Seoul is home to a variety of different markets. Here are a few that I visited:
This is located at the Jegi-Dong subway station. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the largest herbal medicine and ginseng markets of South Korea. You can buy an incredible amount and variety of herbal ingredients and products.
I can’t even begin to name or describe any of the products here. For the most part, I have absolutely no idea what I saw. It definitely creates an interesting atmosphere, and the smell can be quite powerful.
Struggling with hair loss? Gyeongdong’s got you covered:
On top of that, the market also contains a more traditional portion that sells all kind of food you can imagine, from fruits and vegetables to meat to live turtles. The market is enormous in general and encompasses multiple blocks. This couldn’t shock me anymore after what I saw in Busan, but it was still quite the sight to see. Didn’t buy anything since most of the stuff sold here either went right over my head or I couldn’t do anything with it due to my lack of cooking equipment, but still an interesting experience.
This market is located right next to Namdaemun Gate. Since that gate is one of the top attractions in Seoul and close to Seoul Station, odds are that you’ll probably have time to stop by. It’s apparently the largest traditional market in Korea, although it didn’t seem that big when I visited, so I probably only saw a small portion of it. There are a bunch of small shops selling everything from clothes to fishing gear to eyeglasses. There is also a lot of street food vendors, which we mostly focused on.
We also had Ggultare (꿀타래판매점), a traditional Korean snack that was previously enjoyed by royal families. The way it is made is pretty interesting and the vendors will probably give you a demonstration if you ask or stare long enough. I can’t put it into words, so watch this:
It comes in different flavors like walnut, almond, and peanut. It is quite tasty, but difficult to eat. Since it is made with honey, it is incredibly sticky and you will feel the need to brush your teeth immediately afterwards.
Gwangjang is one of the oldest and biggest traditional markets in Korea.
It might not be as well known among foreigners as some of the other markets, but it’s well worth a visit as well. It is gigantic and apparently employs some 20.000 people.
You can get a bunch of (street) food here. Of course, there’s also the obligatory living sea creatures in buckets. Seeing this stuff being prepared right in front of you and long lines of people sitting down to eat is always an interesting experience.
After you bought some food, you can retreat to the nearby Cheonggyecheon Stream to enjoy your food in a calmer setting. The stream is a great location to unwind and take a stroll in general, so check it out if you’re in the area. Apparently Bindaetteok (mung bean pancake) is a specialty of this market. It’s alright. Didn’t love it at first, but it grows on you.
The market also contains a giant section focusing on various fabric goods. Not really my cup of tea, but interesting nonetheless. It was also in this section that I was approached by some teenager who wanted to take a picture with me because I’m “so tall…so handsome”. Alrighty then.
Tongin market is basically street food central. A ton of shops, all concentrated in one location. If you want to check out Korean street food (and you should), then Tongin market is definitely a good place to start. It’s also located very conveniently in central Seoul, close to many landmarks like Gyeongbokgung Palace.
Furthermore, the market basically acts as its own separate economy with its own currency. You can buy these ancient coins pictured above for 5000 won. For that, you get ten coins. Basically all the street food costs 2 coins, so you can get a pretty damn cheap lunch here with an endless variety of options to choose from. The individual portion sizes might be smaller than at other street food places, but you’re definitely getting a good deal here. The typical cost is usually more around 3-4000 won per item I’d guess, compared to 1000 here. You can pick and choose and get a really nice meal for less than four euros. Can’t complain about that. They also make for a nice souvenir. I’m too lazy to write more about this and didn’t take any decent pictures, so I’ll just direct you to this good post on the market. Definitely worth a visit.