If you love food, you’ll love traveling around in Seoul. There are endless street food markets, restaurants, cafes, and bars to explore, so come hungry! I honestly would not recommend traveling around Korea with a picky eater — the food is such a highlight of the overall experience, and if you’re with someone who doesn’t like to try new things, you won’t get the full cultural experience. Leave the picky eaters at home and go enjoy Seoul with a foodie!
Here are some of the great food experiences I had during my one-week trip to Seoul, South Korea.
Seoul Food Tours
The amount of restaurants, food halls, markets, and cafes in Seoul is overwhelming. The list of “must-eat” Korean foods is daunting, and without having local, insider knowledge, you could spend a ton of time researching where to go to try certain things, only to be disappointed that you didn’t find a better version or get to try all the foods you want. Food tours are the perfect strategy to get a chance to explore the culinary offerings of a city with a local. You’ll find hole-in-the-wall places you wouldn’t on your own, and you’ll learn more about the food and culture of the city. Plus — it’s great for solo travelers to meet other tourists and share a meal!
WithLocals Top 10 Tastes of Seoul Food Tour
Want to try all the Korean classics but aren’t sure where to go to get the best dishes? This WithLocals Top 10 Tastes of Seoul tour is one of the most-booked food tours in the city, and after our amazing experience with Julian, I can totally understand why! Come hungry for this tour — we were way too full too fast to enjoy all the amazing things. I think my favorite was bibimpap or one of the noodle soups. Everything was just amazing and I loved how our guide, Julian, was great at weaving in cultural and historical information into the tour as we walked from location to location. We also popped into the Seoul Museum of History for a quick visit, which was unexpected and an amazing addition to this tour.
BBQ Tour with ZenKimchi Korean Food Tours
This tour takes you to the same Korean barbecue restaurant that Anthony Bourdain visited for filming his Korea episode of Parts Unknown. It was an amazing tour — our guide showed us the traditions of enjoying soju and beer, Korean barbecue, fried chicken, seafood, and more.
Everything was delicious, and I would say this tour is a must-do in Seoul. Our whole group size was only 5 people, which kept it intimate and made it a fun way to try new foods with other tourists. Check out ZenKimchi tours for booking a BBQ tour or other food tour, they have a great team of responsive staff that even helped us reschedule our tour.
Food Markets in Seoul
This is the oldest market in Seoul, and it’s located in the heart of the city. Come here for gimbap (seaweed rice rolls filled with veggies, sometimes spelled “kimbap”), Korean dumplings (mandu), jeon (Korean potato and scallion pancakes), fresh squeezed juices, japchae, and so much more. Not only is there endless prepared food stalls to see, there is unlimited shopping for everything from kimchi (comes vacuum-sealed if you want to bring back to the United States) to clothing, souvenirs, and furnishings. You could easily spend hours in Gwangjang market wandering around, shopping, and tasting tons of delicious Korean dishes. Everything was also really cheap which was great.
Myeongdong Night Market
Another killer food market, planning one of your dinners in Seoul at the Myeongdong Night Market is a must. Here we indulged in grilled lobster tail with cheese, Korean egg bread (Gyeran-ppang), a tornado potato, dumplings, and yummy sweets. There’s a ton of great street food here, and the market opens by 4 pm daily, with some stalls opening earlier on the weekends. Make sure you spend at least one evening wandering around the market – and come hungry!
Restaurants & Cafes in Seoul
Ddong – The Poop Cafe!
If you’ve read other (probably better) travel blogs about Seoul, you’ve most likely come across mentions of this famous (infamous?) coffee shop. Ddong, meaning poop, is literally a poop and toilet themed cafe in Insadong, located on the top level of the Ssamziegil shopping complex. Enjoy a delicious latte or cappuccino served in a toilet bowl mug, a chocolate-covered waffle in a urinal, and many other poop-themed, whimsical drinks and food. It’s a little tricky to find the cafe, you have to walk all the way up the winding path of the building to the top level. You’ll pass a lot of great shops along the way.
Le Four Dore
Located within the COEX Mall Complex, this French bakery has some stunning pastries and coffees, making it the ideal location for breakfast if you’re staying in Gangnam. It also opened early, which was convenient for us. We were early birds thanks to the jet lag, and I was really surprised how many places didn’t open until 10 am in Seoul, even breakfast-oriented restaurants. Get a coffee and a pastry at Le Four Dore if you’re staying in Gangnam – you won’t regret it.
KKanbu Chicken Samseong
This is a local chain of Fried Chicken & Beer restaurants, which is a staple in Korean cuisine. It’s safe to say I absolutely loved it — the fried chicken is spicy but also a bit sweet, the beer is crisp and refreshing. If you go to KKanbu, get the fried cheese balls too — they are awesome! We split a portion of fried chicken and it was more than enough with the cheese ball appetizer.
Dot Blanket Cafe
If you’re looking for a tasty brunch in a cozy cafe, Dot Blanket is a great restaurant to add to your list. Try their orange latte, avocado toast (doused in a tasty yogurt sauce) or try a delicious salad for lunch. It has a good mix of healthy brunch options, which can be a nice break from the indulgent food we were eating at the markets. It’s sometimes nice to mix in some “western” food while traveling in Asia, and this was a good spot to visit.
This bakery was the ultimate spot to stop for any cake, scone, or coffee lover. There was an incredible table of treats to choose from — both savory and sweet baked goods, and they had a variety of delicious tea and coffee drinks. I loved the lemon cake and the scallion cream cheese scone. It can get very busy in here, so plan to possibly wait for a table, or come right after they open. Layered is by the Bukchon Hanok Village near Insadong in Seoul.
Another Western-style cafe, this is a Korean chain of cafes offering delicious salads, sandwiches, and coffees. We visited two locations during our trip to Seoul to mix in some greens with all the other foods we were eating. I tried a ricotta cheese salad that was amazing, and a salad with chicken that was also great. Their coffee is awesome and they have paninis and fresh-squeezed juice. It’s great for a quick and healthy lunch when traveling around Seoul.
Samgyetang – Chicken Ginseng Soup
A comfort food staple in Korea, Samgyetang is a boiling chicken and ginseng soup, where a small, whole chicken is stuffed with rice. The broth comes piping hot with a side of the banchan, kimchi cabbage, daikon radish and other tasty bits. It was a delicious and comforting food to indulge in; if I was sick with a cold this would definitely be something I’d want to eat.
And those are the highlights of all the amazing things I ate while in Seoul! I’d love to go back to Korea to eat more — the food markets are just incredible, dumplings are delicious, and it is such a fun food city. I also feel very inspired to start cooking more Korean food and trying new recipes. For my Minneapolis-based readers (i.e. my friends and family, thanks for all your support on my blog over the years) the Korean grocery store Seoul Foods in Fridley offers a ton of great items that I saw in stores in Seoul, so it’s becoming a spot I frequent!