If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of outdoor markets, then Seoul is the place for you. With two extremely large open air market areas and dotted with many other, smaller market areas, Seoul is chock full of vendors with wares to sell.
Bargaining is not usually part of the traditional Korean shopping experience. If you shop around Seoul’s markets, though, you may be able to negotiate a few deals – just learn the phrase “ka-ka juseyo!” (discount please!) and you’ll find vendors willing to entertain the idea of bartering!
The two biggest market areas in Seoul are found in the areas of Dongdaemun and Namdaemun – aptly named, Dongdaemun Market and Namdaemun Market. They are open seven days a week and business hours range according to the vendors. They are great fun and an excellent way to observe Korean culture.
To get to Dongdaemun, take subway line one or line four to the stop “Dongdaemun Stadium”. Do not go to the “Dongdaemun” stop, as the market is found near the stadium. Dongdaemun is spread over ten city blocks and has so many shops, malls and food stalls, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Many visit Dongdaemun for its inexpensive clothes and shoes, but most simply enjoy strolling through the market and sampling the local fare.
The food stalls tend to congregate together, so there is a seemingly endless display of food items for an expat to try. Favourites include kimchi jeon (kimchi pancake with onions), pa jeon (green onion pancake), mandhu (steamed or fried dumplings filled with pork, garlic and green onion), dokbokkie (rice cake in spicy red pepper sauce) and much, much more. The food you find in Seoul’s open air markets is arguably the best in Korea, and the experience itself of sitting outside in a small kiosk eating with toothpicks cannot be beat! Mind the adjumas, Korea’s middle-aged women who generally run the show at Korean markets – some are sweet, but most won’t mind causing you a bit of embarrassment, whether you’ve committed a faux pas or not!
Dongdaemun Market Map: http://www.korea-hotel-reservations.com/images/dongdaemun_market_hotels_map_b.gif
Namdaemun isn’t too far away from Dongdaemun. Take subway line Number 4 to Hoehyeon Station. Namdaemun is the oldest market in Korea and, arguably, the best. The many city blocks it covers are only accessible by foot, as the streets are always full of stalls and people, and are too small for cars to navigate. Like Dongdaemun, you can find just about anything in Namdaemun – usually for a better price than at shopping malls. Bargaining is acceptable, but you will not always come out of it victorious, so beware. The Russian populations in the Namdaemun area make it a good place to find larger sized clothes.
The food in Namdaemun is similar to that of Dongdaemun – delicious street food, made in kiosks and enjoyed outdoors, which always makes the food taste better! You can usually find a nice array of seafood ready to be grilled and heoddok, pancakes filled with cinnamon and brown sugar, are a blessing during the colder months of winter.
Namdaemun Market Map: http://www.korea-hotel-reservations.com/namdaemun_market_map.html
Some smaller Flea Market areas around Seoul include:
Gwanghwamun Flea Market: Open every Saturday from 11 AM to 4PM. Anyone can buy or sell at this market, and it’s easy to register for a table if you have items to unload! To get there: take subway line number one to Gwanghwamun Station and look for the small park before reaching Gyeongbukgung Palace.
Hwanghak-dong Flea Market: Famous for the amount of shops selling used goods, this flea market is located near the Dongdaemun Market area. Antiques, electronics, appliances and machinery are grouped in certain areas of the flea market, making it nicely organized. Most second hand goods have been repaired and are in good condition. This market is open seven days a week from 9 AM to about 7 PM (it depends on the shop). To get there: take subway lines two or six to Sindang Station. Leave from exit three.
Seocho Flea Market: Open every Saturday from 9:30 to about 3 PM, this flea market is open to anyone who wants to sell their old stuff, but the tables are taken quickly so you will want to get there early! Tables sell everything and anything at varying prices. To get there, take subway line number three to Yangjae Station and leave from exit eight.
Yongsan Flea Market: If you’re looking for used electronics, then this is the market for you. Open every Saturday and two Sundays of the month, you can find used (but still decent) computers, spare parts and various other electronics for a steal. To get there, take subway line number one to Yongsan Station and leave from exit three. Stands are open from 11 AM to 7:30 PM.
Daehangno Philippine Market: Every Sunday from 12 PM to 6 PM, Philippinos and other shoppers gather near Namdaemun to buy Philippino food and various other products at good prices. To get there, take subway line number four to Hyehwa Station and leave from exit one.
Roofers Flea Market: This is a rooftop pub/restaurant located in Itaewon that has an expat flea market for charity once a month. You can rent a table to sell your goods and the proceeds from the rental fees goes to a different charity each month. This is a great place to buy cheap expat treasures that others have brought from home. You can find more information about Roofers and their flea market here:
Gwangjang market: This is a gem of a market located in the heart of the city, Jong-no. They have vintage clothes, antique furniture, silk, bedding, handicrafts, agricultural products, the list goes on and on. It is open everyday from 7 am until 7 pm. Here is the website but it is only available in Korean. http://www.kwangjangmarket.co.kr/ You can also call 1330 for more information.
Gyeongdong Market: For oriental medicine and other agricultural products, visit this market near Dongdaemun. The hours of operation vary from stall to stall, but in general, the medicine shops are open from Monday to Saturday and the foodstuffs are open seven days a week. Your best bet is to visit between 10 AM and 6 PM. To get there, take subway line number one to Jegidong Station. Leave from exit two.