Gyeongju city, on the southeastern coast of South Korea, used to serve as the capital of the ancient Silla Dynasty for centuries. Playing an integral part in the rich history of Korea, this historical city boasts a vast number of ancient archaeological sites and cultural properties from the bygone era.
To fully immerse yourself in the rich culture of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage city and check out the beautiful sites at leisure, do not rush through your trip in a day. Instead, book yourself into a nice accommodation so that you can explore this lovely city at ease.
For a truly memorable holiday in this ancient city, consider staying in one of these traditional hanoks (Korean traditional house) to experience lives of Koreans in such houses in the olden days!
1. Lucky Won Guest House (락희원 게스트 하우스) at 214-2 Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju-si
Tucked away in a quiet little alley in Hwangnam-dong, guests at Lucky Won Guest House enjoy the privacy of a peaceful stay. However, rest assured it is not isolated from the famous tourist attractions in Gyeongju Historic Area, because getting to Cheomseongdae Observatory (경주 첨성대) and Daereungwon Tomb (대릉원) is possible just within 10 minutes by foot. Turn left upon leaving the hanok, walk about 100 metres (328 feet) along the alley and you will reach the tourist street filled with many shops, restaurants and convenience stores. You can also find public buses that brings you to the bus terminal and railway station as well as other attractions in the city along this street for your convenience. What a perfect location for a private yet convenient stay in the beautiful city!
Upon arriving at the guesthouse, you will be pleasantly greeted with the sight of its lovely courtyard garden surrounded by the rooms. There are about 10 rooms in Lucky Won, with the small rooms for 2 guests and big rooms for 4 guests. All rooms are fitted with heated flooring, an air-conditioner, a private shower, towels, a hairdryer and television. Free Wi-Fi is provided throughout the hanok and there is a shared PC in the communal kitchen if you need one. You can also help yourself to the free coffee, tea, water and instant noodles in the kitchen.
The guesthouse owners may not speak English, but they have kindly prepared tourist maps and written advice about the city, with recommendations on things to do and what to eat around the area, in the kitchen too. Such thoughtful gestures are definitely appreciated by guests. An interesting thing to note, there is no real room key provided, instead you use a traditional long metallic spoon to “lock” it for some privacy. Feels like those familiar period drama scenes where you go back in time to the bygone era when people did not need to lock their traditional houses, doesn’t it?
How much would you be willing to pay for such a charming hanok stay? From 20,000 KRW (17.40 USD) for a twin-sharing room per night, this is definitely a bargain you don’t want to miss!
2. Sarangchae Traveler's Inn (사랑채 게스트하우스) at 238-1, Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju-si
Proud to be the first guesthouse opened in Korea when the concept of dormitory-style guesthouses was still fairly foreign, Sarangchae Traveler’s Inn has come a long way and remains one of the most highly-recommended hanok guesthouses in Gyeongju city. This traditional house may have been around for more than a century, but its interiors are still well-maintained without losing its old-school charm.
Location-wise, Sarangchae is in the same centralised area as Lucky Won, but is also blessed with quiet surroundings for an undisturbed rest at night. Its friendly owner, Mr An, is fluent in English and Japanese, and is always willing to offer you detailed information on what you can do in Gyeongju. A complimentary breakfast comprising toasts with jam or margarine, eggs, and coffee or green tea is provided. You will also have the opportunity to try on traditional Korean clothes called the hanbok here.
In addition, the main attraction of the inn is none other than the native Korean dog breed known as Sapsaree Dog of Gyeongsan. Since the Japanese Occupation (1910 - 1945), the Sapsaree became a source of leather and consequently became in danger of becoming extinct. Therefore, it is now designated and protected as a Natural Monument in the country. Characterised with long hair covering its eyes and body and drooping ears, the dog is loyal to its owner and believed to expel evil and misfortune. Dog-lovers can spend some time playing with Choko and her daughter Candy while staying in this century-old hanok.
Depending on your budget, you can choose to stay in a room with private bathroom or shared bathroom facility. A double or twin-sharing room with private bathroom costs 45,000 KRW (39.10 USD) per night. It may be double the price of that in Lucky Won, but considering the opportunity to stay in such an ancient but well-maintained traditional house, it’s still pretty reasonable!
3. Sillabang Guest House (신라방) at 323, Seongdong-dong, Gyeongju-si
Just 5 minutes’ walk from Gyeongju Station, where you can be connected to other parts of Korea by train, is Sillabang Guest House conveniently located in Gyeongju’s city centre. You can find the Large-size Mart and many restaurants and shops nearby. Tourist attractions such as the Gyeongjueupseong Ruins are also within close proximity to the guest house.
Furthermore, located on the other side of Gyeongju Station to the east, is the largest traditional market in Gyeongju - the Seongdong Market (성동시장). There are around 300 stores and 30 street vendors making a living in the market. Over here, you will be able to find the authentic Hwangnam Bread, a Gyeongju speciality popular with both locals and tourists. Just like the other traditional hanok guesthouses, the guest rooms in Sillabang are equipped with a shared kitchen, lounge and garden. What makes Sillabang stand out from the rest is the provision of the charcoal fire cooking facilities, tea room and calligraphy room, where guests can learn more about the Korean traditional culture as well as mingle with friends. In addition, this hanok accommodation is said to house the biggest guest rooms in the city, so space will no longer be a concern should you stay here!
Sillabang Guest House is ideal for guests planning to travel to other parts in the country, as it will be much more convenient to stay in the city centre within a stone’s throw of the railway station. Price starts from 45,000 KRW (39.10 USD) for a twin-sharing room with private bathroom per night.
4. Hyangdan House (향단 - 한옥스테이) at 121-83, Yangdongmaeul-gil, Gangdong-myeon, Gyeongju-si
Find the locations of the above hanok guesthouses too urbanised? How does a hanok stay within an authentic Korean Folk Village that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site sound to you? If this idea excites you and you are prepared to pay more for such a unique experience, check out Hyangdan located in Gyeongju Yangdong Village (경주 양동마을)!
Built in 1543, Hyangdan House was designated as the 412th National Treasure on 14th November 1964. The structure of the house is quite different from the other houses in the village. It was said that King Jungjong, moved by Gyeongsang Province’s inspector Yi Eon-jeok’s filial piety for his ailing mother, built it intentionally in this manner for inspector Yi, so that the mother could move around more easily. Appreciate the thoughtfulness of the King as you stay in this national treasure!
Since the house is located in a real folk village currently inhabited by locals, enjoy the convenience of being able to explore the scenic natural surroundings and traditional culture right at your doorstep. As Korea’s largest traditional village, there are about 160 old houses and 500-year-old thatched-roof cottages nestled within the valley. Indeed, 54 of these homes are over 200 years old and have been remarkably preserved in their original state. So staying at Hyangdan will allow you to check out this alluring traditional village at a leisurely pace, without having to worry whether there is enough time to cover the large heritage site.
It may sound pricey to pay from 160,510 KRW (140 USD) for a twin-sharing room per night at Hyangdan, but cultural buffs will agree that this is money well-spent as it’s not often you get to stay in a national treasure within a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This will be a truly memorable experience to remember for a long time, won’t it?
Create awesome memories with a traditional hanok stay
In a historical city like Gyeongju, you can experience living in the same old houses Koreans have lived in for centuries if you book a stay at one of the above-mentioned awesome hanok accommodations.
Appreciate the wonderful hanok architecture made of wood and clay, with a dual-flooring concept that allows you to stay cool in the house during summer and stay warm during the cooler months. This will definitely be a worthwhile experience compared to staying in a typical hotel for your next trip to Gyeongju city. Have a fulfilling and wonderful time in the ancient city!
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