I’m always excited to be in South Korea. It’s one of my favourite countries to visit and ever since my first visit a couple of years ago — I’ve been back every year since to see different parts of the country. This is my first time in Jeonju, and I was so eager to explore (and eat, of course) what they call the ‘gastronomic capital of South Korea’.
Jeonju (전주) is the capital and largest city of the North Jeolla province (Jeollabuk 전라북도, also know as Jeonbuk). The city is known for its delicious Korean home-cooked food, its fun festivals, and the lovely traditional Jeonju Hanok Village (전주한옥마을) in the heart of the city. During my visit to Jeonju, my partner Fong and I based ourselves in this lovely village (we spent 4 days in Jeonju, but made a day trip to the beautiful Naejangsan National Park — read about it here). So three days were spent exploring the village’s historical sites, admiring its traditional hanok (한옥) buildings (and staying in one), and of course, looking for all the well-known Jeonju dishes (read about that here).
My trip to Jeonju was also because it is one of the cities featured in the Discover Korea Your Way – DKYW 2019 coupon booklet — and I could get lots of discounts on some of the attractions/restaurants in the city. This booklet is available for free to Malaysians traveling to South Korea, and you can click here for more information, and find out about new booklets in the coming years. It’s a great help if you’re looking for good deals to stay within that budget!
Getting to and Out of Jeonju
My entry point into this southern portion of South Korea was the city of Busan. My overnight flight on AirAsia X arrived at the Gimhae International Airport in the early morning. From there, I took a bus to the city of Yeosu where I spent a couple of days exploring this seaside city (read about it here). And from Yeosu, I took the KTX (Korean Train eXpress), South Korea’s high-speed rail system operated by Korail — from the Yeosu Expo Station (여수EXPO역) to the Jeonju Station (전주역). Tickets for the one way trip cost KR₩16,000 (~US$16) and takes about 1.5 hours.
Leaving Jeonju, we took a 3.5-hour bus ride from the Yeosu Express Bus Terminal (전주고속버스터미널) to the Busan Central Bus Terminal (부산종합버스터미널) for KR₩24,900 (~US$25). As with all express inter-city buses in South Korea, seats were spacious and comfy.
Day 1 – Arriving in Jeonju
We arrived at Jeonju Station in the late afternoon. The station is located in the city center, so from there, we had to take a taxi to the Jeonju Hanok Village (전주한옥마을) where we were to be based. Our taxi dropped us off at the edge of the village — and we had to make our way (with our luggage in tow) along the cobble-stone pathways in search of our accommodation for the next few days. Thank God for Google Maps!
The Heungbuga Hanok (흥부家)
All the accommodations in the Jeonju Hanok Village are a homestay hanok (traditional Korean house) style — so we were definitely going to experience one too! I found a pretty little hanok house right smack in the middle of the village called the Heungbuga Hanok (흥부家), located just one street away from the main stretch of the Jeonju Hanok Village and right next to the Gyeonggijeon Shrine. The owner, Mr.Oh Yun Sik was such a wonderful host — he helped plan some of our travels around the area, hailed taxis for us, and served us breakfast every morning. Other than the mattress being too hard; it was a lovely experience.
Jeonju Hanok Village (전주한옥마을)
It was almost dark by the time we finished settling in our small hanok room. I thought it’d be great to have a little look around the Jeonju Hanok Village before our exploration the next day, just to get a taste of this slow village life. So we strolled along a few streets of the village, and it really felt like we were transported back into the ancient times of Korea — the gorgeous hanok buildings (there are almost 800 in the village), the many visitors wearing Korean hanbok and other traditional costumes, and the whole historical and charming vibe. I was already excited to see everything and eat all that Jeonju street food — especially those with lots and lots of cheese!
Bibimbap Dinner at Hankookjib (한국집)
After exploring around, it was time for food. We decided to head straight for Jeonju’s (and Korea’s) most famous dish, Bibimbap (비빔밥) at the Hankookjib Restaurant (한국집). Bibimbap is served as a huge bowl of rice, topped with different vegetables, meat (in Jeonju they use beef) and a Korean chilli pepper paste, gochujang — and then mixed together before eating. And this authentic restaurant has been serving this ‘mixed rice’ dish since 1952! For our meal, we ordered the Yukhoe Bibimbap (육회비빔밥) with raw beef for KR₩13,000 (US$13) and the Jeonju Bibimbap (전주비빔밥) with cooked beef for KR₩11,000 (US$11). It was soooooo good and we even got a 10% discount off the total bill with the Korean Tourism Organization’s DKYW 2019 coupon.
Gukbap Supper at Wangi-jib (왱이집)
After dinner, we did more exploring around the Jeonju Hanok Village, and also went back to our hanok to plan our upcoming travels. Later that night, we decided that we’d head for supper — and where better than at the 24-hour Kongnamul Gukbap (콩나물국밥) restaurants around the area. Gukbap is a typical home food meal in Korea that is made out of a flavourful broth poured over rice, with various vegetable ingredients inside. We ended up at Wangi-jib (왱이집) that was suggested by our hanok owner. the Jeonju version of Kongnamul Gukbap uses lots and lots of beansprouts, with an egg served on the side and costs KR₩7,000 (US$7) per bowl. I enjoyed it (Fong not so much), especially with a cup of Jeonju’s popular local drink called Moju (모주).
Day 2 — Exploring Jeonju
After a good night’s rest — we were up and ready early in the morning for our full day’s exploration of the Jeonju Hanok Village! I was excited because I planned to really soak everything in, and just enjoy our time being in the midst of this ancient place.
Jeonju Hyanggyo Confucian School (전주향교)
From our hanok, it was a nice early morning stroll through the Jeonju Hanok Village to our first destination that day — the Jeonju Hyanggyo Confucian School (전주향교). The grounds of the school is said to be beautiful in autumn — but it was mainly green during my visit. It was established during Korea’s Joseon Dynasty in the 15th century, destroyed during the Japanese Invasion, and then relocated in 1603. I really enjoyed walking around the grounds in the early morning, and admiring the pretty green and red buildings around the area — which is the set of many K-dramas (including the popular ‘Love in the Moonlight’). Entrance is free.
The Riverside Bicycle Ride
From the Confucian School, we were walking towards our next destination when we came across a river bordering the Jeonju Hanok Village, and a bicycle rental stand. It looked like something fun to do, so we decided to rent the couple bicycle for KR₩1,000 (US$1) per day. It was my first time cycling on such a long bicycle for two — and I have to say that eventhough it was a little romantic, it was also very troublesome. But we managed to navigate our way through the streets of Jeonju, and made it safely to the Jaman Mural Village. There are several such bicycle rental stands around the Jeonju Hanok Village, so you can rent and return the bicycle to whichever stand is closest to you.
Jaman Mural Village (자만벽화마을)
Located just beside the Jeonju Hanok Village, the Jaman Mural Village (자만벽화마을) is a colorful village filled with murals along its walls. An uphill walk along the winding path into the village brought us to all these houses, cafes, souvenir shops and guesthouses painted in a myriad of colors. During our visit, we also stopped by an extremely colorful cafe filled with little trinkets and doll characters called the Kkojittappong Cafe (꼬지따뽕). We had coffee while lounging on their sofa swing and admiring the lovely views of the Jeonju Hanok Village.
Kalguksu Lunch at Veteran Restaurant (베테랑)
The Veteran Restaurant (베테랑) in the Jeonju Hanok Village serves a very specific kind of noodles called the kalguksu, which is a large bowl of broth served with handmade, knife-cut wheat floor noodles. The noodle ingredients differ at different places; and the one here gets its texture from eggs, topped with red chilli powder, seaweed and perilla seeds. The restaurant also serves jjolmyeon, a spicy cold dish with dry noodles and vegetables to be mixed together; and dumplings. The kalguksu had smooth noodles and a pretty flavorsome broth; and is really popular in the city as the place was packed. A bowl costs KR₩7,000 (US$7).
Dumplings at Daurang (다우랑)
I guess we still had space for food after lunch, cause we headed to Daurang (다우랑) for some dumplings. This small restaurant gets pretty packed during peak hours, and they serve all kinds of mandu (dumplings in Korean) in all shapes and sizes; and either steamed, boiled or fried. The mandu are usually packed to-go, but you can heat it up in the provided microwave and sit at one of the few tables or window-facing bar-top to enjoy the snack. We picked out a couple of mandu to try, including their signature huge shrimp dumpling. They cost about KR₩1,500-2,500 (US$1.5-2.5) per piece.
The Hanbok Experience (한복)
And then it was Hanbok time! Upon our arrival at the Jeonju Hanok Village, we have seen almost every visitor in the village donning either the traditional South Korea attire, or a 19th century western outfit and walking about town. There are tons of Hanbok rental shops all around the village, but Fong and I rented our Hanbok at Hanboknam with KKday — and we chose the fusion Hanbok for 4 hours (it costs KR₩40,000~US$40 at the shop, but KKday gives better rates). After selecting my red Hanbok and doing up my hair (and Fong dressing in his traditional outfit too), it was time to roam around the town and pretend like we have stepped back in time!
You can book your experience (and other travel adventures as well) with KKday, and if you apply the code “SWTW5” during check-out on the KKday Website — you get 5% OFF anything!
Gyeonggijeon Shrine (경기전)
The Gyeonggijeon Shrine (경기전), or Palace, is located in the centre of the Jeonju Hanok Village. It was built in 1410; but the urrent structure was remodeled in 1614, after most of the palace was destroyed during the Japanese Imjin War at the end of the 16th century. It now houses the portrait of the founder of the Joseon Dynasty — King Taejo. I think my walk around Gyeonggijean Shrine was much more fun because I was donning a Hanbok. It really made me feel like I was transported back to the Joseon Dynasty with the ancient buildings; the lovely autumn trees in their shade of orange, red and yellow; and the other visitors in Hanbok too! Entrance to the shrine costs KR₩3,000 (US$3).
Jeondong Catholic Cathedral (전동성당)
After a couple of hours at the shrine, we made our way to the Jeondong Catholic Cathedral (전동성당). Built between 1908 and 1914 during Korea’s Japanese rule — this is the very spot where hundreds of Christians were martyred during the Joseon Dynasty in 19th century Korea. The church has a red and grey-bricked exterior with green roofs and is considered one of the most beautiful Catholic churches in South Korea. We only got to admire the cathedral grounds and the building from the outside — as it is only open for mass services at certain times of the day.
We spent the rest of our 4-hour Hanbok time walking around the Jeonju Hanok Village for pictures, before finally returning the costumes back to Hanboknam.
Korean Home-Style Dinner at Chunyun-Nuri-Bom Restaurant (천년능리봄)
At the end of the day, were quite famished (I probably was hungry from walking around in the poof-y skirt, posing and taking photos), so it was time for a huge dinner! We decided to head for a traditional home-style Korean meal with a huge kettle of makgeolli (a milky Korean rice wine); and our hanok owner suggested an affordable place in the Jeonju Hanok Village called the Chunyun-Nuri-Bom Restaurant (천년누리봄). The restaurant is run by the local elders, and provides employment to those over 60 years old. And just like all makgeolli taverns, all we need to do is order a brass kettle of makgeolli (as the main), and then a whole array of random (and delicious) side dishes will be brought to the table — filling the entire table! The meal cost us KR₩25,000 (US$25) per set, and it was more than enough for two.
Pork Baguette at Gilgeoriya (길거리야)
The day actually ended with dinner at Chunyun-Nuri-Bom; but I’m adding this delicious pork baquette at Gilgeoriya‘s (길거리야) because that was what we had upon returning from our third day day visit to the Naejangsan National Park (side trip, read more here). There’s nothing Korean about a baguette — but it is a popular snack in the Jeonju Hanok Village and is a huge baguette stuffed (from the top, not through the sides) with pork pieces, cheese, onions, cabbages and a special sauce. This crunchy baguette (big enough as a whole meal) reminds me of the Vietnamese banh mi, and costs KR₩4,000 (US$4).
Last Day — More of Jeonju
On our final day to explore Jeonju — we planned to see some of the sights that we haven’t yet covered the days before (with a few places just outside the village). Fong also wanted to have a go at the electric bike for a breezy cruise around the Jeonju Hanok Village, so we included that into the day’s plan as well.
Choco-Pies at Poongnyeon Bakery (풍년제과)
Choco-pies (초코파이) are synonymous Jeonju, as the city is said to be the one place that produces and sells the best choco-pies in the nation. Choco-pie is a delicious round chocolate cake-pie that is filled with buttercream and strawberry jam; with other versions of different fillings like white chocolate, cheese and green tea. Though the most popular choco-pie bakery in Jeonju is PNB, I got most of mine at the Poongnyeon Bakery (풍년제과), along the street just outside the Jeonju Hanok Village (they both actually taste pretty much the same). But thanks to the Korean Tourism Organization’s DKYW 2019 coupon, I get a 20% discount here. The price of a choco-pie ranges from KR₩1,900-2,300 (US$19-23) depending on flavours — and they are so delicious and I absolutely love it!
Pungnam Gate (풍남문)
While heading towards the Nambu Traditional Market, we passed by the 18th-century Pungnam Gate (풍남문). It was once a fortress gate that guarded the South entrance of Jeonju; and during my visit was under renovation. The gate is a pretty iconic landmark, as it sits in the center of a busy roundabout just outside the Jeonju Hanok Village.
Nambu Traditional Market (남부시장)
The Nambu Traditional Market (남부시장) is said to be packed and bustling only during the weekends, so when I visited on a weekday morning it was relatively empty. Only a few restaurants and stalls were open — but I still got to browse through a variety of stalls selling everything from dried food and live seafood, to furniture, clothing, and everyday household items. The 200-year-old market is the biggest market in the Jeollabuk Province and the oldest one in the city. During the weekend nights on Fridays and Saturdays, Nambu Market takes visitors on a gastronomic journey with rows and rows of delicious Korean street food carts — too bad I didn’t get to experience this!
Omokdae and Imokdae Shrines (오목대와 이목대)
After the market, we took a slow walk across the Jeonju Hanok Village to Omokdae (오목대) on top of a small hill on the other side of the village. It is believed to be the spot where King Taejo, the first king of the Joseon Dynasty, stopped by on his way home after his victory against the Japanese invaders. There is not much to see at the site — only a tablet with engraved writings of King Gojong, the second last emperor of the Joseon Dynasty; and a pavilion house erected in 1900. What I loved most about the place though, was the elevated scenery of the Jeonju Hanok Village. So beautiful from up high! Entrance is free.
The Slow Travel Postcard
The Jeonju Hanok Village Visitor’s Centre is located at the foot hill of the Omokdae Shrine. You can stop by to ask for information about the village or for directions — but don’t forget to send a postcard home through their Slow Travel Postbox as well! There are two slow travel postboxes — the yellow one for international mail, and the red one for locals. Postage and the postcards are free (get it from the centre), but keep in mind that they only deliver it 4 times a year at the turn of the season… so it’ll take a while for the mail to arrive.
The Electric Bike Ride
And then it was time for our final activity — a bike cruise around the Jeonju Hanok Village! While walking around the village the last few days, we not only noticed the many hanbok stores, but also stores renting out electric bikes and buggies. Fong really wanted to have a go at it — so we planned a ride on the last day. I have to admit that even though I was a little worried about my safety in the beginning, it was pretty fun cruising along the many small lanes in the Jeonju Hanok Village. Our one last tour around the village before saying goodbye. Rental for an hour cost KR₩20,000 (US$20).
Lunch at Galbi Hankki Restaurant (갈비한끼)
And for our final lunch in Jeonju, we dropped by the Galbi Hankki Restaurant (갈비한끼) that we noticed by chance. The exterior of the small restaurant showcased its menu of pork ribs and that really caught our attention. They only serve four dishes on their menu — pork ribs (갈비) either served original (오리지날) or spicy (매운), beef ribs soup (갈비탕) and cold naengmyeon noodles (냉면). We ordered the original pork ribs set that came with a side of rice and a small bowl of naengmyeon for KR₩10,000 (US$10); and the beef ribs soup with rice for KR₩12,000 (US$12) — and it was absolutely delicious!
At the End of the Trip
I had a really really great time in Jeonju. I actually spent a total of four days (three days in the Jeonju Hanok Village and a day’s side trip to the Naejangsan National Park) in the city — and I have to say that it was the right amount of time to really soak in the slow-paced vibe of the village, and explore as much as I wanted to. I didn’t have to rush about visiting the top sights, and I could take my time to really stroll around through the village and check out the many random stores in the area.
In all honesty, I would have never thought of visiting the city (over bigger cities like Seoul, Busan and Jeju Island that always tops the list) — and I am so glad that thanks to the Korean Tourism Organization Malaysia, I got to make this trip. I really do hope that if I ever come back again in the future, it will be for its well-known Bibimbap Festival (that happens for a week in October)! I really could do with more of Jeonju’s delicious bibimbap!
Extra Days — Jeonju Side Trips
I have to add some side trips that you can take from Jeonju — because that was what we actually did on the third day of our visit to the city. Some people use Jeonju as a base to visit the famous Naejangsan National Park that is believed to have the most beautiful views during autumn (which I did, and you can read about my experience here); or head over to the small village of Imsil for one of the best cheese experience in the country at their Cheese Theme Park (I would have visited if I had more time, because I had a taste of the Imsil cheese at Jeonju and it was so good)!
*She Walks the World went to South Korea under the banner of the Korea Tourism Organization of Malaysia, to promote the DKYW 2019 coupon booklet and encourage free and easy travel in South Korea to Malaysian travelers. As always, all opinions stated here are my own. For more information, visit www.visitkorea.com.my.
* My hanbok (traditional Korean dress) experience was sponsored by KKday. Don’t forget to apply “SWTW5” during check out on the website to get 5% OFF for anything!