Do you like to walk around and observe the locals? Do you like street food? Well, today is your lucky day! I am going to suggest you a couple of places you have yet to visit once while you’re in Seoul. These are mostly local places where residents come to shop for food on the cheap. Let’s take a look at some of the best traditional markets in Seoul!
Traditional Markets in Seoul Should Be a Destination
Traditional markets in Seoul are often seen as an unwelcome reminder of a less prosperous past by the younger generation in Korea. However, for elders, it is the familiar spot they can come to in a city that has transformed beyond recognition in recent decades.
Nevertheless, traditional markets in Seoul have been receiving some recognition from foreigners and are becoming popular among travelers in Korea. They are fun to visit and enjoy the localness of Korean people and try traditional foods. It is very different from street food places such as Myeongdong, which mostly contain a variety of popular street food.
These places appeal to older generations and you can find a lot of food that hasn’t gone global. If you want truly authentic Korean food, unaltered by growing western influence and fusion culture, traditional markets in Seoul shouldn’t be missed. I can say that it is one of a kind experience. Now let’s get straight into it.
If you search for traditional markets in Seoul, Gwangjang Market is usually the first suggestion, and there is a good reason as to why.
Gwangjang market is located near Jong-ro 5 subway station which is also close to Dongdaemun market. It is right in the heart of Seoul, near many tourist attractions. Gwangjang market is a local spot that sells mainly street food. It is very old school. The market hasn’t made efforts to evolve with the times, and doesn’t plan to. The first time I went there with my friends, it was eye-opening for me. I have lived in Korea for years and I didn’t have any knowledge of this place. I really enjoyed the local atmosphere!
It has traditional, aesthetic vibes. You can just pick a stall, order some food, and look around. I enjoyed just seeing locals sit and enjoy the food. Honestly, it made me miss my homeland and the local foods too. We have similar chaotic local markets back in Cambodia…. even though the food is totally different, the vibes were familiar.
The market is made up of small tent-like restaurants and gives out a comfy aura that captivates people walking by. Many of the tents sell the same kind of food, but they all have their own twist to it. In Korea, this is often referred to as son-mat, or had flavor.
The foods you would be able to find there are Jajangmyeon (black bean noodles), Tteokboki (spicy rice cakes), eomuk (fishcake), pig’s feet (which is my favorite thing in the world), and other kinds of street food paired with soju or beer. I went into one and the Ajuma was really caring toward us. She made sure that we had the necessary things to enjoy the food. She even offered us one bottle of soju and we thanked her for the food after we finished the food.
Mangwon Market is a little bit different from Gwangjang Market because it is more centered on groceries and snacks you can bring home with you. However, they also have traditional food you can eat in the market. For people who are staying near Hapjeong, Sinchon, or Hongdae (Hongik University), it is the ideal place to shop for groceries. The vegetables are brought from local farmers and the price is cheap. Shopping here will be a big help to your bank account. Haha.
There are seafood stores at the market with fresh seafood that comes straight from the seaside every day. And, for salmon lovers, the price is not that expensive compared to Lotte Mart or Emart. I bought loads of seafood at Mangwon market ranging from fish to clams to shrimp, and octopus. You can also buy and then eat there as sushi or sashimi.
Surrounding the market are cozy small coffee shops, bakeries, and other kinds of restaurants. Most of them have an exterior of buildings from 1990s era so it just radiates the period and I don’t know why, it calms me down walking around the Mangwon market area since it is really peaceful and quiet.
Benefits of Shopping at Traditional Markets in Seoul
Plus, as a pro tip for those living in Korea, you can easily get a tax deduction for shopping at traditional markets in Seoul. You need a bank account that is registered to your ARC. All of the shops with in Mangwon accept card, something that is rare at traditional markets in Seoul. However, you can find a few shops here and there in all makets that accept card. Purchases at traditional markets are tax deductable in Korea and using a registered card automatically calculates it on your annual taxes.
So whenever you have the time and want to grab some food, visit traditional markets in Seoul! It would be one relaxing and laid-back day. Plus, its great to help keep traditions alive!
Want to explore more traditional markets? Click Here for our favorite seafood markets in Krorea!