Photos by Hyemin Lee

Photos by Hyemin Lee ()

Namdaemun Market is a premier destination for those seeking special souvenirs before bidding farewell to Korea. Alongside Dongdaemun (Great East Gate) Market, Namdaemun (Great South Gate) Market has stood as one of the largest traditional markets in Korea since the Joseon Dynasty.

Namdaemun Market highlights numerous types of market places and alleys selling a variety of specialized items. These markets offer countless uniquely Korean products that you won’t find anywhere else! Also, the affordable wholesale prices make the shopping experience more enjoyable.

Navigating the vast size of the market can be a bit overwhelming, so check out this guidance for a successful gift hunting!

Tourist Information Center The best way to save your time and energy is visiting the tourist information center first to get a map. You can ask the friendly staff for help finding the shops selling items you’re looking for, and they will kindly mark your map and provide helpful tips.

Address: Near Hoehyeon Station exit 5 Phone: 02-752-1913 Hours: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

6 must-visit sections

Hanbok market Hanbok is traditional Korean attire dating back to the Joseon Dynasty, and even today, it holds a special place in Korean culture. Koreans often wear a hanbok during significant occasions such as Lunar New Year or wedding ceremonies. Wearing a hanbok is a wonderful way to connect with the unique culture and tradition of Korea.

There are different types of hanboks, including modern ones that you can comfortably wear in daily life. Many foreigners who fall in love with hanbok’s beauty visit this market to buy this attire as a souvenir.

In the Hanbok market, you can easily find a variety of beautiful hanboks, particularly for children and women. You can either pick a ready-made one or even go for a custom-designed hanbok, where you get to choose everything from colors to patterns and designs. Children’s hanbok can be purchased starting from around 50,000 won ($38). Customized hanboks for women usually costs between 150,000 ($113) to 300,000 won ($227) depending on the design.

Address: Central (Jungang) Arcade C-dong 2F

Children’s fashion street If you have kids or want to be a wonderful uncle or aunt, visiting the children’s fashion street would be a lovely choice! Namdaemun Market is particularly popular as the center of the children’s clothing industry in Korea. The children’s fashion street boasts a collection of small shops and multi-story buildings exclusively stocked with kids’ items. Each shop sells its own signature products with original designs and various fabrics. You’ll discover a wide range of adorable kids’ items from clothing to accessories, hats, socks and more.

Address: Near Hoehyeon Station exit 6

Traditional-style souvenirs market Namdaemun Market is well known as a hub for traditional-style souvenirs, making it a must-visit spot for travelers searching for distinctive souvenirs, including traditional Korean art pieces and handmade crafts. Most shops offer great quality items at affordable prices since they are wholesale sellers.

Both local and foreigners flock here for wooden crafts, ceramics, traditional-style accessories, and, notably, mother-of-pearl products like jewelry boxes and mirrors. The market also features a variety of smaller, budget-friendly traditional items, including fans, stainless steel chopsticks, tablecloths, keychains, coin purses, bookmarks, and soju glasses.

For those seeking something truly exceptional, make sure to see if the item is made in Korea. Then, look for products created by traditional handcraft artists, some of whom run their own shops to sell their work at this market. These items boast excellent quality and unique designs, and they are rare to find elsewhere.

Accessory market Namdaemun Market houses thousands of wholesale accessory shops, each with a variety of options. Accessory designers from all corners of the country have shops here to sell their unique creations. Also, visitors can have the opportunity to witness the creative process of making accessories while browsing the market. As you wander through, time seems to slip away amidst the countless beautiful items!

Address: E-world E-dong & Daedo Arcade D-dong & Samho Woojoo Arcade

Underground liquor market Namdaemun Market is home to one of the biggest liquor markets in Korea and is located in the underground imported products market. This section used to be called the “Namdaemun Dungeon,” creating a mystique around the treasures whiskey lovers’ could discover here, including bottles of the liquor at unbelievably low prices.

These days, though prices are not as significantly low after the pandemic, the market is still truly a special destination, especially for those on a hunt for special liquors. You’ll likely find a lot of rare items including discontinued liquors or temporary special releases.

The underground market also houses a variety of shops selling imported goods from around the world at reasonable prices.

Address: Daedo Arcade D-dong B1

Flower market There is an entire floor dedicated to a stunning array of flowers and plants. Green thumbs and beginner plant enthusiasts alike will love browsing the various plants for personal cultivation, splendid bouquets, artificial flowers for home interiors, decorative dried blooms, and floral gift items. This market encompasses nearly all things flower-related.

People flock to this market, especially during special seasons like Parents’ Day, graduation, and Christmas. Many visit here in search of rare and precious flowers that are not easily found in typical flower shops. It’s a perfect destination for discovering gifts to celebrate special occasions.

Other specialized sections to explore

• Eyewear street • Camera street • Kitchenware market • Military equipment alley • Women’s fashion street • Stationery alley • Bedding street

Pro tips for shopping at Namdaemun Market!

• Many stores at traditional markets only accept won. In case you forget to bring bills with you, inquire at the tourist information center about the location of ATMs which work with your foreign card.

• Within Namdaemun Market, you’ll find a lot of specialized markets and alleys that focus on selling specific items. If you’re looking for something particular, grab a map from the tourist information center and head to the specialized market.

• Before stepping into a shop, you’ll encounter numerous vendors vying for your attention, and eagerly encouraging you to visit their store. Don’t be intimidated and simply pass if you’re not interested. Even if you enter a shop, look around, but have no intention of buying anything, there’s no need to feel sorry and just leave the shop. These are very common scenes at traditional markets.

• Namdaemun accommodates both wholesale and retail shops. Wholesale stores offer items at cheaper prices compared to retail stores as they cater to vendors from all over Korea who purchase items for resale in their own shops.

• Please keep in mind that some wholesale vendors might not sell their items to individual shoppers, but only to retailers or bulk purchasers.

• Note that some stores strictly prohibit photography due to concerns of design imitation. When taking photos, be careful because some vendors might react aggressively.

• Don’t take it personally when a vendor behaves rudely or aggressively. Such reactions are consistent regardless of whether you’re a foreigner or local. Some vendors may only welcome bulk purchasers.

• It’s true that some vendors may try to give slightly higher prices to foreigners. However, due to the wholesale market nature, many items are still significantly cheaper than purchasing them in other areas.

Make the best deals with haggling techniques!

Haggling is a big part of the wholesale or traditional market experience. With a few techniques, you can bring the prices even lower and make your shopping adventure to a new level of excitement. Here’s a guide for the perfect opportunities to haggle!

• When a vendor eagerly tries to capture your attention before you enter their store or attempts to persuade you into purchasing specific items, they are most likely offering it to you at a “foreigner price.” In such cases, don’t hesitate to haggle.

• While browsing through a few stores, you’ll gain a rough understanding of the pricing for particular products. If you find that a vendor is offering a higher price compared to others, try to haggle!

• Buying multiple items, especially in bulk from a single store, can be the ideal opportunity for haggling. Feel free to negotiate the prices!

Nandaemun Market is a huge area, so snacking and meals are essential as you’re likely to get hungry while exploring this extensive space! Here you’ll find many street foods and dining options, so make time to grab a bite while you’re enjoying the market.

Keep in mind that Namdaemun Market is closed on Sundays, which means that most street food stalls and restaurants are also closed.

Kalguksu Alley From Hoehyeon Station Exit 5, you’ll immediately find a narrow alley specializing in kalguksu (knife-cut noodle soup). This food alley is renowned for its combo meal menu that includes knife-cut noodle soup, spicy cold noodles, and bibimbap with various vegetables, for only 8,000 won. Local vendors working in Nandaemun gather around small tables, and the food is usually prepared within a minute, allowing them to grab a quick meal. Due to its affordable price and unique local vibe, this alley is a popular spot for travelers visiting the market.

Address: Kalguksu Alley in front of Hoehyeon Station Exit 5

Hotteok For 1,500 won, you can enjoy a Korean fried pancake known as hotteok. This is a famous snack in Nandaemun. Particularly, the vegetable hotteok stands out as a well-known specialty. Filled with glass noodles and vegetables like onions and carrots, it’s tastefully seasoned with soy sauce. Most locals enjoy this treat, while some foreigners might prefer a sweeter option like the sugar-filled or honey hotteok that is another favorite.

Address: In front of Hoehyeon Station exit 5 or 12 Namdaemun-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul (Two different places)

Gamegol Son Wangmandu (Homemade large dumplings) Gamegol Son Wangmandu is one of the hottest restaurants in Nandaemun, serving up large homemade dumplings with a variety of fillings. You’ll likely have to wait in line even on the weekdays, but the food is worth the wait. Don’t forget to grab steamed buns with red bean paste filling, and kalguksu Korean knife-cut noodle soup. The dumplings come in both spicy and meat flavors and are also available to go.

Address: 42 Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Jung-gu

Daedo Restaurant Daedo restaurant is well known for its spicy marinated pork with red pepper paste, called “Red meat.” If you can handle spicy food well, you’ll truly enjoy the red meat. Also, this restaurant is located in the “Galchi Alley,” a specialty alley selling galchi (hairtail fish) dishes. Daedo also serves up a variety of meat or fish dishes. Although it’s an authentic local spot, many foreigners can find their favorite menu here such as Korean BBQ, stir-fried pork, and squid stir-fry.

Address: 12-15 Namdaemunsijang-gil, Namchang-dong, Jung-gu

The best stories from the Pacific, in your inbox

Sign up for our weekly newsletter of articles from Japan, Korea, Guam, and Okinawa with travel tips, restaurant reviews, recipes, community and event news, and more.

Sign Up Now