Jeonju is two to three hours from Seoul on the KTX (fast train) and well worth the journey. It has recently been names as a UNESCO gastronomy city (or 'Taste City') so for those who like to explore countries via their tastebuds, it is a must see. Not only does Jeonju appeal to foodies, it has stunning scenery, architecture and is extremely popular for domestic travel. In the entire time I was there I saw only five other foreigners. So if you are a foody, photographer, or history buff you should add Jeonju to your itinerary, read on for more.
1. Take the KTX (fast train)
To get to Jeonju the easiest, and quickest way, is by KTX. It will take between 1.5 - 2.5 hours, depending on stops, to get to Jeonju from either Seoul or Yongsan Station. The fare will cost you between W20,000- W40,000 per person per each way. The journey itself is part of the experience. Watch as the train reaches speeds of up to 300km/p/h and see the South Korean countryside whirl by. Grab yourself a drink and a lunch from the convenience store at the Station and sit back and relax.
2. Visit Jeonju's Hanok Village (전주한옥마을)
This is the traditional centre of the city. Complete with original buildings, small wandering alleys, you can get a good idea of what like may have been many years ago. Inside the Hanok Village, you will find many traditional sites, including shrines and palaces, food stalls, cafe's and places to sleep.
3.Stay in a Hanok (traditional housing - 한옥)
They say when in Rome - so why not stay in traditional housing when staying inside the Hanok Village? A Hanok simply means a traditional house. Inside the room you can expect a certain degree of modernisation, including; electricity, bathroom, and some times a television. Standard inclusions are; bedding consisting of a futon mattress, buckwheat pillow, duvet, and ondol (underfloor heating).
If you have never slept on the floor it may take some adjusting to. It is quite different to Japanese Tatami matting, as traditional Korean flooring has no give - it is literally sleeping on standard flooring.
The room generally has two sets of doors, one inside which are sliding, and the other which open outward and are lockable by a padlock generally supplied by the owner of the Hanok.
4. Gyeonggijeon Palace (경기전)
Inside the Hanok Village is Gyeonggijeon, begun in 1410 it is a beautiful example of Korean architecture. There are a series of sleeping rooms, out rooms, and meeting halls within then grounds. On site there is also a portraiture museum which illuminates the dynastic evolution of the rulers of parts of the Korean lands.
It's a great place to spend an hour to two wandering the grounds and taking some great photographs.
5. Climb up Omokdae at sunrise (오목대)
Easily accessible from both Downtown and the Hanok Village, Omokdae provides a lovely view of the clash of old and new. On the track there are two hills; Omokdae and Imokdae. My favourite view was from Omokdae. It can be difficult to know which one is which, unless you can read Korean, so look for 오목대 to find your way.
It's worth getting up early for a morning view of the city.
6. Eat bibimbap (비빔밥)
It's the national dish of Korea. I wrote an entire post about the best bibimbap in Jeonju, read that here.
7. Pungnammun Gate (전주 풍남문)
Pungnammun gate was built in 1768. If you spend time wandering around the Hanok Village you will inevitably come across it. Wonderfully representative of the Joseon Dynasty and the grandeur of protective measures they took to ensure their line, it is stunning to photograph at night when illuminated.
8. Jeondong Catholic Cathedral (전주 전동성당)
Jeondong Catholic Cathedral is what I would consider a strange find for a traditional village in South Korea. Nonetheless it is a stunning demonstration of Romanesque architecture. The grounds of the Cathedral also have a miniature installation of Christ the Redeemer.
It is wonderful to photograph day or night.
9. Dress in Hanbok (한복)
The Hanbok is the national dress of South Korea. Both men and women can adopt the traditional outfits at any one of the number of stores that rent this ubiquitous costume. Rental fees are charged per hour, or as a four hour block at varying prices depending on type of dress (classic/royal), colour, fabric, and accessories.
Once appropriately bedecked in costume you can walk around the city taking photographs against traditional settings. Many South Korean's will travel to Jeonju for this purpose.
Whether you come to Jeonju for the food, culture, history, or a combination of all of this - it is a must see on any extended itinerary of South Korea.