It’s wet, it’s crowded, it’s smelly, there’s definite splash back potential and you will be met with sights that wouldn’t look out of place in a Tarantino movie (have I sold it to you yet?) Welcome to Noryangjin, Seoul’s biggest fisheries market! Visiting Noryangjin Market is something that ranks highly on many visitor’s “things to do in Seoul” list, and for good reason.
If you’ve spent a lot of time in Asia and you’ve already visited your share of food markets, then this may not be that spectacular for you. However, if you are brand spanking new in the Far East then prepare to be bedazzled (yes, bedazzled).
The interesting thing about Noryangjin is that it isn’t just a typical street food market, it’s a working, lively wholesale fisheries market meaning that you can see representatives from Korean businesses coming in to buy fish in bulk, and some pretty intense negotiations going on. If you feel the urge to swing by between the hours of 1am – 3am (who knows, maybe you’re a fish loving night owl?), you can watch the boisterous fish auctions taking place.
If you like seafood, this is a great place to scoff some high quality, fresh fish at affordable prices. If you don’t, the market is an interesting spectacle all the same.
Take your time perusing around the various market stalls and some of the creatures on display. Many of which, you probably never knew existed and likely aren’t even advertised with English names!
Look out for some haunting Korean delicacies that are much loved by the locals – the urechis unicinctus, or “sea penis” is one that I will forever be traumatised by. When you see it… well then you’ll understand why it has that name.
Don’t fret if you cannot speak Korean. Although the Vendors speak little to no English, they are accustomed to foreigners wandering into the market to take photos in awe and fascination and they will try their hardest to communicate with you. If you indicate that you want to buy something, they will show you the price on a calculator.
Haggling is certainly encouraged and while the vendors aren’t actively trying to charge you over the odds, prices are likely to be slightly over inflated as it is just expected that customers will try and lower the initial price offered, as is typical in a Korean market environment.
The prices of the fish are relatively competitive. You can pick up a lot of shrimp at a good price. High quality products like lobster and king crab are still a little expensive because of their size and quality, so don’t expect to get everything for nothing.
If you do decide to make a purchase, you can either choose to take the fish home and cook it yourself (no fun!), or head over to one of the restaurants within the market.
Noryangjin market is divided into two sections – the old market and the new market, but there really isn’t so much variance between what you can find on offer at each. The “new” side is perhaps a little pricier but not substantially so. If you want an authentic “only in Asia” market experience then I recommend sticking to the old side of the market.
Representatives for the various restaurants will be wandering around the market looking for customers so they will escort you to one of the tented restaurants.
You will pay extra for the preparation of the fish at the restaurants but the prices are very low and you are only charged if you decide to have the fish cooked, rather than eat it as sashimi (raw). The fish is served with onions, and fresh wasabi and the cooks will prepare you a hot, spicy soup using the bones so that absolutely nothing goes to waste.
Opening Times: Noryangjin market is open 24/7 and whatever time you go, it’s never empty! If you’re looking to eat at the market, it’s better to go in the morning while the catch is fresh and you have time to browse the stalls. Weekends are typically busier.
Location: You can take Seoul metro line one to “Noryangjin” and leave at exit 1. Walk under the bridge and follow the fishy smell and you’ll be faced with the market.
Have you been to Noryangjin market? What did you think?