Street food is a MUST in Korea. It’s affordable, delicious, fast, and usually safe to eat. I’ve been in Korea for about five years and I have yet to get food poisoning from street food…I hope I didn’t just jinx myself…
The most popular places to get street food are Myeongdong and basically any traditional market. Tongin Market is very similar to most Korean traditional markets, but it has one unique aspect. It has a great “lunchbox” special that’s affordable for anyone traveling in Korea or for any expat on a tight budget.
Tongin Market is in a historical neighborhood near Gyeongbukgung. If you’re planning a trip to visit Gyeongbukgung and/or Gwangwhamun, then you should add this market to your list of places to visit since they are all near each other.
- Weekdays: 9am-6pm
- Saturdays: 9am-1pm
- Third Sunday of each month (Dosirak (lunchbox) Cafe is closed Mondays)
For more information, check here.
How to Get There:
Subway: From Gyeongbukgung Station, head out towards exit 2. Walk straight from there for about 10-15 minutes. The market will be on the left side of you. The entrance is a bit difficult to notice, so make sure you keep an eye out for it.
People EVERYWHERE! Like most markets, it can get packed. I recommend going in the morning or waiting until after the “lunchbox” special ends if you’re not interested in it since during that time it can get crowded. The people there are a mix of locals and tourists (both foreign and Korean), but there are sometimes large tour groups so it can be difficult to get around. There are different smells from the foods that are being made and sold, so be prepared for an assault on your nose.
There is no set menu since it’s a market, but there are a variety of traditional Korean foods you can get. Some of the most popular items are kimchi pancake (김치전) or vegetable pancake(야채전), ddukbokki (떡볶이), fishcake (어묵), a variety of fried things, japchae (잡채), and lots of different side dishes. Since it is a market, there is a butcher inside along with different stalls that sell fresh produce and fish.
The first row of pictures are from the different grocers. These stalls don’t partake in the “lunchbox” program at the market, but sometimes the side dish stalls will.
This row of pictures show some of the different food vendors that participate in the “lunchbox” promotion at Tongin Market. Usually vendors with price signs (showing coin amounts) in the front of their stalls are participating in the “lunchbox” program. NOT ALL FOOD VENDORS PARTICIPATE. So, you need to ask or look for the signs stating that the stall is participating or not.
Hours: 11am-4pm *closed on Mondays
If you pay 5,000won, you get 10 coins. I was a big fatty and paid 10,000won for 20 coins! The man giving the lunch trays even questioned me and I was like, “I know what I’m about son.” There is a variety of traditional Korean foods and drinks as well!
Final Thoughts & Recommendations:
This was a great place to visit for a few hours! I had a lot of fun trying out all the different food available. I also liked the hustle and bustle of the market. However, because it’s a very popular place and there is food everywhere, I highly recommend going in the cooler months. It probably wouldn’t smell that great or be very comfortable walking around in the summer, so try to go on a cool day or earlier around opening time. It does get very busy after 3 pm since the “lunchbox” special stops at 4pm. I’d definitely go there again if I’m in the area and looking to stuff my face. I highly recommend going to visit. I give it an 8/10!