Gyeongju is a popular destination for tourists visiting South Korea for the first time. There are so many things to do in Gyeongju because it is known to be South Korea’s cultural capital for the ancient kingdom of Silla and is historically known as Seorabeol. During the 7th and 9th century, it was known to be the fourth largest city in the world. There are several historical sites, temples, and areas that make this place worth exploring. Because of Gyeongju’s rich historical past, there are several things to do in Gyeongju and these were some of my favorite.
Things to do in Gyeongju, South Korea
Best time to visit Gyeongju
The best time to visit anywhere in Korea is during the fall or spring months. I honestly prefer traveling in Korea during the fall months because the air quality is a lot better than it is during the springtime, prices for travel are usually cheaper, and also the foliage is absolutely beautiful during that time. Don’t get me wrong the cherry blossoms are beautiful, but they only last a very short amount of time.
To make the most of my visit to the best things to do in Gyeongju, I would say stay clear during the summertime. The weather during summer can be brutally hot, humid, and rainy. The large monsoon storms that come during Korea during the summertime make it harder to be outside and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Wintertime is not so bad if you don’t mind the cold, the skies are usually quite blue and clear during the winter months which makes it great for photos, however, foliage is obviously not as common. It’s also great to go visit some areas that have snow during that time.
How to get to Gyeongju, South Korea
From Seoul To Gyeongju
From Seoul Station, you can take the KTX. The train will take around 2hours and 30 minutes. The average price for the ticket one way is between 40 – 50,000 won. You will more than likely have to take the train to Daegu and then transfer in Daegu for the train to Gyeongju. Once you arrive in Gyeongju, you will have to take a taxi or bus to your hotel or downtown area.
From Busan to Gyeongju
From Busan Station, you can take an express bus or the train. If taking the train, you will more than likely have to transfer at Daegu station to the train to Gyeongju. Most people end up taking the bus which is more affordable at around 5,000 won and takes about 40 minutes to an hour to get there.
Getting Around Gyeongju
There are several ways to getting around in Gyeongju, although it all depends on your comfort and time allotted for your trip and how you want to manage what things to do in Gyeongju.
We actually found this rather inconvenient, unfortunately, the public transportation here isn’t nearly as good as some areas I have been to. There were times where it was convenient, however, it did cut into our time and since we were on a time limit, this was not the best option for us. However, if you plan to spend quite a bit of time here, this might be a great option for you.
Renting a Car
If you have an international driver’s license or a Korean driver’s license and you feel comfortable driving abroad, I highly recommend this option. I wish I had rented a car at the time because I think I would have enjoyed the trip that much more and would have had more opportunity and time to see the sites that I wanted to in the time allotted. This really would have saved me a bunch of time and money to visit the most popular things to do in Gyeongju.
There are options to do a bus tour, however, the bus tours will take you to the locations listed in their itinerary. It doesn’t always leave room for doing things you want to do. However, this is an option and it is quite affordable.
You can book your bus tour here.
This was our best option during our stay. We took a taxi to a location that would take way too long by bus (over an hour and by taxi was 20 minutes) afterward, we met another taxi who offered to provide us with a night tour of Gyeongju which by far was totally worth it. If you have the chance, I highly recommend you visit these places at night and do the night tour. It was absolutely beautiful.
Where to stay in Gyeongju, South Korea
I think it is best to stay in the major city area because there are a lot more restaurants and areas to explore there. There are a few that are outside of the city and takes some time to get to, but it’s best to be closest to the things to do in Gyeongju.
Some hotels I recommend you stay at in Gyeongju are:
- Expensive – Hilton Hotel in Gyeongju
- Mid Range – Commodore Hotel Gyeongju
- Affordable – Mini Hotel
- Temple Stay – www.templestay.com – Must try things to do in Gyeongju
Things to do in Gyeongju, South Korea
There are a lot of things to do in Gyeongju and I didn’t even get to do everything there in the time frame I visited.
Places to visit in Gyeongju – Top Tourist Attractions
Bulguksa Temple – Most popular thing to do in Gyeongju
Address: 385, Bulguk-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, 경상북도 경주시 불국로 385 (진현동)
This temple is pretty far from the main center of the city and requires taking a bus or a taxi to get there. It takes about 20 minutes to get there by taxi versus about an hour or longer by bus. To save on time you can easily take a tour to the location or hire a taxi driver for the day. This beautiful UNESCO World Heritage is fairly large in size with a lot of walking areas. During the spring months, it’s quite beautiful to look at with blooming cherry blossoms and more. You can also choose to do a temple stay at Bulguksa temple as well.
Gyeongju National Museum
Address: 186, Iljeong-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, 경상북도 경주시 일정로 186 (인왕동)
Now, I’m not typically a big fan of museums mostly because I’m not a huge history buff unless it comes to art or architecture. However, as someone who isn’t a fan, I found this museum to be quite fascinating and interesting. This is a must-visit for your things to do in Gyeongju. It provided me with a lot of insight into the Korean culture during that time including the types of headdressed they wore from golden necklaces, crowns, and more, to delated miniature structures of old villages and popular landmarks during that time.
With how much rich culture, there is in Gyeongju being the original capital of the ancient kingdom of the Silla dynasty (57 BC-AD 935), I learned about things I never knew about Korea and I’m half! This location really was worth the visit for history buffs or not, it will provide you with a lot of detailed information and insight into what Korea was like back then.
Address: 9, Gyerim-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, 경상북도 경주시 계림로 9 (황남동)
This was one of my favorite things to do in Gyeongju. This tomb was excavated in the 1970s and is known to hold an ancient tomb. You will notice when visiting Gyeongju several of these large mounds or hills. Many people were buried in these locations and fake tombs or extra hills were created to prevent looters from stealing precious metals and artifacts.
Within the mounds, they made it even more difficult for looters to access by burying the person, covering it in rock, and then covering it in dirty and grass. The coffin is usually placed at the center. At this tomb, you can see the inside of how it was made, what it was supposed to look like, and the history of it all.
Yangdong Folk Village
Address: 93, Yangdongmaeul-gil, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, 경상북도 경주시 강동면 양동마을길 93
This is Korea’s largest traditional village which exposes the beautiful architecture from the Joseon dynasty. Some of the homes in the village are easily over 200 years old with traditional roofs and preserved. It’s definitely worth a visit and different from many of the traditional villages in Korea. It is surrounded by beautiful hills and mountains which make for an excellent view.
Address: 873-243, Bulguk-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, 경상북도 경주시 불국로 873-243 (진현동)
This is probably one of the top things to do in Gyeongju. It can be quite a way to get to this location, however, it’s totally worth it. Along with Gyeongju’s rich culture, is their rich history in Buddhism.
Korea often went back and forth between Buddhism and Christianity due to several different people in power. Both religions were quite influential in Korea, however, Buddhism was quite popular during olden times. This stone temple was said to be built around the same time the Bulguksa Temple was built, Inside this stone temple, you will see a large version of Buddha and a typical lotus engraved design.
The hiking culture in Korea is quite popular and this location has been quite a popular location to high and sees during sunrise. Many Koreans enjoy night hiking and it is said to have a beautiful view at sunrise.
Bomun Pavilion Gyeongju
Address: 614 Gyeonggam-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, 경상북도 경주시 경감로 614
This tourist complex is quite popular for its very interesting Gyeongju tower. Gyeongju was known to have several beautiful and large pagodas in the area, however, many were destroyed by the fires during the 1500s. So this tower is a modern take where the pagoda outline is cut out in the center of the building. It is quite beautiful to see at night as well. In this same area, you can enjoy a large amusement park, the teddy bear museum, and more. This building quickly became one of Korea’s popular things to do in Gyeongju. It’s quite original and impressive.
Golgulsa Temple Gyeongju
Address: 101-5, Girim-ro, Yangbuk-myeon, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, 경상북도 경주시 양북면 기림로 101-5
Located on the side of the mountain is a stone-carved Buddha. You can experience another beautiful temple in the Gyeongju area with a great area to see some beautifully carved statues. The temples appear to be built with wood however, as you enter inside you will notice that part of nature has not been disturbed with natural parts of the cave. At this location, you can also choose to do a temple stay at Golgulsa Temple in Gyeongju experience which is highly recommended to do during your visit to Korea.
Most Beautiful Starbucks in South Korea
Address: 125, Cheomseong-ro, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do 38166, South Korea
When visiting Korea there is no doubt that you will see a ton of Starbucks all over. Starbucks is a huge franchise in Korea and they just absolutely love it. So when visiting Gyeongju, we noticed the most beautiful Starbucks I had ever seen which was in an old traditional hanok style building. Now, usually, I won’t condone using ancient architecture like this, however, there were so many buildings like this, that unless they were really important to Korean culture, they are typically torn down. What makes this great, is that Starbucks preserved most of it and made it into a modern and beautiful location to enjoy coffee. Plus side, it’s very close to the observatory.
I added this as one of the popular things to do in Gyeongju because it’s not something you see every day.
Tumuli Park is also known as the Daereungwon Tomb Complex
At Tumulu Park you can find the Cheonmachong Tomb (which I listed above) and the Cheomseongdae Observatory (which I listed below). These ones are not tombs you can go into, however, it is a nice park to wander and see the large hills. Not all the tombs have been excavated or found. Keep in mind that climbing any of the hills is punishable with a $20,000 fine.
Things to do in Gyeongju – Night Tour
I highly suggest you rent a taxi for the evening and take the night tour in Gyeongju. It’s really a beautiful tour and we found it to be totally worth the money. To rent the taxi driver for the evening, it cost us about 50,000 won. The taxi driver even drove us to a local museum to explore while we waited until the sun went down. You can easily do some of these things during the day, however, I highly suggest you wait to enjoy these during the night tour.
I suggest you chat with your hotel accommodations about a night tour or you can book a private rental here.
Gyeongju Donggung Palace and Wolji or Anapji Pond
Address: 102, Wonhwa-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, 경상북도 경주시 원화로 102 (인왕동)
This is probably one of the most popular things to do in Gyeongju at night. This palace site was popular for the Prince during the Silla Kingdom. The pond is known as the Wolji pond but it was also referred to as the “Anapji” during the Goryeo and Joseon periods. So you might see 2 different names for the pond listed on different sites, however, the original name is the Wolji pond and is what it is called today. This pond has a beautiful walking path and the area is quite beautifully lit up at night.
Address: 140-25, Cheomseong-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, 경상북도 경주시 첨성로 140-25 (황남동)
This is the oldest existing astronomical observatory in Asia. However, you cannot access it on the inside, but it is worth checking out. I enjoyed seeing it at night because it was brightly lit up, but also I looked up at the stars imagining what people during that time frame were thinking when they saw those bright stars in the sky. It was almost as if I was in real-time to what they were doing and experiencing.
Woljeong Gyo Gyeongju Bridge
Address: 48 Gyo-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
This is one of the most beautiful bridges I have seen in Korea. It made traditionally like many of the temples and palaces within Korea. On either side of the bridge, you will have 2 areas that have an upstairs portion where they have tourist information about the bridge. You can walk along the riverside to get a great view of the bridge crossing over the river. The bridge is beautifully lit up at night making it a great place to finish your night tour for the evening. This is a popular place to visit during your things to do in Gyeongju. I haven’t seen quite a bridge like this in any part of Korea.
What to eat in Gyeongju
Food is often important when visiting a new country and one of the things to do in Gyeongju is to eat ssam. There are a lot of delicious foods to try in the Southern part of Korea and one of the famous traditional foods to eat is ssam. In Gyeongju, they provide the most banchan also known as Korean side dishes I have ever seen. They fill the entire table with different styles of banchan that are local to the area and then you can barbeque some spicy chicken in the center fo the table. Ssam is a traditional lettuce wrap dish where you wrap rice, meat, and any side dish you want in lettuce.
This is the popular touristy bread that you typically only find in this area. Don’t get me wrong, I have found it in other locations, however, it is very popular for this region, and why I added it for things to do in Gyeongju. It is a doughy kind of bread that is filled with a sweet red bean paste. If you don’t like red beans, this isn’t the snack for you. These usually come in large packs of a dozen or more, so prepare to eat a lot or bring a bunch back home for family and friends to try.
What were some of your favorite things to do in Gyeongju?
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