CONTRIBUTED BY CHRISTINE BRUNS
Namdaemun Market, the oldest wholesale market in Seoul, is an experience not to be missed. You can find just about anything there, from food to art supplies, clothing to camera equipment. The streets are lined with shops on either side and divided by vendor carts straight down the middle.
Rob and I took advantage of a sunny Saturday (spring is almost here!!) and marked off one more item on our Korean “To-Do” List with our first visit to the market. How we had managed to live here for a year and half, only four subway stops away, and not gone yet is beyond me! (Okay, it MAY have had something to do with me not wanting to deal with large crowds and the grabby hands of a four year old… just saying.)
As we exited the subway we ran right into the market and its bustling atmosphere. It also seemed to be the time when all of the cart vendors were setting up, as teams of men were quickly running them down the streets to their designated spots. They’d stop, flip open the sides, and ta-da! They were open and hawking their wares in about 30-seconds flat.
We were hungry, so we stopped for a quick bite to eat. This fellow was selling sausage wrapped in fish… on a stick, of course. It tasted pretty good, even though I am not one to choose fish for a meal. And at the bargain price of 5,000 won for two, we had to try it.
As we munched and walked along, we happened upon the Namdaemun Gate at the northwest portion of the market. It’s actually called Sungnyemun Gate and is National Treasure no. 1. It was sadly destroyed by fire in 2008, but was rebuilt to its current imposing and beautiful state.
It’s pretty impressive as you approach and we tried to imagine ourselves walking up to it during the Joseon Era, when there were no high-rise buildings nearby. This gate would have seemed very intimidating. I do so love the details on the upper stories and roof.
Inside the archway there is a wonderful mural of two dragons:
I somehow convinced Rob to take a selfie with me in front of the gate. Mark this on your calendars… it’s a rare occasion. You can tell he was thrilled. Ha ha!
After our brief trip to the past, we headed back across the street to the marketplace, which you can see from the gate:
Instead of heading back the way we had come, we opted to take a tunnel right near the gate park entrance that looked promising. At first we thought it would just be a quick shortcut under the intersection. Then we realized that it was a pretty large underground marketplace. Need socks, hair accessories, kitchen items, beauty products, toys, home decor, baskets… you name it? You’ll find it down there! It is pretty tight quarters, though, so don’t bring anything large with you.
We managed to find an exit (it was pure luck that we picked one that brought us up right by the entrance to the market and gate) and walked around some more. There were some excellent fruits and veggies for sale; we brought home three packs of tasty strawberries for 10,000 won.
We decided we were good on our supply of tiny anchovies…
And did a bit more shopping before we headed home.
A fun afternoon and now a reference point if I think of anything else we’ll need in the future!
Hours: 23:00-17:00 (some hours will vary by store); closed on Sundays
Approximate Address: 41-14 Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Google Coordinates: 37.5585599, 126.9777268
How to get there: Seoul Subway, Line 4, Hoehyeon Station, Exit 5
Looking for flowers? There’s an entire section just for that
Why not also visit the nearby Money Museum?