As a city awarded the title of being Korea’s UNESCO city of gastronomy, Jeonju is a popular destination for a weekend break among foodie Koreans.
With exquisite restaurants and unique street food eats around every corner, it is easy to understand the appeal. However, so far this tasty city has escaped the radar of international visitors whom, if adventurous enough even to venture to Korea to the first place, only follow the well-trodden paths down to Busan and Jeju island from Seoul.
Since I live in Seoul, I wanted to take the trip down to Jeonju to see what the city had to offer. I fell completely in love with Jeonju and this has been one of my favorite weekend breaks in Korea so far.
The city is relatively compact, and you can explore most points of interest within a day or two. Here are some of the best things to do in Jeonju
Get Lost In The Winding Streets Of The Hanok Maeul
Nestled within the heart of the city are the 700 traditional houses that make up the city’s hanok village. Dating back hundreds of years, these were once home to Korea’s noble families, but have now been transformed into quirky boutique stores and coffee shops. You can quite easily spend half a day here wandering the narrow streets (some so narrow that only one or two people can fit through!) and enjoying the stores and cafes as you are transported back in time.
Be A Royal For The Day At Gyeonggijeon Shrine
The Hanok village also houses Gyeonggijeon Shrine, a shrine constructed in 1410 and holding the portrait of King Tae-Jo, the founder of the Josean Dynasty. If Korean history isn’t your jam I’d still recommend a look around here anyway – the grounds are beautiful, and contain a bamboo forest, and a woodland area of ancient gingko trees.
A popular activity among young Korean couples is to visit the shrine wearing hanbok (traditional Korean noble dress) and to wander through the grounds as beautiful royals.
If you are interested in participating, you can rent hanbok from one of the many stores located within the Hanok Maeul. Alternatively you can just enjoy watching on as a spectator, as I did.
Eat Your Way Around The Nambu Night Market
As a self-proclaimed foodie (translation: greedy bastard), the Nambu street market was one of the highlights of my visit to Jeonju. From Ho Chi Minh to Tokyo, Bangkok to Seoul, I’ve been to a ton of different food markets in Asia, but none have had such a selection of different delicious foods as Nambu. Street vendors cooked Korean BBQ using blow torches (shout out to those East Asian health and safety standards!) and chefs from Vietnam, The Philippines, Japan, and various other Asian countries set up shop.
Try The Local Cuisine!
Different parts of Korea are known for their different regional specialties and Jeonju’s is bibimbap! If you are not familiar, bibimbap is a rice dish made with chilli sauce and meat (typically beef). The traditional Jeonju bibimbap is made using raw beef and the yolk of an egg. I wandered into one of the many restaurants in the hanok maeul and was met with nine different accompanying side dishes.
Makgeolli (traditional Korean rice wine) is also a famous local delicacy. If you are feeling a little peckish, you can head into a Makgeolli house and order a pot, and you will be met with an array of complimentary side dishes just for ordering the drink!If you decide to go wild and order more than one pot, you are presented with a different choice of side dishes each time!
At the limits of Jeonju’s hanok village you will be met with a steep hill, at the top of which awaits the Omokdae Shrine. The shrine is free to enter and offers beautiful 360 degree views of the city below. This is the place where General Yi Seong-gye celebrated his victory over Japanese invaders.
Direct buses and trains run frequently throughout the day to Jeonju, and the journey takes approximately 2 and a half hours (traffic dependent). The major attractions are just a ten minute bus or cab ride from Jeonju inter-city and express stations (either take the 1000 bus and get off at “Hanok Maeul” or take a cab asking for the same). Once you arrive at Hanok Maeul, all of the major points of interest are with a short walking distance of each other.
If you need any advice or tips on travel in Korea, then please do get in touch.
If you have traveled here, what were your favorite things to do in Jeonju?