Last Updated on July 10, 2020
Travel blogs about South Korea are always geared towards Seoul or the surrounding areas. There certainly is a plethora of things to do in the capital, and you could easily spend two weeks exploring every corner. As an expat living in Korea, I think it’s time to give the lesser known areas some recognition. Jeonju is the 16th largest city in the country and a very popular tourist destination. Located only three hours outside of Seoul and 2.5 hours from Pyeongtaek City, it definitely makes the perfect day or weekend trip.
The two biggest reasons that I think Jeonju deserves a spot on any expats’ Korea bucket list is the thriving ancient culture and exquisite food scene. It isn’t nicknamed ‘the perfect region’ for no reason, that’s for sure.
Here are seven reasons to visit Jeonju:
1. Jeonju Hanok Village
A hanok is a village with traditional Korean houses. I had only been to one hanok before, which was in Seoul. However, the one in Jeonju completely blew me away. There was so much more to it, and it takes time to get through. It has a variety of shops, restaurants, street food, and hanbok (traditional Korean dresses) rental shops. You can rent this traditional Korean clothing for 10,000 to 15,000 won ($8 to $12) for up to three hours. During my visit, I saw many girls and guys walking around the village in these extravagant garments and taking pictures. I would definitely be mindful of the seasons because in the summer the heavy garments will leave you drenched in sweat.
2. Omokdae Viewpoint
This semi-hidden part of the village is right across from the Omokdae Viewpoint. All you have to do is go up a giant staircase and across a pedestrian-friendly overpass. I will warn you that the mural village is super hilly and basically inclines all the way up.
3. Jaman Mural Village
This semi-hidden part of the village is right across from the viewpoint just mentioned. All you have to do is go up a giant staircase and across a pedestrian-friendly overpass. I will warn you that the mural village is super hilly and basically inclines all the way up.
But the artwork will definitely be worth the leg workout you’re about to experience. There’s a mix of old art depicting ancient history and modern art that references popular movies and TV shows from all over the world. Get your camera out for the Insta-worthy murals.
4. Gyodong Tea Garden
I am a lover of tea houses and have been since I came to Korea. It’s such a unique experience to sit on a pillow while sipping on a steaming cup of tea in a traditional hanok. There’s usually instrumental music that takes you back in time.
Or during my visit, they had Ed Sheeran flowing through the speakers…a little weird, but it didn’t ruin the experience. This tea house was also very affordable, at only 5,000 won (3 USD) per cup. The menu was in Korean, but the guy working there translated it for us.
You have your choice of house tea (Chinese tea), herbal, matcha, fruity teas, and soju. When the tea is served they will show you how to pour it because there’s a specific way to do it. I definitely recommend this place for the authentic experience as well as the small terrace garden at the entrance. If you choose to go during the summer, be aware they have no air conditioning.
5. Gogung Bibimbap
Jeonju is an absolute paradise for foodies. There are street food stalls and a variety of restaurants on every corner. But they are actually famous for having some of the best Bibimbap in Korea. This is a dish with beef, rice, egg, and a variety of vegetables. It’s so delicious and very filling.
Since this specific place is famous for it there are many restaurants selling the same product. Me being me, I wanted the best of the best. I did my search carefully which consisted of pacing around the whole village. After doing that for a good 30 minutes, I chose Gogung in the beginning part of the village. The restaurant isn’t fancy or anything extravagant. It feels like a mom and pop shop and has been serving the best bibimbap since 1986.
I was seated immediately by the friendly staff and given the menu. There are a variety of styles of bibimbap to choose from, in addition to some side dishes for pairing. They also offer combo meals where you get two styles of bibimbap and a side dish for $23. My friend and I ended up getting set B which came with a spring onion and shrimp filled pancake. This place was absolutely phenomenal, I cannot recommend it enough.
6. Cafe Manoa
This cafe isn’t in the hanok, it’s the opposite way. You can take a 30-minute taxi from Jeonju station to get here; it’ll cost you about $9. I promise you that it’s definitely worth the trip.
The cafe looks like an abandoned Catholic church that you’d find in a small town in Mexico. It’s decorated with flowers and stuffed bears at the entrance. When you walk in the design is very clean and classy with Mediterranean-style tile and a big, gold chandelier.
This cafe offers typical drinks such as an americano, cappuccino, lattes, etc. I ordered the Dalgona latte and paired it with this delectable French toast muffin. My friend opted for the milk tea and a crumble muffin. The food and refreshments were delicious and together were only $7.
As with every Korean cafe, you don’t go just for the desserts and coffee. You go mostly for the photo aesthetic. There is a cute flower wall and other decor to take pictures with. In the entrance, there is a closet with wedding dresses and shoes that you can dress up and take pictures in. There’s also the gorgeous backdrop of the church and mountain landscape around you.
7. PNB Bakery
Be sure to stop by PNB Bakery, located in the village, for their famous chocolate whoopie pies. You can get them in a variety of flavors like double chocolate, chocolate and vanilla, green tea, and more. You can buy a box of them for $15 or individually wrapped for $1.50. This is for sure a must try food when visiting.
Where to Stay:
I didn’t do an overnight trip when I went to Jeonju because it’s not that far from where I live. However, there are a variety of places to stay. Many of the hotels are simply called guest houses. Below I will list some options:
- The Hanok Jeonju: 4.5 stars, rate is $50 per night, offers free Wi-Fi and breakfast.
- Geunsu’s Chogajip: Top rated guest house in the village with a garden, free Wi-Fi, breakfast, private bathroom, living room, and more. Nightly rate is $40 to $50.
- Laon Hanok Gguljiam: Another highly rated guest house in the village with private bathrooms, air conditioning, continental breakfast, and Wi-Fi. Rate per night is $55.50.
You can refer to https://www.booking.com/placestostay/city/kr/chonju.html for all your accommodation needs in Jeonju.
How to Get There:
Jeonju is very easy to get to by multiple modes of transportation.
- From Seoul: by car it takes two hours and 11 minutes, by KTX train via City Hall Station to Jeonju station takes two hours, and by bus via Seoul Central Bus Terminal direct to Jeonju station takes two hours and 40 minutes. Expect to pay between $16.50 to $25 USD for this ticket round trip.
- From Pyeongtaek: by car it takes one hour and 38 minutes, by KTX train from Mugungwha to Jeonju station it takes two hours and 30 minutes. There are no buses available for this route. Cost for this ticket is $11 round trip.
- From Busan: by car it takes two hours and 33 minutes, by KTX train from Busan station to Osong station (one hour transfer) then to Jeonju it takes three hours and 34 minutes total, and by bus via Busan Sasang Bus Terminal direct to Jeonju station takes about three hours and 33 minutes. Cost for this will be around $25 round trip.
KTX train is your best bet transportation wise for any of these routes because it’s both faster and more affordable. You can use these fantastic sites as a reference for planning your transportation route for any trip.
https://www.rome2rio.com/ *Disclaimer* This site is a tool to plan your route, but the ticket prices listed here are only an estimate.
http://www.letskorail.com/ebizbf/EbizBfTicketSearch.do Use the official KTX site for accurate pricing and to book your trip.