Namdaemun Night Market

21 Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Hoehyeon-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Dumplings are delicious. That’s not much of a secret. But snacking on dumplings in one of the world’s busiest and most atmospheric night markets? That’s an entirely different experience. Namdaeumun Night Market, located smack dab in the heart of Seoul, is a throwback to the Korea of yore, a place where you can sample traditional street treats, fill your pockets with pickled ginger, and a host of other ancient herbal supplements (you’ll need them after you power through a bottle of soju), rub shoulders with old school shopkeepers, and buy just about any sort of trinket you can possibly imagine. Namdaemun is a world away from the Seoul that surrounds it, and will always and forever remain one of my favorite places to watch the world go by.

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Korea’s largest traditional market, Namdaemun sits next to the ancient south gate after which it’s named. This mostly wholesale marketplace, made up of several alleys filled with thousands of stalls, is always swarming with shoppers. It may seem chaotic but it’s loosely divided into sections, the most interesting of which is the food area. There, you can sample dishes like mandu (dumplings), seafood soups, bibimbap, and hatteok (Korean pancakes). There’s even boiled silkworms for the adventurous. After filling up, browse the rest of the market for cheap clothes, housewares, toys, jewelry, and stationery. Also worth checking out are Buildings C and D for discounted souvenirs, and the third level of Building E for its colorful flower market.

One of the biggest markets in South Korea

Among the biggest and most chaotic markets in Korea, Seoul‘s Namdaemun Market is the capital’s oldest, dating to the 1400s. Today you can find ANYthing here, if you’re willing to brave the crowded alleyways tucked in behind skyscrapers: cellphones, fried fish cakes, ginseng liqueurs, bulk stockings, cosmetics, lacquerware, underwear, noodles, squid, seaweed... Street snacks abound, along with the occasional street musician. Watch out for the motorcycle stacked 10 feet high with you-name-it (pantyhose?calculators?), weaving its way through the sea of pedestrians. And don’t forget to haggle.

To get here via subway: Hoehyon station, Line 4, Exit 5.

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