Namdaemun Market: Exploring South Korea’s Largest Traditional Market

Carved out time to visit Seoul? Don’t leave Namdaemun Market out of your Seoul itinerary.

The bustling Namdaemun Market is the largest of its kind in South Korea. It dates as far back as the Joseon Dynasty when King Taesong built shops around Namdaemun Gate.

Since the market’s “official” opening in 1964, it’s blossomed into over 10,000 shops. The shops & vendors now line the streets, alleyways, and buildings around ancient gate.

Ready to experience this eclectic Seoul hotspot? Start planning your trip with this Namdaemun Market guide for visitors…

What to do & what to eat at Namdaemun Market

As you’d imagine from its immense size, exploring Namdaemun Market isn’t always easy.

Even when you know what you’re shopping for, the sheer amount of choice can be overwhelming.

(Actually, overwhelming might be an understatement.)

So, what types of things will travellers find while shopping at Namdaemun Market? In short: Everything.

Shopping for souvenirs, household goods, sporting equipment, herbs, fashion accessories or kids’ toys? You’ll see it all at Namdaemun Market.

Several times over.

Shoe Shopping

With vendors vying for your won in every direction, Namdaemun Market is one of the best places in Seoul to secure a bargain.

Sharpen your haggling skills as you move from store to store. Among the stalls & shops, you’ll find everything from traditional Chinese medicine to hiking shoes.

And lest we forget the big reason why Namdaemun Market is one of the best things to do in Seoul: its food.

Namdaemun Market is one of the best places to eat in street food in Seoul. The market features some of the best Korean food in South Korea; nay, the entire planet!

Keep on the watch for these favourite Namdaemun Market foods:

  • Mandu: Korea’s answer to Chinese xiaolongbao. These silky smooth dumplings are one of the best snacks on the planet, not just in Seoul or South Korea. The popular Gamekol Son Wangmandu is one of the best places for mandu in Namdaemun Market. It’s located a few doors down from Gate 5. Try their kimchi mandu for a unique Korean spin on Asian dumplings!
  • Kalguksu: Of all the specialty foods in Namdaemun Market, none is more famous than kalgusku. This Korean soup is based on a hearty seafood broth and topped with hand-cut wheat noodles. There’s an entire street within the market dedicated to it (Kalguksu Alley). The alley sits just inside Gate 5.

Food @ Namdaemun Market in Seoul, Korea

  • Eomuk: Found in food stalls all over Korean, these fishcakes are a staple at Namdaemun Market. The most popular variety here is served on skewers with a savoury mixture of soy and chilli.
  • Hotteok: These delicious pancakes are one of Seoul’s favourite street foods. They come stuffed with a variety of ingredients ranging from sweet to savoury. The food cart near Namdaemun’s Gate 2 is one of the most famous places to grab hotteok in Seoul. Their speciality is a savoury hotteok filled with japchae (glass noodles seasoned with sesame oil and soy sauce) and vegetables like carrots and spinach. It’s pan-fried to perfection and is a must-eat food in Seoul!
  • Tteokbokki: These silky rice cakes are one of the most popular street foods in Korea. Their texture is similar to gnocchi. Tteokbokki is pan-fried with a spicy gochujang-based sauce that’s both a tad spicy and sweet.

The best hotels near Namdaemun Market

Even if you weren’t planning to visit Namdaemun Market, its prime location puts it among the top choices for where to stay in Seoul.

Here are the best hotels near Namdaemun Market including some of the most recommended hotels in Myeongdong:

  • Tmark Grand Hotel Myeongdong: A classy central hotel that’s high on style without breaking the bank. Rooms are spacious, quiet, and affixed with modern furnishings. Views unto Namsan from the hotel and select rooms are wonderful.
  • Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Namdaemun: This lovely mid-range property delivers clean contemporary rooms. All proudly boast massive city views. Get the best price guaranteed and collect Marriott Rewards on your stay by booking at Marriott.com.
  • Aloft Myeongdong: An ultra-hip design-style hotel from one of the hippest and fastest-growing chains on the planet. From the rooms to the trendy on-site W XYZ bar&lounge, this sleek luxury hotel will delight you with its colourful post-modern motifs.
  • The Westin Chosun Hotel Seoul: This decadent 5-star hotel furnishes a world-class accommodations experience from check-in to check-out. All the on-site amenities—from the palatial indoor pool to the well-equipped fitness centre—are divine.

Getting there

The easiest way to get to Namdaemun Market by public transportation in Seoul is via the Seoul subway. Scoot over to Hoehyeon Station on Subway Line 4, using Exit 5 to get out to street level.

The exit spits you out in front of one of the market’s main gates. It’s a short walk from here to many of its top food stalls & restaurants including Kalguksu Alley.

Other related Seoul attractions

Ryan O'Rourke

Ryan O'Rourke is a Canadian traveller, food & drink aficionado, and the founder & editor of Treksplorer. Join Ryan as he explores the world two to three weeks at a time from his home base of Canada with Treksplorer's independent and unsponsored mid-range luxury travel guides including itineraries, things to do, where to stay, when to visit, and hiking & walking trails.

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