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You may or may not know that Seoul has a rich history; almost 2,000 years, in fact, when, at the beginning of the Joseon dynasty period, development began in and around Wiryeseong, the capital of Baekje Kingdom and part of what is today known as Seoul. Because of the city’s long history, there are several traditional Korean markets in Seoul, each stemming back to various points of Seoul’s and Korea’s past. In this list, we show you 10 of the best traditional markets in Seoul that you can go to explore and hopefully get a sneak peek at what Seoulite life was like throughout the ages.
Due to the pandemic, however, many avenues of large-scale shopping markets and malls have changed their rules and regulations. Although it hasn’t changed much in the way of traditional market shopping in Seoul, you might feel safer doing your traditional shopping online.
Seoul’s Best Traditional Markets
Namdaemun Market (남대문시장)
Along with Dongdaemun Market, Namdaemun Market provides the most varied and extensive shopping experiences. Since its establishment in 1964, Namdaemun Market has grown to become the largest traditional market in Korea’s most populous city. Over the years, more and more stalls have joined the shopping haven, since its location close to the Great South Gate makes it a well-visited area in Seoul.
Not set in a single building or area, Namdaemun Market consists of streets that traverse through a number of buildings and back alleyways. Here, you will entice find many restaurants, stalls, and stores selling objects ranging from wooden kitchenware to high-end fashion.
- Monday–Friday 8:30–20:00
- Saturday–Sunday 10:30–19:00
Address: 21 Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Hoehyeon-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul
Phone: +82 02-753-2805
Dongdaemun Market (동대문시장)
The only market bigger than Namdaemun Market is Dongdaemun Market, Seoul’s most popular traditional Korean market. Although you can find whatever you might need at Namdaemun Market, Dongdaemun Market really takes the prize when it comes to the sheer range of things that you can buy. From toys to fabrics to souvenirs to kitchenware to trinkets, Dongdaemun Market is the go-to spot every time you need something. Being at the center of Seoul, Dongdaemun Market is cheap and easily accessible. With 25 shopping malls, over 30,000 specialty shops, and 50,000 manufacturers, Dongdaemun showcases the best that Seoul has to offer its tourists and locals.
- During these pandemic times, the open hours are as follows:
- Daily 8:00–2:00
- Otherwise, Dongdaemun Market is open 24/7.
Address: 5-ga Jongro, Jongro-gu
Phone: +82 010-9671-4249
Gwangjang Market (광장시장)
Gwangjang Market is the oldest of all the traditional Korean markets in Seoul, having over 100 years of history behind the name. In 1905, when the Gwangjang Corporation was established, Japan was beginning to take control over the Korean peninsula; the corporation was founded with the sole purpose of reclaiming and preserving Korean culture and sovereignty amidst the threat of occupation. During that time, Korean markets were only temporary and were held once every few days. Gwangjang Market is Korea’s first permanent traditional market, with more than 5000 shops and 20,000 employees. Gwangjang Market covers a wide area of 42,000m² (42 km²).
- Daily 9:00–17:00
Address: 88 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno 4(sa)-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Phone: +82 02-2267-0291
Noryangjin Fish Market (노량진 수산 시장)
Noryangjin Fish Market is Seoul’s biggest traditional fish and seafood market; it’s where many Seoul restaurants get their fish and seafood fresh every morning. When it was first established in 1927, the fish market was located in Euijiro but in 1971, it moved to its current location in Noryangjin. An expansive market to purchase fresh fish and seafood, Noryangjin Fish Market has a marketplace area of 8,642 m². It also has a depository area of 1,532 m² as well as 6850 m² of offices for wholesale and distribution.
- Noryangjin Fish Markets opens on a 24/7 basis.
Address: 674 Nodeul-ro, Noryangjin-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul
Phone: +82 02-2254-8000
Garak Market (가락시장)
Garak Market is Seoul’s combined fish, fruit, vegetables, livestock, and foodstuff market located in the Garak-dong neighborhood. Like other traditional markets on this list, Garak Market is expansive, having around 1,142 different stores, as well as wholesale and distribution warehouses and auction rooms, where Korean retail and restaurant owners can bargain for their daily portion of food products.
Address: 932 Yangjae-daero, Munjeong-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul
Phone: +82 02-407-5578
Mangwon Market (망원시장)
While the other markets on this list are all outdoors, Seoul’s Mangwon Market is indoors. Think of it as a grocery store or supermarket but bigger and, well, a market. Mangwon is a popular place to buy all kinds of food products, from fruits and vegetables to spicy and crunchy snacks to premade and microveable dishes. If you’re hankering for a quick bite, why not explore the food haven that is Mangwon Market?
- Daily 8:00–22:00
Address: 7 Mangwon-ro 8-gil, Mangwon 1(il)-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Phone: +82 02-335-3591
Majang Meat Market (마장축산물시장)
Ever wonder where your favorite meat restaurants are getting their delicious and juicy meats? Well, a lot of retailers and restaurant owners favor Seoul’s Majang Meat Market, localed near Wangshimni Station and Majang Station. For the freshest meat possible, come early in the morning and enjoy your purchased meat that same afternoon at home!
- Daily 3:00–23:00
Address: 33-53 Majang-ro, Seongdong-gu, Seoul
Phone: +82 02-2281-4446x
Tongin Market (통인시장)
Established in 1941, Tongin Market is one of the most famous traditional Korean markets located in the Jongno neighborhood of Seoul. It once catered to local needs during the Japanese occupation. Since then, it has become an open-to-the-public location that’s open to both locals and tourists, Korean and non-Koreans. Today, you can find around 75 different stores that sell all kinds of trinkets and food products. You can also find sit-in restaurants and takeaway food stalls.
- Monday–Saturday 7:00–21:00
- On Sundays, Tongin Market closes to the public.
Address: 18 Jahamun-ro 15-gil, Tongin-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Gyeongdong Market (서울 경동시장)
If you, your family member, or your friend is falling sick or need a dose of natural herbal tea, head down to Seoul’s Gyeongdong Market, a traditional Korean market in the Dongdaemun District in Seoul. At Gyeongdong Market, you will find a plethora of herbs and spices that will enrich your daily lives and strengthen your nourishment. Since its establishment in 1960, Gyeongdong Market has become one of the biggest traditional markets in Seoul, providing herbs and oriental medicines to at least 70% of South Korea.
- Daily 4:00–19:00
- Medicine Market 9:00–19:00
Address: 7 Yongdu-dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul
Geumcheongyo Market (금천교시장)
For our last listing, we chose Geumcheongyo Market, located close to Gyeongbokgung Palace at the center of Seoul. Because of its proximity to the main palace, many visitors to the palace would often stop by a famous samgyetang place or hit up one of the many restaurants in the vicinity. However, if you want to get a taste of what the city center was like in the 50s and 60s, Geumcheongyo Market has you covered! Small, local, and worthwhile are the three words we would use to describe this traditional Korean market. Although there aren’t many foreigners shopping here, those who do come here learn about life as it was back then.
Address: 1-11 Jahamun-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
There are many traditional markets in Seoul to visit, all of them with their own spin, design, and history that add to the communal history and culture of the city. When you step into a market, you’re stepping into a piece of Korean culture and history that’s far-reaching and deep. While you are in Seoul, be sure to explore at least one or two of them!
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