Stand beneath the arch of an ancient city gate, then lose yourself in the labyrinth of a traditional Korean market in the bustling Jung district of Seoul.
Namdaemun is a small and historic area in Jung-gu, the heart of Seoul. The area mainly comprises an ancient city gate and a sprawling traditional market. Both are fascinating, easy-to-reach and popular tourist attractions in central Seoul.
First visit the iconic Sungnyemun Gate (the Gate of Exalted Ceremony), also known as Namdaemun Gate. The gate stands on a grassy knoll in a traffic circle, surrounded by the urban jungle of modern Seoul. Time your visit with the changing of the guards, an impressive daily ceremony that involves music and guards in robes with swords.
Sungnyemun Gate was constructed at the end of the 14th century as the southern gate in the city’s old fortress wall and was declared “National Treasure No.1” in 1962. In 2008, the wooden pagoda on the top was severely damaged by an arson attack, but this has been fully restored. Imagine how the gate must have looked during the days of the Joseon dynasty.
When it is time for lunch, make your way over to the Namdaemun Market and explore the pedestrian-only lanes and malls that make up this modernized version of a traditional Korean market. Follow the maps or little signs as you make your way through to find yourself a bargain or two in the themed sections of the market. There is no end to the clothing, accessories, souvenirs and yummy snacks you can buy here and it’s not expensive either.
It’s nice to return to Namdaemun in the evening to see how its star attractions transform at night. Sungnyemun Gate is lit up like an antique jewel and stands in stark contrast to the halo of modern city lights surrounding it.
The market remains busy in the evenings and it’s hard to resist the mouthwatering aromas coming from the street food stalls after sunset. Sample some of your favorite Korean dishes or let the vendors entice you to try something new.
Namdaemun, between Seoul Station and Seoul Plaza, is easily reached by subway, bus and taxi. Hoehyeon Station is the most convenient metro stop to aim for.