TAKE A TRIP THROUGH A TRADITIONAL KOREAN MARKET
-Purchase oriental medicine, backdrop for films, created by Kings, enjoy the best local dishes-
A trip through a bustling traditional Korean market will keep you on your toes and your stomach pining after the savoury smells of hundreds of tasty dishes to devour. Some markets specialise, whether it be oriental medicine or vintage clothing, but each will have a unique atmosphere, some charming and others a little chaotic. Markets are the best place to experience the coexistence of modernism and tradition simultaneously. Not only are these markets historic, with unique backstories, they are the place to sell produce, buy produce and feed the neighbourhood.
Traditional markets can be found in almost every city or region in Korea. They are a must visit for foodies who can enjoy a range of street foods varying by region, from sweet to savoury, while shoppers can explore Korea’s unique tastes and fashions in the diverse shopping experience on offer.
POPULAR TRADITIONAL MARKETS IN SEOUL:
Oldest & Largest: Namdaemun Market
Namdaemun Market is a traditional market with a 600 year old history. It offers over 1,700 varieties of goods at affordable prices which include pottery, clothing, accessories, kitchenware, and regional specialties. It is also known as one of the best marketplaces to buy traditional handicrafts, glasses, and sunglasses. Namdaemun Market is famous for delicious foods such as, Guksu (noodles), Jokbal (pig’s trotters) and Galchi Jorim (stewed beltfish). Popular attractions like Myeong-dong, Deoksugung Palace, and Gwanghwamun Gate are located nearby, making the market a perfect place to stop by after a tour of the neighbourhood.
24 Hour Shopping: Dongdaemun Market
Open 24-hours a day, Dongdaemun Market is a large commercial district comprising traditional markets and shopping centers that covers the entire area around Dongdaemun Gate, a prominent landmark in Korea. All kinds of goods can be found here including silks and fabric, clothes, shoes and accessories, electronics, leather goods, sporting goods, office supplies, pet products, and toys.
Foodie Paradise: Gwangjang Market
Gwangjang Market was the first permanent market established in Korea. The first thing that comes to mind when Koreans hear the name ‘Gwangjang Market’ is food. The long strip of food vendors in the market is quite unique, with each vendor crowded with lines of people waiting to experience mouthwatering food. The most popular food sold here are Bindaetteok (mung bean pancake) and Gimbap.
Young & Trendy: Mangwon Market
Mangwon Market is a ‘rising star’ among the traditional markets in Korea. It is particularly well known among young people for the tour of the market’s delicious foods. Mangnidan-gil Café Street situated in front of the market is the top place to go after the market tour. The street boasts distinct cafés that have been converted from old houses, selling an astonishing variety of tasty foods and snacks.
Seafood Lovers: The Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market
The Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market is Korea's largest wholesale fish market and has been around for more than 90 years. The market is open and busy 24 hours a day. At dawn, shop vendors open fish auctions for wholesale and by evening, the market is bustling with customers looking to buy fresh fish. Another unique experience to enjoy at Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market is having your purchased seafood cooked or prepared to eat at any of the restaurants located upstairs.
Oriental Medicine: Yakryeong Market
At the Yakryeong Market, ginseng and herbal medicines can be purchased cheaply at reasonable prices. There are about 1,000 shops in the market. Over 70 percent of the total oriental medicines in Korea are sold here and at prices 25 to 30 percent cheaper than other places. From the end of the 1960s, herbal medicines were collected and produced in the mountains by herbal shops, and the market was formed spontaneously.
OTHER POPULAR TRADITIONAL MARKETS AROUND KOREA:
Traditional markets located outside Seoul offer unique regional specialties, with each market providing opportunities for new discovery. In addition, major attractions located nearby make the markets a convenient place to stop by while sightseeing.
Incheon Sinpo International Market is located near Incheon Port International Passenger Terminal and it has been considered Incheon’s representative market for over the past 100 years. The market is most popular for its delicious treats, such as dak Gangjeong (glazed fried chicken bites), Jjinppang (steamed buns) and dumplings.
Suwon Paldalmun Market
Suwon Paldalmun Market refers to one big marketplace created by King Jeongjo by combining two smaller markets that are in close proximity with each other, Yeongdong Market and Jidong Market, both located near Paldalmun Gate in Suwon. Uniquely designed clothing, bags, and shoes offered at affordable prices are just a few of the many merits that attract customers of all ages.
Busan Gukje Market, a major attraction in Busan, served as a filming site for several films and variety shows, which boosted the market’s popularity even more. Lines of souvenir shops and wholesale dealers selling machinery, electrical supplies, kitchenware, and clothing can be found along the maze-like market streets. Popular foods at Busan Gukje Market include Bibim Dangmyeon (spicy glass noodles), Yubu Jeongol (fried tofu hot pot), and Ssiat Hotteok (seed-filled griddle cake), which are all specialty foods of Busan.
Jeju Dongmun Traditional Market is famous for providing the freshest seafood caught right from the sea around Jeju. Visitors will be able to get a taste of freshly caught fish prepared as Hoe (sliced raw fish) or some of Jeju’s local food and produce such as Omegi Tteok (Jeju-style rice cake), Gogi Guksu (meat noodle soup), and Hallabong citrus fruit. The market not only has delicious foods but also souvenirs, making the market a popular shopping attraction among tourists.
MUST-TRY FOOD AT THE TRADITIONAL MARKETS:
Galchi Jorim (braised Hairtail Fish Stew) at Seoul Namdaemun Market
If you are a spicy food lover, Hairtail Alley at Namdaemun Market is a must visit. A Largehead Hairtail, also known as a Beltfish, is type of fish that’s very shiny and silver on the outside and looks kind of like a belt. It’s slender, narrow, and flat. In Korean food, it is prepared a number of different ways including grilled, fried, and braised in spicy chili stew (Galchi Jorim), which is the dish for which Hairtail Alley is most well-known. Galchi Jorim comes with a couple of typical Banchan (side dishes) including Kimchi and Gyeranjjim (steamed eggs).
Bindaetteok (mung bean pancake) at Seoul Gwangjang Market
This thick, hash brown-like pancake, Bindaetteok is made from a rich batter of crushed mung beans, bean sprouts and cabbage. It tastes great dipped in soy sauce and is traditionally accompanied by traditional Korean rice beer Makgeolli.
Dosirak (lunchbox) at Seoul Tongin Market
What sets Tongin Market apart from the other markets is the Dosirak Café. At the Dosirak Café, you can buy a lunch tray and 10 yeopjeon (brass coins; old Korean currency) for 5,000 won. You can then use the yeopjeon to buy food and fill your lunch tray as you tour around the marketplace, offering both a fun and unique dining experience.
Dak Gangjeong (glazed fried chicken bites) at Incheon Sinpo International Market
Sinpo Market is the most famous market for Dak Gangjeong. The Sinpo Market teems with Dak Gangjeong vendors and customers from afar standing in long lines just to get a taste. Spicy pepper, garlic, starch syrup and Gochujang (chili paste) comprise the sauce, which makes the dish similar to spicy Korean fried chicken.
Ssiat Hotteok (seed-filled griddlecake) at Busan Gukje Market
Ssiat Hotteok is one of the most famous street foods that originated from Busan. Hotteok is the Korean style sweet pancake with brown sugar filling inside. However, Ssiat Hotteok is filled with a variety of seeds that are good for your health.
RECOMMENDED ITEMS TO BUY AT THE TRADITIONAL MARKETS :
Delicately handcrafted traditional accessories are one of the most popular souvenirs for international tourists to take home. Folding fans, Bokjumeoni luck pouches, and embroidery key chains can be purchased for around 10,000 Korean won (AU$12). For those who are looking for something more luxurious, mother-of-pearl crafts such as Najeonchilgi, a traditional mother-of-pearl craft with patterns made of shells inlaid into wood and coated with a lacquer finish, is the perfect souvenir.
Glasses and sunglasses at Seoul Namdaemun Market
A majority of Korea’s optical stores are concentrated in the Namdaemun Market. In Glasses Alley, there are many glasses shops with professional English-speaking opticians. They offer a variety of frames at wholesale prices.
Hanbok at Seoul Gwangjang Market
One of the more extravagant souvenirs you could buy while in Korea is Hanbok, traditional Korean dress. Gwangjang Market is famous for not only its street food stalls but also fabric markets selling Hanbok. You can buy tailor-made Hanbok according to your preferred design and fabric. If you are travelling with children, a variety of sizes of a ready-made Hanbok for children are stocked.