The Perfect Gyeongju Itinerary
Get out of Seoul and visit one of Korea’s other fun cities with this Gyeongju itinerary.
Gyeongju was the capital of Korea’s Shilla Dynasty (57 BC – 935 AD) and is often considered to be a ‘museum without walls’. That’s because of the hundreds of historic sites, artifacts, and attractions all over the city – there are so many things to d in Gyeongju!
If you are looking for a fun city to explore while in Korea or on a weekend away from Seoul, Gyeongju will not disappoint.
Here’s my perfect Gyeongju Itinerary
How to get to Gyeongju
Gyeongju is located about 320 kilometers southeast of Seoul. Here’s how to get to Gyeongju.
By bus from Seoul: You can take an intercity bus from Dong Seoul Terminal directly to Gyeongju without transferring. This trip takes 3 hours and 20 minutes.
By bus from a different city: If you aren’t coming from Seoul, traveling to Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal (경주시외 버스터미널) is often a convenient route.
By train: There is no direct connection between Seoul and Gyeongju via train – you will first have to travel to Dongdaegu Station and then take a regional train to Gyeongju Station from there. The trip from Seoul Station to Dongdaegu Station takes 1:45 hours, the train from there to Gyeongju another hour.
By car: If you have a car or are can rent one, it’s going to make your trip to Gyeongju a lot more convenient. Some of the attractions, like Bulguksa and Seokguram Grotto are outside of the city center.
When to Visit Gyeongju
The best time to visit Gyeongju is either in the spring for cherry blossom watching or in the fall when the foliage shines in beautiful bright colors. However, even if you visit outside of these peak seasons, you can still enjoy the beauty of Gyeongju.
It’s also worth noting that visiting during cherry blossom and autumn foliage season is the busiest time with lots of other visitors.
A Bit of the History of Gyeongju
Why is Gyeongju worth a visit? You might be surprised to learn that the city of Gyeongju was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Shilla for close to one thousand years.
Later Shilla (around the 7th century) was extremely prosperous and wealthy, and its capital of Gyeongju was the fourth largest city in the world at this time.
A great number of historic cultural properties still remain in Gyeongju today and you can spot active excavation sites all over the city during your visit.
The most prominent historical treasures and the best things to do in Gyeongju include: Seokguram Grotto, Bulguksa Temple, the Royal Tomb Complex, and the Cheomseongdae Observatory. Hwangridan-gil Walking Street is a popular place to go in Gyeongju with many restaurants, cafés, and shops.
Bulguksa Temple 불국사 | Gyeongju Itinerary
This temple was built in 528 during the Shilla Kingdom, between the years 514 and 540.
In 1955, Bulguksa Temple was designated as a World Cultural Asset by UNESCO due to its beauty and ancient stone relics. The temple complex spans a huge area located in a beautiful park with many temple halls and sites.
Should you want to experience life as a Korean Buddhist monk, sign up for Bulguksa’s exciting temple stay program.
If you can’t spend the night, the temple also offers daily programs that feature temple etiquette, the 108 prostrations, lotus lantern making, meditating, and visiting Seokguram Grotto.
Addresss: 385, Bulguk-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Seokguram Grotto 석굴암 | Gyeongju Itinerary
Seokguram Grotto is a hermitage and part of the Bulguksa temple complex. There is a 3.5-meter-tall Buddha statue located inside the grotto that is a highly regarded piece of Buddhist art. The grotto and Buddha statue date back to the Shilla Dynasty in 742.
Address: 873-243 Bulguk-ro, Jinhyeon-dong, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Cheomseongdae | Gyeongju Itinerary
This ancient astronomical observatory tower is Gyeongju’s landmark. Its name literally translates to star-gazing tower and it is the oldest surviving astronomical observatory in Asia, and possibly the world. The tower was constructed in the Shilla Dynasty in the 7th century and was the model for similar astronomical observatories in Japan and China. The area around the tower is a beautiful park where people go to have a stroll or fly a kite.
Address: 169-5 Cheomseong-ro, Wolseong-dong, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Royal Tombs 천마총 | Gyeongju Itinerary
Because Gyeongju was the capital of Korea’s Shilla Dynasty, there are countless tombs around the city; 23 have been discovered to date. Some of them are still unidentified.
There are some tombs right next to the Cheomseongdae observation tower and look like small hills and are covered in grass. (Fun fact: in Asian countries, it is a no-go to stick your chopsticks into your bowl of rice because they resemble these traditional tombs.)
Daereungwon Tomb Complex is the largest park of its kind and is also often referred to as Gyeongju Tumuli Park.
You can enter a royal tomb featuring over 10,000 remains and royal crowns giving insight into the lavish lifestyle of the king. The only discovered painting from the Shilla era is also located in one of the tombs.
Address: 9, Gyerim-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Woljeonggyo Bridge | Gyeongju Itinerary
This ornate, covered bridge was built during the Unified Silla period (AD 676-935) but burnt down during the Joseon dynasty.
A project to rebuild the bridge was put into place and it was successfully reconstructed in April 2018 thanks to historical records. Today, it is the largest wooden bridge in Korea.
Address: 48 Gyo-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond | Gyeongju Itinerary
Formerly called Anapji Pond, this palace complex was constructed in 674 CE in the Shilla Dynasty.
The pond is especially popular to see in the evening as the lights give it a spectacular ambiance. Archaeologists dredged the pond in 1974 revealing almost 33,0000 relics including roof tiles, pottery, bronze figures, jewelry, accessories and other daily life items and giving insight into daily life in the Shilla Dynasty.
Today, you can have a look at some of the items in the pond’s exhibition hall.
Address: 102 Wonhwa-ro, Wolseong-dong, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Hwangnyongsa Temple Site | Gyeongju Itinerary
This 9-story-tall pagoda was the nation’s largest temple during the Shilla era.
Before the pagoda was added, there was a simple temple. The construction of this temple began in 553 and took 17 years to complete. Its name literally translates to “Temple of Yellow Dragon”.
Later, a Buddhist monk from Hwangnyongsa traveled to Tang China. Along his journey, he had a vision that told him to build a 9-story pagoda in front of the temple. This would bring great fortune to the dynasty. Upon his return, he convinced the reigning queen of this undertaking, and construction began.
Many say that thanks to the lucky pagoda, Queen Seondeok was able to unify the Three Kingdoms and create one prosperous kingdom.
The pagoda stood until it was burned by Mongolian invasions in 1238. It was not until 1972 that the site was excavated, revealing the temple layout and covering 40,000 artifacts.
Address: 64-19, Imhae-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Gyeongju Tower | Gyeongju Itinerary
The 82-meter-tall Gyeongju Tower is the landmark of Gyeongju Expo Park, the venue of the international cultural fair Gyeongju World Culture Expo 2012.
The shape of the tower is Hwanyongsa Temple. It is in honor of its 9-story pagoda that was the tallest building in Asia until it was destroyed by Mongol invaders in the 13th Century.
Besides Gyeongju Tower, visitors can also explore a 3D Animation World, Silla Culture History Exhibition, and World Fossil Museum.
Address: 614 Gyeonggam-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Bonus: Yangdong Folk Village | Gyeongju Itinerary
A little outside of Gyeongju lies Korea’s largest traditional village, Yangdong Village. Locals still live in these traditional Joseon houses, which is part of the reason why UNESCO declared the village World Heritage Site in 2010.
The village is a wonderful place to take photos and purchase local goods. What’s unique about Yangdong Village is that there are houses from people of different social ranks. This means you can see lower-class as well as upper-class-style houses from the Joseon Dynasty.
Address: 134 Yangdongmaeul-gil, Gangdong-myeon, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Where to Eat in Gyeongju
You will find most restaurants and cafés in the area in and around Hwangridan-gil Walking Street. This area is very close to the other things to do in Gyeongju, like Cheomseongdae and the Royal Tombs.
Café OHI 카페오하이
If you are looking for a pretty café with stunning views of Hwangridan-gil and the royal tombs, Café OHI is the best place to go!
You can easily spot the café as it is the tallest building on the main street of Hwangridan-gil. The rooftop is not too big so you might have to wait a bit for a seat. However, it’s well worth the wait as you’ll be rewarded with incredible views!
Address: 1070 Poseok-ro, Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Hwangnam Bibimbap 황남비빔밥
The raw beef Bibimbap was my favorite meal in Gyeongju! If you like traditional Korean mixed rice (and let’s be honest – who doesn’t?) you are going to love this modern version.
Waiting times can be quite long so be sure to reserve a table in advance!
Address: 317-14 Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
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When I first saw these cute Cheomseongdae ice-cream sundaes offered at Richoya, I knew I had to visit when I was in Gyeongju!
If you like matcha/green tea, you will love these cute desserts! They also make for the most adorable photos in front of the royal tombs.
Address: 150 6-beon ji, Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do,
Starbucks Gyeongju Daerungwon Branch
While you can grab some Starbucks in pretty much any city, the Gyeongju Daerungwon Branch is quite unique.
It’s one of the prettiest Starbucks buildings ever – located inside a traditional-style Korean hanok house.
Address: 125 Cheomseong-ro, Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Bonus: Ah Sa Ga Teahouse 아사가찻집
If you love tea or simply want to fully immerse in Korean culture, visit Ah Sa Ga Teahouse in Gyeongju.
The traditional Korean place does not only offer many varieties of tea but also sells tea sets and displays various calligraphy artworks and hand-made crafts.
Besides the flavorful tea, the owners also make traditional Korean snacks, such as rice cakes that you can have as a side dish.
Address: 9-2 Jungbu-dong, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
Where to Stay: Hotel Hyundai Gyeongju
During my trip to Gyeongju, I stayed at Hotel Hyundai at Bomun Lake. The hotel is a luxurious 5-star establishment and only a 10-minute drive from Gyeongju’s main attractions. Rooms facing west have stunning views of the lake. To round up your Korean experience, you can stay at one of their traditional ondol rooms with floor heating.
Check out my in-depth review of Hotel Hyundai in Gyeongju.
Address: 477-2 Sinpyeong-dong, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea
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