Seoul, South Korea is a bustling metropolis that has a fabulous food culture. Be sure to try some of the delicious offerings on your next visit!
We recently traveled to Seoul for the first time and were so impressed with everything about the city. The people are incredibly friendly and helpful. It’s a relatively inexpensive city in which to travel. Also, we are now going with our 1-year old son and found the city to be baby friendly. And, if you’ve followed our travels, you know we love culinary adventures. We found the food to be AMAZING. Not many people realize that Seoul is one of the best places in the world to travel to if you love to eat. Read on to learn more about our Top 4 Food Markets in Seoul!
One of the oldest markets in Seoul, Namdaemun Market is a great place to jump-start your exploration of Korean street food. Although the market is open 24/7, we found that the best time to come here is between late morning through dinnertime as the majority of vendors are open during this time. One day we walked through late in the evening, and only a few stalls were open.
Namdaemun Market is composed of some streets featuring household goods, clothing, and food. Be sure to wander the entire market as each lane features a different type of item to purchase or dish to try. We loved coming here for breakfast and getting our fill of hot out of the fryer donuts and fish cakes on a stick. Other favorite dishes included: bibimbap (where you can load your bowl with a plethora of veggies and pickled goodies, and dumplings stuffed with kimchi and meat. Be sure to find the favorite street vendor selling vegetable-filled griddle cakes for less than $1. Just follow the crowd to this cheap eat!
Gwangjang Market is chock full of traditional Korean foods, along with a robust textile market that sells authentic Korean clothing. If you want real Korean food that isn’t watered down for tourists, this is a fantastic place to visit. We visited on two occasions. Just like Namdaemun, we recommend going through dinnertime, but not too late as many of the stalls close surprisingly early.
Wander the alleyways and check out vendors both along the corridors and those that set up shop in the middle of walkways. The layout makes it feel cramped, but that also adds to the hectic atmosphere. Our favorite street food snacks from this market are Gimbap (Korean sushi) and Bindaetteok (a mung bean pancake).
The real draw for us is the corridor of restaurants featuring raw beef and octopus. We randomly chose one as it was full but didn’t require a wait. The meal we had here was incredible. The meat and octopus were so fresh and flavorful. Tom, being the adventurous soul, also tried the raw stomach and liver. He said it was super clean, but probably something he wouldn’t order again. Be sure to leisurely enjoy your meal over a bottle or two of Soju!
During the daytime hours, this area is a famous shopping district that heavily features women’s wear and cosmetics. Around 5 pm, the streets fill up with food stalls and transform into a bustling night food market. The broad streets are alive with music blaring from storefronts to entice shoppers and people sampling all sorts of delicious bites.
We recommend this market mainly for the festive atmosphere. The food is not our favorite. It is geared to those who may not appreciate the robust flavors of traditional Korean food. You can find cheese-covered bread, cheese-drenched lobster tails, fried potato on a stick, and Korean fried chicken amongst other things. Go here, feel the energy, and get a snack. Fun people watching is to be had!
Open 24 hours; this is the go-to place when you are craving seafood. There are two floors of vendors selling all sorts of seafood including crab, shrimp, abalone, octopus, tuna, clams, flounder, and so much more. Most of the stalls sell similar items. We happened to choose a booth that had an English speaker, and that took a credit card (many accept only cash).
Two things caught our eye: King crab and abalone. We hand selected a crab, and the shopkeeper picked out a couple of abalone for us. Then our items were taken to a restaurant located on the second floor of the complex for preparation. It is important to note that many stalls have associations with specific restaurants. If you want to go to a particular restaurant, let them know.
At the restaurant, we chose a simple sashimi preparation for the abalone and elected to have the crab steamed. Banchan and rice were served with the feast. The meal stands out as our favorite in Seoul. The incredibly fresh seafood was the star of this meal. If you love seafood, this market is a must-visit when in Seoul.
Seoul may not be a well-known culinary destination, but we know that it is on the verge of being on a must visit list for foodies. The freshness of the ingredients combined with unique and robust flavors make Korean food unique and delicious. We highly recommend a visit to this world-class city. The food, shopping, and hospitality make Seoul a fantastic place to explore on your next Asian adventure!
Contact us and let us know how we could help plan that fantastic journey!