Gyeongju was the capital of South Korea from 57 BC – 935 AD. Talk about ancient! With many world heritage sites this city is often called the “museum without walls.”
Gyeongju is one of the most popular places to visit in Korea- and for good reason. I have visited this beautiful city many times and have created a list of sites to see in this historical and beautiful city.
If you are only going to one place in Gyeongju this is it. This pond was originally part of a palace complex from 57 BCE – 935 CE- if it hasn’t sunk in how old that is, it’s pretty ancient. It has since been renovated and is most stunning during the sunset or after dark when it is lit up and you can see the reflection of the traditional structures on the pond. As for the season- the pond is beautiful all year round.
Throughout Gyeongju I am sure that you will notice the rolling hills. Even though you may feel like you are a hobbit in the Shire- these hills are actually tombs of kings. You can go inside one of the massive tombs- Cheonmachong Tomb. Inside you will find replicas of ancient relics on display. You can take a look at many of the originals at the Gyeongju National Museum.
Cheomseongdae- The Ancient Observatory
Gyeongju is also home to Korea’s first astronomical observatory and the world’s longest surviving. Unfortunately, you can’t go inside of it but it’s worth walking past to see. The observatory was built using 365 stones- each one representing a different day of the year. The name Cheomseongdae, literally means star-gazing.
Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto
This temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is built into the side of Mount Toham. It is one of my favorite temples in Korea and it is famous for the Seokguram Grotto-a religious architectural complex. The Seokguram Grotto has a highly respected Buddha statue and other god portrayals.
Fun fact- at Bulguksa temple you can find the same structure that is on Korea’s 10 won coin.
This is an easy hike that only takes a couple of hours round trip. What makes this hike so unique is the cultural remains that you run into along the way. These include Buddhist figures carved into the stone and buddhist statues. Don’t be too excited for the top though- the view is blocked by trees. This is a hike that is truly about the journey and not the destination.
Once you get to the peak you have the option to take the same path down or a different trail that also leads you back to the main road.
To get here you can take any 500-505 bus from outside the main bus terminal.
This place is pretty cool and often overlooked. This tower has won awards fo its architecture and while not practical, it is very cool. The tower actually has a cut-out of the historical 82 meter wooden pagoda that you can see just across the road. The pagoda was built in the 6th century and I find the new building a very beautiful way of blending the future with the past.
When you enter the tower you will find a lot more generation blending. In the tower you can virtually travel back in time. Just put on some high-tech goggles and step back in time in a 3D world.
If you are more old school the tower also has the option for you to rent a traditional Korean Hanbok for you to take your picture in.
The building has some interesting information about Korean history but presents it in a unique and fun way. As well, the view from the top of the building is pretty great- and free!
What the heck is a sex museum doing in a place like Gyeongju? Yes, among all the culture and ancient tradition lies a sex museum. So if you are looking for something different to do you can check out the sex museum a.k.a Love Castle.
Nothing here is too raunchy and won’t make you feel uncomfortable. The Love Castle is more like a sex park than a museum displaying sexual statues in beautiful gardens. I found this place was less about education and more about entertainment.
Uh..boring. No wait! Listen to me for just two seconds. I know that Starbucks is the same all around the world and you didn’t come all the way to Korea just to go to another Starbucks. However, this Starbucks is one of the very few in the world that is actually different. It was built as a traditional Korean style building.
I was hoping that the inside would have low tables and floor mats to sit on but unfortunately once you step inside it is just like every other Starbucks.
Fun Fact: If you are visiting during Cherry blossom season you can order a Cherry Blossom flavoured drink.