Woljeonggyo Bridge in Gyeongju, South Korea

Located in the north-west of South Korea, Gyeongju is dubbed the ‘Museum without Walls’. The area comprises olden-days infrastructure, such as Woljeonggyo Bridge, Cheonmachong, and Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond. While it is reasonable to agree that this Korean town is rich with culture, it’s not the most appropriate title.

Instead, the focus should be placed on the beautiful amalgamation of tradition and modern in Gyeongju. Restaurants and cafes tookover traditional hanok houses, introducing modern recipes while retaining its archaic architecture. Contemporary art galleries and local craft shops can also be found along the streets.

To make the most out of your day trip, here are the best attractions and cafes to visit when you’re in Gyeongju.

Getting there

The bus ride to Gyeongju takes about 3.5 hours from Seoul. Regular tickets cost ₩30,500, while Premium seats cost ₩38,500.

We recommend taking the bus after lunch so that you’ll reach Gyeongju at 3-4pm. After checking in and freshening up, it’s the perfect evening weather to start sight-seeing.

There are nine sight-seeing attractions listed below, and they can all be visited within in about 3 hours. The trail starts from Daereungwon Ancient Tombs District, heading south, and circling back up.

1. Check in at a hanok

When you’re in Gyeongju, you have to stay in a hanok, a traditional Korean house.

There is a stretch of AirBnbs and guest houses along Sajeong-dong, which is also packed with restaurants and cafes, and located near all the attractions listed in this itinerary. The rates are roughly $50-150 for an individual room within the property. However, most listings will allow you to hang around the main areas. The AirBnb we’ve found is roughly the size of three single beds, excluding the toilet.

Alternatively, there are whole hanoks for rent from $100-$200.

AirBnb listing

Location: 5-2 Sajeong-dong

2. Hwangnamppang

Every city will have their local speciality dish, and Gyeongju’s is Hwangnamppang. 

Also known as Gyeongju Bread, it is a small pastry with a red bean paste filling. The pastry shell is soft and fragrant. It’s less buttery than you’d expect, but its milder flavours pairs well with the natural earthy sweetness of the red bean paste.

While Hwangnamppang can be bought everywhere, we recommend purchasing it from the original store. They are sold in sets at ₩20,000 for 20 pieces and ₩30,000 for 30 pieces. But you can also get them individually for ₩1,000.

Hwangnamppang

Location: 783 Taejong-ro
경북 경주시 태종로 783
Opening hours: 8am-10pm

3. Daereungwon Ancient Tombs District

The most popular tourist attraction in Gyeongju, Cheonmachong Tomb is located in Daereungwon Ancient Tombs District.

Translating to ’sky horse tomb’, Cheonmachong is a wood-lined chamber that houses an array of artifacts, such as a gold crown, jade comma-shaped beads and bronze vessels. Other burial grounds in the form of small hills, and water lily ponds, occupy the district.

Even if you’re not interested in history and culture, the fauna is well-tended and there area many seating areas, perfect for nature lovers.

The entrance fee ranges from ₩1,000 to ₩3,000. Visitors who plan to visit Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond can opt for the day pass (₩4,000), which includes access to both Daereungwon and Donggung Palace. 

Location: 9, Gyerim-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
경상북도 경주시 황남동 53
Opening hours: 9am-10pm

4. Tea break at Cafe SOL

Daereungwon Ancient Tombs District has two exits on opposite sides. Exit through the southern exit to fuel up at this cafe.

Cafe SOL is a minimalistic cafe built into a hanok.

It has three dining areas: an air-conditioned indoor space, a sheltered extension of the hanok, and individual garden patios.

Coffee starts from ₩5,500, while their desserts- including their croissants, financiers and best-selling ice cream, averages at ₩4,000.

Cafe SOL

Location: 208-3 Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju-si
경북 경주시 포석로1092번길 62-8 1층
Opening hours: 10:30am-10pm

5. Cheomseongdae Observatory

Cheomseongdae is the oldest astronomical observatory in Asia. It stands at 9.17 meters high, with a cylindrical body and square top. The vicinity is fenced up to prevent any damages to the structure. However, drones are allowed in the area.

Location: 140-25, Cheomseong-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
경상북도 경주시 인왕동 839-1
Opening hours: 9am-9pm

6. Donggung Palace & Wolji Pond

Donggung Palace served as a secondary palace for the crown prince of the Silla Kingdom.

This attraction is more crowded at night when the palaces are lit with a warm glow. You can rearrange this itinerary and visit the palace when the sun set instead. However, it will mean walking an extra distance. In the same vein, you can skip this area and head directly towards Seokbinggo from the observatory if you wish to walk less.

Location: 102, Wonhwa-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
경북 경주시 원화로 102 안압지
Opening hours: 9am-10pm

7. Seokbinggo

Photo credits: Korea Tourism Organisation

From Donggung Palace- or Cheomseongdae Observatory, if you decide to skip it- you’ll pass by the next two attractions.

Translating to stone ice storage, Seokbinggo is an ancient refrigerator that was only found in Korea in its era. You’ll only find a small structure of the storage, as half of the freezer is located underground.

Its ingenious design maintained cold temperatures, allowing food to be stored for a longer period of time without having to cure it with salt, as people typically did in the olden days.

Location: Inwang-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
경상북도 경주시 인왕동

8. Wolseong Palace Excavation Site

The excavation of the Wolseong Palace began in 2014, and it is still currently an active site. 

It spans across a large area, which comprises mainly uncovered dirt, blue tents and digging equipment. It’s not a photo spot for tourists, just an interesting sight that you’ll pass by on your way to the next attraction.

The excavation sites are located between Seokbinggo and Woljeonggyo Bridge.

9. Woljeonggyo Bridge

The largest bridge in Korea, Woljeonggyo Bridge was built centuries ago to connect Wolseong and Namsan, the neighbourhoods in Gyeongju.

In addition to having one of the best photo spots in the city, the second floor of the bridge also houses a small exhibit. You can find a map of Gyeongju in the Joseon dynasty, information of the bridge, and recovered artifacts.

While the bridge lights up at night, we recommend visiting at dusk to better take in the grandeur of the structure.

Fun fact — the bridge was burnt down during the Joseon dynasty, and was only recently rebuilt in 2018.

Location: 31, Gyochonan-gil, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
경상북도 경주시 교동 274
Opening hours: 9am-10pm

10. Gyeongju Gyo Village

This hanok village used to be home to the famous Choi clan of Gyeongju, a wealthy family of 12 generations which have produced important members to the society.

Visitors can learn more about the Choi family and their contributions to society in this attraction. Additionally, there are experience centers such as kiln workshops, quilt making and a Gyochon Gugak Performance Hall, where Korean court music and folk music are played.

You can rent traditional costumes here as well. While there aren’t as many photo spots as Gyeongbokgung palace in Seoul, there is a touch of olden days charm there that you might find appealing.

Location: 39-2, Gyochon-gil, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
경상북도 경주시 교촌길 39-2

11. CAFE EYST 1779

Now that you’re done with all the sight-seeing, take a breather at CAFE EYST 1779.

Located right beside Gyeongju Gyo Village, this cosy space provides a cafe experience like no other. It was built with bricks made in the Three Kingdoms period. Despite its intimidating facade, its spaciousness and organically-shaped furniture creates a cosy, welcoming environment once you step foot into the cafe.

It has a small menu that comprises of coffee and soft serve.

1779 Cafe

Location: 21 Gyochon An-gil
경북 경주시 교촌안길 21
Opening hours: 11am-9pm

12 Starbucks Gyeongju Daerungwon Branch

On the way back to your accommodation, you’ll walk past a hanok-style Starbucks.

There is a similar Starbucks located near Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal. But this branch is more popular as it is a standalone building.

Location: 125 Cheomseong-ro, Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
경북 경주시 첨성로 125
Opening hours: 8am-10pm

13. Dinner at Pot Rice House

On the way back to your accommodation, get a steamy bowl of stone pot rice at Pot Rice House.

The pot rice starts from ₩15,000 and the toppings include steak, salmon and eel. Leave some rice and meat in the bowl, as the staff will serve clear soup and crispy rice to mix in with the remaining bits.

Diners can also opt for Shabu Shabu (₩15,000) or Raw Sashimi (₩7,500) and Tempura (₩2,000) as side dishes.

Location: 9 Sajeong-ro, 57beon-gil
경북 경주시 사정로57번길 9
Opening hours: 11:30am-9pm

14. Breakfast at Olivee Cafe

Enjoy freshly-baked bread and pastries at Olivee Cafe, a bakery-pairing cafe.

Aside from the usual coffee and tea, their extensive menu includes basque burnt cheesecakes, choux pastries, soft serves, madeleines and financiers, and more.

Its alfresco dining area is also a popular photo spot for many youngsters.

Olivee Cafe

Location: 7-6 Sajeong-ro, 57beon-gil
경북 경주시 사정로57번길 7-6
Opening hours: 10am-9pm

Trip map created using Wanderlog, a road trip planner app on iOS and Android

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