Flea Markets in Seoul
There’s something really special about shopping at flea markets. Each item seems to have its own personality. Instead of crisp, clean items packaged up in shiny plastic boxes for efficient sale, flea markets offer shoppers an eclectic experience where no two items are the same, and each has its own unique story to tell. However, in the shopping-addicted nation of Korea, buying things used isn’t all that popular. Most Koreans dislike the idea of wearing someone else’s clothes or using someone else’s old things. It’s because of this that you won’t see many thrift shops or consignment stores around here. However, there are a few notable flea markets around Seoul that attract regular crowds. They either sell used or handmade items, the latter of which being a bit more popular.
1:00-18:00 every Saturday from March to November
Most people visit the famous student district of Hongdae during the night. The “infamous” playground (where the Hongdae Freemarket is situated), is usually crowded with drunken young people waiting to meet their friends before heading on to the next bar. During the daylight, however, Hongdae turns into an area as creative and unique as its arts university namesake. Enter the Hongdae Freemarket: no, it’s not Konglish for “flea market”, and no, everything is not free. Instead, it’s a place where art students can gather to perform, sell their wares, and interact in a “free” atmosphere. Some students even offer art seminars for visitors. Particularly popular are the portrait artists, who, instead of doing the usual tacky caricatures seen so often, draw lifelike or manga-esque portraits of customers. Each artist has their own style, and prices for one color portrait hover around 8,000KRW-10,000KRW
Directions: Hongik Station (Line 2) Exit 9. Walk straight and make a left at the four-way intersection. Turn left again, keep walking until the end of the street, turn right, and follow the hill.
Daehangno Phillipine Market
Sundays from 12:00 to 18:00 (cash only)
Famous around Seoul’s northeastern Hyehwa area is the Sunday Filipino market. Here, Koreans and Filipinos alike gather to eat traditional foods, buy imported fruits, and browse magazines and CDs on sale at the market. Especially popular are the deep-fried banana rolls (1,000KRW each) and the mangos (3,000KRW to 5,000KRW). With over 7,000 Filipinos living in Korea, this market is a popular reminder of home for many, where they can purchase familiar spices and other cooking ingredients, as well as socialize. For others, it’s a great place to sip on a cold can of coconut juice or bottle of San Miguel, the Philippines’ national beer.
Directions: Hyewha Station (Line 4) Exit 1. Walk straight, towards the Hyewha Catholic Church. The market will be on your right.
Seocho Flea Market
Saturdays from 9:00 to 15:00 (market starts to shut down around 14:00)
The Seocho Flea Market is one of the largest of its kind in Korea, carrying everything from clothes, to knick-knacks, to electronics and more. This is the best place for bargain hunters, as t-shirts can cost as little as 1,000KRW and bags as little as 500KRW. There are thousands of people who participate in the Seocho Flea Market, but oddly enough, not much street food is around. Unlike the Filipino market or Hongdae Freemarket, you’re going to have to go across the street to find any quick eats. Alternatively, the Gangnam area isn’t far away from the Seocho Flea Market.
Directions: Sadang Station (Line 2 and 4) Exit 1. The market will be on your right.
Yongsan Flea Market
Weekends from 11:00 to 19:00 (Closed 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month)
This market is for the tech geeks, or anyone who needs a cheap computer part and doesn’t care about having the latest model. The Yongsan Flea Market is held by merchants from the nearby electronics market of the same name. While most goods are used, you can still find the odd new part. Make sure to test out whatever you can on the spot to make sure that it’s still in working order.
Directions: Yongsan Station (Line 1) Exit 3. Take the overhead bridge using the 2nd floor of the Yongsan Electronics Market. After reaching the second building, exit out the first floor and the market will be on your right.
Gwanghwamun Flea Market
Sundays from 11:00am to 4:00pm
Located in Seoul’s center of business and history, the Gwanghwamun Flea Market still has a while to go before it gains the same level of popularity as the others on this list. While you won’t be able to make a day out of shopping at this market, it’s a great place to use as a springboard before exploring one of the many nearby tourist attractions, including Gyeongbokgung Palace, Cheonggyecheon Stream, and the traditional area of Insadong. You can even sell some of your own used or handmade items here; just pay the registration fee of 2,000KRW and you’ll be good to go.
Directions: Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5) Exit 2. Head to Yulinmadang Park, which is to the right of the US Embassy.
Gabrielle interned as a Content Creator for Work'n'Play during her exchange trip to Chung-Ang University in 2012-2013. She graduated from Vancouver Island University in May 2014 with her BA in Global Studies. She is now a Master's student at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Ottawa, Canada. The things she misses most about her year in Korea are: going for makgeolli + jeon with friends, exploring Seoul's new and old hidden treasures and getting to practice Korean every day. You can connect with her on Twitter at @MsGabrielle or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.