Gyeongju is a little part of South Korea that never quite gets the same recognition as a tourist destination than its big brothers of Seoul, Busan and Jeju-do.
Regrets in life can come with what you don’t know, and if you decide to bypass Gyeongju during your South Korea holiday, you’re quite simply missing out on a picturesque city that is known for its stunning architectural structures and pristine gardens.
Situated in the South-East corner of South Korea, Gyeongju is a charming city with a rich history, dating back thousands of years when it was believed to be once capital of Korea under the kingdom of Silla era. The city’s proud heritage is evident throughout the region with several Buddhist temples, pagodas and religious artifacts that are seen during your trip.
If you do decide to make the smart decision and have a short stay in Gyeongju, your choice will be proven to be worthwhile, because a trip to this traditional city is unlike any other part of Korea, and during your stay, you’ll find that there are a range of amazing things to do in Gyeongju.
Amazing Things to do in Gyeongju – South Korea
How to get to Gyeongju?
While there are a variety of means of transportation to get to Gyeongju, being a train, car or bus services, the most common way to get there from South Korea’s major cities in Seoul and Busan is by using the KTX to Gyeongju.
To travel from Busan or Seoul to Gyeongju, the fastest way is KTX train System, a fast train which departs regularly from either city daily. Once aboard the KTX train, you get off at Singyeongju station and catch bus-700 to arrive at central Gyeongju, costing a further 1500KRW. Once you’re on the bus, it is only another 15-minute journey to the city centre.
Getting to Gyeongju:
- KTX train from Seoul to Gyeongju (Singyeongju KTX station) – Approx. Cost 49300KRW economy class.
- KTX train from Busan to Gyeongju (Singyeongju station KTX) – Approx. Cost 11000KRW economy class.
- From Singyeongju, take bus-700 to Gyeongju City – Approx. Cost 1500KRW.
Where to stay in Gyeongju
You’ll find a whole range of appropriate priced accommodations in Gyeongju that will suit any budget. Whether it is family-style resorts, mid-priced hotels or budget hostels that are ideal for one, there is the perfect Gyeongju accommodation for you.
I need to recommend the Blueboat Gyeongju Guesthouse; it cost me around 24000-KRW per-night. It is a Dormitory style accommodation that included breakfast of toast, cereal, porridge and is perfect for any solo traveller to Korea on a budget.
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Bulguksa Temple – Gyeongju Temple
It was fascinating to wander through the grounds of Bulguksa Temple, A UNESCO listed attraction, that is given that credit for all the right reasons and fits into the heritage theme of Gyeongju to perfection.
Even though Gyeongju Bulguksa Temple has seen several renovations throughout its extensive history and it’s a great honour to stand in the historical grounds to view the fantastic religious structure that was established hundreds of years ago (in the year-528). All the while, admiring the architectural design, the gardens and the epic nature in the Tohamsan Mountain area of the temple.
Bulguksa needs to be on your list of Gyeongju attractions due to its rich history, that dates backs Boep-Hueng’s reign as the leader in the 6th century, and it only cost 5000KRW to enter through the gates of this beautiful temple in Gyeongju Korea.
Situated in the same complex of Bulguksa Temple, so a great way to kill two birds with one stone in your Gyeongju travel experience, the Seokguram Grotto is again set in the exceptional nature of the mountain that makes Gyeongju so beautiful, and it’s undoubtedly Korea sightseeing at its very best.
Seokguram Grotto, a national treasure of Korea which was completed in the year of 774, is known to be made in the honour of Kim Daeseong parents from a former life. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed to be taken of the Seokguram Grotto, due to the age of the Buddha of Grotto statue, but it is worth a visit on your Gyeongju trip.
It also cost 5000KRW to check out this artistic beauty of South Korea that also comes with incredible views over the Sea of Japan.
It may not appear much as first, especially when you’re standing in an open field, like I was, and staring at a structure that looks like it’s aged well over the years.
It’s a simple case of don’t let looks fool you, because Cheomseongdae Observatory is a structure of great importance and is believed to be the oldest astronomical observatory that still exists in Asia today. Cheomseongdae also looks incredible when lit up at night.
Cheomseongdae in Korean means, star-gazing tower, so the name is more than appropriate for its original purpose, with the structure being completed in the 7th century under the reign of Queen Seondeok. It’s free admission to go and view this historic structure while roaming about Gyeongju.
Gyeongju Hyanggyo (Gyochon Village)
I love to walk through a traditional Korean Folk Village and because South Korea have so many to take in and saviour, I’m always spoilt for choices when searching for a little tradition and culture in my homeland. Gyeongju Hyanggyo or Gyochon Village is another particular folk village that will hold special memories in my heart and another historic attraction you must visit during your Gyeongju city tour.
When walking through the gorgeous Hanok Village, which is a walk in the life of the Choi Clan, it is merely a treat to admire the stunning ancient buildings and green scenery that surrounds the premises.
Gyochon Village is not only about taking in more Korean sightseeing, but there are also a few activities of interest to note, such as a traditional tea house, soap making, a traditional Korean meal and many more workshops that anyone with a keen eye for arts & crafts will enjoy.
Admission is free to Gyochon Village, and it is open to the public all year round, how cool is that!
Lose yourself inside Gyochon Folk Village.
If you’re visiting Gyochon Village, then you’re more than likely to go past Woljeonggyo Bridge, which is situated right next door to the famous village.
Woljeonggyo Bridge was built in the 19th Century under the reign of King Gyeongdeok, but like a lot of famous South Korea tourist attractions you see in your time in the country, such historical attractions have felt the effect of war and has been reconstructed in time to bring history back to the modern day Gyeongju.
The Woljeonggyo Bridge is better seen at night because the colours that come out in the dark are spectacular.
Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond (Anapji Pond Gyeongju)
If the stunning nightlife is what you seek in your Gyeongju itinerary, then the Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond is the place to be for an evening time bliss in nature when this historic palace lights up in the evening sky.
Although, if you do happen to arrive in the midst of the day, your views won’t be spoilt, because that’s not possible when you visit Gyeongju, so never fear when your schedule is busy, and you can’t fit in these those fantastic attractions in your Gyeongju day trip at the times you wish. To not visit this attraction at all would be an actual crime.
When you look at the Palace grounds from a distance, the Donggung Palace (long ago used as a banquet hall) sits at the rear of the Wolji Pond (an artificial pond, which is a reflection of the moon) and when you include the surrounding scenery in the Gyeongju National Park, the views are nothing short of sensational.
The former name Anapji Pond came about long ago during the era of Goryeo and Joseon, it changed to it’s current name because in the 1980s, a pottery fragment with the letters of “Wolji” was discovered, revealing the initial name of the pond long ago, hence the permanent change to Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond.
The cost to visit Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond is 2000KRW and is open from 9 am to 10 pm.
It doesn’t stop there in Gyeongju South Korea
Gyeongju is the gift that keeps on giving to tourist that visit from close or far, with still a copious amount of attractions to visit, there is the Gyeongju National Museum which is sure to education, especially when you think of all the history that is found in the first capital of Korea.
You have got the Cheonmachong Tomb in a location that lies in the green fields of Gyeongju, that dates back to the fifth century and believes to be built in the style of Silla. There is a chance to further breathe like the city in the World Culture Expo Park, showcasing a building that is amazing in design.
Other things to do in Gyeongju include:
- Gyeongju National Museum
- Cheonmachong Tomb
- World Culture Expo Park
- Replica of the Hwangnyongsa Temple
- Indulging in delicious Korean food