Gyeongju Travel Guide
Gyeongju is my favorite city in Korea. I could go there time and time again and still love it. In my remaining four months in Korea I plan to explore Gyeongju even more! In a bid to make my website more friendly to travelers, I’m going to start publishing more guides. These will have a lot more information and recommendations than my narrative posts. So let’s start things off with a bang with my Gyeongju Travel Guide!
- Top 5 Things to See
- Weekend Itinerary
- Where to Stay
- What to Eat
- How to Get There
Costs (prices in Korean won)
Train Ticket (Seoul): 40,000
Local Bus: 1,350per ride
Guesthouse Single: 33,000
Entrance Fees: 3-5,000
Top 5 Things to See
1. Daereungwon Tomb Complex (3,000w)
While you can see the tombs just about everywhere in Gyeongju, this park is worth the entry fee. It’s perfectly manicured, with gorgeous trees and pathways. You can even go inside one of the excavated tombs.
2. Gyeongju National Museum (Free)
Normally I don’t advocate for spending too much time in museums when traveling. Museums are great and I love them, but they can take too much time from seeing real life in a city. This one is excellent. Don’t miss the Seokguram Grotto statue replicas at the entrance. They are the best view you’ll get of them and they are impressive. The sheer amount of gold on everything in this museum helps you comprehend the society that was the Silla Kingdom better than anything else. And these crowns are just so….huge!
3. Cheomseongdae Observatory (Free)
This Gyeongju travel guide recommendation isn’t even because of the observatory. It’s nice, but you could see it in about three seconds. No, what’s really worth it is the park nearby. On a good day everyone will be running about with kites. The kites are 5,000 each, and well worth it to feel like a kid again. I was very down and upset when I first went to Gyeongju, and letting loose was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I have such wonderful memories and you can have them too!
4. Gyerim Forest & The Woods Near Donggung Palace (Free)
Gyerim Forest is perfectly spiritual and sacred. It just feels old. It’s also a historical site, where the abandoned baby who would grow to be King was found in a golden box hanging from a tree. Pretty cool! The nearby pine woods across from Donggung Palace were also lovely and a great spot for a woodsy picnic.
5. Woljeonggyo Bridge (Free)
The best photo taking spot in Gyeongju. It’s also just stunningly beautiful. The bridge perfectly spans the river, with a stone path below so you can get the best view. Walking through the covered bridge is also a great way to get a feel for what life might have been for the people who built the bridge. It’s very impressive.
You might notice that Bulguksa Temple and the Seokguram Grotto statues are absent from this list. Honestly, I found both highly unimpressive and overpriced. They have the highest entrance fee I’ve paid to date (5,000 each) which may not sound like a lot but the palaces in Seoul are 3,000 o.O The Temple was very run-down and crowded, and you could hardly see the statues through the glass partition (there are impressive replicas in the National Museum). They are also very out of the way from everything else, around an hour bus ride away. Unless you’re staying for longer than a weekend, or have a car, I wouldn’t recommend going here.
Day 1, 10AM: Arrive
Drop your bags at the place you’re staying and head out! First wander through the town, get a feel for everything. Wander through Geumgwanchong, a free area to see tombs. These tombs are impressive but the ones in Daereungwon, just across the street, are even more so. Give yourself a couple hours to just appreciate these beautiful places.
Noon: A Lot!
This is going to be a long day so perhaps get yourself an excellent cup of coffee and a freshly baked snack at No Words Cafe. Enjoy the view across the street and relax into the bustling calm of Gyeongju. After, head to Cheomseongdae Observatory. The observatory won’t take much time to see, but the park itself is excellent. Follow the paths all the way to Gyerim Forest. This is definitely one of my favorite spots in Gyeongju. Plan a picnic if you’d like!
Make your way through the forest until you come to the bridge, Woljeonggyo. This is perhaps the best place to take photos in all of Gyeongju. There’s even a stone footpath across the river that offers perfect photo taking.
Your feet may be hurting but push on to the Gyeongju National Museum. It’s a pretty big walk, and taxis are cheap in Korea so it’s up to you (our day certainly isn’t done!). Make sure to check out all the gold 😛
4PM: Evening Palace
You should start heading back now. On the way back, take the route that guides you to the Donggung Palace. Once you arrive, don’t go in right away. Instead, head across the street to experience the lovely pine forest. You want to wait out the time so you can head to the palace at sunset, when they turn on the lights. It’s frankly not that impressive during the day, so pay the 3,000w entry fee in the evening 🙂
Head back into town. There are tons of options but if you’re solo, like me, it can be hard to know where you can eat. Kisoya is a Japanese restaurant I like (don’t worry, it’s pretty Korean-ized) with reasonably priced dishes. A bowl of udon will cost you around 6,500, and a bowl of pork ramen will run you 8,500.
Day 2: 9AM Start
This day is all based on the assumption that you will want to visit Bulguksa and Seokguram Grotto (5,000 won each). If you don’t have any interest in either of these, then I would spread the first day out over the two weekends. It will be a lot less rushed and you won’t be as exhausted.
You can take buses 10, 11, 12-1, and 700 for a direct route to Bulguksa Temple. You’ll still have to walk up to reach it, but this will only take about 10 minutes. Depending on when you go, plan extra time for Spring and Fall photo taking. While I found the temple itself underwhelming, the grounds offer some fantastic seasonal views.
Noon: Lunch and the Grotto
After coming down from Bulguksa, you might want some lunch, so head across the street to the tourist village. There are a few options but I opted for the kimbab restaurant. Kimbap restaurants will always let you be alone and it’s very cheap (I paid around 2,500 for a roll).
After lunch, you can take bus 12 to Seokguram Grotto. It comes every 30min to an hour and it will be about a 45min ride. The walk to Seokguram is nice enough but be aware that this is a super small site and there’s not much to do or see. Head back to Gyeongju via bus 10, 11, or 700.
4PM: Early Dinner
Right next to No Words cafe is another cafe, called Nordic. This is a Brunch cafe, so their meals are fairly substantial and fairly pricey because of the number of ingredients. Average meal will be 9-14,000.
Depending on where you’re headed back to you’ll want time to take the trip. This is probably the earliest I would plan to leave by if you’re following this Gyeongju travel guide itinerary.
Where to Stay
This is the best hostel in Gyeongju. I’ve been to Gyeongju multiple times and everyone else’s hostel that I’ve been to has never been as good. It costs around 16,000 a night, which is a bit pricey. But it’s worth it for the comfort. It includes breakfast supplies, the owner is lovely, and the rooms are kept well heated in the winter. Every time I go to Gyeongju, it rains. The cozy atmosphere keeps the bad weather at bay!
If you’re looking for a place a little closer to the intercity bus station, and a private room, this is the place for you. It’s very quiet, clean, and only costs around 33,000 a night. It also includes breakfast supplies. If you’re looking for a little more privacy, this is the place for you.
Of course I rarely stay in expensive places. But there are some very fun options if you’re willing to spend around 100,000w (High-end in Korea tends to still be pretty reasonable!). Siwoowadang has a good balance of price and nice-ness. Mnay of the very nice places in Gyeongju are outside the city proper, while this one is within walking distance of all the main things to see.
What to Eat
This is one of my favorite cafes in Korea. There’s something about it’s chilled, slightly hipster vibe that’s perfect. The view of the park through the single-pane windows is fabulous. It’s the perfect writing spot for me. The drinks are also delicious. I had had the coffee (which I normally hate) and found it pretty good (so by anyone else’s standards that likely means excellent). And I adore their Earl Grey Milk Tea Latte. They also have freshly baked goods. It’s a little hard to find if you don’t use the app. It’s not advertised much but it’s on the second floor up a flight of seriously steep stairs.
There are some really nice brunch options here. It’s expensive, but the portions are pretty large. Most brunch options in Korea are meant more to share, but they have options for solo eaters as well. Be aware that their hours tend to shift a lot. When I went once at 4PM they weren’t open so just know you’ll have to head to one of the other dozen places three feet away.
Open: I’m not sure about lunch hours by they close from 3-5 and reopen for dinner.
I know most people are probably looking for Korean dishes when they visit Korea. But if you’re traveling alone this can be very difficult. There are only a few types of restaurants you can be confident of being served in – kimbap, some soup places, and foreign restaurants. So Kisoya, which is Japanese (with a Korean flair) is the choice for me in Gyeongju. It’s also cheap, ranging from 6,500 and up.
How to Get to Gyeongju
If you’re in the southern half of Korea (i.e. Busan), I’d recommend a bus. It’s just going to be significantly cheaper. To take the bus, check out my guide. Depending on where you’re coming from, the price will differ. From Busan, which I would recommend, it’s around 5,000won.
If you’re in the northern half of South Korea (i.e. Seoul), take the train. This is going to be pricey (around 40,000 from Seoul) but it will save you a lot of time.
There is a ton more to do in Gyeongju. Botanical gardens, crazy ocean rock graves, temples, and more. But to see some of those other things you’ll probably need a car. But, regardless, I could be perfectly happy just wandering around the tombs and the forest all day, gaining tons of inspiration. I hope this Gyeongju travel guide as been helpful and has encouraged you to visit Gyeongju!
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