This article is part of a regional reporting project in partnership with GoUNESCO, a UNESCO New Delhi initiative.
Name of market: Tongin Market (통인 시장)
Address: 18, Jahamun-ro 15-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Operating days and times: All 7 days of the week, 8:30 AM – 6 PM. Except for: the third Sunday of each month (for stalls), and Mondays (Dosirak Café).
How to get there: via subway, Gyeongbokgung Station (Line 3, Exit 2). A few blocks after Geumcheongyo Market.
Market map: Download here. Provided for free by South Korea’s Tourism Office.
- The market is famous for its dosirak (bento-like) packed lunches, where you get to curate your own meal set. This is a unique concept, far off from the pre-prepared dosirak lunches usually bought in stores.
- Tongin Market is not only a go-to for fresh produce. It is also a popular meeting place for the elderly, where a big pagoda stands outside the main entrance where 할머니 (halmeoni, “grandmother”) and 할아버지 (harabeoji, “grandfather”) gather to play chess, eat snacks, and catch up.
- The market has a very local feel, situated quite far from popular tourist areas and the subway.
- It would be useful to learn basic Hangeul (Korean script) and Korean when visiting this market because almost all signs are written in Hangeul. You can check out Talk to Me in Korean, hands down the best resource for Korean language learning!
- South Korea now has an information hotline for tourists, operating 24/7. You can call the office at 1330 (when calling within Korea), or +82 1330 (when calling from outside Korea). Four languages are currently supported: English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
- Why I’m going back: it is such a refreshing site to see locals coming together after market hours, chatting, playing cards, or watching their kids play. It is an authentic local area to spend some time in after visiting the tourist-heavy Gyeongbokgung Palace.
- As with any country in the world: Do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂
P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in the local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut ❤