Gwangjang Market is Korea’s oldest traditional market, established over 100 years ago. Today, it is a popular attraction with over 5000 shops selling a variety of street food, fabrics, Hanbok, clothes, shoes, bags and many more.
Our favourite section was the vibrant food market which had loads of stalls selling delicious Korean food! This is the type of place where you’ll experience cramped, elbow-to-elbow sort of seating; a cultural experience which we simply loved. Below is a list of must-try foods at Gwangjang Market! A nice hotel to stay at in this area would be the Hotel Atrium, which offers spacious rooms, quiet surroundings, free wifi, and more. It is within walking distance of Jongno 5-ga Station.
1. Bindaetteok (Mung bean pancake)
Bindaetteok is a type of Korean fried pancake made from ground mung beans, lots of meat, and various other vegetables. We tried this at one of the many stalls and it was definitely worth squeezing with so many people eating at the same time! The pancake was fried directly in front of us. The pancake skin was crisp and savoury, and tasted awesome with the juicy meat.
2. Eomukguk (Fish Cake Soup)
Eomuk means fish cakes and guk means soup in Korean, therefore Eomukguk is essentially fish cake soup with anchovy stock. We enjoyed the soup which had a mild tasty flavour, and the fishcake was chewy and delicious too. It felt really satisfying to drink this bowl of hot soup in Seoul’s cold weather!
3. Gimbap (Rice Roll)
Gimbap is literally translated as “dried seaweed rice” – gim means dried seaweed while bap means rice in Korean. This is another simple but popular snack in Korea. Within the rice roll, there are other colourful ingredients such as cucumber, carrot and eggs. This was a light and tasty snack which we enjoyed. However, we felt quite full after eating a few as the rice can get quite filling. Therefore, you might not want to eat too many so as to save stomach space for other foods in the market!
4. Tteokbokki (Spicy Rice Cake)
Most people will know Korea’s Tteokbokki, the super popular Korean snack made from soft rice cake and sweet red chili sauce. We enjoyed this snack which was chewy with a mild spicy taste.
Eating at Gwangjang Market would not be complete without drinking some Makgeolli! This is Korea’s traditional rice liquor and it is very affordable. I saw some locals shaking the bottle hard (to spread the liquor evenly I guess) before drinking and I did the same too. I truly enjoyed the alluring piquant taste, which was similar to sweet mild vodka. It felt so good to eat Bindaetteok with Makgeolli! The alcohol has a unique milky color because it is not distilled after fermentation. And the drink is healthy too; because it is not distilled, it contain lots of protein, fiber and lactic acid bacteria!
6. Live Squid
If you are an adventurous eater, you might want to try eating the live squid offered by various stalls in the market. The squids are served Sashimi-style. We were not brave enough to try this “delicacy” but we have heard that it tastes very fresh; the tentacles are still moving when you put them in your mouth.
Directions to Gwangjang Market Food Section
Take the metro to Jongno 5(o)-ga Station (Line 1) and go out from Exit 9. This is the nearest exit to the food zone. You can also check out a more detailed breakdown of the various zones within Gwangjang Market.
This article is part of our completely free and fantastic Ultimate Seoul Travel Guide. Why spend days researching when all your holiday information is simply a click away? 🙂