Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan.

Visiting Busans’ Jagalchi Market: The biggest fish market in Korea.

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Wow. Korea. Ew, and wow. The Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan is really something else. Just when we were thinking we had seen the wet markets of Asia… Behold! South Korea has octopi, baby sharks, giant rays, monster eels, freaky flat fish, and squirting sea slugs. And there’s more. Have you heard about the Urechis unicinctus? It’s also known as the penis fish… (Don’t Google that one!).

If you’re visiting Busan, you need to visit the Jagalchi Market. We’ve seen seafood markets in Asia, but none quite compare to the collection of unusual seafood, the colours, the size and the buzz of Jagalchi.

Holding an octopus at Jagalchi Market in Busan.
Have you ever held an octopus?

About the market

Cost: Free to enter the markets
Hours: Open 05:00h to 22:00h
Note: Closed on 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month.

Jagalchi Market is situated by Namp Port in Busan. It is the largest seafood market in South Korea, and sells both live and dried seafood. Fresh seafood is brought in to the port daily and is cleaned and sold on site.

There are two main sections to the market. Inside is the live seafood section, and outside and in the neighbouring roofed area is the dried seafood and prepared fish and shellfish.

You can purchase live seafood from the ground floor of the market and take it upstairs to the restaurant floor to have it cooked for you. We were visiting in the morning and weren’t hungry (or brave) enough for a live seafood purchase this time. Although it did sound tempting to try some of the fresh fish.

Live shellfish on stands outside the market entrance, ‘squirting’ in the buckets.

Exploring the market

Walking around the markets is an assault on all the senses… It’s not hard to be wowed by the array of sea creatures on display and in live aquariums. It certainly took our marine worldschooling to a whole new fishy level!

Starting out timidly, looking at some kind of squid…
Checking out the raw seafood section of the market.
Amazing looking flat fish in the live seafood section.
Lunchtime at Jagalchi Seafood Market, Busan.
Lunchtime on the ground floor.
Crabs and other live seafood in huge tanks inside.

Urechis Unicinctus

We had never heard of this before. I heard about this as a ‘feature’ of Jagalchi Markets, and I’m not going to lie – we were intrigued… Urechis unicinctus is the fancy name for a marine spoon worm. And quite seriously, it’s also known as the Chinese penis fish (note: don’t Google that!).

Jagalchi Markets undoubtedly has the largest array of unidentifiable seafood and squirming creatures I have ever seen in my life… But this certainly stands out as one of the more unforgettable of the selection!

Urechis unicinctus on display at Jagalchi Market.
Urechis unicinctus (the ‘penis fish’!)
All kinds of shellfish on display right alongside them…
Visiting Jagalchi market in Busan, South Korea. Busan Seafood Market.
Would you hold one?!

The fish mongers were lovely, and proud to show us their stalls. It was definitely an eye-opener of culture and biology of a different kind, that’s for sure!

Getting around Busan

The subway system in Busan is the easiest way to get around. Even coming from subway-free New Zealand, we found it easy to navigate and a cost-effective way to travel in Busan.

To buy tickets for the subway, you can use the automatic ticket machines at every station. (Note: The automatic machines only accept W1,000 notes or coins, so make sure to carry small notes with you). The cost is W1,000 for one ‘section’ (less than 10km) or W1,300 for two sections (distance more than 10km). And don’t forget to keep hold of your ticket as you need it to swipe in and out of the subway station.

The entrance to Jagalchi market, Busan.
Walking from the subway station to Jagalchi Markets (building in the distance).

The Fish Market is easy to find from the subway in Busan. Take the exit for Jagalchi Station (Line 1, Exit 10). Walk straight passing the first street on your right; turn right into the 2nd street (Jagalchi-ro 47 Beon-gil). From there walk 140m straight to reach the market, 5 minutes walk from the station.

FIND JAGALCHI MARKET

GETTING FROM BUSAN TO SEOUL

From Busan, we took the fast train to Seoul. We booked tickets for this on our second day in Busan so as to secure a seat and know where we needed to be on the day. There is a ticket booth at the main train station in Busan. Staff were very friendly and helpful and spoke English well. It was a smooth, relaxing ride to Seoul.


WHERE WE STAYED

In South Korea we really enjoyed K-Hostel in Seoul. We found it to be in a good location, clean, with a big buffet breakfast (kind of hostel-style, and eaten in the basement) and very friendly staff. In Busan and Namhae we found good places to stay, though neither particularly outstanding.

  • Busan: Kimchee Hostel [good location, nice room with fridge and bath. Close to convenience stores and subway. Shared spaces and kitchen not clean; vibe of party hostel].
  • Seoul: K-Hostel [good location, close to metro; big breakfast, friendly staff, nice room].
Our room a K-Hostel in Seoul.

THE BEST STREET FOOD IN BUSAN

We really enjoyed trying all kinds of different Korean food in Busan. Gukje Markets is definitely the best we found for street food stalls. I recommend hunting out the ‘Pajeon’ stall. The boys were into the dumplings, and a lady walking past gave them a huge ‘Ppopgi’ cotton-candy lollipop. It’s a market outing for the win!

Spot Gavin and his chopsticks joining locals at the Pajeon market stall.

Pajeon is like a savoury pancake, and a staple dish of the Korean street food list. (Probably just as well we aren’t hanging around South Korea and the Pajeon stalls too much longer!).

Pajeon on one side, Mandu dumplings on the other.

SOUTH KOREA, OVERALL

We really enjoyed our time in South Korea, and travelling with kids, we were stopped by people every day. When I updated our posts about Korea, there actually hadn’t been a day where we weren’t given a gift of some kind from a random stranger. The kids got juice drinks, milk drinks, superhero stickers, chips, lollies, a cheese stick(!)… And plenty of hugs and squeezes.

We had heard mixed reviews about South Korea, and were even ‘pre-warned’ about cultural differences that we would surely see. But from what we actually saw and of the people we met, we feel extremely grateful for finding yet another country we were so welcomed to travel in. 

On the way to find the dinosaur footprints in Namhae, Oscar was having a more-than-Oscar-winning tantrum in the middle of a 7-Eleven store. Crying, because we wouldn’t buy him a toy dinosaur egg… The Korean delivery man, who spoke no English at all, heard his crying and bought him one.

We left South Korea feeling very thankful for the Delivery Man, and the Octopus Lady at Jagalchi Market. And for the superhero Train Man, and the hotel owner with chips. Not just for the dinosaur egg and the hold of a sticky octopus; but for affirming our insight into a cool culture! 

Hugs and squeezes everywhere in South Korea!

READ MORE FROM SOUTH KOREA


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