Photos by Chihon Kim
Photos by Chihon Kim

Uncover hidden treasures at Seoul flea markets

by Chihon Kim
Stripes Korea

Are you an antique hunter? Do you love the delightful feeling of finding rare gems amongst a pool of random knick-knacks? Or are you in search of something truly unique to add a special touch to your home décor? If you answered yes to even one of the above, here are three fun flea markets in Seoul any treasure hunter shouldn’t miss!

kim.chihon@stripes.com

Dongmyo Flea Market & Dongdaegmun Fashion Town

This market was named after the shrine nearby which dates back to the Joseon Dynasty in 1601 and was built in honor of Guan Yu, a Chinese military commander. Take Dongmyo Station’s exit 3 and you’ll reach the entrance of this bustling market within a minute. Hundreds of street stalls open up along the walls of the shrine and street all the way to Cheonggyecheon Stream. The market is a vintage-inspired outdoor and indoor market that has everything you need from second-hand clothing to film posters, rare accessories and miscellaneous goods.

Once the market actually starts, vintage clothing enthusiasts start to dig through piles in search of the best pick. The best time to go shopping is on Saturday between 2 and 3 p.m. because the vendors usually replenish their stock for the second wave of customers at this time. Baseball gloves and old coins are among the more popular items you can score here.

The market is a really great place to stroll and see some of the old a modern city can offer. Bring won for the shopping or just enjoy browsing around the market like other visitors.  The prices of the antiques are a bit high, but you never know what you will find. Also, a great place to shop for unique souvenirs for loved ones back home.

Once you’ve reached the end of Dongmyo, head down to the Cheonggyecheon Stream, which eventually leads you to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza with its unique architectural design and many shopping malls.

While Dongmyo Market is where you’ll find retro Korea, Dongdaemun is where you’ll find the latest fashions and modern Korea. This area is world-renown for hosting “Korean Fashion Week” every year and for low-cost to high fashion pieces.

Pro Tip: Dongmyo Market is a bit dusty, so don’t forget your face mask if you plan to sift through the clothes piles.
Address: Dongmyo Park, 84, Nangye-ro 27-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Seoul Folk Flea Market

Housed in a two-story building along Cheonggyecheon Stream, Seoul Folk Flea Market is a Pungmul market which is a great place for both serious collectors and curious browsers alike. This market is well-organized into color-coordinated sections where you’ll find a wide range of items from everyday miscellaneous goods, typical Korean folk items, antiques, and home items which were once vital to the lifestyle of Koreans of times passed.

This place goes beyond flea market as many master craftsmen have their workshops set up here as well. While you’re at Seoul Folk, check out the prestigious master craftsman who fixes various instruments, leather, and motorbike accessories, and will sometimes serenade shoppers with an impromptu violin performance. On the second floor, take a break from all the shopping for some fried foods and traditional Korean eats at the food court.

Address: Seoul Pungmul market, 21, Cheonho-daero-4-gil, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul, Korea (Sinseol-dong)
Phone: 02-2232-3367(KOR only)
Directions: 250m from Exit 6 of Sinseol-dong Subway Station (Line 1) / 100m from Exit 9 or 10 of Sinseol-dong Subway Station (Line 2)
Online: http://pungmul.seoul.go.kr/ (KOR only)

HongDae Art Market Free Market

The Hongdae Free Market is definitely a must-see in Seoul. Visit the free market at the Children’s Park near Hongdae District on Saturday afternoons. Unlike other flea markets in Seoul, you won’t notice any used goods. They offer brand new handmade crafts and arts which are worth checking out. Unlike, its name, it is not a market where you can get the items for free (‘FREE’ must be phonetic for ‘FLEA’). The market is a meeting place for artists and craftsman, performers to come together and sell their art, while interacting with patrons. Learn about the pieces of art and ask questions about the item you’re interested in from the artist before buying.

The market is open to anyone who wants to share their ideas and sell their creative items. Foreigners can sell their art here, too, so if you have a taste for making your own creation and want to participate in this market, contact the market via email (livingnart257@gmail.com).

The shopping doesn’t stop when you’re done perusing the items for sale at Hogndae Free Market. This hip district is teaming with many more shops and attractions you’ll definitely want to check out!

Address: 19-3 Wausan-ro 21-gil, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Hours: Mar. to Nov., Every Saturday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. 
Contact: 02-325-8553, livingnart257@gmail.com
Online: www.freemarket.or.kr (ENG/KOR)

Bindae-tteok at Gwangjang market

Gwangjang market, the oldest daily market in Seoul, is popular with foreign visitors looking to sample some of the best Korean delicacies. The mung-bean pancake called bindae-tteok fried in oil until it is golden brown is made of eggs, ground mung beans, fermented kimchi, and vegetables such as green onions and peppers. Watch as vendors freshly grind mung beans by stone rotary grinder and let the smell of the bindae-tteok lead you to give it a try.

Though Hongdae is known for Korean-style raw beef, Korean sausage(sundae) and mini gimbab (rice roll), I recommend the Bindae-tteok because it’s pretty inexpensive (from about $1.68 to 3.37). I chose Sunhui-ne (순희네), a restaurant I’ve visited before, to get my bindae-tteok on. My order arrived crispy on the outside and soft like mashed potatoes on the inside and the side sauce made of soy sauce and vinegar give an extra flavor to the Korean-style pancake. The delicacy is well worth trying when you’re at Gwangjang market.

Address: 88 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Hours: From 8:30 a.m. to 6  p.m. daily. 

Gogi twigim (deep-fried pork rolls)

Walk down approximately 400 meters from the exit 5 of  Dongmyo-station, to a hidden and worn-down small eatery specializing in the street food called Dongmyo gogi twigim. (KRW 3,000 or $ 2.52 for two pieces) The deep-fried rolls come stuffed with ground pork, onions, chives, and scallions. You will also find other varieties of rolls like stuffed pepper or deep-fried squid which are both served with soy sauce and pickled radish. This was my first time trying these and two pork rolls I had were enough to feel like I ate a full meal!

I visited on a Tuesday, but this alley and eatery get crowded on weekends. If you don’t like waiting in line, I recommend you try their take-out instead, because seating is limited and their gogi twigim are much too delicious to pass up.

Address: Changshin-dong 401-33
Phone: 010-3265-5769
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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