourists in person.
Patrolling Tourist Information
Patrolling Tourist Information