In the heart of Seoul’s bustling streets, nestled within the vibrant Jongno District, you’ll find a foodie haven known as the Gwangjang Market. After visiting a range of markets in Seoul, this one easily takes the top position as my favourite.
As you step into Gwangjang Market, you’ll be greeted by a buzzing atmosphere. The market is a series of alleys each packed with independent stores selling a wide range of Seoul’s favourite street food, vintage clothing and other authentic souvenirs.
Gwangjang Market almost has its own gravity that pulls you into the labyrinth to explore, then ejects you hours later with a full stomach but a hunger for more.
Enter without a strict agenda as you navigate your way through the crowds, maintain an eagle eye for a spare seat at a food stall, and be adventurous with the food you’re willing to try. This is your ticket to success.
Iconic Korean Foods at Gwangjang Market
Gwangjang Market is well known for its incredible lineup of Korean street food. It’s no overstatement to call it the heart of Seoul’s street food culture. Here, you can try some of Korea’s most beloved dishes, prepared by local vendors who have perfected their craft over many years.
Mandu (Dumplings): one of the highlights of Gwangjang Market and is the juicy Mandu Korean dumplings. They come in various forms from steamed to boiled and crispy pan-fried. I suggest getting them in a set with a side of soup and kimchi – couldn’t get more Korean.
Bindaetteok (Mung Bean Pancakes): these savory pancakes are made from ground mung beans, or mung bean flour. Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, they’re a light eating Korean street food often served with soy dipping sauce.
Mayak Kimbap (Drug Roll): Kimbap can look a little bit like the Korean version of sushi, but key differences are the preparation with sesame oil instead of rice vinegar and cooked fillings instead of raw. At the Gwangjang Market you will find a specific variation called Mayak Kimbap, translating to Drug Kimbap. The name comes from just how addictively tasty these seaweed rolls are!
Tteokbokki (Spicy Rice Cakes): a quick but rather filling serving of chewy rice cakes are smothered in a spicy bright red chili sauce. Ttekbokki is a common street food and ingredient used in other Korean dishes. You’ll often find it served alongside Soondae Blood Sausages (next up) at Gwangjang Market.
Soondae (Blood Sausage): a unique Seoul street food made from a mixture of pig’s blood, glutinous rice, and various seasonings. Soondae is served steamed or grilled, usually alongside Tteokbokki spicy rice cakes. It has a rich flavour that’s certainly an acquired taste with an interesting texture – I’ll be honest, it wasn’t my favourite but worth a try.
Hweori Gamja (Twisted Potatoes): this popular crunchy Korean snack is essentially a spiral-cut potato, stuck on a long skewer, then deep-fried to perfection. It is often dusted with your preferred seasoning, from sweet cinnamon to savory cheese.
Want More Tasty Food? Check out my top Korean Foods in Seoul and Where to Get Them!
Location and Accessibility
Gwangjang Market is located in Seoul’s Jongno-gu district, north-east of the Central Station. It is just a short distance from some of the city’s most iconic landmarks such as the Jongmyo Shrine and Changdeokgung Palace, making it easy to visit for a cheap evening feed after exploring the city.
What’s Kakao Map and Naver Map? My article on the top things to do in Seoul explains why Google Map is almost useless in Korea!
Getting to the Market
Getting to Gwangjang Market easy thanks to Seoul’s efficient public transport system. Remember to get your T-Money Card from a local 7/11 and top up with travel cash which can be used on trains and buses.
Tain (subway): take the Seoul Metro to Jongno 5-ga Station on Line 1. Station exits 7 and 8 will take you closest to the market’s entrance.
Bus: there are lots of different bus routes running all over the city along the main road called Jong-ro just north of the market.
Walk: you can easily skip Seouls’ downtown traffic and walk along the serene Cheonggyecheon Stream which runs east-west through the city. This beautiful city center stream is also one of my top places to visit in Seoul.