Namdaemun Market 남대문시장
If you want to do some serious shopping in Seoul, you’ll want to head to Dongdaemun (mostly clothing and fabric), Myeongdong (mostly cosmetics), or Namdaemun. Namdaemun has a lot of outdoor shopping stalls (selling everything from kitchenware to cheap clothes to knockoff handbags) as well as indoor stalls (selling jewelry — often wholesale, unfortunate for those of us who just want to buy a few pieces, clothes, and again, knockoff handbags). My Korean friends told me that Namdaemun is THE place to buy cheap kids’ clothing.
My friend Tricia wanted to try Namdaemun’s famous hotteok 호떡. Hotteok is a popular street food, AND Korea’s take on a pancake, but one filled with either minced nuts, cinnamon and honey — the ‘traditional’ hotteok, or vegetables and rice noodle — the savory hotteok. It’s been rumored that this tiny hotteok stand’s owner is a self-made millionaire, just from the sales from this one hotteok stall, which only sells sweet and savory hotteok, for 1,000 won (~ $1 USD) each!!
So, in order to cross the hotteok off of Tricia’s bucket list, and also shop for cute clothes for babies M and E, we had a date at Namdaemun. We first went to Gate 2, and were surprised there was a line! Although I was really craving the sweet hotteok, I figured I should taste the savory hotteok 야채호떡 (literally, vegetable hotteok), since that was what the stall was known for. It was steaming hot and very tasty. (Yup, I should’ve bought two.)
Next, we went to the group of buildings with kids’ clothing. I purchased a super cute sweatshirt and sweatpants set (the sweatshirt has a fox on it, and the pants have foxes on the knees and a tail. A TAIL!) for Baby M. Tricia bought a pair of very stylish baby loafers. Prices aren’t usually marked — you just have to ask. Although we tried to bargain, we were told they were already selling at wholesale prices (which is what I heard anyway). And then, we realized we had run out of cash. A word to the wise: bring cash. Lots of cash. Most stalls don’t take credit card. I did have just enough cash (3,500 won) to buy five mandu 만두 (Korean dumplings) for dinner, since Alex was working late that night.
Two weeks later, flush with cash, Tricia and I met once again in Namdaemun. We purchased really cute vests — the pattern was lambs and both of our kiddies are lambs, for 5,000 won (~$5 USD) each. Tricia also purchased some stone bowls for bibimbap, as well as a cute mortar and pestle set. We then sampled some fresh donuts (the one filled with red bean was eh… but the one filled with creamed chestnut was delicious).
After we parted ways, I went to Mino eyeglass shop 미노안경, to get another pair of prescription glasses made (this was on MY bucket list). In case you didn’t know, Korea is THE place to get a pair (or three) of prescription glasses made (and, Korea is also the place to get plastic surgery and beauty products). It’s super cheap and so fast. My Korean-American friend Melissa first took me to Mino two years ago, and I had a pair of prescription sunglasses and a pair of normal glasses made for less than 120,000 won ($120 USD). Both sets of lenses were either double or triple-pressed, making them more lightweight. And, I was able to pick up the glasses an hour later, and the sunglasses a couple days later.
Last week, I was surprised when the ajusshi 아저씨 (Korean for “uncle,” but most often used to address a male salesperson, cabdriver, etc.) remembered me (well, I did take Alex to get a pair of glasses a year and a half ago…). He helped pick out a pair of frames, gave me the “friends and family discount”, and had the glasses ready in 20 minutes! And, it was only 50,000 won ($50 USD). Amazing.
Namdaemun has a TON of shops selling glasses, but I highly recommend Mino. Mino is super nice (he walked me out and told me how to get to City Hall station to get back to Jamsil) and he is FAST. Mino is located in the same building as Alpha stationary store (they share the same space), near Sungnyemun 숭례문 Gate (unofficial name Namdaemun Gate).
As I walked to City Hall station, I stopped to take a picture of Namdaemun Gate (maybe I am getting sentimental about leaving Seoul), and bought a bag of peeled chestnuts (3,000 won) from a street vendor (they were just ok).
Namdaemun Market: Hoehyeon 회현역 Station, line 4, exits 5 and 6.
Namdaemun’s official website: http://www.namdaemunmarket.co.kr/index.php
Directions to the famous hotteok 호떡 stand: http://www.namdaemunmarket.co.kr/03_eat/view.php?sid=7
Directions to kids clothing buildings: http://www.namdaemunmarket.co.kr/02_buy/list.php?cate=03
phone number 02-318-9191
Click here to read about my first experience at Namdaemun Market