One thing I love about Asian culture is the unique architecture, so different from that in the West. That’s why I particularly love Korean hanok, the traditional houses. The first time I saw them was in Seoul’s famous Bukchon Hanok Village. But this area is rather small compared to one of Korea’s most popular traditional destinations: Jeonju! The traditional part of this small town in Jeollabuk-do Province features over 800 unique traditional Korean houses and is a popular tourist attraction in the country.
For my birthday this year, Jeongsu and I decided to check out this cultural gem and we were not disappointed!
Here’s my itinerary for the perfect weekend in Jeonju:
Stay at a Traditional Hanok
If you decide to spend the night in Jeonju, be sure to stay at one of the many hanok guesthouses you can find all over the village! Most of them are owned by locals who offer them to Korean as well as foreign tourists. Be aware that they do not come with beds but instead, you sleep on the floor with comfy ondol, Korean floor heating. Our guesthouse was equipped with a TV, computer, refreshments, and a nice bathroom. The hanok owners were super nice and provided us with traditional tea and snacks and also had a golden retriever dog, who we named Jonathan, who protected us at night
Find your hanok guesthouse at Hanok Stay!
Eat Jeonju Bibimbap
You’ve probably heard of and had bibimbap before but let me tell you, Jeonju bibimbap is truly the king of all bibimbap! We ate at a local restaurant, whose owner has made her own bibimbap sauce for 17 years and instead of gochujang (Korean chili paste) she uses her home-made sesame-oil-sauce. She explained that the spicy chili paste takes away the flavors of all the main ingredients but the sesame sauce keeps the distinct flavors and ensures a delicious meal. This bibimbap surely blew me away and I’d travel back just to have the bibimbap!
It seems like the entire city is dressed in traditional hanbok – or at least all the tourists are. There are dozens of shops you can rent hanbok from and wear it for a few hours or even the entire day! We’ve even seen traditional school uniforms or simply costumes for rent and many Korean guys don’t shy away and wear girl’s hanbok for fun!
Play Traditional Games at the Culture Center
Want to try out shoe throwing, Korean pitch-pot or Jegichagi, a traditional game where the player kicks a jegi (similar to a badminton shuttlecock) up in the air and keeps on kicking to prevent from falling to the ground. You can try all of these games and more at the local culture center in the middle of the hanok village. If you’re too shy to try it out yourself, simply go and watch other people! It’s a lot of fun!
Snack Around At Nambu Market
This traditional market (남부시장) consists of around 800 stores offering vegetables, fruits, food, dried fish, furniture, silk goods, and general goods. It’s a great place to go in the evening and check out local products and snacks as well as specialties from other Asian nations.
Get Drunk on Makgeolli
For the people in Jeonju, makgeolli is not just a drink! Once you have ordered one kettle of this slightly sweet rice alcohol with 6–8% alcohol by volume, you will receive an abundance of delicious local side dishes ranging from crab, spicy stew and dried fruits to octopus and corn! All of this cost us around 15,000 KRW only – $15! Ordering another kettle will give you an even greater selection of side dishes! But don’t have too much or you will check into the wrong hanok guesthouse!
Check out Gyeonggijeon Shrine
It’s not all about alcohol in food in Jeonju, though! One of my favorite places was the beautiful Gyeonggijeon Shrine (경기전). This shrine was built in 1410 and is home to the portrait of King Tae-jo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty and other important rulers of Korea. It’s 3,000 KRW to get in but you will not be disappointed!
Get the Best View Of the Village
One thing I always admired were the beautiful photos taken looking down on the entire village. Luckily, Jeongsu and I found the perfect spot to take such a photo! Follow the path up the hill to Omokdae (오목대), a tower on top of a steep hill where King Taejo, the first king of the Joseon Dynasty, stopped to celebrate his victory on his way home from a war with Japanese invaders. Following the tracks back down on the other side will offer you a spectacular view of the entire village!
walking down from Omokdae
perfect view of the village
Enjoy a Beverage at a Local Teahouse
I heard about this traditional teahouse in Jeonju offering delicious local dried five-flavored berries tea (오미자차). I had it at a hidden teahouse called “Daho Teahouse” in a small side alley off of the busy touristy street in the village. The best part was that the entire place was beautifully decorated and I could relax away from the busy roads. The price, however, with 8,000 KRW ($8) for a cup of tea, wasn’t that thrilling. Nevertheless, I can highly recommend this teahouse!
Address: 12-3 Taejo-ro, Wansan-gu
left: citrus tea, middle: dried sweet potato, right: dried five-flavored berries tea
entrance to Daho Teahouse
Take me Back to Jeonju!
Jeonju Hanok Village is a truly unique place. Even though it is quite touristy, it’s still nice for a weekend getaway and great for experiencing Korean culture first-hand! I definitely want to go back and check it out again – especially for the food!
More Jeonju Photos:
we got to see the first cherry blossoms of the season!
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- Exploring Korea’s South: Busan