Eat Street Food at Gwangjang Market
All over Seoul you’ll find roadside vendors selling all kinds of weird and wonderful dishes representing the best of Korean cuisine. One of the best venues to sample typical street food is at Gwangjang Market. Dating back to 1905 this is one of the country’s largest and oldest traditional markets. It has thousands of stalls where locals buy their fresh produce and tourists look for souvenirs but the biggest attraction is its food stalls. Whilst you’ll find most of the country’s favourite street food at the market it is particularly well known for its mung bean pancake (Bindaetteok). Other favourites include sushi rolls (Kimbap), spicy rice cakes (Tteokbokki) and blood sausage (Soondae).
Discover Dongdaemun Grilled Fish Street
Dongdaemun Market is a vast shopping area where young Koreans seek out the latest fashion items in shops which stay open well into the early hours of the morning. Tucked away in a small alley to the west of this sprawling complex is one of Seoul’s hidden culinary gems. The Dongdaemun Grilled Fish Street (Jong-ro 40ga-gil) is lined with very similar looking grilled fish restaurants which attracts their own loyal clientele. From a tourist’s point of view it really doesn’t matter which restaurant you choose as they all offer similarly delicious food. The place is packed at lunchtime with workers from the nearby Pyeonghwa Market. Just point at the fillet that you want then take a seat inside, the waiter will bring you a selection of side dishes then brings your cooked fish once it’s cooked. This is a great value place to eat and a true local dining experience.
Find a Top Notch Korean Barbecue Restaurant
The Korean barbecue is a very sociable affair at which diners sit around a table and cook their own meat on a barbecue. Different cuts and sizes of marinaded beef, pork and chicken can be ordered and are served with a selection of side dishes and sauces. If money’s no object when going for a Korean BBQ you should book a table at Byeokje Galbi (26 Eonju-ro 30-gil) in Gangnam. This restaurant features in the Michelin Guide to Seoul and is the place to order the exquisite barbecued beef short ribs (Galbi). Another high quality venue with a more affordable menu is the Maple Tree House Restaurant (26 Itaewon-ro 27ga-gil) in Itaewon. This venue is popular with locals and tourists alike and is best known for its locally sourced cuts of beef (Hanwoo) which is the best on the market. Cheaper barbecue restaurants are located all over the city just ask your hotel receptionist for a recommendation and you’ll almost certainly find a good venue nearby.
Go to Vegan Heaven at Sanchon Restaurant
Originally set up by a Buddhist monk, Sanchon Restaurant (30-13 Insadong-gil) is the place to go for vegans and vegetarians during a visit to Seoul. Diners can choose the Korean dining experience of a low table with cushions on the floor and will be served innovative dishes created from seasonal produce of the Korean countryside. This cultural dining experience is rounded off every evening with a traditional dance performance at around 8pm so book your table time accordingly.
Join the Students of Hongdae for Beer and Fried Chicken
The district of Hongdae is filled with lively bars and street food vendors serving the large student population which attends the local Hongik University. Very popular are chimaek restaurants which serve serve draft beer and fried chicken – the perfect student diet! One outstanding venue to enjoy this simplest of meals is at Oksang Dalbit (2 Wausan-ro 13-gil) in Hongdae. Their signature dish is the seasoned fried chicken which is covered in vodka and set alight so it is flaming when it is served. Summer visitors should try to get a table on their large rooftop terrace.
Traveller Tip Whether you’re travelling to Seoul for business or pleasure it’s well worth booking a private transfer from Seoul-Incheon Airport. Your professional driver will be waiting for you on arrival and will safely transfer you to any hotel or other accommodation in the city.
Dine at Seoul’s Oldest Restaurant
Dating back to 1904 Imun Seolnongtang (38-13 Ujeongguk-ro, Gyeonji-dong) in the Jongno district of central Seoul is believed to be the country’s oldest restaurant. Throughout its history it has been known as the place to go for ox-bone soup (Seolleongtang). Basically the chef simmers beef shank bones and other cuts for as many as 15 hours to create a milky looking liquid. Beef brisket is then added to this broth before it is served. At the table diners then add rice and noodles to the dish together with ‘kimchi’ which is made up of fermented vegetables such as cabbage and radish. Other ingredients may be added to this Korean staple such as spring onions, ginger and minced garlic. At first the soup appears fairly bland but spend some time adding these additional ingredients together with salt, pepper and chili and you’ll enjoy a real taste explosion!
Graze on the Street Food of Myeongdong
Whilst Myeongdong is best known as a shopping district for cosmetic and skincare products it is also one of the best places in the city to enjoy typical Korean street food. Many food vendors arrive in the late afternoon and set up their stalls from which they prepare many of the city’s typical dishes. Some favourites worth looking out for include grilled chicken on skewers (Dak-kkochi), a variety of dumplings (Mandu) and fishcakes with broth (Eomuk Tang).
Enjoy a Romantic Meal for Two at the HanCook Restaurant
One of Seoul’s top tourist attractions is the N Seoul Tower which has a terrace on the second floor where countless ‘love padlocks’ containing romantic messages have been locked around railings and fences. Romantic couples might like to partake in the lock ritual before watching the sunset from the tower’s observation deck then dining in the HanCook Restaurant. In its stylish dining room overlooking the Seoul skyline this modern Korean restaurant serves a choice of main courses then diners help themselves to an extensive buffet. There are other places to eat in the N Seoul Tower includin a French and an Italian restaurant.
Try Ethnic Cuisine in the ‘Western Town’ of Itaewon
The streets of Itaewon were once filled with seedy bars and massage parlours frequented by American military personnel who were stationed at the nearby Yongsan Garrison. Today the neighbourhood remains a little tacky but has become a popular haunt for foreign residents looking for some lively nightlife and a taste of home. There are many restaurants serving food from the Indian subcontinent together with places specialising in Middle Eastern, European, Mexican and Southeast Asian cuisine. Itaewon is home to a sizeable Muslim population as well as Seoul’s Central Mosque so it is a great place to enjoy halal food.
Eat ‘Live’ Octopus at Noryangjin Fish Market
This historic fish market stands on two floors of an enormous warehouse just south of the Han River in the district of Dongjak-gu. The ground floor is filled with fish stalls selling a vast selection of seafood whilst the first floor is home to a number of restaurants which will cook the fish you’ve bought downstairs. You pay a fee to have the fish cooked. For pure novelty value the seafood to buy here is the sannakji which is octopus chopped into small pieces and served raw with its tentacles still moving. Be warned that there is a risk of choking on this weird dish so you’d be safer ordering more regular items such as prawns, scallops or fillets of fish. You should also note that this is a working market where bargaining both upstairs and downstairs is essential otherwise you could find yourself with a hefty bill. Visiting with a Korean speaker is highly recommended.
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