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Kalguksu Alley in Namdaemun Market Guide, Seoul

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Located close to Myeongdong but without the tourist hordes (or prices), Kalguksu Alley is a densely packed indoor strip of food stalls hidden away in the depths of Namdaemun Market.

A hotpotch of bibimbap and knife-cut noodle dishes, Kalguksu Alley should definitely be high on your foodie hitlist next time you are in Seoul.

From prices to etiquette, here is our guide to eating at Kalguksu Alley in Seoul, South Korea.

Kalguksu Alley at Namdaemun Market Seoul

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What is Kalguksu Alley?

Kalguksu alley is an alleyway hot-bed (emphasis on the ‘hot’) of inexpensive noodle stalls. It has around 20 to 25 different stalls, generally all run by elderly ladies (ajummas) who take great pride in their food and service.

Kalguksu Alley at Namdaemun Market Seoul

One straight side street of sumptuous food stalls running on either side, each Kalguksu Alley stall has around 5 or 6 seats – think Gwangjang Market but in a much more compact space.

On busy days and at peak hours, expect to queue for a seat as the small alley can get very busy.

Located in a covered side street, Kalguksu Alley is an all weather eating affair – we found that it is very cosy on the coldest winter days (maybe all that steam helps).


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Where is Kalguksu Alley / how to get to Kalguksu Alley

Kalguksu Alley is hidden away in Namdaemun Market – in fact, the first time we visited, we walked past it several times, as it is snuggly located between several other non food stalls

To get to Kalguksu Alley in Seoul’s Namdaemun Market, take the Seoul Metro line 4 to Hoehyeon station and take exit 5.

Kalguksu Alley at Namdaemun Market Seoul

Then head right towards the market for about 30 metres and look for an unassuming wooden door on the left with a plastic covering with many people streaming in and out (underneath the Beverly Hills Polo Club sign) – that is Kalguksu Market.

We found Naver was much better than Google maps at helping us to find Kalguksu Market.


Try this – Seoul Namdaemun Market Street Food Tour >


What foods can you get at Kalguksu Alley?

There are lots of dishes to try at Kalguksu Alley and every stall pretty much has the same menu selling the three following traditional Korean three dishes:

Knife-Cut Noodles (Gohyang Kalguksu)

There is something very hearty about home-made chewy knife-cut noodles which are rolled, kneaded and then cut up in front of your very own eyes, before being added to a fishy/anchovy broth and topped with fried tofu, spring onions, sesame seeds, crushed seaweed and a spicy red paste.

Food - Knife-Cut Noodles (Gohyang Kalguksu) at Kalguksu Alley at Namdaemun Market Seoul

There has been a resurgence in the interest of gohyang kalguksu in recent years (especially in Seoul) in part thanks to them being featured on the Netflix series ‘Street Food: Asia’.

Expect to pay around 8,000 Korean Won for a Kalguksu noodle meal set that comes with a small side dish of pickled vegetables (kimchi and greens) and a small bowl of naengmyeon (more on this later).

Food at Kalguksu Alley at Namdaemun Market Seoul

Read about the Netflix knife-cut noodle lady stall at Gwangjang Market here >


Barley Bibimbap / Boribap

A dish which is served in a bowl with a whole heap of vegetables (bean sprouts, shredded radish, water celery and lettuce), barley and kimchi. Most bibimbaps at Kalguksu Alley are served with barley rice known as ‘mugi meshi’.

Barley Bibimbap / Boribap food at Kalguksu Alley at Namdaemun Market Seoul

Expect to pay around 8,000 Korean Won for a Barley Bibimbap meal set that comes with a side dish of pickled vegetables, a small bowl of naengmyeon (more on this later), soybean soup and also a bowl of Kalguksu noodle soup!

Yep that’s right, Neil just ordered the bibimbap set for 8,000 Won and ended up with both a bowl of bimbimbap and a bowl of kalguksu noodles, plus sides – a bargain!

Barley Bibimbap / Boribap food at Kalguksu Alley at Namdaemun Market Seoul
Mixed up bibimbap with soybean soup side dish

Naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles)

Naengmyeon is a cold noodle dish of North Korean origin which is popular in the summer months at Kalguksu Alley. It consists of long, thin handcut buckwheat noodles and favours such as beef, radish and cucumber. It is topped with an egg.

Naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles) food at Kalguksu Alley at Namdaemun Market Seoul
Naengmyeon side dish

Naengmyeon comes as a mini side dish when you order Kalguksu or bimbimbap. If you order Naengmyeon as a main dish set, it will come with a serving of Kalguksu noodles as well.

Other dishes you can find in Kaguksu Alley include banquet noodles (warm noodle dish) and hand pulled dough soup.


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How much is Kalguksu Market?

Kalguksu Market at Namdaemun Market is free to enter and there is no advance queuing or reservation system – just turn up and pick a stall to sit at.

The food stalls at Kalguksu Alley all looked incredible with noodles and bibimbap, the most popular Korean street food dishes to try. You can eat really well here for around 8,000 Korean Won a dish.

Kalguksu Alley at Namdaemun Market Seoul food menu
Kalguksu Alley at Namdaemun Market Seoul food menu

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Kalguksu Alley etiquette

Eating at Kalguksu Alley is quite the experience and highly recommended. Turnover at all the stalls is pretty high and the stallholders are keen for you to have a hearty and delicious quick meal before getting rid of you (in a polite way) so they can get more customers.

Kalguksu Alley at Namdaemun Market Seoul

We found a few of the stallholders a little keen (over enthusiastic) and they would wave their menus in your face and sometimes follow you with them if there is room – this is all part of the experience!

When eating at a stall, as space is at a premium, most stalls require one dish per person to be bought. Once you’ve finished your meal, pay for your food and leave your seat as quick as possible so the next diners can sit.


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Namdaemun Market

Namdaemun Market is a sprawling shopping area frequented by locals and tourists alike in search of bargains.

As well as Kalguksu Alley, there are thousands of market stalls and shops in Namdaemun Market, spread across several blocks so navigating it can seem quite tricky when you first arrive.

Handily, Namdaemun Market is handily broken down into several sections where the same types of shops and products are grouped together.

Key shopping sections that are signposted at Namdaemun Market near Myeongdong include:

  • Bedding Street
  • Hardware Street
  • Children’s Wear Street
  • Fashion Street
  • Camera Street
  • Grocery Street
  • Watch Street

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Kalguksu Alley opening hours

Kalguksu Alley is open 7 days a week from early morning (some stalls begin around 6am) until about 8pm at night. To note we’ve only ever been at lunchtime so can’t vouch exactly how many stalls are open first and last thing.

Peak hours at Kalguksu Alley are at lunchtime 11.30am to 2pm – this is when you may struggle to find a free seat.

Kalguksu Alley during lunch hours

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Other things to do know about Kalguksu Alley

  • All stalls require cash payment – try to have small bills where possible.
  • Dress appropriately – in winter warmths, the inside stays quite warm but in the summer, Kalguksu Alley is really hot and humid inside.
  • Towards the far end of Kalguksu Alley, there are some slightly bigger stalls with bigger seating areas should you have a larger group.
Kalguksu Alley at Namdaemun Market Seoul

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Other things to do near Kalguksu Alley

Namdaemun Market Hairtail Alley / Namdaemun Galchi-jorim Alley

Similar to Kalguksu Alley but over a longer side-street, this is another alley chock-a-block with restaurants serving up braised cutlassfish (galchi jorim) with lots of spices in a hot stone stew.

Expect large queues at the most popular Namdaemun Galchi-jorim Alley restaurants in peak hours.

Namdaemun Market Hairtail Alley / Namdaemun Galchi-jorim Alley Seoul
Namdaemun Market Hairtail Alley / Namdaemun Galchi-jorim Alley Seoul
Namdaemun Market Hairtail Alley / Namdaemun Galchi-jorim Alley Seoul

Dine at Seoul’s Famous Myeongdong Kyoja Restaurant

One of Seoul’s most popular and inexpensive restaurants, Myeongdong Kyoja has been serving up delicious hand-made dumplings and hand cut noodles to hungry locals for decades.

Myeongdong Kyoja Restaurant

Founded in the 1960s, Myeongdong Kyoja has a simple but succulent menu comprising just a handful of dishes.

With just a handful of branches in Seoul, Kyoja is one of the most popular cheap eats in the city and queues of diners dying for delicious dumplings and knife-cut noodles is not uncommon.

From marvellous freshly steamed mandu to banging bibimguksu, read our guide to all things Myeongdong Kyoja Restaurant in Seoul >

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We are currently digital nomading / travelling for the next few months around London and Asia (Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Singapore). Check out our travel diaries on Instagram – @.c.k.travels, Tik Tok – @cktravels and on Facebook.

Myeongdong Walking Street

A UNESCO listed street no less, Myeongdong Walking Street is the epicentre of Seoul’s retail and fashion world, with hundreds of shops to choose from, plus numerous bars and restaurants hidden along its alleys.

Designated a special tourist zone and pretty much pedestrianised other than the occasional taxi trying to do a hotel drop off, Myeongdong Walking Street is a top tourist thing to do in Seoul.

It is also worth a visit both in the day and at night, as in the evening, all the streets are lit with an array of neon signs and bright lights – very cool to see.

With around 4 million visitors a year, Myeongdong Walking Street can get very busy (especially at night when the street food vendors start) so it may be worth planning several visits here whilst in Seoul so you can see it all.

Check out our guide to the best things to do in Myeongdong >

N Seoul Tower & Namsan Tower

The most popular viewing tower in Seoul is N Seoul Tower, located in Namsan Park. The views of Seoul and the surrounding park are stunning plus there are two levels to explore, one with a rather nice cafe looking out over Seoul.

Almost 800 metres high, the N Seoul Tower is open until 10pm on weekdays and until 11pm on weekends (times correct as of August 2023) – so you can even enjoy the Seoul sunset or Seoul at night.

Namsan Park is open until 10pm most days so you can even enjoy sunset or night time views. Love locks adorn all the fences too in and around the immediate area.

Sungnyemun

Just a couple of minutes walk from Namdaemun Market and Kalguksu Alley, Sungnyemun is one of the main gates that was once part of the historic Fortress Wall that  encircled Seoul (parts of the city still have the wall).

Sungnyemun isn’t as old as many may think as the wooden original was destroyed in a fire in 2008 – it also has a free ‘changing of the guard’ ceremony held most days (and a lot less crowds that the similar ceremony at the Royal Palaces).

Sungnyemun Seoul
Sungnyemun Seoul

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Kalguksu Alley Namdaemun Address

42-1 Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul


Looking for cheap Seoul day-trips, attractions or group/private tours? We recommend visiting Viator, GetYourGuide, and Klook!


Accommodation in Seoul

We’d recommend these hotels in Seoul (or check out our guide to the best neighbourhoods in Seoul)

Budget ($)
Hotel 8 Hours
This budget hotel is located a 5 minute walk from Myeongdong subway City Hall station exit. Rooms are compact but modern and hotel facilities include TV, refrigerator, shower booth, hairdryer and free toiletries. Check out prices and availability for Hotel 8 Hours

Luxury ($$$)
L7 Myeongdong by LOTTE 
This trendy 4-star hotel is located right by the subway station and within a few minutes of the shopping areas. Facilities include a rooftop bar which has views of the city and Mount Namsan. Check out prices and availability for L7 Myeongdong.

InterContinental Seoul COEX, an IHG Hotel
Located inside the World Trade Centre, this luxurious 5-star hotel includes four restaurants and bars (including an Italian restaurant with a skyline view), casino, golf practice room, outdoor spa pool and indoor pool. Check out prices and availability for InterContinental Seoul COEX, an IHG Hotel


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