A Weekend in Gyeongju, Korea
Situated on the southeast coast of South Korea, Gyeongju was historically the ancient capital city for the Silla dynasty. Today the beloved city is regarded as a museum without walls and holds some of Korea’s most historical and beautiful artifacts. The ancient charm of the city draws thousands of tourists each year as people come to enjoy and learn about Korea’s colorful past.
For those living or traveling an extended period of time in Korea, Gyeongju makes for a fabulous weekend trip. Easily accessible by train or bus from Seoul, Busan and Daegu, you’d be crazy not to take the time to enjoy what this small and charming city has to offer.
What to do in Gyeongju.
Visit Bulguksa Temple.
The Bulguksa Temple, built during the Silla Dynasty, is revered as one of the most beautiful temples in the country. For only 5,000 won to enter, it’s an essential for any Korean bucket list.
Admire the Donggung Palace + Wolji (Anapji) Pond.
Both the Donggung Palace and Anapji Pond (also known as Wolji Pond) were originally part of an ancient palace complex for the Silla Dynasty. They are best admired during the nighttime hours when lit up, making for a stunning view.
See the Seokguram Grotto.
The Seokguram Grotto lies 4 km east of Bulguksa Temple and is world-renowned for being one of the best Buddhist sculptures in the world. Admission is also 5,000 won. The grotto, while famous, is essentially a large sculpture inside of a glassed enclosure. With the hassle of the bus and taxis, the grotto didn’t quite live up to the hype – in my humble opinion! But if you’re a history buff, I recommend making the trip while you’re there.
Admire the Cherry Blossoms (In Spring).
Gyeongju is also well known for its cherry blossom display. While the blossoms in Gyeongju aren’t as grand as the display in Jinhae or Hwagae, the blossoms are still quite a sight to behold. Cherry blossom season changes each year and depends on the location, but it typically occurs around March – May.
Frolic Through the Lotus Flower Fields (In Summer).
Gyeongju has multiple spots that flourish with lotus flowers in July/August; Anapji Pond, Yangdong Village, and most notably the fields near the Cheomseongdae Observatory. Lotus flower season typically falls between mid-July to early August, so be sure to plan accordingly if seeing the lotuses are a priority for you. They sure are lovely!
Check out the Cheomseongdae Observatory.
The Cheomseongdae Observatory was constructed during the 7th century and is the oldest known astrological tower still standing in Asia, and may even be the oldest in the world. You can’t go inside of it, but you can marvel at the historical feat it represents of its time.
Rent Scooters and Ride Around Bomun Lake.
Unleash your inner child and ride motorized scooters around Bomun Lake! We had a blast racing one another and zooming around the area for an hour. Between nine people and five scooters, we paid 10,000 won each for the hour – not too shabby. The scooters we rented were in the same parking lot as the McDonald’s across from the lake.
Take a Coffee Break at Aden Dessert Cafe.
Located on Lake Bomun, Aden Dessert Cafe is absolutely gorgeous. Brimming with fabulous desserts, coffee options and a stunning interior design, it’s the perfect place to take a relaxing break after cruising around on scooters for an hour. Korea does dessert cafes well!
Explore Yangdong Folk Village.
Yangdong Folk Village is the largest traditional village in South Korea. Many of the thatched roof cottages are hundreds of years old and offer a valuable look into the traditional culture of the Joseon Dynasty.
Wander the Downtown Shopping Area.
If you’re a shopper, downtown Gyeongju actually has a lot to offer for being a small city. Popular name brands, cute little boutiques and fashion shops all line the main streets. Don’t forget to bring your shopping shoes!
See the Cheonmachong Tomb.
For only 2,000 won, enjoy wandering around the 23 large burial mounds from the Silla Kingdom constructed in honor of nobles and kings from that time. Valuable historical artifacts and remains have been discovered at the Cheonmachong Tomb dating over 1,000 years old!
Where to stay: Downtown.
Recommended Accommodation: Guesthouse Momojein
If you’re looking for a specific place to stay, I can recommend the quiet little hostel called Momojein. I traveled to Gyeongju with a large group of friends and they easily accommodated our needs.
The hostel had a cute garden to relax in outside, offered a breakfast of coffee and toast and is located within walking distance from the train station in the heart of downtown. Our host was also very nice and spoke English very well. She was extremely helpful!
How to get to Gyeongju.
Korean Train Schedule + Ticketing Website: www.letskorail.com
Korean Bus Websites: www.kobus.co.kr (timetable), www.hticket.co.kr (tickets).
- There is a direct train from Seoul Station to Singyeongju Station (2 hours) outside of the city center. Then you’ll need to take a Gyeongju city bus from Singyeongju to Gyeongju Station (downtown). The 700 bus connects the two stations (30 min).
- You can also take the KTX (fast train) from Seoul Station to Dongdaegu Station (1 hour and 45 minutes). Then transfer to Mugungwha (slow train) at Dongdaegu directly to Gyeongju Station (1 hour).
- There’s also a direct express bus from Seoul to Gyeongju Bus Terminal (approx 4 hours).
- There is a direct KTX train from Busan Station to Singyeongju Station (approx 35 min) outside of the city center. Then you’ll need to take a Gyeongju city bus from Singyeongju to Gyeongju Station (downtown). The 700 bus connects the two stations (30 min).
- There is a direct express bus from Busan to Gyeongju Bus Terminal (approx 50 min).
- I recommend the direct Mugunghwa train from Dongdaegu to Gyeongju Station (1 hour and 15 min).
- There is also a direct express bus from Dongdaegu to Gyeongju Bus Terminal (1 hour).
Unfortunately, the ticketing website for the bus is only in Korean, but you can learn how to make your way through the Korean to reserve your ticket on the Arrival Store’s website.
Have you been to Gyeongju? What do you enjoy about the pretty city? Share below!