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Traditional Markets in Seoul print

There’s no better place to go to get a taste of real Korean life than the market. It is at the Korean marketplace that you will find older generations manning their stands, ajummas (middle-aged Korean women) hunting for bargains, and groups of young ladies giggling and having fun. A trip to one of the city’s busy marketplaces is an ideal place to soak up the genuine spirit of Seoul as an industrialized country with a lot of heart.

The biggest and most popular markets in Seoul are the Dongdaemun Market (filled mostly with the young and fashionable) and Namdaemun Market (an almost overwhelming variety of goods). Also worth a visit are the Gwangjang Market, which sells Korean comfort foods, and the Gyeongdong Market, full of medicinal herbs. For the true Korean market connoisseur, there’s the large Noryangjin Fish Market and the 24-hour Garak Market, bustling with vendors and customers all year round. Whether you need to do some serious shopping or just want to look around, a visit to one of these Korean marketplaces is a must!

Dongdaemun Market

Dongdaemun Market started long ago as a traditional open-air market. In the 1970s, the market became the heart of the Korean textile industry (that drove the country's economic growth) and in subsequent years, further developed to become the center of Korea's wholesale and retail fashion industries. In recent yeras it has attracted a number of large-scale fashion shopping malls that have further transformed Dongdaemun into a major shopping area.

Dongdaemun Market presents an interesting mix of tradition and modernity; fabric and fashion accessories are sold in the older buildings littered throughout the area and the newer, flashier complexes are teeming with young ladies flaunting their fashion prowess.The market is a must-visit destination for anyone who has a keen interest in fashion and/or dreams of making it big in the Korean or international fashion world. In addition to international name brands, you’ll be able to purchase unique creations from today’s Korean fashion leaders (and those hoping to rise to the top). Though the market is open throughout the day, the night market is particularly popular with people coming from all over the country to shop from late evening to early morning. If you’re lucky enough, you may even be able to catch one of the various fashion shows and festivals held in the market area.

>> Top shopping items
Fabric, accessories, fashion materials, wedding items, bedding, sporting goods, miscellaneous fashion items, clothing
☞ Click here for more on Dongdaemun Shopping Complex/Shopping Town

Namdaemun Market

With a history of 600 years, Namdaemun Market is a well-established market that offers over 1,700 different kinds of products including clothes, ceramics, household goods, accessories, jewelry, kitchen items, electronic goods, wedding goods, stationery, regional specialties, and imported products. Though the market is generally lauded for its vast selection and affordable prices, it is particularly well-known for its traditional crafts (which make great souvenirs) and its eyeglasses district. At the glasses section of the Namdaemun Market, customers can find a wide selection of eyeglasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses sold at half the price of those in other retail stores.

Unlike the more modern sections of Dongdaemun Market, Namdaeun Market has a unique and unpretentious atmosphere. Though modest in appearance, the food district selling noodles, jokbal pork hock, pan-fried bindaetteok, boiled hairtail stew and other Korean favorites is a lively and upbeat gathering place. To get a better sense of the capital's daily landscape, walk from Gwanghwamun (Gyeongbokgung Palace) down to Namdaemun Market and past Jongno and Myeongdong.

>> Top shopping items
Children’s clothing, eyeglasses, kitchen utensils, clothes, household goods, imported goods
☞ Click here for more on Namdaemun Market

Gwangjang Market

Gwangjang Market was the first permanent market to be established in Korea and dates back to the year 1905. In its early days, the market only offered agricultural and fish products, but has since expanded its selection of goods to include silk, clothing, fabrics, hanbok, imported clothes, lacquerware, kitchen goods, imported products, fruits and vegetables, dried goods, and items for memorial rituals (food, dishes and other items necessary for performance of memorial services). The market also specializes in traditional wedding items like hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) and pyebaek (wedding food that brides prepare for their future in-laws).

Despite all these products, the first thing that comes to mind when one hears the words ‘Gwangjang Market’ is food. The endless line of food vendors all along the market pathways is quite unique and each place always has a few people lined up waiting to experience each vendor’s mouthwatering delights. The market serves popular comfort foods like bindaetteok (Korean-style pancake made of ground mung beans, pork or beef, and kimchi), gimbap, bibimbap, and sundae (a kind of sausage made by stuffing meat, tofu, and cellophane noodles in pig's intestines).

>> Top shopping items
Custom-tailored hanbok, imported clothes, lacquerware, kitchen utensils, memorial ritual items, fruits and vegetables, bindaetteok
☞ Click here for more on Gwangjang Market

Gyeongdong Market

Gyeongdong Market started when, after the Korean War, agricultural food vendors from the Northern Gyeonnggi Province and the Gangwon Province gathered in the area to sell their wares. In the 1960s, the market grew rapidly following the completion of a road connecting Gangwon Province with the Seoul area. Medical herbs from Gangwon Province were transported to the market in an ever-increasing number and the market became to specialize in these types of medicinal herbs.

The market sits across several blocks of Jegi-dong and Yongdu-dong in the Dongdaemun-gu district, but it is largely comprised of the Seoul Yangnyeongsi Market, a market selling ginseng, honey, cereals, and medicinal products. The Yangnyeongsi Market is responsible for about 70 percent of the nation’s total distribution of medicinal goods. In addition to other medicinal herbs, visitors can buy things like ginseng, bonnet bellflower, and balloonflower as well as tea ingredients like the fruits of schizandra and cornus, and Solomon's seal (tea ingredients that are hard to find in other parts of the city).

>> Top shopping items
Medicinal herbs, ginseng, fruits and vegetables, herbs, cereals
☞ Click here for more on Gyeongdong Market

Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market

The Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market is the nation's largest wholesale fish market and boasts a history of more than 80 years. Though the market is open and busy 24 hours a day, the already bustling marketplace really picks up around dawn when the fish auctions begin. The market is connected to Noryangjin Station (subway line 1) by a bridge, meaning that even first-time visitors to Seoul shouldn’t have any trouble finding their way around.

About 800 vendors selling fresh seafood populate the marketplace, offering prices lower than normal asking prices. After you make your purchase, you can take your fresh fish to a nearby restaurant to have it sliced raw, grilled, or deep fried for a small fee (2,000-3,000 won per person). Restaurants serve fresh raw fish at much more affordable prices than elsewhere so the market tends to be popular among Japanese and other foreign tourists.

>> Top shopping items
Clam, shrimp, crab, octopus, sea cucumber, flounder, sea bream
☞ Click here for more on Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market

Garak Market

Opened in 1985 as the first public wholesale market in Korea, Garak Market offers independent sections for fruits, vegetables, garlic, fish, dried foods, and meat in a large area spanning roughly 543,450 square meters. Run by the Seoul Agricultural & Marine Products Corporation, the market is where agricultural and fishery products from around the nation are gathered for distribution and standard prices determined. The market receives lines of freight trucks filled with fresh food all night long and the auction breaks into a tizzy at daybreak when the fish auctions begin. The best time to visit the market is between 6 to 9pm. That way, you'll still be able to catch the auctions, but you won't get lost among the trucks and merchandise that start pouring in. Because the market is so big, it may be too time-consuming and tiring to look around the entire market, so make sure to get a map and decide which sections you want to visit.

>> Top shopping items
Agricultural products, fish products, meat products
☞ Click here for more on Garak Market

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