Discover Gyeong-ju, South Korea’s ancient capital, a compact city that punches above its weight in history and culture. It was once the fourth-largest city in the world and the capital of the Silla kingdom (and home to the elite). Its rich history is visible in its temples, rock carvings and ruins. If you want to learn about South Korea's past, Gyeong-ju has enough UNESCO World Heritage Sites to give you a crash course.
You can get your bearings in Gyeong-ju and take in the views by choosing a hostel with a rooftop terrace. A Gyeong-ju hostel with its own kitchen, or one that serves a free breakfast, means you can fill up and save on budget. In the evenings, you can cook up a barbecue dinner in a hostel with a garden. Look out for hostels in Gyeong-ju that have free Wi-Fi too, so you can research those sights you’ve discovered during your stay.
To see the modern side of this ancient city, check out Seonggeon-dong, the university area. Hwangseong-dong is the city’s more residential district, where you can get a glimpse of the local lifestyle. If you want to dive right into the history of Gyeong-ju, you can visit the Mount Namsan Belt, which is home to 122 temple ruins. There are even more ancient relics in the Wolseong Belt, including the ruins of Banwolseong (Wolseong Palace).
There’s so much history to explore in Gyeong-ju. At the Gyeong-ju National Museum, you can see over 30,000 ancient artefacts. You'll be able to tick a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site off your list at Bulguksa Temple, and there's another impressive temple, Seokguram Grotto, on top of Tohamsan Mountain; this one is a man-made cave. Find a souvenir at the Gyeong-ju Folk Craft Village – similar to a market but actually a district made up of 45 houses belonging to local artists selling their crafts. And if you work up an appetite exploring, try local speciality ssambap, a traditional spread of sauces, meats and rice.
The closest airport to Gyeong-ju is Seoul Incheon International Airport. From there, you can take a direct coach to the Gyeong-ju Intercity Bus Terminal in around 4 hours. Gyeong-ju train station is in the city centre and has services to destinations across South Korea. To get around town, rent a bike or take a local bus.