Dongdaemun is a top attraction that is constantly crowded with international visitors! Tourists who visit this area typically only spend an hour or two here, but there are so many things to do or see that you may even spend an entire day exploring. Some of the most representative attractions found in this area include the nation's first designated treasure, Heunginjimun Gate, the all-time favorite Cheonggyecheon Stream, as well as the notable landmark of this district, Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP).
The area of Dongdaemun is bigger than most tourists know and thus, several hidden attractions are often left unexplored. Read on for our very own one-day guide for first-time travelers to have a productive time in the Dongdaemun district!
Heunginjimun Gate is the official name but due to its position on the east side of the outer wall of Seoul Fortress, it is also commonly referred to as Dongdaemun Gate. At that time, four large gates and four small gates were built in the Seoul Fortress surrounding the city. The four main gates (East, West, South, North) each had a Hangeul character attached, indicating benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom respectively. The east gate of the fortress was formerly named 'Heunginmun Gate', but was later changed to 'Heunginjimun Gate' with an addition of the Hangeul 'ji (지)' which was added to invigorate good energy.
Heunginjimun Gate is the largest gate in Seoul, surpassing even Sungnyemun Gate. It has a semicircular ongsung (a small wall built in front of the gate for complete protection) that differentiates it from the other fortress gates.
There is an uphill road behind the Heunginjimun Gate and it leads to the Dongdaemun Seonggwak Park. Due to the strong presence of other tourist attractions, as well as the small scale of the park, visitors to this area tend to miss out this hidden gem. Here at the park, you can catch a bird’s eye view of Dongdaemun where one can observe a harmonious blend of Korea’s traditional architecture with the modern skyscrapers.
Cheonggyecheon Stream flows through Jongno-gu and Jung-gu districts. It is an all-time favorite leisure place for anyone to rest or simply hang out with friends in the heart of the capital.
Though Gwanghwamun is the main entrance to Cheonggyecheon Stream, visitors may also get to the stream from Dongdaemun Station. There are a total of 22 bridges that cross over Cheonggyecheon Stream, with the bridge in Dongdaemun being Ogansugyo Bridge. The bridge is located at the spot of the previous Ogansu Gate, where five streams flowed out of the old capital. Due to urban development, the old gate can no longer be seen, but its memory lives on in the name of the bridge.
Fashion and shopping are two of the most highly associated words with Dongdaemun. The area was designated as Dongdaemun Fashion Town Special Tourist Zone in 2002 and it gives a completely different vibe from typical shopping malls. Here at Dongdaemun, visitors may enjoy a unique experience of both traditional flea markets, as well as modern shopping complexes.
Although international tourists tend to visit the modern-style shopping malls, Dongdaemun Shopping Complex and Pyounghwa Fashion Town are also highly recommended. Visitors may experience a different vibe from usual shopping, and feel a sense of the traditional flea market instead. Dongdaemun Shopping Complex mainly sells fabric, buttons and other similar materials while fashion-related goods and commodities can be found at Pyounghwa Fashion Town.
The landmark of Dongdaemun, Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) was designed by world-renowned architect, Zaha Hadid. The DDP is shaped like a swirling spiral, representing the dynamics of Dongdaemun Fashion Town.
The most outstanding feature of DDP lies in its curves and atypical architecture. Neither straight lines nor right angles can be found in the entire structure. There are seven floors (three basement levels and four aboveground levels), but astoundingly, the floors are not exactly distinguishable from the outside.
The structure itself is not only unique on the outside but is also full of fascinating attractions on the inside. The complex is convenient and makes exploring enjoyable as it is divided into four segments namely 'Art Hall', 'Museum', 'Design Lab' and the 'Oullim Square'. The park next to the DDP is installed with 25,550 LED roses that make a beautiful scene at night. It's the perfect location for a romantic date night.
As the sun goes down, a night market appears behind Dongdaemun Design Plaza. Street stalls with yellow tents spring up in a row and the place begins to come alive after 11 pm. In the past, this scene was often referred to as "nota," a compound word formed from 'noran' (meaning 'yellow' in Korean) and 'tawol' ('tower' pronounced in Korean), since the market scene is located in front of Doosan Tower. Recently, the name was changed to Dongdaemun Sebit Market.
At the entrance of the Dongdaemun Sebit market, you will be greeted by a cute owl mascot, followed by a row of seemingly countless street stalls selling a wide assortment of items. Besides shopping, you can also enjoy diverse street food for a late-night snack such as gimbap, tteokbokki, and sundae.
* This column was last updated in March 2018, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details from the official websites before visiting.