The jury’s out: There’s no place in Seoul quite like Bukchon Hanok Village.
Even if your first thoughts of the capital of South Korea are dominated by bustling street scenes and vistas of never-ending skyscrapers, hidden among them is this quaint residential neighbourhood that harkens back to six centuries of Seoul’s history.
You might expect to find a place as charming as Bukchon Hanok Village wedged into a tiny little-known corner of Seoul.
That’s not the case. At all.
It’s front-and-centre in Jongno-gu, wedged between the two most well-known Seoul palaces (Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace).
What to expect: A brief introduction
It’s hard to imagine Seoul as anything but the megapolis we see today. And that’s what makes Bukchon Hanok Village ever so special.
Bukchon Hanok Village dates back to the Joseon Dynasty, a prosperous Korean kingdom that lasted from the late-14th century until 1897. The historic buildings found here reflect the prevailing traditional architectural styles of the Joseon period.
Unlike Namsangol Hanok Village, elsewhere in Seoul on the north side of Namsan, Bukchon Hanok Village is a real functioning neighbourhood, not simply staged to impress visitors.
The village features about 900 hanok, a home traditionally made from wood that was once commonplace in every Korean town or village.
Bukchon Hanok Village was a particularly prosperous village within the capital, perhaps explaining its remarkable outward appearance. Many of the hanok here once housed the upper-crust of Joseon society from members of the royal family to nobles.
As a wave of development swept through South Korea in the post-war era, Bukchon Hanok Village 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 and sought, 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, blending traditional styles & materials with more modern ones.
They’re still beautiful though, and some of the most atmospheric of the bunch now house teahouses, museums, workshops, restaurants, and even traditional guesthouses that slot in among the top accommodations in Seoul.
What to do & see
Simply wandering around Bukchon Hanok Village is an experience in itself. Nearly every street you stumble upon unfolds a scene with the power to captivate.
As you’d imagine, this tourist area can get a little jammed with tourists. You’ll find the most stunning architectural examples—and, unfortunately, the biggest crowds—in the Gahoe-dong area, particularly around the northern section of Bukchon-ro 11-gil.
For a quieter experience head to the alleyways of Wonseo-dong near Changdeokgung Palace or Samcheong-dong in the northwest.
Bear in mind that Bukchon Hanok Village isn’t just a tourist attraction, but a real neighbourhood with real residents.
Keep the noise levels down and don’t take photographs of the inside of the hanok out of respect for the privacy of the owner (remember: the hanok is their home!).
Other than gazing upon the beautiful hanok, here are a few other things to do here…
- Bukchon Culture Center: A small centre focusing on promoting traditional Korean cultural practices like 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) that you’ll find here are probably a lot more interesting and 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
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 featuring 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 combined with 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.