The jury’s out: There’s no place in Seoul quite like Bukchon Hanok Village.
This quaint residential neighbourhood balks at most visitors’ first impressions of Seoul. It proves there’s more to the capital of South Korea than bustling street scenes and vistas of never-ending skyscrapers. In fact, Bukchon Hanok Village hearkens back to Seoul six centuries in the past.
You might expect to find an area this charming wedged into a little-known corner of Seoul. That’s not the case. At all.
Bukchon Hanok Village is front-and-centre in Jongno-gu. It’s wedged between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace, the two most well-known Seoul palaces.
What to expect at Bukchon Hanok Village
It’s hard to imagine Seoul as anything but the megapolis we see today. And that’s what makes Bukchon Hanok Village so special.
Bukchon Hanok Village dates back to the Joseon Dynasty. This prosperous Korean kingdom lasted from the late-14th century until 1897. The historic buildings here reflect the traditional architectural styles of the Joseon period.
The neighbourhood isn’t the only historic village in Seoul. On the north side of Namsan, you’ll find another: Namsangol Hanok Village.
Unlike Namsangol Hanok Village though, Bukchon Hanok Village is a real functioning neighbourhood. It’s not simply staged to impress visitors.
Bukchon Hanok Village features about 900 hanok. These traditional wood homes were once commonplace in every Korean town or village.
Bukchon Hanok Village was a particularly prosperous village within Seoul. In that light, its remarkable outward appearance shouldn’t be so surprising! Many of the hanok here once housed the upper-crust of Joseon society. Included among them were members of the royal family and nobles.
As a wave of development swept through South Korea in the post-war era, Bukchon Hanok Village came at risk. It was slated for demolition to clear the way for new modern buildings.
Fortunately, a persuasive group of locals made a good case for keeping the area intact. The municipality backed down, deciding, instead, to preserve Bukchon Hanok Village as a historical area.
Today, it still teems with action.
The hanok aren’t exactly what they once were. The renovated residences now blend traditional styles & materials with more modern ones.
They’re still beautiful though. Some of the most atmospheric hanok now house teahouses, museums, workshops, and restaurants. There’s even a few traditional guesthouses in the mix that slot in among the top accommodations in Seoul!
What to do & see at Bukchon Hanok Village
Simply wandering around Bukchon Hanok Village is an experience in itself. Every street unfolds another captivating scene.
As you’d imagine, this tourist area can get a little jammed up. You’ll find the most stunning architectural examples—and the biggest crowds!—in the Gahoe-dong area. The crowds are particular dense in & around the northern section of Bukchon-ro 11-gil.
For a quieter experience, head to the alleyways of Wonseo-dong near Changdeokgung Palace. Samcheong-dong in the northwest is another great option.
Bear in mind: Bukchon Hanok Village isn’t just a tourist attraction. It’s a real neighbourhood with real residents.
Keep the noise levels down. Don’t take photographs of the inside of the hanok out of respect for the privacy of the owner. (Remember: the hanok are their homes!)
Other than gazing upon the beautiful hanok, here are a few other things to do in Bukchon Hanok Village…
- Bukchon Culture Center: A small centre that focuses on promoting traditional Korean cultural practices. Their mandates include calligraphy and handicrafts, and preserving the area’s hanok culture. Address: 37 Gyedong-gil. Opening Hours: 9am to 6pm (Mon-Fri), 10am to 5pm (Sat-Sun)
- Bukchon Asian Cultural Art Museum: A collection of Korean and Asian art set in a beautiful hanok. The museum also offers folk painting and cooking classes. Address: 76 Bukchon-ro 11-gil. Opening Hours: 10am to 6pm (closed Mondays). Entrance: ₩5,000.
- Seoul Intangible Cultural Heritage Center: An exhibition hall and centre that promotes Korean arts & culture. The center also offers courses on Korean art and handicrafts. Address: 20-13 Bukchon-ro. Opening Hours: Mon-Sat.
- Dong-Lim Knot Museum: A museum that focuses on—you guessed it!—knots. Good news is that the traditional Korean maedeup (knots) here are probably a lot more interesting & more beautiful than you’d imagine. The museum also offers a one-day maedeup course. Address: 10, Bukchon-ro 12-gil. Opening Hours: 10am to 6pm (closed Mondays).
- Gahoe Museum: Another hanok museum that introduces visitors to ancient Korean folk traditions. Features thousands of old relics including amulets, books and shamanistic paintings. Courses in pattern stamping, drawing and folk painting are also offered. Address: 17, Bukchon-ro 12-gil. Opening Hours: 10am to 6pm (Mar-Nov), 10am to 5pm (Dec-Feb), closed Mondays. Entrance: ₩2,000
Where to stay in Bukchon Hanok Village
Need to supercharge your Seoul trip? One of the best cultural experiences in Seoul is to stay in a traditional hanok guesthouse! Here are a few of the best places to stay nearby…
- Dalzip Bukchon: A beautiful hanok guesthouse on a quiet side street. It features rooms with ondol (heated Korean flooring) and a lovely outdoor courtyard.
- Sky Guesthouse: Another incredibly maintained hanok in the heart of Bukchon with cozy rooms and a gracious host.
- Cheong Yeon Jae Hanok Hotel: A luxury hanok hotel with rooms featuring ondol Korean heated flooring and rare private bathrooms. The zen-like open courtyard is a relaxing touch.
How to get there
It’s easy to reach Bukchon Hanok Village with Seoul’s excellent public transportation system. (And a little walking.)
To get there, take Line 3 on the Seoul metro to Anguk Station. From Exit 2, it’s about 300 metres up Bukchon-ro (about 10 minutes by foot) to where the main hanok areas begin.