Once the easternmost of four main gates to the capital city, Seoul, the Dongdaemun Gate functions today as a tourist attraction and an iconic beacon for shoppers seeking the wares available at the nearby market and shopping complexes.
There have been imposing structures serving as gates on the site as far back as 1396. The current structure was built by King Gojong in 1869. The gate and connecting city wall weren't built for ornamental purposes only, as the lowland site of the main palace wasn't easy to defend from invaders. This is not to say that the structure is anything less than handsome. Despite the varying hues of stone used during numerous renovations over the years, the gate's facade is imposing. Joseon Period Japsang statues of animals adorn the eaves in an attempt to ward off evil spirits. Whether they are effective or not is questionable, but their aesthetic value is considerable. Guided tours of the structure and surrounding area come highly recommended.
The aforementioned market and shopping complexes are booming destinations popular with both Koreans and tourists. Situated along the famous Cheonggyecheon Stream and the Hwanghakgyo Bridge, the market is home to stalls offering standard wares, kitschy souvenirs, traditional Korean goods, folk items, and a wide array of traditional Korean and fusion cuisine. Cross the main street to the Dongdaemun shopping complexes to go shopping for clothing, accessories, and shoes until the wee hours of the night.
A stimulating mix of old and new, the Dongdaemun Gate and accompanying market are definitely worth a late afternoon or early evening, whether you live in and around Seoul or are just passing through.