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How to spend a perfect day in Jeonju, South Korea

At the entrance of the Jeonju Hanok Village is a rock sign with the engraving “Jeonju Hanok Village” written in Korean, Chinese and English. This beautiful city is a must-see for those planning a trip to South Korea. JENNA ZAZA/THE STATESMAN

This new feature in The Statesman will be written by our writers currently in Stony Brook University’s study abroad programs. It will feature their experiences and tips for studying and traveling abroad.  

If you’re planning a trip to South Korea, don’t forget to incorporate an overnight trip to one of the country’s most famous cities, Jeonju. This city is known for its iconic Hanok Heritage Village, filled with traditional Korean houses called Hanok, homemade eclectic boutiques and mouth-watering eateries. Creating travel itineraries can easily become overwhelming with the endless spiral of browser search results. Here is how to spend the perfect day in Jeonju to make traveling to this city a bit easier. For best weather, aim to travel in mid-May when temperatures will hover around the high 60s and rainstorms are few and far between. 

Be sure to book a traditional Hanok accommodation to fully immerse yourself in South Korea’s rich culture and history. There are a plethora of Hanok stays located in the center of the village, so booking one shouldn’t be too difficult — you can even use Airbnb! 

There are two ways to travel to Jeonju from Seoul, South Korea, both of which are fairly inexpensive; one ticket is priced at around $20. The train is the quickest mode of transportation to Jeonju, clocking in about 90 minutes of travel time. However, trains to Jeonju typically run less often than buses, so a bus may be more convenient depending on your Seoul itinerary. The bus ride takes approximately three hours, depending on traffic. A bus ticket to this historic city can be as cheap as $15. 

Jeonju is a small city, and its Hanok Heritage Village is even smaller, yet it still remains a buzzing hotspot that packs in the crowds. To experience this charming, quaint village without wading through the sea of fellow tourists, set your alarm early in the morning and head out around 8 a.m. While cafes and breakfast places might not be open at this time, a handful of take-out-only juice and coffee stands will start to open their doors. 

Simply pick up a beverage of your choice and walk the tranquil streets of the village. With the trees swaying gently in the crisp morning air and the sound of flowing water in the river-reminiscent feature, this peaceful stroll is sure to remind you of summer on a boardwalk. Enjoy the serenity surrounded by Hanoks and views of neighboring mountains before the village officially wakes up. It will feel as if you’ve discovered your own little slice of paradise.

If you’re craving a breakfast meal over coffee or juice, the convenience store, GS25, situated at the entrance of the Hanok Heritage Village is the go-to spot. The GS25 offers much more than the average American convenience store with a wide array of kimbap, sushi-esque seaweed rolls, yogurt and bread. 

Then, continue your exploration of the village with hopefully full bellies. Be sure to wander the grounds of the Gyeonggijeon Shrine where the last remaining portrait of King Taejo is enshrined in the dignified main hall. King Taejo founded the Joseon kingdom, one of the longest-lasting dynasties of just over 500 years. The portrait is considered to be a national treasure. 

There are a handful of museums, some of which allow free entrance, scattered throughout the village and around the shrine. One example is the Jeonju Korean Traditional Wine Museum, where you can explore the history of Korea’s sweet rice wine called makgeolli. If this doesn’t interest you, do not worry. There is a Jeonju Hanok Village History Museum and a local library that are open to tourists. 

After traversing through the winding alleys and hidden shops in the village, it’s time for some lunch. Dawoorang is a popular dumpling eatery amongst both locals and visitors, serving a diverse range of flavors from earthy vegetarian to salty shrimp and spicy pork. All dumplings are made fresh in the morning. Dawoorang has limited counter seating so it’s quite common to grab some dumplings to go and eat on the benches outside. 

The standout menu items are the vegetable shrimp dumplings and the oven dumplings. The fresh vegetables mix harmoniously with the natural sweetness of the shrimp, complemented by subtle hints of garlic and ginger. With such a light and airy texture, these dumplings have proved to be a delightful treat. If you would like your dumplings to transport you home, look no further than the veggie oven dumplings which are the epitome of comfort food. With a hearty, bread-like dough, each dumpling was satisfyingly dense, with a rich, golden-brown crust that gave way to a warm and flavorful mix of vegetables. 

For an after-lunch dessert, you can enjoy Jeonju’s iconic chocolate pie at PNB Bakery which is reminiscent of an elevated version of American whoopie pies. The original flavor features a layer of indulgent whipping cream and strawberry jam sandwiched between nutty chocolate sponges dipped in tempered chocolate. There are also other flavors such as mocha coffee and pistachio. 

Next is Nambu Market which offers an inconspicuous surprise on its second floor. Located above a bustling food and goods market is a hip, trendy Youth Mall. Though small compared to the ground floor, the Youth Mall showcases an array of boutiques with handmade products such as tote bags, cookies and art. This spot is perfect for a unique souvenir while also supporting local businesses. 

The day wouldn’t be complete without dinner and, if you drink, a nightcap. Luckily for visitors, deciding what to eat isn’t a challenge as Jeonju is the birthplace of Korea’s bibimbap dish. Bibimbap is a mixed rice dish with seasoned vegetables and a protein such as fish or meat. This dish is also known to have several health benefits, including “being rich in antioxidants.” There are dozens of bibimbap restaurants in Jeonju, but why not eat at the first ever one to create this delicious dish, Han Kook Jib? For those who don’t eat meat, you can request the restaurant staff to prepare the bibimbap without meat.

Enjoying a glass of makgeolli as a nightcap in Jeonju offers a unique and culturally rich experience that is a great end to a perfect day. Known for its traditional brewing techniques, Jeonju produces makgeolli that is distinctly fresh and flavorful compared to other regions. Most makgeolli houses in Jeonju will serve kettles of the slightly sweet, tangy rice wine and a couple of side dishes. Drinking the cozy wine in a makgeolli house allows you to connect with the local culture and unwind in an authentic setting. This is sure to be a day on your trip you would never forget.

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About the Contributor
Jenna Zaza
Jenna Zaza, Arts & Culture Editor
Jenna Zaza is The Statesman's Arts and Culture Editor. She is a second-year journalism major with a minor in Korean studies and on the fast-track MBA program. When she is not writing, she is probably reading a book with a cup of coffee in hand.
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