This is the second part of my trip to South Korea, which led me to the historical city of Gyeongju. Just to let you know that I also wrote a comprehensive 3-day visit to Seoul in my previous article, so if you haven’t read it yet, go for it and come back here! If you’ve read it already, well good job you nerd!
As a reminder, I’ve spent one week in August 2019 in South Korea and it was incredible! Because I loved this country so much (also because I am a kind person), I decided to share with you the itinerary I followed and the activities I’ve done. I left Seoul on an early Thursday morning and took the train for approximately 3 hours to Gyeongju.
It’s cheaper and quicker to take the train than the plane to go from Seoul to Gyeongju (and more ecological by the way). You can also take the bus for 3h30 but since I almost died in a college-trip to go skiing because the driver of the bus took a wrong turn to the wrong mountain, tried to turn around in THE BEND OF A MOUNTAIN, and almost made us fall from i-don’t-know-how-many-meters of height, let’s just say that I am a bit reluctant to take this mean of transportation ever again.
Anyway, this itinerary is intentionally starting on a Thursday so make sure to check if monuments are open or not before your visit, as some monuments can be closed on certain days. Opening and closing hours can also vary from summertime to wintertime.
All the opening hours you will see throughout the article will be during summertime (June through August).
Because I want to save you some time, here are some currency exchanges just for you to have a little guidance on the worth of the South Korean Won (₩ / KRW):
$10 = ₩12,306
10€ = ₩13,317
£10 = ₩15,216
I hope you guys will enjoy this article and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have further questions or if something isn’t clear for you as always.
Gyeongju in 2 Days
Second TIP of this journey: If like me you’re leaving from Seoul, I would strongly recommend taking the train to Gyeongju. It’s around a 3-hour trip to go there, and you will have one transfer to make for another train in the city of Dongdaegu. There are lots of trains heading to Dongdaegu throughout the day but I would advise you to leave in the morning.
To sum up: you will have to take a train from Seoul Station to Dongdaegu Station for like 2h, and then you transfer to take another train from Dongdaegu Station to Gyeongju Station for like 1h15.
If you’re a bit lost or incapable of doing these things on your own, you can always ask the reception of your hotel/hostel to book it for you, except if you’re on an AirBnB booking. If it’s the case for you, you will then have no other choice but to assume the consequences of your actions. I would suggest traveling light, as traveling with huge suitcases is not convenient nor recommended for train travels, but you do you boo. You can find the link below to book tickets for the train:
You’re gonna ask me how is it working? Well, I am not even paid to write this article so maybe you can do things on your own once in a while.
I started the visit of the city after lunch since we needed time to leave from Seoul to Gyeongju, go to the hotel, put our luggage there, shower, etc. I don’t know where you’ll be staying, but here is where I ate after my arrival:
Be prepared for a full Korean culinary immersion! In this restaurant, you will have to choose between two menus. One is at ₩12,000 and is vegetarian, composed of 5 starters and 16 main dishes (yes 16). The other one is at ₩17,000 and includes also Bulgogi Beef. The dishes are incredibly good and the staff is super lovely. Once you go there, someone will explain to you everything you need to know about the meal you are about to consume, from side dishes to how to eat them. I suggest you take two menus if you’re 4 or 5 people, as they are heavy. Careful though, there are no chairs there! You will have to seat on pillows on the floor.
Address: 5, Hwarang-ro 19beon-gil, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do 38143
Opening Hours: Every day from 11:30 AM until 9:30 PM every day apparently
After you finished eating in the 1st ranked restaurant according to Trip Advisor, let’s walk 20 minutes to go to…
Cheonmachong is a tumulus and the tomb of an unknown monarch from the kingdom of Silla. What’s a tumulus you’re gonna ask me? Well, it’s a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave. The word “Cheonmachong” signifies “tomb of the Sky Horse” as it derives from a popular painting of a white horse portrayed on birch bark. Silla was one of the 3 ancient kingdoms of Korea which ruled from 57 BC to 935 AD. The tomb was probably built during the 5th century and was excavated in 1973. No less than 11,500 artifacts have been recovered from the vault!
Address: 14 Gyerim-ro, Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Hours: It is open every day from 9 AM until 10 PM
Leaving from the realm of the dead, you should walk 18 minutes to go to…
Cheomseongdae Observatory (첨성대)
Cheomseongdae is an astronomical observatory, which in the Korean language means “star-gazing tower.” Cheomseongdae is Asia’s oldest remaining astronomical observatory, if not the world’s oldest (apparently). It was founded in the Kingdom of Silla, whose capital was Seorabeol (today named Gyeongju, the city you’re visiting right now) in the 7th century. The tower’s core hole or crack divides the body into twelve layers of stones both above and below, symbolizing the twelve months in a year, and the 24 solar terms. It was used to forecast the weather but also to track stars. Don’t expect something super tall like the Seoul N Tower, the Observatory is *only* around 9 meters long.
Address: 839-1 Inwang-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Hours: It is open every day from 9 AM until 10 PM.
Woljeonggyo Bridge (월정교)
The Woljeonggyo Bridge is a wooden, covered bridge located near the traditional village of Gyeongju Gyochon. This bridge was constructed during the 8th century when King Gyeongdeok (35th King of the Kingdom of Silla) reigned. However, at some point, it was demolished and only the initial bridge stonework was remaining! It has been restored now and looks like the picture below. I would encourage you to come at the end of the day or during the night, as the lights are turned on and the bridge is all light-up in various colors.
Address: 48 Gyo-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Hours: It is open 24h/7
After visiting the bridge, why not get a wee drink at a really cute café. You just have to walk around 10 minutes from the end of the bridge, go through the stones in the river (living your Robinson Crusoé fantasy) and go to the…
Gyeongju Gyochon Traditional Village (경주 교촌마을)
Gyeongju Gyochon Village is a hanok village allowing you to understand the Choi Clan lifestyle, a clan that remained prosperous for the longest time in Korean history. You can visit the Gyeongju Choi Clan House and taste some Gyeongju Gyodong Beopju liquor there. You may also take part in multiple activities such as traditional rice making, trying some hanbok, or tasting the “ice-cream injeolmi rice cake”. The small village is indeed mainly composed of traditional restaurants, souvenir boutiques, and cafés.
Address: Gyeongsangbuk-do, Gyeongju-si, Gyochon-gil, 39-11
Opening Hours (it concerns mainly the shops and boutiques): It is open every day except on Mondays, and from 9 AM until 5:30 PM.
Speaking of cafés, I would recommend you to go to Sabaha Café, because it’s cute, the staff is super lovely and they have a variety of drinks, from ice coffees to frappés or teas and others stuff.
Address: 57-16 Wolseong-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Hours: No info on the net so who knows lol.
After this nice little apéritif (if you decided to stop here), it’s maybe time for you to go back to your accommodation, relax a bit, and prepare yourself for diner. I would recommend you to go eat some ramen noodles to…
Again, if Japan is not included in your overall trip (or you just want to eat something else than Korean food once in a while), go eat some ramen! I think it’s the comfort food I’m craving every time I’m feeling a bit down or tired. At this point, eating this dish was so good and Nekojjang’s ones were really tasty. Go there and try them yourself!
Address: 79 Gyerim-ro, Nodong-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Hours: It’s open every day from 11:30 AM until 9 PM
The next place is closing at 10 PM with final admissions 30 minutes before closing, so take that into CONSIDERATION while having diner. From the restaurant, you can take the bus line 600 or 603 for 15 minutes, or just walk for around 20-25 minutes to go to…
Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond (경주 동궁과 월지)
Gyeongju Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond was a secondary palace used by some Silla Kingdom’s crown prince at the time. It was built in 674 CE by the order of King Munmu (do your research). It was also qualified as a banquet venue for major national events and important guests. The palace, however, was abandoned and forgotten, after Silla Kingdom’s fall. During the periods of Goryeo and Joseon, Wolji Pond was referred to as “Anapji” in the past, as you may still find some blog articles naming the Pond like that. However, in the 1980s, a pottery fragment was found carved onto it with letters “Wolji” (a pond that represents the moon), revealing the pond’s true name.
Address: 102 Wonhwa-ro, Inwang-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Hours: It is open every day from 9 AM until 10 PM (with last admissions at 9:30 PM, so be smart about it lol)
- Adults (19 to 64 years old): ₩3,000
- Teenagers (13 to 18 years old): ₩2,000
- Children (7 to 12 years old): ₩1,000
- I guess it’s free for people who are 65 years old and older, plus people who are 6 years old and under.
You can go back to the city center to have a few drinks or go back to your accommodation, or you do whatever feels right but be prepared for an athletic day the next day. This journey is all about choices, and you taking consequences of your actions!
This morning will hit like a b*tch so be prepared! There’s a French quote that says: “Tu dois souffrir pour être belle“, which means: “You need to suffer to be pretty” but right here, you will need to suffer to appreciate the beauty of some things you will see. So let’s start the day going to…
Bulguksa Temple (불국사)
Bulguksa Temple is located on the slopes of mount Toham and is a lead temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, dating from the Silla period. The temple was built in 528 BC through the reign of King Beop-heung, who was hoping for peace and prosperity for all. Sadly, during the Imjin War (1592-1598), the Bulguska Temple caught fire. After the war, the temple endured severe damages and was also the victim of numerous thefts. However, the Bulguska Temple now holds seven national treasures, several important heritages, and was designated by the UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage in December 1995.
Address: 15-1 Jinhyeon-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Hours: It is open every day from 7 AM until 6 PM. I would recommend you to go there early in the morning (not 7 AM Jesus Christ, but like around 9-9:30 AM).
- Adults (19 to 64 years old): ₩6,000
- Teenagers (13 to 18 years old): ₩4,000
- Children (7 to 12 years old): ₩3,000
- I guess it’s free for people over 64 years old and children under 7 years old but I couldn’t find the info on official websites so who knows lol.
Now, the hard part. If you’re lazy, unhealthy, and/or incapable of doing a long athletic effort, you should take the taxi to go to the next place, there are a lot of them waiting at the temple. You can also take the bus line 12 that takes you directly from the temple to the next place. I think there is a bus every 15 minutes and it’s like a 20-minute bus trip.
If you’re a strong, independent person and/or want to impress yourself (like me), you can do a 2h walking track to go to the next place. There is a lovely sloping path under the trees to go there, and that’s why I want you to do that in the morning; since you will just melt and die in the afternoon (if you’re traveling during summertime). Also, take a lot of water with you, and don’t put too much weight on yourself with bags or backpacks, and take sporty outfits. The next place is…
Seokguram Grotto (석굴암)
The Grotto of Seokguram is a hermitage and is part of the Temple complex of Bulguksa. In 1995, both Seokguram and the Bulguksa Temple were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Grotto exemplifies some of the world’s finest Buddhist sculptures (like the Statue of Bonjon, Bodhi-sattva, and his followers). Its construction began in 751 during the reign of King Gyeong-Deok of the Silla Kingdom, by Kim Dae-Seong (who was a chief minister) and it was finished twenty-four years later in 774.
Fun fact, Kim Dae-Seong had Bulguksa Temple built for his parents in his current life, and Seokguram Grotto for the parents of his former life (whatever this means lol).
Address: Jinhyeon-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Hours: It is open every day from 6:30 AM until 6 PM (with last admission 1h before closing).
- Adults (19 to 64 years old): ₩5,000
- Teenagers (13 to 18 years old): ₩3,500
- Children (7 to 12 years old): ₩2,500
- Again, I think it’s free for people over 64 years old and children under 7 years old but since official websites don’t state anything clearly, I am not sure about this info.
Now that you’ve *maybe* done some sport and you’ve visited these two incredible monuments, you should start feeling hungry. I went back first to my accommodation because I sweated so much from the walk that it would be indecent (for the olfactory capabilities of others) to go have lunch straight after. After that, I went to have lunch at…
Here, it is a bibimbap place that comes with various side dishes like fishes, some kimchi (it’s a fermented spicy vegetable dish, the most famous one is the cabbage variety), salad, soups, and other stuff that you’re gonna see yourself. What’s a bibimbap, you may ask me? It’s a dish composed of a mix of rice as a base, vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, etc.), a sunny-side-up egg, and most of the time meat (beef generally), served in a sort of Korean terracotta bowl. I would also advise you to take on the side to share a sort of Korean omelet, called pajeon (which is a huge pancake with scallions), that I’m craving right now as I am writing.
Address: 60 Gyerim-ro, Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Hours: It is open every day (except on Tuesdays), from 11 AM until 9 PM.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this meal as much as I did. To go to the next place, you can take your time and walk through the Gyerim Forest (which is a small woodland where Cheomseongdae Observatory, a monument you visited on Day 1, is located). It’s a nice walk and good for your digestion (see how I care about you). You will also have the opportunity to walk through the remains of Ban-Wolseong (which was a royal palace compound of the Korean Silla monarchy). Or, you can be lazy twats and take the bus line 603 for 3 stops to go to the…
National Museum of Gyeongju (국립경주박물관)
The Gyeongju National Museum features various Silla’s kingdom cultural and historical artifacts. It was first established in 1945 as the National Museum of Korea’s Gyeongju Branch, so part of one of two museums you’ve visited in Seoul. There are a variety of museums across South Korea, but this museum’s collection is especially important because it can help you to understand the history of civilizations in Korea, plus the importance of the Silla Kingdom. Fun fact, the museum collection’s volume of historical and archaeological artifacts is so wide that most of the pieces can not be exhibited! They have like a collection of 100,000 objects with only 3,000 of them on display!
Address: 186 Iljeong-ro, Wolseong-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Hours: It is open every day from Monday to Friday from 10 AM until 6 PM. On Saturdays, Sundays, and on holidays, it’s open from 10 AM until 7 PM. The last Wednesday of every month, plus every Saturday from March to December, it is open from 10 AM until 9 PM.
Price: It is free for the “permanent exhibition halls, Children’s Museum, special exhibition halls (excluding the special exhibitions that require a ticket).”
Now, if you have some time left, from the National Museum, you will have to take the bus line 605 or 607 for 5-10 min to the city center of Gyeongju to the stop “신한은행사거리” (yes there is no English name lol), and then you will have to take the bus line 206 (35 min) or 203 (1h) to go to…
Gyeongju Yangdong Village (경주 양동마을)
The Yangdong Folk Village displays a historical Joseon Dynasty yangban (Korean Aristocracy) village and its gorgeous natural ecosystem, which was founded in the 15th century. The village lies along the Hyeongsan River in Gangdong-myeon, 16 kilometers north of Gyeongju. The whole village has been listed as a UNESCO heritage site thanks to its many cultural heritages such as treasures, national artifacts, and folklore products. About 160 old buildings and 500-year-old thatched-roof cottages are located inside the valley, providing a unique opportunity to see in person a range of special traditional Korean residences.
Address: 134 Yangdongmaeul-gil, Gangdong-myeon, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Hours: It is open every day from 9 AM until 7 PM
- Adults (19 to 64 years old): ₩4,000
- Teenagers (13 to 18 years old): ₩2,000
- Children (7 to 12 years old): ₩1,500
- I finally found official info that says there is free admission (with ID) for seniors (65 years old and older), plus for preschoolers (6 years old and under).
I hope you enjoyed the visit as much as I did. The time to head back to the city center, it will most probably be time to have dinner. I would recommend, if you’re coming directly from Yangdong Village, to take the bus line 206 (40 min) or 203 (1h10) to the station “서라벌사거리” and walk 5 minutes to go to…
Ok, I am already laughing because I know people are going to insult me since I’m putting an Italian restaurant here. So first of all, kindly f*ck off, and second, it’s the occasion to try a Korean/Italian fusion food. Aren’t you curious to see what the heck they would do as dishes? Well, I can definitely assure you that it’s tasty food right there. The pasta is incredibly good and the red wine very savory. A little plus, there’s a little salad offered as an entrée. I took the Korean beef pasta and it was super good. Go have a try!
Address: 1083-2 Poseok-ro, Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Hours: According to Trip Advisor, they’re open every day from 11 AM until 9 PM, except on Monday when they are open from 11 AM until 3 PM
The visit to Gyeongju is now over! You can spend the night in the city center, visiting the parts of the city you haven’t seen yet and/or have some drinks at some bars. You may want to go back to the first 3 monuments from Day 1 and walk by night to visit them (especially the Woljeonggyo Bridge as it is very pretty by night with all its lights). Maybe you want to go back to your accommodation and rest for the night. Whatever you decide to do, I love you.
I hope you had an amazing stay in this historic and peaceful city as much as I enjoyed staying there. You were able to see another aspect of South Korea, very different from Seoul. Now, be ready to be amazed by the third and final city of this South Korean’s journey. The next article will feature a city by the sea and my favorite from this trip, Busan!
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