When in Seoul, South Korea, you’ll quickly notice that the big city’s most prominent features are shopping and dining. Combine it with a rich history of over two centuries, the fascinating Korean culture, beautiful green parks, and stunning scenery sprinkled with mountain peaks, and you get yourself a fabulous city with so many things to do. While time might be limited, seeing everything Korea has to offer might seem like an impossible thing to do. One way of exploring the city’s shopping and dining, as well as its history and the Korean culture is by visiting a local market. Gwangjang Market, previously known as Dongdaemun Market, is a traditional Korean market, spreading on over 42,000 square meters (452084.2 square feet), and counting more than 5,000 stores. Check out this comprehensive guide to Gwangjang Market.
Things to do/ highlights
Gwangjang Market is where authentic Korean food, South Korean culture, traditions, and shopping live under the same roof. The best way to visit the market is at a slower pace, with no rush, as there are so many flavors, scents, and traditions to take in.
Many things are going on at the Gwangjang Market and many types of merchandise being sold, but the food is the central element of the market. The biggest section of the market is dedicated to what looks like a street food court. Here, both visitors and locals can buy fresh products from fish and meat to fruit and vegetables, eat the most popular Korean dishes, and watch locals cook right there on the spot.
A cultural experience
Gwangjang Market is the oldest traditional market in Seoul, dating back to 1905 when it first opened its doors. Many of the shops are family businesses, so it is an interesting place to learn about Korean culture, traditions, and history.
Events at the market
As unusual as it may sound, Gwangjang Market is sometimes home to different types of events, including some as uncommon as Hanbok Fashion Show, where visitors, merchants, and people of all ages gather to see the show, and some even participate as models.
What to eat
After a walk around the market, you’ll realize that everything looks so delicious and good, that you’ll find it so hard to decide what to eat. We’re here to recommend some of the traditional Korean dishes that are most popular at the Gwangjang Market.
Gwangjang Market is famous for selling Mayak Gimbap, a type of rice rolls. You’ll easily find the mini rice rolls as you’ll notice piles and piles of them. They’re made of different types of vegetables, wrapped in tiny rolls, and sprinkled with sesame seeds and sesame oil. It’s, most likely, the sesame flavor that makes them so unique and delicious.
Yet another type of rice roll, Tteokbokki is sticky rice cooked in a red chili sauce. They’re a popular treat among younger Koreans and are best served hot and fresh.
Bindaetteok is a type of fried mung bean pancake. It’s usually served with a bowl of kimchi and soy and onion sauce on the side. It is crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside, and while it might be a bit too greasy, it’s worth the try.
Things to buy
It’s not just food that you’ll find at the Gwangjang Market, although the food alone is undoubtedly worth the visit.
With more than 100 years of history, it’s no surprise that Gwangjang Market is a popular spot for vintage clothing shopping. You’ll find many young people looking for unique vintage fashion. We recommend you look for handmade and quality silk or linen goods.
While we’re still in the clothing department, don’t miss out on the opportunity of buying a hanbok - a traditional Korean dress in bright colors, simple lines, and usually worn at traditional or somewhat formal festivities and events.
A visit to the Gwangjang Market can be an excellent opportunity for souvenir shopping. You can choose a hanbok, high-quality silk, home decorations, and traditional Korean goods to take home as a reminder of your time in Seoul.
Prices in Seoul
Seoul is a rather expensive city when it comes to street food. Expect to pay somewhere around 10 to 20 USD per person if you’re eating in this market. However, we recommend it; it will be money well spent on an authentic Korean dish.
How to get there
One way that we recommend to get to the Gwangjang Market is by public transportation. Take the metro to Jongno-5 station, take Exit 9 or 8, and you’ll arrive right at the market entrance.
If the weather is nice, you can also walk to the market. It’s an approximately 50-minute walk from Seoul Station.
If you want to visit the Gwangjang Market and think of going there by car, you can take a taxi. The most popular taxi providers in Seoul are Kakao Taxi or International Taxi.
If you’re unsure about taking a taxi and explaining the driver where you want to go, just order an Uber on your phone, put in the address, and you should be at the market within 10 minutes.
Gwangjang Market information
Address: 88 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno 4(sa)-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: 9am - 5pm (daily)
Official website: Gwangjang Market
Board of tourism: Visit Seoul
Gwangjang Market Food Tour including Lunch
Duration: 4 hours
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