Palaces in Seoul are not the only way to explore a slice of Korean Culture and History. If you want to immerse yourself into the local culture of Korea then you should visit one of the traditional markets in Korea. Unlike the glitzy modern malls and supermarkets, Seoul’s traditional markets retain a special charm and should be included on your list of places to see. The markets are not only an important part of the local fabric, but also a tourist attraction in Korea.
Among the city’s many public markets, Kwangjang Market or Gwangjang Sijang is the most popular market. One of the factors behind its popularity was that a few episodes of the Korean version of Runway were shot in this market. Kwangjang Sijang is well known for its scores of stall selling bright silks for traditional Korean clothing Hanbok.
It’s said to be the oldest and the first market in Korea and its remarkable to see how it thrives even today. Other than fabrics it is also appreciated for its delicious snacks. Come in the early evening hours to see how men and women in business attire are sitting alongside groups of ajummas enjoying everything from red bean porridge (patjuk) and pig feet (jokbal) to fish cakes (eomuk) and sausage (sundae). These traditional snacks are sure to tempt.
Another snack that is very popular among locals on any rainy day is the delicious and crispy bindaetteok pancakes, which is prepared by lot of vendors out there. Bindaetteok is typically a mung bean pancake that’s fried to the crisp. The grounded beans are usually mixed with chopped pork or beef, onions and/or kimchi before they are poured onto the grill. It is then served with a spicy soy sauce and onion dip along with the traditional rice wine, Makgeolli. The bindaetteok sold in Kwangjang is specially thick and crispy, and when paired with a couple of other snacks, it makes for a very filling lunch.
Also, very close to Kwangjang market and worth checking out is Nakwon Akki Sanga (Paradise Mall). At the basement of Nakwon Sanga mall is the vintage clothes shop, which is regularly frequented by college students at Seoul where they buy used clothes at a reasonable price. Whereas on the fifth floor of this mall is the market for musical instruments. You will find everything from piano, to guitar, to drums, to flutes, to violins, to everything related to music.
To get there on your own you can get down at Jongno 5(o)-ga Station on Seoul subway and come out of Exit 8. Or if you need company then you can join the Korean Market outing with Seoul-Mate guys on weekend. I personally had the opportunity to experience this market along with Seoul Mate members who hosted me through this entire tour and enlightened me to the various interesting aspects of traditional Korea.