All it takes is one day in Seoul to realize that Korea’s capital is no ordinary city. On the surface Seoul may look like any other big Asian city–brightly-lit with raging neon, teeming with temples, and expressing an energy that never seems to dwindle.
Of all the reasons to visit Seoul though, none is more compelling than its gastronomic delights. Undoubtedly, Korea’s capital is one of the best food cities in the world, a reputation that’s hardly yet common knowledge even among many seasoned travellers. And there’s no better place to experience it than at one of the best night markets in Seoul.
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Best Seoul night markets: A guide to the best places to shop & eat at night in Seoul
Traditional Seoul markets come in all shapes and sizes, but none are more interesting than the bustling night markets of Seoul. In them, you’ll find everything from clothing to souvenirs and toys to stationary.
Oh, and, of course, food. Lots of it.
While I’ll say with certainly that Korean cuisine is rarely love at first taste for most Westerners, once the initial shock of its unique flavours settles, its sweet, spicy, and umami tang is something you’ll crave for years to come. Here are a few ideas for Seoul night markets to start your evening Korean food & shopping extravaganza…
Dongdaemun Night Market
One of the city’s most famous shopping areas, Dongdaemun Night Market lives true to night market form, surging to life long after most of Seoul has shuttered up business for the day. Most of the shops here don’t start pumpin’ until after 10pm, and, keeping with Seoul’s reputation for sleepless nights, you’ll be able to shop around Dongdaemun Night Market until as late (or early?) as 5am.
Looking to fill up your travel backpack? You’ll just about everything you’d ever need—whether it’s clothing, fashion accessories, toys, or souvenirs—at Dongdaemun Night Market. And although the bulk of the market, holed up in the multi-story buildings and tents around Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station, caters to fashionistas and bargain-hunters, there’s another brilliant reason to spend your night hangin’ out here: Seoul street food.
Dongdaemun Night Market’s reputation for offering tasty Korean treats is well-known to Seoulites and visitors alike. For the best street food in Dongdaemun Market, search out Mukja Golmok (“Let’s Eat Alley”), a small alley off of the food street of Jong-ro 40-gil. The area specializes in grilled fish and whole chicken soup, but other Korean favourites like hotteok (Korean rice flour donuts) and tteokbokki (Korean rice rolls) are also available.
Getting to Dongdaemun Night Market: Both the Dongdaemun Station and Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station, put you in the vicinity of Dongdaemun Night Market. Use exit #4 of the Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station for the open market and exit #8 of Dongdaemun Station for Mukja Golmok.
Namdaemun Night Market
Part of Seoul’s most famous 24-hour market, Namdaemun Night Market wheels and deals from the late evening until the sun comes up. As one of the best places to find a bargain in the city, this bustling night market will keep you on your toes perfecting your haggling skills with Seoul’s most skilled vendors.
Like all the best night markets in Seoul, Namdaemun Night Market features just about anything you’d ever want from household goods to clothing. The real excuse for dropping in at night for most though is a chance to sample the market’s gastronomical goodness.
While just about all the tastiest Seoul street food delicacies will be at your fingertips here, Namdaemun Night Market is especially famous for two: galchi jorim (braised hairtail fish) and kalguksu (handcut Korean noodles).
Each of these unique Korean dishes has their own alleyway in Namdaemun Market lined with restaurants serving up some of the country’s best samples. Galchi Jorim Alley sits in the northern part of the market just southeast Gate 2 (first alleyway south off of Namdaemunsijang-gil) while Kalguksu Alley is accessed north of Gate 6 (first alleyway to the left off of Namdaemungsijang 4-gil).
Getting to Namdaemun Night Market: Take subway Line 4 to Hoehyeon Station. Use Exit 5 to enter the market through Gate 6, close to Kalguksu Alley and a large concentration of excellent food stalls.
As the oldest market in the city, Gwangjang Market draws upon over a century of tradition to deliver one of the most authentic night market experiences in Seoul. The market is most famous for its textiles and is one of the best places in Seoul to buy traditional Korean clothing (hanbok). But like all the best night markets in Seoul, Gwangjang Market’s true worth shines on through the tastebuds.
On the ground floor of Gwangjang Market, foodies will relish the chance to sample some of Seoul’s best Korean street food. All of the city’s favourite snacks are here including bibimbap, gimbap, hotteok, and tteokbokki.
What Gwangjang Market is especially famous for though is its bindaetteok. These traditional Korean pancakes, made from mung beans rather than wheat flour, are packed with flavour. Recipes vary but most feature kimchi, ground pork, sesame oil, scallions, and other savoury ingredients for a powerful taste profile.
Getting to Gwangjang Market: Take Subway Line 1 to Jongno 5-ga Station. Exit 8 is closest to the market.
Bamdokkaebi Night Market
Originally starting off in Yeouido, the popular Bamdokkaebi Night Market is distinctive among Seoul night markets. Unlike the others, Bambokkaebi is spread over several different locations around the city, each giving off its own unique vibe and specializing in different goods.
Yeouido World Night Market
The original Yeouido location of the Bamdokkaebi is still one of Seoul’s most exciting night markets. Set upon the shores of the Han River, the Yeouido World Night Market draws its patrons in with international performances, handicrafts, and foods for a worldly experience.
Getting to Yeouido World Night Market: Take Subway Line 5 to Yeouinaru Station. Take Exit 2 and walk about 600 metres northwest along Yeouidong-ro to the market.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza Youth Runaway Market
Probably the trendiest night market in Seoul, Dongdaemun Design Plaza Youth Runaway Market drops the bass with weekly music performances and fashion shows that flaunt all the newest Korean styles. There’s, of course, also a killer selection of street food and handmade goods popular among Seoul’s younger denizens.
Getting to Dongdaemun Design Plaza Youth Runaway Market: Hop on Subway Line 2/4/5, to Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station. Exit 1 or 2 will put you just outside the market.
Cheonggyecheon Time Slip Market
With a funky name like Cheonggyecheon Time Slip Market, you know that you’re going to see some interesting stuff at this unique Seoul night market. Some of the city’s most atmospheric night market scenes unfold here as the Cheonggyecheon Stream is lit up with dokkaebi lights (goblin lights).
On the north side of the stream you’ll get a chance to sample some of Bamdokkaebi Night Market’s best street food at one of the many food trucks parked here. On the south side, more active pursuits as well as a chill-out zone await where you can admire the Cheonggyecheon Stream under the faint glow of Seoul’s city lights.
Getting to Cheonggyecheon Time Slip Market: Take Subway Line 1 to Jonggak Station. Exit 5 is about 80 metres north of the market.
Banpo Romantic Moonlight Market
Bring your main squeeze down to the Banpo Romantic Moonlight Market, a Seoul night market is every bit as lovely as it sounds. Set in a fantastic riverside location, there’s a whole lot here for couples to rejoice over from a delicious selection of international food to soft acoustic guitar and jazz performances.
Getting to Banpo Romantic Moonlight Market: Take Line 3/7/9 to Express Bus Terminal Station. From Exit 8-1 or 8-2 it’s about 10 minutes by foot to the market via Sinbanpo-ro and Banpo-daero.
Myeongdong Night Market
One of Seoul’s most famous night markets, Myeongdong Night Market is in a league of its own when carving out your evening plans. It’s not as traditional as places like Dongdaemun Market or Namdaemun Market, but certainly dominates discussions of things to see & do in Seoul with the same vigour.
Although it’s most famous as one of the best shopping districts in Seoul by day (and filled with some of the top-rated hotels in Seoul), Myeongdong continues to impress as the sun dips below the city.
From about 5pm onward, the main street of Myeongdong fills up with food stalls where you can find all the favourite Korean fixin’s from tteokbokki and fried Korean chicken to gyerangbbang (Korean egg bread) and the less traditional “tornado potato.”
Getting to Myeongdong Night Market: Grab a train on Subway Line 4 to Myeong-dong Station. Exits 6 & 7 are closest to Myeongdong Shopping Street where you can start to dig into all the top Myeongdong attractions.
Noryangjin Fish Market
I know that not everyone will get on board with a visit to Noryangjin Fish Market. But if you can stomach the strong smells and sight of sometimes oddly disturbing sea creatures, visiting this traditional market in Seoul will be one of the most memorable experiences in your South Korea itinerary.
Not just a night market, Noryangjin Fish Market operates 24 hours a day with activity buzzing at all hours of the day. One of the best times to visit the market is in the wee morning hours when the fish auction draws a group of over-caffeinated energetic wholesalers who try their luck at getting their hands on the day’s best catches.
At whatever time of day you visit Noryangjin Fish Market, all the world’s edible (and maybe not-so edible) marine life makes an appearance. You’ll see everything here: shrimp, crab, squid, stingray, octopus, mackerel, tuna, lobster, clams, mussels etc.
Got an instant hankering from fresh seafood? Buy something that catches your eye and head to the second floor to find a restaurant that will prepare a fresh meal with your newest catch.
Getting to Noryangjin Fish Market: Take Subway Line 1 to Noryangjin Station. Follow signs for Exit 1 and walk over the tracks (about 100 metres) using the bridge. Go downstairs to enter the fish market.