Dongdaemun (동대문) – Not Just For the Shopaholics

Ever since my 1st visit to Seoul on a South Korea group tour back in 2004, Dongdaemun (동대문) has always been part of my itinerary whenever I visit the capital city. Why? Because I love the late night shopping in Dongdaemun, particularly in the wholesale markets. Since this famous neighbourhood is also located in Jongno-gu, & the staff at the City Hall tourist information booth did mention to me that it’s possible to walk from Ihwa-dong Mural Village to Dongdaemun, I might as well squeeze this in as my last activity for the day. 😉

By the time I found my way to the iconic Heunginjimun Gate (흥인지문), it was almost 7 pm. As the east gate of the outer wall of Seoul Fortress among 8 gates built during the Joseon Dynasty to protect the capital, it is commonly referred to as Dongdaemun which means the East Gate of Seoul. Seriously, I think this was the 1st time I’ve ever taken a good look of the historical treasure although I’ve been here so many times! Guess I was too focused on all the shopping bargains that I missed out this important gate then… 😛

Apparently, this is the only gate among the 8 gates in Seoul to have the semicircle-shaped small wall, or Ongseong (옹성), to protect the gate. It’s a pity I didn’t go to the other side of the gate for a photo to show you how the Ongseong looks like. The Dongdaemun City Wall Park (동대문성곽공원) just across the road from the Heunginjimun Gate stands out with its rustic sight of the Seoul City Wall, especially against the evening peak hour traffic on the road. If you would like to visit the city wall park, you can alight at Dongdaemun Station (동대문역, Line 1 & 4) & the nearest exit is #1.

There are several established hotels near this significant gate, & the most prestigious one has to be the JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul near to exit 8 of Dongdaemun Station. This luxury hotel faces the Cheonggyecheon Stream’s Ogansugyo (오간수교), & I found the Jjeojat Food Street (저잣거리) just located conveniently beside the hotel. Part of the Dongdaemun Shopping Complex (동대문종합시장), this is where you can tuck into popular Korean street food such as spicy rice cake, gimbap etc, but at 7+pm, only a few stalls were open. I was somewhat hungry with all the walking, but none of the food sold here seemed substantial enough to cure my hunger pangs haha.


The quiet Jjeojat Food Street in the evening

After that, I continued my journey towards the shopping town, where the fashion hotspots such as Doota, Migliore, Hello aPM & Good Morning City can be found. It was too early to shop in the Wholesale Clothing Town opposite these hotspots, as it wasn’t past midnight. The trendy clothing sold in these malls didn’t seem to attract me at all, because I was so cold, hungry & tired. Fortunately, I managed to tuck into some piping hot Rice Cake Ramen Soup in a small Running Man-endorsed (a popular Korean game-variety show) eatery found in the alley next to Migliore. Nothing fantastic but it gave me my much-needed warmth & energy, so no complaints. 😛

Perhaps it was really a strenuous day out in Jongno-gu that day, I was actually not in a shopaholic mood as I browsed the numerous stalls in these malls aimlessly. So I decided to call it a day after 1 hour, despite it being a Friday night & the night was still young. On my way back to take the train back to apartment from Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (동대문역사문화공원역, Line 2, 4 & 5), I had to pass through the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). It is an innovative design of traditional buildings, relics & cutting-edge modern multicultural facilities, including the Igansumun Water Gate (floodgate channeling water from Namsan Mountain to Cheonggyecheon Stream and Seoul Fortress). I guess this was the building that was under construction when I visited back in March 2011 (read my previous post of Dongdaemun here). Many visitors were busy snapping photos of the beautiful plaza at night, & I followed suit. 😛


With this, I ended my super long day in Jongno-gu, with walking as my main mode of “transport”. I broke my own step record that day too, clocking almost 30 km & over 300 min on the road! No wonder most of the clothing in the shopping malls looked so ugly because I was lethargic by the time I got to Dongdaemun. But at least, I followed through my plan & did not give up halfway! LOL

My inner shopaholic voice did remind me to visit the shopping town the next evening & I did make some purchases, though not as much as I imagined. 😛 I also caught a nice open-air mini concert by 2 male bespectacled Korean pop singers on the stage at the open space between Migliore & Doota. Love their mesmerizing voices & ballads, but too bad I didn’t manage to catch their names. I guess I was so engrossed in their singing that I forgot to take photo/ video of their performance. 😦 The duo reminded me of the Malaysian group 光良品冠. 🙂

As you can see from my photos & write-up above, Dongdaemun is not just for the shopaholics. It’s a place with a bit of everything, from history, relics to the beautiful scenery to street food, modern art & free street performances. Come & experience this unique place in Seoul for yourself next time! 🙂


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