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Dongdaemun, More Than Just a Fashion Town

Published Date : Jan. 01, 2016 / Edited Date : Feb. 13, 2019


Do you fancy shopping? Then it goes without saying that Seoul should be at the top of your list as a destination for shopping in Asia. Seoul has a plethora of shopping malls, department stores, and retail outlets, but let's be honest, while doing high end retail shopping at these outlets do have their merits, it's not the best way to experience the true shopping culture of a foreign country. Leave the western-style shopping practices behind you, and discover a whole new world of shopping at some of the most famous traditional markets and shopping centers in Seoul. If you are true lover of shopping - meaning you don't limit yourself to luxury department stores - then you will enjoy Dongdaemun Market, the shopping mecca of Seoul that never sleeps. 
Many of you - especially you fashion fanatics - are probably familiar with Dongdaemun Market. But for those of you who aren't, Dongdaemun Market is most famous as Seoul's largest fashion town that never sleeps. (Okay, it does go to sleep, but not until 5 am, which in my book is sleeps a lot less than I do!) Huge shopping centers, like Doota, Migliore, and Hello apM, at Dongdaemun are solely devoted to trendy fashion items. Hundred of stores and boutiques fill the floors of these towering shopping centers and offer the most trendy fashion items at reasonable prices. Dongdaemun Market is a shopaholic's haven on steroids; from wholesale to retail shopping, Dongdaemun Market is your one-stop location for just about anything - even for you nocturnal. If it's trendy fashion items that you want, then Dongdaemun Market is the place for you.


Dongdaemun Market

Dongdaemun Fashion Town

But Dongdaemun Market is not just a fashion district loaded with shopping centers; what makes Dongdaemun Market truly unique are its traditional markets (and the food at these traditional Korean markets): Gwangjang Market, Bangsan Market, and Pyeonghwa Market. 

For those of you who may be wondering, Dongdaemun, which literally translates to 'Eastern Gate', is one of the four major gates of Seoul. Gwanghwamun, Namdaemun (another major traditional market that we will delve into at a later point), and Seodaemun are the north, south, and west gates respectively. These four gates were once the major gates into the capital city during Joseon Period (1392-1897). The origins of Dongdaemun Market date back to 1905 at Gwangjang Market, which still exists today! Originally a night market opening from just 1pm~1am, today many areas are open from 10am~5am with some being open for 24 hours. 

Let's step away from western-style shopping and visit some traditional markets that truly represent the shopping culture and traditions of Korea. They may not be the cleanest places in Seoul, but the people there are full of love.

Gwangjang Market

With a history of over 100 years, Gwangjang Market is one of Korea's largest and oldest traditional markets. Up until the late 1800's, Korean markets functioned more or less like pop-up markets which were only open for a few days at a time. In 1905, Gwangjang Market became the first permanently established market that was open every day. The market still thrives today as a popular location for vintage clothing and its diversity of street foods. 

For anyone interested in fashion, especially vintage fashion and silk lovers, Gwangjang Market is a must visit. From t-shirts and jeans to silk and leather goods, a diverse variety of unique (and typical) fashion goods can be found here at bargain prices. For a smart shopper with a good eye, it's not difficult to find some great deals - which, let's admit, IS the most exciting part about shopping. 

Shopping for unique vintage clothing is fun, but for locals, the foods of Gwangjang Market is what the place is all about. The plethora of finger-licking good food is what makes Gwangjang Market busy, rain or sunshine. You can't go wrong with any of the food here, but the three foods that you absolutely cannot miss are Jeon, Yukhoe, and Mayak Gimbap. 



Vintage Jeans,Vintage Shoes

Vintage Jeans

Jeon Jeon refers to fried pancake like dishes in Korean cuisine. Jeon is made by mixing various ingredients, such as sliced meats, poultry, seafood, vegetables, with rice or wheat batter and then pan-frying with oil. Jeon is commonly eaten as an appetizer or as anju (food eaten while drinking alcoholic beverages), and is often paired with makgeolli (traditional rice wine). Bindaetteok is perhaps the most famous Jeon at Gwangjang Market. Bindaetteok, aka Nokdujeon, is a type of Jeon made from ground mung beans and meat (usually beef or pork), kimchi, and various other vegetables. It is typically served with a small side serving of dipping sauce made of soy sauce.

Yukhoe Yukhoe is essentially Korean steak tartare. Yukhoe is made from raw beef seasoned with various spices and sauces, usually soy sauce, sugar, salt, sesame oil, spring onions, minced garlic, and julienned Korean pear. A raw egg yolk is usually added on the top of the dish. Yukhoe is commonly eaten as anju (food eaten while drinking alcoholic beverages). What sets the Yukhoe at Gwangjang Market from the rest is the quality. It may not seem like it at a glance, but the Yukhoe restaurants here use only the freshest, premium quality cuts of beef, unlike many other places that use previously frozen beef.

Mayak Gimbap Many of you are probably familiar with Gimbap, but why are these called Mayak Gimbap you ask? Well, 'mayak' means narcotics in Korean, and the name suggests, the Gimbap here are so deliciously addictive that you will always want to come back for more. Seeing a plate of Mayak Gimbap for the first time may be disappointing to some because of its simplicity, but all doubt will disappear the moment you take your first bite. It's almost guaranteed that you will be thinking about it on your way home.

Gwangjang Market's Jeon, Yukhoe, and Mayak Gimbap Alley

Bindaetteok, Yukhoe, Mayak Gimbap / Gwangjang Market Food Alley

indaetteok, Yukhoe, Mayak Gimbap / Gwangjang Market Food Alley

Bangsan Market

Bangsan Market does not sell any fashion goods. This market is renowned for specializing in baking supplies and appliances. Whether it's for baking ingredients and small utensils to large baking appliances, Bangsan Market is the place to be for any baking enthusiast. With over 500 stores dedicated to baking supplies, there's practically no baking related item that you won't be able to find here. 

The name of the market comes from the location's former condition during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897). At the time, the area was infamous for its foul smell. People began ironically calling the market Bangsan, bang meaning fragrant in Korean, which stuck until this day. But don't let that make you think the area still smells foul; rest assured that it doesn't. 

Bangsan Market is also famous for its specialty chocolate shops. Mostly located on the first floor of the Jonghap Sangga (shopping center) building A, stores with over 20 years of history sell mouth-watering gourmet chocolates. 

Bangsan Market
Bangsan Market

Central Asian Town

Want to get some Central Asian food in Seoul? Then, head over to the Central Asian Town, located in the heart of the Dongdaemun area. 

By the mid 1990's, Dongdaemun saw a dramatic increase of textile merchant from Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Mongolia. As they began settling in nearby areas of Dongdaemun's Fashion town, so did their customs, traditions, and food. As a result, the neighborhood just west of Dongdaemun History & Culture Station slowly, but surely developed into the Central Asian Town of today. From all the non-Korean billboards and signs to the aroma of savory foods, once you step into the streets of the Central Asian Village, you will forget that you were ever in Korea. 

From a wide variety of services local immigrants to delicious restaurants for everyone, this is the place to go to experience the culture and food from Central Asia. Lamb dishes here are especially some of the best in Korea. Restaurants around here might not look much from outside, but do not judge a book by its cover. Slow-roasted lamb skewers are to die for. 

Slow-roasted lamb skewers

Pyeonghwa Market

Pyeonghwa Market paved the way for the Dongdaemun area to become the modern fashion town of Korea it is today. Located just south of Cheonggyecheon(Stream), the origins began as a shanty town for North Korean refugees after then end of the Korean War in 1953. Equipped with only a sewing machine, refugees began selling reformed clothes made from US army uniforms. In 1962, the first modern concrete structure, resembling the market today, was built and named Pyeonghwa, meaning peace in Korean, in hopes that no other wars would be fought on Korean soil. This historic fashion market is where the Dongdaemun Fashion Town, now consisting over 30,000 stores in 26 shopping centers, all began. 

Although Pyeonghwa Market is a wholesale market (from 9pm~6am) meant for retail merchants, many stores do sell to regular customers during the day. At prices slightly cheaper than many other retail outlets in Dongdaemun, Pyeonghwa Market is definitely a must visit for any fashion enthusiast.

Pyeonghwa Market





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    (최소 5일~한달 전)3회 이상 전화통화가 이뤄지지 않을 시 예약이 취소될 수 있습니다.
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Read before Reservation
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  • PM 2.5(ピーエムにてんご)の非常低減措置発令及びその他の気象悪化(猛暑、台風、暴雨など)によって
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  • 活动开始前将进行体温测试,超过37.5度者将被限制参与解说活动。
  • 无保护者随同的未满14岁儿童游客,会在现场取消解说活动。
  • 因发布微尘紧急低减措施及其他气象恶化(暴热、台风、暴雨等)无法运营徒步观光解说活动时,所有预约会批量取消。(观光前日基准)
  • 对于解说活动中发生的安全事故,首尔徒步解说旅游事务局和首尔文化观光解说社不予负责。
  • 观光日基准最少1日前方可进行预约。
  • 本线路是为了行动不便者(行动不便的高龄者、残疾人、婴儿车利用者等)的路线。
  • 无辅助人员(或同行人)伴随时,不可利用。
    ※ 步行不便者1名至少需要1名以上的辅助人员陪同。
    ※ 电动辅助器具(电动轮椅、电动独轮车等)使用者时,每一位辅助人员最多可陪同 4名步行不便者。
  • 希望观光的日期及线路上无解说员时,预约有可能被取消。
  • 为了确认预约,徒步观光事务局(02-6925-0777)会致电进行确认。
    (最少5日~一个月前) 3次以上无法连接时,预约将被取消。
  • 进行解说时,对于有可能发生的安全事故,徒步观光事务局和首尔文化观光解说员概不负责。
  • 因发布微尘紧急低减措施及其他气象恶化(暴热、台风、暴雨等),无法运营 徒步观光时,所有预约会批量取消。
  • 最晚請於預約日期3天前完成預約。
  • 為防止新冠肺炎疫情擴散,導覽人數最少1人、最多3人。
  • 已完成預約的團體若人數超過限制,可於前一天下午5點前追加預約。
  • 每月15日將開放下個月的預約。
  • 參與解說觀光時請務必佩戴口罩。
  • 若有發燒或呼吸道症狀(發燒、咳嗽、咳痰、肌肉酸痛、鼻塞、喉嚨痛),請避免參與本活動。
  • 活動開始前將進行體溫測量。若體溫超過37.5度,將無法參與本活動。
  • 未有保護者同行的未滿14歲兒童遊客,會在現場取消參與資格。
  • 因發布微塵緊急降低措施及其他天氣惡化(暴熱、台風、豪雨等),無法進行徒步觀光時,所有預約將取消。(預約日期前日基準)
  • 進行解說時,對於有可能發生的安全事故,首爾徒步解說觀光事務局和首爾文化觀光解說員概不負責。
  • 觀光日基準最少1日前方可進行預約。
  • 本線路是為了行動不便者(行動不便的高齡者、殘疾人、嬰兒車利用者等)的路線。
  • 無輔助人員(或同行人)伴隨時,不可利用。
    ※ 步行不便者1名至少需要1名以上的輔助人員陪同。
    ※ 電動輔助器具(電動輪椅、電動獨輪車等)使用者時,每壹位輔助人員最多可陪同 4名步行不便者。
  • 希望觀光的日期及線路上無解說員時,預約有可能被取消。
  • 為了確認預約,徒步觀光事務局(02-6925-0777)會致電進行確認。
    (最少5日~壹個月前) 3次以上無法連接時,預約將被取消。
  • 進行解說時,對於有可能發生的安全事故,徒步觀光事務局和首爾文化觀光 解說員概不負責。
  • 因發布微塵緊急低減措施及其他氣象惡化(暴熱、臺風、暴雨等),無法運營 徒步觀光時,所有預約會批量取消。 (觀光前日基準)