Exploring the loud hustle and bustle of the markets in Korea is a great way to get a taste of the local life. With some markets being up to 700 Years old, they offer visitors a glimpse of the history and culture that has taken place to establish what they are now.
Through the labyrinth-like streets, the markets have everything from electronics, fresh produce to steaming stalls selling all kinds of food. These markets are tucked away throughout Seoul and gives visitors a chance to escape the modern city life and experience traditional Korea. So here are few of the must-see markets when visiting.
Starting with the largest and oldest, Namdaemun market has over 10,000 stores and is constantly buzzing with locals and tourists alike. The market offers shoppers a comprehensive array of clothing, fabrics, jewellery, toys, housewares and appliances all at affordable prices. A crucial part of visiting any market would be trying out the famous street foods. At Namdaemum market you can visit two famous food alleys kalguksu alley (Korean handmade noodles) and galchijorim alley (braised hairtail fish). Both alleys are only a few meters long but specialise in their signature dish and is a popular option for lunch. The lively atmosphere and the warm generosity of these street vendors are guaranteed to leave you satisfied and full.
Next up, Gwangjang market was established back in 1904 and is said to have over 65,000 people visiting each day. This market is most well-known for its large variety of food stalls and is a must-visit for any foodie travelling in Korea. All the dishes are freshly made with local produce and visitors can watch the action happen as the meals are prepared right in front of them. The market particularly prides itself on its famous bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes), dumplings and bibimbap (mixed rice). But a trip to Gwangjang markets wouldn’t be complete without trying its ‘Mayak Gimbap’ which translates to ‘narcotic rice rolls’. Although this is not a literal translation it gains its title from its addictiveness and returning customers. For the brave-hearted, a walk down yukhoe alley (raw beef) is another must. Buchon yukoe is a Michelin recommended restaurant (Bib Gourmand 2018) that serves up fresh beef tartare topped with sliced pear, sesame oil and a raw egg.
If the food wasn’t enough reason to go, on the second floor you’ll find one of the largest collection of fabrics in Asia and an opportunity to custom design your very own traditional Korea outfit known as Hanbok. This is a perfect way to bring a little bit of Korean culture back home with you from your trip. Moreover, palaces in Seoul give free entry to anyone wearing a Hanbok, so it might be a good idea to visit the nearby Changdeokgung Palace after exploring the markets.
Last but definitely not least, rapidly rising in popularity is Tongin market. Compared to Namdaemum and Gwangjang market it is smaller in size but has been drawing attention with its interesting ‘Dosirak’ Cafe (lunch box) system. Here you can trade in your wons (Korean currency) for olden day Korean tokens and a plastic lunch tray, which will allow you to explore the markets like a buffet. 5,000 won (approx. $6 AUD) will get you 5 choices and is a convenient way to try a little bit of everything. A popular dish among locals is the “Gireum teokbokki”(oil rice cake) this is a dish has been unique to Tongin market since the 1950s and is a must-try when visiting.
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