Is Namdaemun Market the tackiest place in Seoul? Does anybody actually shop here? These were my initial thoughts about the place until I had a good look around – and then I began to change my mind a little.
Namdaemun Market, located in the very centre of Seoul, is the biggest traditional market in Korea selling clothing for all ages, various items of food, as well as both local and imported products. Most shops have their own factories and make the products themselves offering both wholesale and retail prices which enable visitors to purchase various shopping items at extremely inexpensive prices. All this makes it a rather unique place for Seoulites to do their shopping.
Foreign visitors to Namdaemun Market show different tastes: the Japanese are more into foods like kimchi and ginseng, while the Chinese show interest in clothing and miscellaneous goods. On the other hand, most tourists from the West simply enjoy the ambience of the traditional market. Hours vary by store, so it’s advisable to plan in advance according to a shopping list before you actually begin your shopping.
Among other specially named streets within the Namdaemun Market shopping complex, are Food Street and Jokbal Street. I was told that you can get great Hotteok here, which are warm filled pancakes that Koreans swear by) but I didn’t actually see too many of them any on sale! I did try one, though, and it was delicious. It’s not my favourite Korean snack by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s still rather tasty! You can also find lots of amazing mandu, which are Korean steamed dumplings (basically the Korean version of Chinese baozi or Japanese nikuman/gyoza). These are among the cheapest kinds of food you can find at Namdaemun Market and should satisfy the taste buds of all visitors!
Jokbal Street surely needs no introduction, as jokbal is known to be a dish of pig’s feet. Unsurprisingly, this area of Namdaemun Market has many vendors selling fresh trotters to Koreans – and to the occasional tourist. I didn’t want any on this occasion, although I have tried it with friends in Hongdae at a restaurant called ‘Myth Jokbal’. Highly recommended.