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Frequented by wholesale buyers and tourists is the Namdaemun Market. Considered as South Korea’s oldest and largest retail market, you can probably find almost anything you want or need at this market.
Suggested Tour: Seoul’s Palaces, Temples and Markets
Coming from our guesthouse in Myeongdong plus a stroller and toddler in tow, it’s about a 15-minute walk to Namdaemun Market.
Namdaemun Market (남대문시장)
21, Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul서울특별시 중구 남대문시장4길 21 (남창동)
How to get there:
By subway: Hoehyeon Station (Line 4), Exit 5
But first, coffee! I just love how you can get your coffee fix at any corner in Seoul.
Ahjummas rummaging through the sale items is a typical scene at the market. We started exploring from the back side, passing through the Children’s Clothing Alley.
Still on the Children’s Clothing Alley. Notice the photo below where the manhole was cleverly decorated with a drawing of a fairy. You’ll see this type of street art in Namdaemun Market.
The streets of Namdaemun Market commonly referred to as alleys, are divided into different product categories such as Clothing/Fashion, Bags, Shoes, Accessories, Beddings, Stationery and Toys, Food and more.
Namdaemun Market is easily accessible by subway. Get off at Hoehyeon Station (Line 4), Exit 5 and you’ll be right in the heart of Namdaemun Market. It’s also an easy 10-15 minute walk from Myeongdong and Seoul Station.
The Camera Alley is in the north area of the market, close to the Sungnyemun (South) Gate. From exit 5 of Hoehyeon Subway Station, just walk straight on the main street until you reach the very end, turn left and you’ll see the row of camera shops. I rarely buy electronics when I’m abroad but this might be of interest to photography enthusiasts.
Just because it’s a market, it doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to prettify the walls. Can you guess which alley are we in?
We are in the Accessory Alley of Namdaemun Market! The building on the left has all sorts of accessories for sale, from hairpins to cellphone accessories and are mostly for wholesale buyers.
This is also the end point of the infamous Kalguksu Alley and families with a stroller or little kids can go this way for easy access. The last noodle vendor of the alley has tables and chairs so that’s probably a more comfortable option for families or big groups.
The main entrance of the Kalguksu or Noodle Alley is just a few steps away from Exit 5 of the Hoehyeon Station.
Because I’ve never tried Kalguksu (₩5,500) before and I also wanted to try the Barley Bibimbap or Boribap (₩6,500), I convinced my husband to have lunch at Kalguksu Alley. Being the supportive husband he is, he agreed.
Because the alley is narrow and it is packed with lunch-goers we had to circle the block and go to the other end of the alley (see the Accessory Alley photo above) which fortunately has space for us to park our stroller and a food stall with seats available.
I’m pretty sure they all serve the same thing at this alley and the difference will probably just be with some of the side dishes they serve.
Something that they don’t always tell you is that when you order the Bibimbap, it comes with a small bowl of Kalguksu, which makes it good enough serving for two people. Although we have never experienced this, I’ve read online that some restaurants, not particularly in Kalguksu Alley, don’t encourage sharing of set meals. I would think that this is probably true especially if you are dining on a busy hour. The seat you are sitting on is precious and the restaurant owner will naturally want to profit for the 15 minutes you’ll be sitting there. I know for a fact that this unspoken rule is practiced in the Grilled Fish Alley in Dongdaemun.
I really liked the Barley Bibimbap because the veggies were fresh and it was perfectly seasoned. The Kalguksu is nice too but it’s something that I would rather eat during the colder months.
I know that Kalguksu is on almost all food bloggers “must-try” places in Seoul but I honestly feel that this may not be for everyone. You can eat Kalguksu or Bibimbap anywhere in Seoul, but eating them at this particular alley is an experience on its own. Remember that you’re in a market and you’ll be eating street food. If you are particular with how your food and eating utensils are handled, well, you probably would not enjoy the experience very much. No fancy seats or tables and if you came on a busy hour, you’ll be eating shoulder to shoulder with a stranger.
If you haven’t tried it yet, by all means, include it in your itinerary if you’re visiting Namdaemun Market. It is a cheap eat and personally, I am happy to have finally ticked off Kalguksu Alley on my Foodie Adventures Bucket List but would probably not go back anymore for a second serving. On second thought, I would probably go back for some more of that Bibimbap.
There is another famous food alley in Namdaemun called the Hairtail (Fish) Alley but since I’m not a fan of fish stews, we decided to skip that.
We left Namdaemun and headed back to Myeongdong, stopping by Lotte Young Plaza and Lotte Town for some window shopping.
These two malls are connected by a Bridgeway offering a view of Myeongdong. Here you’ll find high-end brands, something to tickle the luxury shoppers.
For dinner, we have chimaek (chicken and beer) on the menu! There are many chicken and beer restaurants to choose from in Seoul, and BHC is one of the popular chains. I wish we had tried more chimaek restaurants, we’ll never grow tired of eating it because my little girl just loves her fried chicken.
We ordered a whole chicken, half plain and half coated in BHC’s special spicy sauce. Served with some pickled radish. My little girl absolutely loved her birthday dinner! We thought we’d never be able to finish it, but we did. And yes, a cold beer perfectly complements the crispy fried chicken!
So, did I find everything I want and need in Namdaemun Market? The answer is no. But that’s only because I wasn’t really looking for anything. Plus, growing up in the Philippines, we have the same type of markets in Manila selling similar items at much cheaper prices. Let me just say though that the experience is totally different. It’s cleaner, more organized and you won’t get too hassled by many people shopping. You can also find better quality (made in Korea) products here. And different types of street food are also scattered around the market, so that’s always a good thing.
You should definitely include Namdaemun Market on your itinerary when you visit Seoul. Eating at the Kalguksu or the Hairtail Alley is a must-try activity itself, especially for the foodies and adventurous eaters.
Check out the rest of my trip using the links below. I have also listed some Seoul Travel Essentials you can book in advance for a better travel experience.
4G Wifi Rental (Airport Pick up)
Seoul Hop-On Hop-Off City Sightseeing Bus Tour
AREX Incheon Airport Express Train to Seoul Station (One Way)
Discover Seoul Pass
T-Money Card (Pre-loaded with KRW5,000)
Korean Rail Pass
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Seoul Travel Diary Series:
Seoul in 7 Days: An Itinerary for First Time Visitors
K-Guesthouse Myeongdong 3 Review
Korean Skincare Shopping Haul
Bukchon Hanok Village and Insadong
N Seoul Tower
Myeongdong Street Food
Everland Theme Park
Gyeongbokgung Palace and National Folk Museum of Korea
Eland Han River Cruise
Dongdaemun Toy Market
30+ Best Activities to do in Seoul with Kids
Photo Gallery: Seoul, South Korea