Traditional Markets In Korea: Korea’s 10 Best Markets

Traditional markets in Korea are a must-see and should be on everyone’s bucket list when they come to South Korea. More than just a quaint throw back to simpler times, traditional markets in Korea provide much that the country’s thriving metropolises need.

They stock everything – fresh food, clothing, oriental medicine, antiques, home supplies, and lots more. Not only that, they make for some great experiences for tourists visiting Seoul or other cities.

Personally, I love the food on offer at the traditional markets. Fresh, authentic and at bargain prices – easily better than some things you’ll find in restaurants!

Check out the top 10 traditional markets in Korea below:

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View of Namdaemun Market in Seoul, South Korea

1: Namdaemun Market (남대문시장) | Jung-gu, Seoul

Let’s start with the largest traditional market in Korea and one of the best for bargain hunters. Selling all sorts (and conveniently broken down into different sections), you can wander around here all day and night. Shops are open from 11:00 am in the morning and close as late as 4:00 am at night!

Tourists flock to Namdaemun Market for two things – clothes and traditional Korean food & ginseng. That’s not all there is here, though. You can find electronics, accessories, hats, stationery, home ware, socks (so many socks!), and lots more.

Some of the food for sale at many Traditional Markets in Korea

Don’t forget to sample some of the famous foods found in this traditional market. These include one of my favourite dishes – kalguksu (칼국수) – and one I’m not so keen on – galchi jorim (갈치조림).

Kalguksu is a bowl of steaming noodles (very thick) in a hearty broth that really warms you up in winter. Galchi jorim is a braised cutlassfish in a spicy soy sauce stew.

Haggling is acceptable but expect the market vendors to drive a hard bargain. Take your time and shop around for the best prices.

More information about Namdaemun Market:

How to get there: 
Take line 4 to Hoehyeon Station and go out of Exit 5.

Operating Hours:
11:00 am to 4:00 am.

Closed:
Sundays.

Gwangjang traditional Market in Seoul, South Korea

2: Gwangjang Market (광장시장) | Jongno-gu, Seoul

If you’ve seen the show ‘Street Food’ on Netflix, then you’ll probably know about Gwangjang Market, including the delicious handcut noodles (kalguksu) and bindaetteok that you can buy there.

For more than a century Gwangjang Market has been supplying locals and tourists with the chance to buy well made Korean fabrics and foods. This is the oldest traditional market in Korea, as well as one of the largest – there are over 5,000 stalls!

If you’ve tried wearing hanbok (traditional Korean clothes), you might decide that you want one for yourself to take home, or as a gift. In that case, Gwangjang Market is the place for you. You can get a custom-made hanbok prepared for you to take home to show your friends. What could be a better gift to yourself?

As well as fabrics, this market is also the place to come for great food (as most markets are!). Shopping is tiring and there are some great Korean comfort foods to pick you up.

I’d personally recommend trying the bindaetteok 빈대떡 (savoury pancake) with a bowl of makgeolli 막걸리 (rice wine) as a quick snack. Dip the pancakes in soy sauce to make them even more amazing! If you want something more filling, why not try some bibimbap 비빔밥 (mixed rice with vegetables) or sundae 순대 (blood sausage)?

Delicious bindaetteok at one of the traditional markets in Korea

The atmosphere in traditional Korean markets is very informal, with people being sat down next to each other at long counters. This is a great chance to practice some Korean and make some new friends while you sip on some makgeolli. Don’t be shy, get chatting and you could find your way to other adventures.

More information about Gwangjang Market:

How to get there:
Take line 1 to Jongno 5 Station and go out of Exit 7 or 8.

Operating Hours:
7:00 am to 7:00 pm. Restaurants may close later.

Closed:
Sundays

Antiques for sale at the Seoul Folk Flea Market in Seoul, South Korea

3: Seoul Folk Flea Market (서울 풍물시장) | Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul

This is not your average traditional Korean market. This unique market is dedicated to folk items from all over Korea. You can find some hidden vintage gems in here and it’s an interesting view into recent Korean history.

Modernised in 2008, this market was originally a collection of stalls around the Cheonggyecheon Stream, but is now housed in a new building with restaurants, long aisles of goods, and conveniences inside.

The Seoul Folk Flea Market is like a labyrinth, with long aisles packed full of interesting and unique goods. You’ll find retro and vintage goods (1F) along with more modern market goods (2F), souvenirs, traditional goods, and traditional foods. Unlike other traditional markets in Korea, you can find real history inside that you can take home and show your friends.

Delicious mandu guk at one of the traditional markets in Korea

The Seoul Folk Flea Market has 7 different coloured zones to help you find what you’re looking for. They are:

Red Zone – Food Court
Orange Zone – Regional Specialties (e.g. traditional crafts and foods)
Yellow Zone – Vintage Goods (e.g old telephones and record players)
Green Zone – Antiques (e.g. furniture and art)
Blue Zone – Fashion Accessories
Indigo Zone – Clothing & Art (e.g calligraphy and traditional Korean arts)
Violet Zone – Misc. Goods (e.g electronics, tools, etc.)

There really is something for everyone, even those who are just looking to take a snapshot of Korean history. Go for the retro and vintage items, sample some delicious traditional foods, and maybe find a rare treasure to take home with you.

More information about Seoul Folk Flea Market:

How to get there:
Take line 1 to Sinseol-dong Station and go out of Exit 6.
Take Line 2 to Sinseol-dong Station and go out of Exit 9

Operating Hours:
10:00 am to 7:00 pm. Restaurants open until 10:00 pm.

Closed:
2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month.

Scene of fish stalls at Noryangjin Market in Seoul, South Korea

4: Noryangjin Fish Market (노량진 수산시장) | Dongjak-gu, Seoul

This authentic fish market is a great place to sample some of Korea’s best seafood, freshly caught and sold that day. Operating since 1927 near Seoul Station, but later moved to more modern facilites next to Noryangjin Station, this market provides 50% of Seoul’s seafood.

Wander down long aisles alive (literally) with fresh squid, octopus, shellfish, urchins, and all other kinds of seafood. Be astounded by all the weird and wonderful sights that you probably didn’t know existed under the sea. I was certainly shocked the first time I visited a traditional Korean fish market.

Opening from 1:00 am, early birds can find plenty of unique sights that would be hidden to most tourists. In addition, from 3:00 am, the live fish auctions are a spectacle in themselves and maybe you can pick out what you want to eat for breakfast.

Pajeong and Makgeolli in South Korea

This seafood will find its way into many wonderful dishes, such as jjukkumi, 쭈꾸미 (baby octopus), maeuntang 매운탕 (spicy fish broth), and haemul pajeon 해물 파전 (seafood and green onion pancake). Why not try some of these, or some hoe 회 (fresh raw fish), prepared right there for your breakfast. A great way to start the day and very healthy.

This bustling, stinky, wet, fresh market will provide a wonderfully unique experience during a stay in Seoul. Be sure not to miss it.

More information about Noryangjin Fish Market:

How to get there:
Take line 1 to Noryangjin Station and go out of Exit 1.
Take Line 9 to Noryangjin Station and go out of Exit 1 or 2

Operating Hours:
High Class Fish Market: 24 Hours 
General Fish Market: 1:30 am – 10:00 pm 
Frozen Fish Market: 3:30 am – 10:00 pm
Shellfish Market: 1:00 am – 10:00 pm

Closed:
N/A (Open all year round)

Buying a lunch box doshirak and Tongin Doshirak Market, Seoul, South Korea

5: Tongin Market (통인시장) | Jongno-gu, Seoul

I love the food at traditional markets in Korea and the food at Tongin Market is no exception. However, this market has one difference that sets it apart from other traditional markets, and that is the ability to mix and match your own doshirak 도시락 (lunch box).

Like Japanese bento boxes, doshirak are traditional Korean lunch boxes that combine just about anything you want – veg, meat, seafood, snacks, side dishes. In exchange for 5,000 won (about $5), you will receive a number of golden coins (see above), which you use to buy whatever you want from the participating food stalls spread throughout the market. Participating stalls have signs that say Gamaengjom (가맹점) above them.

Pop yourself down on a bench and eat like a local. I’d recommend trying some mandu 만두 (dumplings), tteokbokki 떡볶이 (spicy stir-fried rice cakes), and flame cooked dakkochi 닭꼬치 (chicken on a skewer). Be brave and try a bit of everything.

Fried Chicken for sale at one of the traditional markets in Korea

Tongin Market has roughly 70 stalls inside and its best to wander through once to see what you like, then walk back and pick up the most delicious (or interesting) items you saw on the way. Apart from the lunch stalls, you can also find groceries, home wares, and other market goods.

Check out the surrounding area near Tongin Market for some great bakeries, cafes, and restaurants, too.

More information about Tongin Market:

How to get there:
Take line 3 to Gyeongbokgun Station and go out of Exit 2 or 3.

Operating Hours:
7:00 am to 9:00 pm.
Doshirak Cafe opens at 11:00 am, closes by 4:00 pm.

Closed:
Third Sunday of each month (Doshirak Cafe is closed Mondays)

Street Foods for sale at Jeonju's Nambu Traditional Market in Jeonju, South Korea

6: Nambu Traditional Market (전주 남부시장) | Wansan-gu, Jeonju

Whilst on a trip to historic Jeonju, why not check out another fantastic traditional market – Jeonju’s Nambu Market. Jeonju is known as the food capital of Korea, just like Osaka is in Japan. Home to bibimbap 비빔밥 (mixed rice with vegetables), there are so many delicious foods to try here and many of them can be found in Nambu Market.

There are many wonderful foods you can try here, such as sundae gukbap 순대국밥 (blood sausage soup with rice), kongnamul gukbap 콩나물 국밥 (bean sprout soup with rice) and pat kalguksu 팥칼국수 (red bean noodle soup). Wash it all down with some moju 모주 (sweet rice wine) or makgeolli 막걸리 (rice wine).

Bibimbap from Jeonju's Nambu Market

Nambu Market has been providing a broad range of foods, furniture, and goods for well over 100 years. However, it wasn’t until 2011, and the addition of the Youth Market, that Nambu Market really became an unmissable destination.

The Youth Market is run by local young entrepreneurs and is housed in the previously abandoned second floor. It has made the place exciting and dynamic and is now often compared with the likes of Hongdae in Seoul. You can find some great food, clothes, and creative goods in the Youth Market.

Other special features of this market are the weekly night markets, held on Friday and Saturday nights. Early birds can catch the morning Dokkaebi (Goblin) Market that opens from 4:00 am. Find some exclusive offers and fresh goods in this early market. Watch out though, the early morning market closes at 10:00 am. The early bird really does catch the worm!

While you’re in Jeonju, why not explore the Jeonju Hanok Village?

More information about Nambu Traditional Market:

How to get there:

[Express/Intericty Bus] 
Take a bus from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal to Jeonju.
– From Jeonju Intercity Bus terminal, take Bus No. 684 or 61.
– Get off at Pungnammun Gate Bus Stop and the market will be located about 115m ahead.

[Train] 
Take a train from Yongsan Station (Seoul) to Jeonju Station
– From Jeonju Station, cross the street and take Bus No. 119 one stop.
– Walk to Pungnammun Gate Bus Stop and the market will be located about 115m ahead.

Operating Hours:
9:00 am to 9:30 pm
* Varies by store

Closed:
Varies by store

Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, one of the largest traditional markets in korea

7: Jagalchi Market (부산 자갈치시장) | Jung-gu, Busan

Of all the traditional markets in Korea, this one is the easiest one to find. You don’t need a map to find the Jagalchi Fish Market, simply follow your nose! It would be hard not to walk into the largest fish market in Korea as, unlike other traditional markets, this one is situated along the shoreside in Busan’s Jung-gu.

There really is something for everyone here, from shrimp to squid, octopus to oysters, and everything else that loves hanging around under the sea. You’ll find the market ladies selling fish all day long, probably while their husbands are out fishing for more.

If you can find the courage, why not try some nakji 낙지 (octopus tentacles) or even sannakji 산낙지 (raw/live octopus tentacles)? For those who are less brave, consider some maeuntang 매운탕 (spicy fish soup). You won’t find a shortage of places selling these nearby.

Spicy fish soup from the Jagalchi Fish Market

Don’t worry if you don’t fancy taking the fish home with you to prepare, because there are dozens of restaurants in the area that source their fish in the early morning and get it ready for you to try for lunch. There really is nothing like the taste of fresh fish sliced up and prepared just for you – whether raw or cooked. 

For those who don’t so much enjoy the taste of seafood (I understand you!), then there are still plenty of alternatives nearby. However, I’d still recommend checking out this sprawling market just for the unique sights, sounds, and, most overwhelmingly, the smells.

More information about Jagalchi Market:

How to get there:
Take line 1 to Jagalchi Station and go out of Exit 10

Operating Hours:
5:00 am to 10:00 pm (Hoe Center opens from 9:00 am)

Closed:
First and third Tuesday of every month

Gukje Market in Busan. Of the traditional markets in Korea, this one is famous for international goods.

8: Gukje Market (국제시장) | Jung-gu, Busan

As traditional markets in Korea go, Gukje Market is a little more international than the others. In fact, gukje means international in Korean, so you’re likely to find a lot of other foreigners here in this market.

Busan’s largest traditional market, created in the 1950’s by war refugees, benefits from Busan’s status as a port city, which has lots of sailors arriving from around the globe. Consequently, you can find a wide range of international products that you won’t normally get in Korea.

Gukje Market is close to several other markets, including the aforemention Jagalchi Market, as well as Bupyeong Market, creating one super shopping zone. You can spend a whole day wandering from one to the other, as well as checking out other local attractions, including Bosu-Dong Book Alley.

Frying hot cakes in a traditional Korean Market

As with all traditional markets in Korea, you can’t shop without sampling some unique market foods! Gukje Market has some of Busan’s finest local dishes, such as bibim dangmyeon 비빔당면 (spicy glass noodles), yubu jeongol 유부 전골 (fried tofu stew), and ssiat hotteok 씨앗호떡 (seed-stuffed sweet pancake).

More information about Gukje Market:

How to get there:
Take line 1 to Jagalchi Station and go out of Exit 7

Operating Hours:
9:00 am to 8:00 pm

Closed:
1st & 3rd Sundays

Seogwipo Maeil Olle Market - one of the biggest traditional markets on Jeju Island

9: Seogwipo Maeil Olle Market (서귀포매일 올레시장) | Seogwi-dong, Seogwipo, Jeju

If you make your way down to Jeju, then you really should check out this famous traditional market. Jeju has loads of wonderful and unique items because of their island culture. Not only does it have an abundance of seafood, you can also find delicious Jeju black pork, sweet and juicy hallabong oranges, and lots of chocolate.

The Seogwipo Maeil Olle Market is the perfect showcase for these wonderfully unique Jeju items. Because this market isn’t as touristy as some of the other traditional markets in Korea, you’ll find a more authentic atmosphere here. That’s not to say it’s boring, however, as there are so many cute and diverse shops.

Not only that, you’ll also meet more locals here, which means another chance to sit down next to them at the small restaurants and ask them how they feel about living on one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

If you want to try authentic Jeju street food, then buy a bag of dol hareubang manju 돌 하르방 만쥬 (small pastries shaped like the Jeju stone statues). Also known as Jeju Granpas, these little cakes are delicious snacks filled with Jeju Island’s own hallabong 한라봉 (sweet tangerine). Wash it down with some delicious hallabong juice.

Jeju Black Pork cooking on a hot plate in Jeju, South Korea

After that, if you’re still hungry, then pop out to one of the nearby restaurants and order a big plate of heuk dwaeji 흑돼지 (Jeju black pork BBQ). I always get a plate when I visit Jeju!

The Seogwipo Maeil Olle Market offers a delivery service (useful for those staying in other towns), as well as cultural displays to demonstrate traditional Korean culture.

More information about Seogwipo Maeil Olle Market:

How to get there:
Walk for 5 minutes from the Seogwipo Bus Terminal or take a taxi.

Operating Hours: 
7:00 am to 9:00 pm

Closed: 
N/A (Open year round)

Hungry customers waiting for food at Seomun Night Market, Daegu, South Korea

10: Seomun Market (서문시장) | Jung-gu, Daegu

Last, but not least, on this list of traditional markets in Korea is Seomun Market. Steeped in history, this market has its roots as one of the three main markets during the Joseon Dynasty that ruled Korea for more than 500 years.

This is a lovely market that I visited last year and I would highly recommend it for the amazing sujebi 수제비 (hand-pulled dough soup) that is made right in front of you. Authentic, delicious, and cheap as chips.

Seomun Market specialises in fabrics, including silk, satin, linen, knitted goods, accessories, and clothes. However, you’ll also find a lot more to browse through, such as fresh foods, jewelry and watches, and dried seafood. Food lovers will want to sample the aforementioned sujebi, also mandu 만두 (dumplings) and a popular dish across Korea, the ubiquitous eomug guk 어묵국 (fish cake soup).

Freshly made sujebi at Seomun Market in Daegu, South Korea

As is becomingly increasingly popular in Korea, a country that seemingly never sleeps, there is also a night market at Seomun Market. Seomun Night Market has displays of Korean Culture, start-up shops for young designers, original fusion food as well as the traditional market food, and also live music on certain nights.

From Seomun Market you can explore some of the other wonderful sights of Daegu. Firstly, head to the Daegu Gyesan Catholic Church and the Missionary Houses and learn all about Daegu’s tragic past. Then, follow the tourist street through the city to the Hyangchong Cultural Centre, where you can learn about Korea’s recent history. This place is great for dressing up in classic Korean clothes of the early 20th Century.

More information about Seomun Market:

How to get there:
Take line 2 to Seomunsijang Station and go out of Exit 1

Operating Hours: 
9:00 am to 7:00 pm 
* Varies by store.

Night Market Operating Hours:
Summer Season:
Every day, Sunday: 7:00 pm to 11:30 pm
Friday, Saturday: 7:00 pm to midnight

Winter Season:
Weekday, Sunday : 7:00 pm to 10:30 pm
Friday, Saturday: 7:00 pm to 11:30 pm

Closed:
1st and 3rd Sunday of every month.

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