Here’s all you need to know about visiting the forever charming Jeonju Hanok Village all the way down in Jeollabukdo!
You know what’s kind of funny? I’ve probably been to Jeonju more than two dozen times over the last four years, but in reality I’ve only visited the hanok village three or four.
When I first visited, it was for a teacher workshop my very first weekend living in the Korean countryside (more specifically, my beloved little town, Namwon). On my most recent trip, I climbed up to the viewpoint over the village roofs and stopped to think back to what it all felt like back then when I was barely 22 and crazy excited about being back in Korea. My Hangul reading was still largely unpracticed, and I was practically bouncing around at how new everything felt.
Now Korea feels like a second home, and visiting somewhere like Jeonju feels almost comfortable. Things that once felt novel, like sleeping on the floor or having my whole bathroom get wet when I shower, now just feel as normal as the beds and enclosed showers I grew up with. And yet, I’m still charmed each time I climb up and look over the tiled roofs of the hanok village just like I was half a decade ago.
It’s fun seeing how much it’s changed, how popular it’s become since its Lonely Planet callout in 2016, and even better, how much it’s managed to maintain its charm and beauty. Every time I go, I think I need to stay a bit longer than just the day or two I give myself!
Anyway, enough reminiscing! Here’s my quick little guide on visiting the beautiful Jeonju Hanok Village!
History of the Jeonju Hanok Village
Jeonju itself was the capital of the Hubaekje Kingdom (892 t0 936), one of the later 3 kingdoms of Korea. Because the Yi family was from Jeonju, it was later seen as the spiritual capital during Korea’s most culturally defining dynasty, Joseon.
The current hanok village comes after many years of settlement in the area. Kind of like Naganeupseong near Suncheon, it once had a city wall and many of the homes and villages grew around it.
However under the Korean Empire, the wall was destroyed, and the villages began to spread. Because they were generally led by the Yangban class, you see the giwajip (기와집) style of hanoks rather than the chogaijip (초가집)style in Andong or Naganeupseong. Apparently, the current village was built up so much because Koreans were protesting the Japanese moving in after they annexed Korea in 1910.
Today, you can see about 700+ hanoks. I think part of the unique charm of Jeonju’s hanok village compared to others is how it almost feels like its in a snow globe. Like you can see all the more modern buildings of the surrounding city, and the contrast is quite interesting. Bukchon, on the other hand, is more mixed in with the more modern city vibes.
Random Fact: Kim Jong Un is from the Jeonju Kims, so if North Korea really were to attack South Korea, this would be the safest place to be. Not even a crazy dictator who basically thinks he’s some sort of god is going to harm his familial land.
If you want to read more about hanoks, check out this book. An even more random fact: the only reason I know about it is because it was written by one of my longest friend’s sorority sister’s mom. Talk about six degrees of separation! My friend mentioned it offhand around when I first went to Korea.
9 Things to Do in Jeonju Hanok Village
1. Take in the views over the rooftops
One of Jeonju Hanok Village’s most iconic photos is over the rooftops. You basically want to use the Hanok Village Route (한옥마을 울레길) to find the mini observation decks. There are entrances all over since it basically just goes up the mountain.
It’s a pretty sight no matter the season, the weather, or the time of day! Like I said above, it’s a cool view to see all the tiled rooftops and then in the background the more modern Jeonju. Apart of me would like to see them covered in snow, but that would mean returning to Korea during the winter, which I don’t see happening any time soon…
2. And also climb up to Omokdae
A good way to make sure you’re getting to the viewpoints is to head towards Omokdae (오목대)! The decks are kind of one level below, and Omokdae is a cool structure on its own. Historically, it’s famous for being one of the spots Yi Seonggye stopped to celebrate a victory against the Japanese in 1380.
Another similar pavilion is Imokdae (이목대) nearby.
3. Check out some of the other major attractions
I mean you could visit the hanok village, not make a point to stop at any of these spots, and still have a lovely time. However, if you’re looking for specific things to see, these are the major spots within the village and nearby.
Jeondang Cathedral (전주 전동성당) has been around since 1914 and was designed by the same priest who designed Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul. They and Gyesan Cathedral in Daegu are the three main Catholic churches in Korea.
In Jeolla, it’s the oldest Western style structure and was built on the spot where Yun Ji Chung, the first Korean Catholic martyr, was persecuted in 1791. While you can attend mass there, most people go to see the mix of Romanesque and Byzantine architecture in person.
It’s kind of a random structure towards the main entrance of the village! When I went to see it, it was me and a bunch of couples and girlfriend trios taking photos haha.
It’s been a while since I’ve properly visited Gyeonggijeon (경히전), so all my photos are a bit blurry. We visited on a tour of the village way back during my teacher workshop in 2014!
Gyeonggijeon is kind of right in the front/center of the village if you’re looking at a map. Built in 1410 under King Taejong, it was built to enshrine a portrait of King Tajeo/Yi Seonggye, the first Joseon king.
Jeonju Hyanggyo (전주 향교)
Hyanggyos were fairly unpopular traditional schools run by the government during the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties. The Jeonju Hyanggyo (전주 향교) was built in 1354 and is particularly nice to visit in the autumn when ll the ginkgo tree leaves have turned yellow!
Across the way from Jeongdang Cathedral, Pungnam Gate (풍남문) was once the south gate of Jeonju’s city wall. It’s the only remaining gate and it kind of sits in a bit of a traffic circle. I remember stumbling across it on one of my random visits to Jeonju and trying in vain to take a Instax photo.
4. Visit some of the museums and/or centers
There are so many little museums and handicraft centers spread throughout the village. If you get a map when you get into Jeonju, you’ll see a lot of them listed! Here are some you may want to check out:
Hanok Village History Museum (전주 한옥 마을 역사관)
This is actually a more recent museum! It chronicles the village’s history, and it looks like there are even English translations for some of the exhibits. I’d like to visit my next trip because there’s only so much info online in English about the village’s history!
Jeonju Crafts Exhibition Hall (전주 공예품전 시관)
I stumbled into this center when I saw the pretty umbrellas up in the entrance. It’s made up of three different halls – Craft, Special Exhibition, and Experience and is all about traditional Korean crafts. You can get some cute souvenirs at the shop at the end too.
Jeonju Traditional Hanji Center (전주전통한지원)
Hanji (한지) is traditional Korean paper made from Paper Mulberry bark. While there’s a Hanji Museum outside of the village, this center is a hanji production center. It also has exhibits and classes depending on when you go, and, of course, its own little souvenir shop.
You can also find a lot of craft centers around the village that usually have something to do with hanji.
Royal Potrait Museum (어진박물관)
Located in the same area as Gyeonggijeon, the Royal Portrait Museum features exactly what you might expect from the name – portraits of Korea’s royal monarchs.
5. Experience a hanok stay
I mean, no brainer! You absolutely should stay over in one of the hanoks as many of them have been converted into guesthouses. Just be prepared, chances are you’re going to sleep on the floor, but I think it’s still pretty comfortable with the right floor mattress. The hanoks are so charming on the inside, and I have a few recommendations below in the “where to stay” section!
6. Try on a hanbok
Why not? Most of my friends have done their hanbok experiences in Jeonju! There are quite a few shops scattered around to rent one from, but you can get a voucher here.
7. Dress up in some other fun costumes/accessories
There are two things that are pretty trendy and have been for the last few years. The first is wearing these very silly little pins at the top of your head, so it looks like you have a heart growing out of your head. For a while the big things were plastic blades of grass or flowers!
Another trendy thing to do instead of dressing up in a hanbok is dressing up in 1900s style outfits or old style school uniforms! I’m not sure why either have gotten popular, but I have a feeling “Mr. Sunshine” helped with the early 1900s style costume trend. Some of it was even filmed in Jeonju!
8. Try a traditional tea ceremony
I read somewhere that the traditional tea houses in the hanok village have almost halved, which made me quite sad because I love a nice little Korean tea ceremony. This is definitely on my list to do when I return.
My hanok host recommended 교동다원 (Kyodong Dawon).
9. Just walk around
Honestly, one of the reasons the Jeonju Hanok Village is so charming is that there’s something to see no matter how lost you get wandering around. My best tip is to just start walking in random directions to see what you find!
What & Where to Eat in Jeonju
Bibibimbap is considered the iconic Korean food, and Jeonju is where it’s supposed to be the best. Jeonju and Jeolla in general are the best places to get your Korean fix!
In its most basic form, bibimbap it’s rice mixed with veggies and meat, and it’s been recorded as far back as the 1500s. I personally quite enjoy it, especially if you can find dolsat bibimbap, which is when it’s served in a hot stone pot.
There are a lot of places in the hanok village that serve it, but the one I personally have tried is 종로회관 (Jongno Hoegwan) I quite enjoyed it, and it was made famous because this famous variety show, “1 Night, 2 Days” visited. All that food above was only 10,000 KRW (~$10 USD)!
My hanok host also recommended 가족회관 (Kajok Hoegwan).
Kongnamulguk is basically bean sprout soup. I used to hate it, but it’s grown a bit on me. I remember being told at the teacher workshop we were getting breakfast and being pretty disappointed realizing breakfast was kongnamulguk, so maybe I was scarred for a while.
It’s a nice soup, and there are no spices. But it’s definitely not my first pick haha.
Okay maybe not a MUST have, but this cafe was right near the where I came off of the stairs to see the view point, so I popped in. And I got a bit of deja vu because I’m almost certain I came here with my two friends all the way back during that teacher training.
This time around I just got the Sobok ice cream. I tried looking up to see if 소복 meant anything and Papago just told me it was white mourning clothes… It doesn’t taste like vanilla, so I’m not sure what the flavor is supposed to be!
Heyyyy choco pie! The most famous version of the choco pie is probably the red boxed Lotte choco pies. They’re, like, the go to answer for everything in Korea. Afternoon snack? Choco pie. Birthday celebration? Choco pie cake. Need motivation? Choco pie. Don’t want to give North Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex a cash bonus to avoid being too capitalistic? Choco pie bonuses!
Jokes aside, Jeonju has its own famous version of the choco pie with PNB. You’ll recognize them for the bright orange boxes. Instead of marshmallow filling like the Lotte ones use, PNB makes its pies with cream and strawberry jam. I tried the white choco pie on my last visit at Pongnyeon Cafe.
How to Visit the Jeonju Hanok Village
Tours to Jeonju
This tour leaves and returns from Seoul and all in all is about 14 hours including transport. The nice thing is it gives you quite a long time in the village and even has add on options for a traditional dessert making class or a traditional dishes cooking class. Check here for more details
This private tour takes you to a place I actually haven’t had a chance to visit – the Red Ginseng Spa! My friends have been and it looks quite fun. Check here for more details
Choose between a 1 day or 2D1N package which includes a guidebook, hanok village map, and round trip bus tickets. If you do the 2D1N stay, it also includes an overnight stay at a hanok. Check here for more details
How to Get to Jeonju Hanok Village
The fastest way to get to Jeonju is to take the KTX, which will get you there in about 2 hours. The slower train, Mugunghwa, will take closer to 4. You can always check times and vacancies on letskorail.
From the train station, you’ll want to just grab a taxi to the Hanok Village. Trust me it’s a lot less hassle than figuring out the bus.
I’ve always taken the bus to Jeonju except for my most recent trip where I took the train from Seoul. The bus is cheaper and takes just as long as the slow train but with a 15 minute break. I do think the bus terminal is a bit closer to the village than the station, so that should save you a few won! Again, just grab a taxi as that’s the easiest.
Of course, one of the easiest ways to visit is with a car. Just make sure you know where to find parking! I do think I’ll rent a car the next time I visit because there are a few other things I want to do in Jeonju that are about a thousand times easier getting to if I had one.
Where to Stay in Jeonju Hanok Village
Nabijam Hanok Hotel (나비잠한옥호텔)
Nabijam (pictured above) is a lovely place if you’re traveling with a bigger group as most of the hanok stays have pretty limited rooms. The owners were so nice, and it’s really close to Jeongdang Cathedral and “1N, 2D” bibimbap place I recommended above. It also has bed options for those of you hesitant to experience floor sleeping. Book here
Ssamok Ssamok Hanok Guesthouse
I stayed here on my recent overnight visit, and ugh it was just too cute! The owner is this lovely ahjumma who feels like just your mom’s friend who wants to make sure you eat a ton and are enjoying yourself. She’ll even get out a map to make sure you know where to go for what you want. The hanok is nice and cozy, and my room was incredibly clean and modern. Book here
There are a lot of hanok stays listed on the big hotel sites, so you should be able to find one no matter what. Some others I looked at were:
If you’re not finding one on Booking or Agoda, definitely try Airbnb as there are tons, like this huge guesthouse owned by a cute family or this private room owned by Seongsook, who moved to the village from Seoul.
What Else to Do in Jeonju
There’s a lot to do in Jeonju outside of the hanok village! Unfortunately, I haven’t done most of them… I always went to Jeonju for Gaeksa, the main shopping street, to get clothes, eat some foreign food, and go to stores Namwon didn’t have yet like Olive Young. So…not the most cultured experiences.
However, I have a list of places I’d like to eventually see, so here’s a quick list:
- Deokjin Park (덕진공원) – Deokjin looks particularly beautiful in summer when the pond fills with lotus flowers.
- Jaman Mural Village – This cute mural village is right outside the hanok village, so I really have no good reason why I haven’t been.
- Maisan (마이산) – This is supposed to be quite a beautiful hike in the fall, and I’d love to see the main Maisan Tapsa temple. The red ginseng spa is in the same area.
- Wansan Park (완산공원) – My friend, Stephanie, LOVES Wansan Park for the king cherry blossoms in April, so I’m hoping to visit next year. It’s funny because someone else mentioned going there for the spring flowers while I was in Jeonju this last trip!
- Awon Gotaek (아원고택) – This one, I guess, really isn’t even in Jeonju, but if I went it’d be around a Jeonju visit if that makes sense. My friend, Jamie, showed me it and it just looks so nice and peaceful! It’s a sort of gallery/cafe combo in the mountains that just looks like the perfect place to unwind and relax.
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Have you visited the Jeonju Hanok Village? What did you think?