For food and shopping, I like to veer away from shopping malls and fancy restaurants. That’s why, in Seoul, I did a lot of walking around streets and local markets.
There is so much to find in local markets, but it’s not as convenient and systematic as those in commercial hubs, so you get a bit of a treasure-hunt-like adventure in a local market, big or small. You not only get a taste of local food but also get a good sense of the modest and beautiful local community.
There are a lot of food to try in Seoul’s local markets. I can attest to that—however, I am unable to share much of my own gastronomic adventure because, for some weird reason, I felt full too easily. For instance, I could only eat a huge stick of jeon (Korean pancake) and some sugar donuts at Namdaemun Market, and if I ate more, I would definitely throw up on the road.
Still, I had a great time walking around and immersing myself in the local markets. It was a beautiful experience. I imagine some vendors dream that they were salaried, working in big corporations instead, dream of greener grass instead of rough pavements. But it was beautiful to see content and pride in many faces, for instance the guy selling his own delicious coffee in a little stall, the ajumma welcoming people eagerly to feed them her rice cakes, and another ajumma together with her husband selling various Korean souvenirs and taking pride in being able to speak fragments of English with tourists like me. This type of scene is more apparent in old traditional markets like Namdaemun and Tongin.
Myeongdong and Hongdae have a mix of modern food and fashion establishments and some smaller stalls and carts that sell delicious street food and little trinkets along the alleys.