While Seoul presents itself as a modern metropolis right out of a science fiction movie, beneath its glossy exterior are historic sprinklings of what still remains: palaces from the Joseon Dynasty, Hanok villages and bustling markets. Spending time at these Seoul markets will leave your head (and heart) imprinted with travel memories long after you’ve left South Korea.
The sights and smells at Noryangjin Fish Market will put one’s taste buds in the mood for seafood. Located in Seoul’s Dongjak District, the market sits slightly south of the Han River. The Noryangjin Market opened for business in 1927, making it Seoul’s oldest fish market. It is open 24 hours, but the market really bustles with activity during the early morning hours when it’s auction time. Aisle after aisle bursts with a variety of fresh seafood items on display: salmon, crab, octopus and oysters to name a few. Visitors can also have their fresh purchases prepared at one of the restaurants located on the second floor.
When battling an unexpected travel related ailment, one might reach for herb medicines or pop into an oriental medicinal clinic. If so, then a visit to Seoul’s Herbal Medicine Market will not disappoint. The area consists of both an herbal medicine market and a traditional market. Vendors are eager to sell their fresh herbs, ginseng and roots. After perusing the stores, stop in at the Yengnyeongsi Herb Medicine Museum. The museum has displays of vintage books detailing herbal medicines, medical equipment once used by Korean ancestors, a herbal village, 500 kinds of medicinal herbs and even a 1960s replica of a herbal medicine dispensary.
The Seoul Folk Flea Market is the place to visit when searching for that rare Korean keepsake to bring back home. Inside the spacious two story warehouse is a vast assortment of merchandise, including vintage furniture, vinyl records, tableware, sports apparel and jewelry. It can get hectic here on weekends, so be patient, as elderly Koreans will elbow their way past you in the aisles. After finding the perfect souvenir, head over to the food court located on the first floor. The vendors will merrily serve up a delectable bowl of noodles, Korean-style pancakes or rice soup.
The vibrant, buzzing aura found throughout Namdaemun Market is not to be missed when visiting Seoul. Namdaemun Market’s origin is legendary, dating back to the early 1400s; thus, it is the largest and oldest market in Korea. Strolling through Namdaemun, you will find a variety of stores and individual stalls selling clothing, cosmetics, household items, eyeglass wear plus Korean souvenirs. For a first time visitor, the market can feel a bit overwhelming, but don’t worry about staying on a particular course. Traipsing through the alleyways is part of the fun when exploring this vast shopping area. Also, be sure to stop by one of the numerous food stalls to enjoy a few Korean treats like tteokbokki odeng (fish cake soup) or mandoo (Korean dumplings).
Yongsan Electronics Market is not one market in itself but consists of about 20 buildings selling new and used electronic gadgets. Electronic buildings in this area include Nanjin Electro World, Seonin Mall and Electro Land. Shoppers will be able to check off every device on their technology wishlist: appliances, cell phones, cameras, computer parts and software. It would take weeks to thoroughly explore the mind-boggling amount of shops found in this neighborhood.