The Best Things To Do In Gyeongju, South Korea

Gyeongju, also know as the museum without walls is one of the most stunning cities in Korea! It is a small but cozy city located in the South East of Korea, not far from Busan and Daegu. When in South Korea, visiting Gyeongju is an absolute must. Read on to find out more about the best things to do in Gyeongju!

Bulguksa Temple Gyeongju South Korea

Quick Facts About Gyeongju

  • Gyeongju used to be the capital of the ancient Silla Kingdom (57BC to 935AD), during this period 56 kings or queens ruled.
  • The Silla capital, Gyeongju, was once the 4th biggest city in the world.
  • Gyeongju is often referred to as the “museum without walls” or the “city of ancients”. The best things to do in Gyeongju are all within walking distance of each other.
  • The entire city is considered as a World Heritage Site recognized by UNESCO in the year 2000.
  • The original names of Gyeongju used to be Gyerim or Seorabeol, in 935AD the name Gyeongju was established.

Things To Know About Visiting Korea

  • What To Wear In Korea – Gyeongju has a milder climate than the rest of the country as it is located close to the sea. Check what to pack for Seoul here.
  • Travel Adapters – Don’t forget to bring the right travel converter when traveling through Korea. Find out more about travel converters here.
  • Gyeongju City Bus – Take the Gyeongju city bus to explore all the best tourist sights. Check more info here.
  • Transportation Card – Planning on using public transport? Then make sure to buy a T Money Transport Card which can be used all over the country in buses and subways. Buy card here.
  • 4G Internet – Even though all guesthouses and coffee shops have WiFi, it is useful to bring your own WiFi egg. Easy airport pick up and drop off. Check more info here.
  • Foreigner Discounts – Trazy or Klook offer many different package deals with special foreigner discounts.
  • Korea Itineraries – Pick the best South Korea itinerary when traveling through the country.
  • How To Get To Gyeongju – Going by bus or KTX is the best way to get from Busan, Daegu and Seoul to Gyeongju. Check how to get to Gyeongju here. 

About Gyeongju, South Korea

Gyeongju or Kyongju is located in the southeast of South Korea and has over 2000 years worth of history as it used to be the capital of the ancient Silla Dynasty. Silla used to be the wealthiest country in Korea, with many architectural sites still remaining. After almost 1000 years of ruling, Gyeongju suffered from terrible destruction under multiple invasions. Currently many buildings have been excavated and proudly stand to tell the tale Silla’s magnificent history.

It is not a surprise that Gyeongju is a MUST visit city when travelling to and in Korea; both for foreign and Korean tourists. It is an amazing city throughout the yeah, with a different kind of beauty each season! Below you can find all the things to do in Gyeongju?

Things To Do In Gyeongju

There are many things to do in Gyeongju. Below is a list of the best places that are a must visit while traveling through Gyeongju. The most important sights to see are Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Cave, Cheomseongdae Observatory and Wolji Pond.

1. Bulguksa Temple

The Buddhist temple, located in the outskirts of Gyeongju, has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites Korea since 1995. The temple constructed in 528 is considered as a master piece of Buddhist art dating back to the Silla Dynasty. Currently the temple is part of the Yogye order, the biggest Buddhist order in Korea. Other famoust temples that are part of the same order are Jogyesa in Seoul and Yonggungsa Temple in Busan.

The grounds on which the Bulguksa temple buildings are covers a huge area which is located in a stunning mountain park. The site includes many pagodas, temple halls and is surrounded by stunning scenery, changing each season. The is the by far one of the best things to do in Gyeongju!

gyeongju historic areas bulguksa temple and seokguram grotto

Location: 385, Bulguk-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Opening Times: March – September 07:00 – 18:00 / October 07:00 – 17:30 and November – January 07:30 – 17:00 / February 07:30 – 17:30
Entrance Fee: 5000 won
How To Get Here: From Gyeongju train station or Gyeongju bus terminal take bus nr. 10 or 11. Approximately 1 hour.
More Info: here

2. Seokguram Grotto

Seokguram Cave or Grotto is part of the Bulguksa temple complex. Both sites are located on Tohamsan Mountain, Bulguksa at the foot and Seokguram at the top. The cave consists of a round-shaped dome with a unique Bodhisattva statue in the middle, surrounded with carved disciples.

From Bulguksa temple there is a walking trail, which only takes around 1,5 hour, taking you up the mountain to Seokguram Grotto. Taking this walking trail is highly recommended as the views are just stunning.

things to do in gyeongju south Korea

Location: 873-243 Bulguk-ro, Jinhyeon-dong, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Opening Times: February – Mid March / October 07:00 – 17:30; Mid-March – September 06:30 – 18:00 and November – January 07:00 – 17:00
Entrance Fee: 5000 won
How To Get Here: From Bulguksa Temple take Bus nr. 12. Every 30 minutes, takes around 20 minutes.
More Info: here

3. Donggung Palace And Wolji Pond

Wolji Pond, one of the best things to do in gyeongju at night. It was previously referred to as Anapji Pond and is a palace complex constructed in 674. The palace, which was blooming during the Silla Dynasty was used during important national events. Sadly, the ground and palace were neglected after the fall of the Dynasty.

During excavations and restorations, archaeologists revealed thousands of relics like jewelry, pottery pieces, bronze figures and roof tiles, which can still be seen at the pond’s exhibition hall and the National Museum of Gyeongju. The pond is most popular at night as the lights give the tourist site an extra dimension.

what to do in gyeongju Wolji Pond

Location: 102 Wonhwa-ro, Wolseong-dong, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Opening Times: Open all year around 09:00 – 22:00
Entrance Fee: 2000 won
How To Get Here: From Gyeongju Bus Terminal or Gyeongju Train Station, take bus nr. 600.

4. Cheomseongdae Observatory

This landmark is an ancient astronomical observatory tower and is the oldest surviving observatory in Asia. The tower stands in a vast park, surrounded by flower fields and tombs, where people like to come for a summer stroll and is a popular place for kids to play and fly their kites.

things to do in gyeongju Cheomseongdae observatory

Location: 169-5 Cheomseong-ro, Wolseong-dong, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Opening Times: 24/7
Entrance Fee: Free
How To Get Here: From Gyeongju Bus Terminal or Gyeongju Train Station, take bus nr. 600.

5. Tumuli Park

More than 20 mountain shaped large and small tombs can be found in the Tumuli Park; with heights varying between 1 meter and 23 meters. All tombs are those of Kings, Queens and court officials. Most of the tombs are still unidentified up to today.

Only one tomb was excavated and is now accessible to public. Displaying a stone-pilled wood-lined chamber type, housing a skeleton decorated with valuable jewelry and weapons.

tumuli park gyeongju south korea

Location: 9, Gyerim-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Opening Times: Open all year around 09:00 – 22:00
Entrance Fee: 2000 won
How To Get Here: Located within walking distance from Gyeongju Bus Terminal

6. Gyeongju National Park

Namsan Mountain Gyeongju, which is part of the Gyeongju National Park is considered UNESCO. As it is home to many shrines, Buddha statues, pagodas and temples dating back to the Silla Dynasty. It is ideal for anyone who loves hiking and wants to discover the more hidden treasures.

Location: Naenam-myeon, Bae-dong, Tap-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do

7. Bomun Pavilion Gyeongju

The Bomun Tourist Complex is located at the Bomunho Lake, just outside Gyeongju. It is a district filled with museums, theme parks, golf courts and spa complexes. The most popular things to do in the area are the Teddy Bear Museum, Gyeongju World Amusement Park and Gyeongju Expo.

bomun pavilion gyeongju south korea

Location: Sinpyeong-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
How To Get Here: From Gyeongju train station or Gyeongju bus terminal take bus nr. 10, 11, 18. Approximately 30 minutes.
More Info: here

8. Gyeongju National Museum

The national museum in Gyeongju houses a collection of artifacts dating back to the Silla Dynasty. The museum is divided into four different halls, including the Archaeology Hall, Art Hall, the Wolji Hall and the children museum. In the museum you will learn why the Silla Dynasty was the richest Dynasty in its time.

Location: 186, Iljeong-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Times: Weekdays 10:00-18:00; Saturdays (January-February) & Public holidays 10:00-19:00 and Saturdays in March-December 10:00-21:00
Entrance Fee: Free
How To Get There: From Gyeongju bus terminal or Gyeongju train station take bus nr. 11, 600, 603.
M

9. Golgulsa Temple Gyeongju

Golgulsa Temple is a ‘special’ temple located at the foot of Mt. Hamwol. The temple is known because for it’s martial arts training and it is the only temple cave in South Korea. The temple dating back to the 6th century can only be reached by climbing a long flight of stairs.

You can just pay a visit to the temple and see the daily sunmundo performance at 15:30 (except Mondays) or you can spend the night and join the temple stay program which included meditation and sunmundo practice.

 

A post shared by Sinbi (@sinbi_s) on

Location: 101-5, Girim-ro, Yangbuk-myeon, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Times: Open all year around
Entrance Fee: Free
How To Get There: Gyeongju Station or Gyeongju Bus Terminal take bus nr. 100 or 150 to the Andong three-way junction. From the bus stop it’s a 15 minute walk towards the temple.
More Info: here

10. Yangdong Folk Village

The Gyeongju Yangdong Village is located in the outskirts of Gyeongju and is Korea’s biggest traditional village dating back from the Joseon Dynasty. The huge village has many cultural heritages, national treasures and folklore materials. The village is popular among foreign travelers and even the Prince of Wales paid a visit to the village in 1993.

Location: 93, Yangdongmaeul-gil, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Times: Open all year around 09:00 – 18:00
Entrance Fee: 4000 Korean Won
How To Get There: From Singyeongju Station or the Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal take Bus 203, 212, 252, 200, 203, 205, 206, 207, or 208. Get off at the Yangdong Folk Village Bus Stop.
M

11. Gyeongju Gyochon Traditional Village

The stunning traditional Hanok village in downtown Gyeongju allows the visitor to look inside the life of the Choi Clan. The small village houses a couple of traditional restaurants, souvenir shops and coffee shops.

Gyeongju Gyochon Traditional Village

Location: 39-2, Gyochonan-gil, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Opening Times: Open all year around
Entrance Fee: Free
How To Get There: Take bus 61 in front of the Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal. Get off at Sila hoegwan (신라회관).

12. Woljeong Gyo Gyeongju Bridge

This bridge has been under construction for over 5 years and finally opened to the public mid 2018. It used to be the longest walking bridge made out of wood in South Korea. Unfortunately this is not the original structure as it was destroyed multiple times during the various wars Gyeongju went through.

Woljeong Bridge gyeongju attraction

Location: 163-1 Gyo-dong, Gyeongju

Best Time To Visit Gyeongju

Similar to the rest of Korea, Gyeongju has it’s four seasons; long summer and winters and sadly enough, short spring and autumns. The best time to visit Gyeongju is from March to June and September to October; this is no different for the rest of Korea. It is better to avoid travelling in summer and winter as temperatures can get quite extreme from 0°C in winter to 40°C in summer; not to mention the wind! Check a Korea packing guide here.

1. Summer In Gyeongju

Summer, the season the whole nation is dreading. If you do end up travelling in this season – like I did, the unaware tourist, the first time I came to Korea – make sure to carry enough water, sunscreen, hats and sunglasses.

gyeongju national park

2. Autumn In Gyeongju

Personally, autumn is my absolute favourite season in Korea, the sun is shining and temperatures are soft, around 20°C, which is perfect for travelling. Towards the end of October, beginning of November the leaves will start to turn golden – it’s like nothing you have ever seen before, I promise you!

gyeongju city tour

3. Winter In Gyeongju

Whatever you do, try not to come to Gyeongju in winter as Gyeongju is a coastal city, the winds are really strong. Luckily it’s not as cold as Seoul. I’m sure there are those kind of people, that love the “Strum und Drang” of winter. The one benefit of visiting Gyeongju during winter is that you will be the only tourist on the street, which will make accommodation much cheaper than during the other seasons. Even though most of the things in Gyeongju are outdoors, there are some places to visit or things to do in Gyeongju in winter, like the National museum.

gyeongju south korea things to do

4. Spring In Gyeongju

The most exciting season for the general public; the cherry blossom season. Starting most years at the end of March, beginning of April. The cherry blossoms are only blooming for one week, which is also the only week all the accommodations in the city are sold out! Flocks of people will be coming from all over the world to see the Silla Capital in full bloom. Gyeongju is hosting a yearly one week cherry blossom festival with markets and concerts on different locations all over the city.

Getting Around Gyeongju

Gyeongju is a small city, so getting around on foot is very easy as most places are withing walking distance of one another.

1. Public Transport

If feasible to travel around Gyeongju by public transport, but it takes time and careful planning. Most busses run once an hour, so there’s the possibility you might have to wait for a while.

2. Hop On Hop Off City Bus

The city of Gyeongju has it’s own hop on hop off city bus which brings you to all the highlights in the city. You’ll have the options to choose from two courses – namely Heritage and Sea Course. If it’s your first time in Gyeongju, the World Heritage Course is recommended. Check latest prices here

Getting To Gyeongju

It is rather easy to get to Gyeongju from the major city in Korea and enjoy all the best things to do in Gyeongju.

1. Daegu, Pohang, Busan To Gyeongju

Gyeongju is located in the southeast of the Korean Peninsula between Daegu, Busan, Ulsan and Pohang. From each of these cities you can easily take the express bus which will take between 40 minutes to an hour. From each of these cities there are buses every 15-20 minutes. You can just buy your ticket 10 minutes before departure at the ticket office, no need for making a reservation in advance. The ticket price will be no more that 5000 won. More info here on getting from Daegu or Busan to Gyeongju.

2. How To Get From Seoul To Gyeongju

From Seoul you can take the KTX, there are direct trains from Incheon Airport and Seoul Station once an hour. Depending on the train this will take around 2-2h30 and should cost 50 000 won for a normal ticket and 41 000 for a standing ticket. The KTX station in Gyeongju is located 20km from the city center, so you’ll have to take a taxi or bus to downtown. The bus will take around 40 minutes and should cost around 1200won. If you’re arriving after 21h30, there is no other option that the taxi. To the downtown this will take approximately 20 minutes as should cost around 15 000 won (depending on where you are going in downtown). To return you’ll hav to take KTX Gyeongju to Seoul. More info here on getting from Seoul to Gyeongju.

Consider buying a foreigner discount train pass which will save you quite a bit when travelling in Korea. Check more info and prices here.

TIP! When I’m visiting Gyeongju, I take the KTX from Seoul station to Daegu (1u45min) and switch in Daegu to the express bus to Gyeongju (50 minutes). I do this for two reasons; first, the trains Seoul – Daegu run more frequently; second: the express bus from Daegu to Gyeongju will bring you to Gyeongju downtown, instead of the Singyeongju KTX station 40 minutes outside Gyeongju. It saveS time and it saves money!

Other Recommendations

1. Length Of Stay

There are so many things to do in Gyeongju, so you can easily spend a week in the city. But if this is your first time visiting it is recommended to stay 2 days. The first day you can focus on visiting everything in downtown, the second day visit the main sites out of Gyeongju.

2. Two Day Gyeongju Itinerary

Below is a two day itinerary with the best things to do in Gyeongju all year around.

Day 1:
The Unknown Tomb in downtown
Tumuli Tomb Park
Cheomseongdae Observatory
Gyerim Forest
Gyeochon Village
National Museum of Gyeongju (FREE; closed on Mondays)
Anapji Pond

Day 2:
Bulguksa Temple (do the 2 hour hike to the Seokguram Grotto)
Seogkuram Grotto
Bunhwansa Temple
Hwangnyongsanji Temple Museum

3. Other Tips About Things To Do In Gyeongju

  • Hire a bicycle to visit the main things to do in Gyeongju! Close to the express bus terminal you will be able to find many bike rental shops; they rent out bicycles for a day or just for a couple of hours.
  • Want to visit the main sites and more without any hassle? Book tickets for the city bus tour, which runs daily. Check latest prices here.
  • Visit Cheomseongdae? Buy a kite from one of the street vendors. It’s a typical thing Koreans do when having a relaxing day in Gyeongju.

Hotels In Gyeongju Korea

  • Happy Village Syeobul – $$ – the best Hanok stay with an amazing breakfast in Gyeongju. Located next to the touristic hot spots, 10 minutes walk from the express bus terminal and only 5 minutes from the “the up and coming” restaurant street. This Hanok is located close to the main things to do in Gyeonju. Check latest prices here
  • Hilton Hotel – $$$ – located outside Gyeongju, at the beautiful Bomun lake is the perfect luxury accommodation. The hotel is located between Bulguksa temple, Golgulsa Temple, Gyeongju Beach and Gyeongju city center; so the perfect location to visit all these touristic hot spots. Check latest prices here
  • Good Dream Guest House – $ – perfect budget guesthouse located 5 minutes walking from the express bus terminal and only 5 minutes to the entrance of the Gyeongju historic areas and Tumuli park. You’ll easily find many restaurants in this area. Check latest prices here
  • Commodore Hotel Gyeongju – $$$ – The Commodore Hotel is within walking distance of Bomun Lake and has a swimming pool and large garden on the premises. Check latest prices here
  • Blueboat Hostel Gyeongju – $ – The best rated hostel in Gyeongju down town. In the morning an English/Irish breakfast is served for all guests of the hostel. Check latest prices here.

Have you been to any of these Gyeongju Hotels?

The Best Gyeongju Restaurants

Below are some recommendations on what to eat in Gyeongju and the best restaurants to go to. I have personally tried all of these mentioned below. There isn’t a typical Gyeongju food, except for the Gyeongju bread which can be found in many shops around the bus terminal.

1. Manol Pizza Restaurant

This restaurant literally serves the best pizza in Gyeongju, in the most beautiful hanok building. There are only 4 different kinds of pizza on the menu and a 2 page list of different craft beers made in Korea and abroad. The restaurant is located next to the Tumuli park and has a great atmosphere.

Gyeongju Restaurants 

Address: 231, Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju-si

2. Myeongdong Jjol Myeon Noodle Restaurant

This restaurant is the top 3 noodle restaurant in Korea! They have won various prizes for their noodle dishes and always has a queue in front of the restaurant.

There are only 4 different dishes on the menu and each one costs 7000 krw, which is incredibly cheap for the huge bowl you’ll get.

what to eat in gyeongju

Address: Nodong-dong 80-8, Gyeongju

3. Nabi Sandwich

Located a bit outside the city center, the Nabi Sandwich restaurant sells all kinds of European style sandwiches. Perfect for breakfast as there are little western breakfast cafe in Gyeongju! The best sandwich to try is the BLT. On top of that the restaurant is filled with English and Korea books and the owner speaks perfect English.

Address: Songhwa-dong, Gyeongju

Like this post about things to do in Gyeongju? Why not Pin It?

Have you been to any of these places? Are there more things to do in Gyeongju that should be added to the list? Have any questions about any of these places? Let me know in the comment section below.

You may also like...

26 Responses

  1. Danie says:

    I sometimes get sad when I hear about all this great culture and wonderful things to see in south Korea because I am not sure I will get to experience it. It looks so interesting. I hope one day tensions will calm because I would love to experience it.

  2. Cate says:

    Marie, thanks a lot for the post.Really thank you! Much obliged.

  1. August 22, 2018

    […] Gyeongju is one of the oldest cities of South Korea dating back to 700 AD. It used to be the capital of the Silla Kingdom and is now a peaceful city filled with UNESCO landmarks. It is a great place to go for anyone who wants to experience the more rural parts of Korea. You can spend at least a couple of days in the city as there are enough sites to see in and around Gyeongju. The best way to go around is by bike or public transport. The main sites to see are definitely Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto (which are located in the outskirts of Gyeongju), Cheomseongdae Observatory, the Tumuli Park, Anabji Pond and the National Park which is filled with pagoda’s and Buddha statues. All these sites date back to the Silla Dynasty and have been restored the way it used to look back in the days.  From Seoul or Busan you can take the KTX or bus to Gyeongju. The KTX from Seoul with take around 2 – 3 hours, the bus 4 – 5 hours depending on traffic. Check out Marie’s post on things to do in Gyeongju  […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *