South Korea // Jeolla //

The hanok village

Jeonju’s main attraction is undoubtedly its splendid hanok village (한옥 마을), a city-centre thatch of largely traditional housing. Highlights include a cathedral, an ancient shrine and a former Confucian academy, as well as museums for calligraphy, paper and wine; almost all sights are free, and there’s enough to keep you busy for a full day. The best way to enjoy it is simply to turn up and wander around – whether it be a museum, a traditional restaurant or a photogenic house, there’s something to see around every corner. There are no opening times or entry fees to the area and it remains a functioning part of the city, one that’s particularly beautiful at night when most of the tourists have gone. The area has a distinct north–south divide – the north is far more polished and home to an ever-increasing number of bars and cafés, while the southern section is a pleasingly authentic and untouched slice of old Korea, with locals meandering up and down the narrow lanes as they have for decades. Musical pansori performances are frequent, and you may even be able to participate in traditional activities such as lantern-making or calligraphy.

The best place to get your bearings is Taejoro, a road that bisects the hanok village. Lightly trafficked and studded with small lights that glow at night, it has two information offices that can provide you with maps of the area. The eastern office offers free bike rental, though you’ll probably have to get there early to nab one.

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