Suncheon was the focus of my latest adventure in Korea, but I decided to fill up part of a spare day by heading north to Jeonju (전주). Let’s see how this quick side trip went.
Now to be clear, this report isn’t presented as a model tour course! I was only in Jeonju for a few hours, with every intention of returning on a longer future visit – hence, I didn’t feel the need to cover everything the city had to offer. Just a relaxing stroll through the scenic Jeonju Hanok Village, a brief look at several carefully chosen highlights, then straight back to Suncheon which was the key destination of this particular holiday.
Not to worry: I really enjoyed this brief excursion and I’m hoping to return to Jeonju sometime in the not-too-distant future. A two- or three-day stay perhaps, with more time to explore the city’s attractions at a leisurely pace.
Right … shall we make a start? 🙂
Part 1 – KTX ride from Suncheon to Jeonju
Read my separate Rail Report to learn more about this brief high-speed train journey.
In summary: I boarded a train from here…
…and, just five minutes shy of an hour later, I ended up here.
“Here”, of course, was the city of Jeonju (전주), the provincial capital of Jeollabuk-do in southwestern Korea.
Jeonju Station may be a local transportation hub, but it’s a fair distance away from the city’s main scenic areas – most notably the famous Hanok Village.
Not to worry: the city’s bus network will help us cover the ground in between.
Part 2 – Bus from Jeonju Station to the Hanok Village
Here’s a list of bus routes that serve Jeonju Hanok Village, snipped from a transportation map I picked up at the railway station.
Note that most regular bus services stop at the shelter named 전주역첫마중길 (Jeonju-yeok Cheot Majung-gil), which is a few minutes’ walk from the station plaza.
And away we go. The fare is 1,300 won if you’re paying in cash, but just 1,250 won with a transport card. Note that the T-money cards used in Seoul and elsewhere work perfectly fine here as well.
Tap your card on the reader (visible in the picture above) as you board through the front door, and then tap it again on the reader next to the rear door just before disembarking.
Now here’s the thing: Jeonju Hanok Village is fairly spread out, so which bus stop you should get off at depends on where you’d like to start (varied further by where you’re coming from and which bus number you’ve taken). To sort things out properly, download either KakaoMap or Naver Map onto your mobile device. They’ll allow you to query route searches that pinpoint the precise locations of stops and, in many cases, even offer live schedule/arrival data. Both have English interfaces but may differ on how precise details (e.g., bus stop names) are rendered. If you’re unable to read hangeul, Naver Map might be worth considering as it’s a little more English-friendly; that said, I personally prefer KakaoMap as bus stops are labelled with their original Korean names (easier to match up with signboards and announcements).
Coming from Jeonju Station, the most widely recommended bus stop for accessing Jeonju Hanok Village is 전동성당.한옥마을 (Jeondong Seongdang – Hanok Maeul, “Jeondong Catholic Church – Hanok Village”).
Depending on the origin and direction of your bus, the northern half (i.e., used by southbound buses) of 남부시장 (Nambu Sijang, “Nambu Market”) may also be a convenient entry point. This was the stop recommended to me by KakaoMap and it’s where I actually got off.
Part 3 – Exploring Jeonju Hanok Village
The two bus stops mentioned above are near the western edge of Jeonju Hanok Village (전주한옥마을, Jeonju Hanok Maeul): a scenic neighbourhood filled with many examples of traditional or traditional-inspired architecture. There’s no denying the, for lack of a better word, “touristy” atmosphere of this area – with its countless shops and cafés and restaurants and food stalls and costume rentals and whatever else – but it also has a certain undeniable charm, especially if one takes everything in at a relaxed pace.
Now then, let’s get ourselves orientated. This is just a snip out of a large tourist map; you can pick up the complete version (which covers many Jeonju attractions apart from the Hanok Village) for free at the train station as you arrive.
My first stop was one of Jeonju’s most iconic religious structures: the beautiful Jeondong Catholic Church (전동성당), completed in 1914.
Next, I crossed the street and entered the sprawling grounds of Gyeonggijeon (경기전) – a shrine built to commemorate the founding monarch of the Joseon Dynasty. You can read more (and see more) in a separate report I’ve written about this landmark, but I’ll lay out a few pictures here as a teaser.
My next stop … didn’t really involve stopping.
I set off eastwards along a stone-paved street, moving at a relaxed pace…
…and did what people tend to do when they visit Jeonju Hanok Village. Walk without a particular destination in mind, admire the architecture, visit a mini-museum or art gallery, pop by a food shop and sample the merchandise – in short, take things easy and soak up the atmosphere.
Later, I visited a restaurant – one of many in the area – to sample the local cuisine. You can read more about it in my separate Food Report, but let’s have a taste (pun well and truly intended!) through a small selection of pictures from that other post.
Now I’m not entirely sure where the Hanok Village’s precise boundaries lie, but the blocks west of Paldal-ro certainly have less of a “hanok” feel: no wood-and-tile buildings, all bland concrete ugliness. That said, there were two landmarks in this area that I really wanted to see before my return journey to Suncheon.
The first landmark, located just a short walk west of Jeondong Church…
…was the formidable Pungnammun (풍남문). This monumental gateway – whose current form reflects a late 18th-century rebuilding – was built to defend the southern flank of what was, at the time, a completely walled city. Those walls are long gone now, along with Jeonju’s three other major gates, although you’ll see a reminder in the form of an outline set into the pavement just outside Gyeonggijeon (marking where the wall once ran in that area).
From here, I moved north – following what was the old central street running directly from the gate -towards the second landmark I wanted to see in this part of the city.
Along the way, I came across a rather curious contraption parked to one side of the street.
The future of low-carbon public transport, I wonder? 🙂
Eventually, I arrived at a construction site … of a very special kind.
There was the usual fence, and within it a lot of turned-up earth and stacked building materials and all the rest. But the form of the structures going up inside the barrier – along with the construction methods and materials in use – was enough to confirm that this was no ordinary infrastructure project.
On this site once stood the Jeolla Gamyeong (전라감영), the headquarters of the Jeolla provincial government during the Joseon era. The compound’s long-lost buildings are now being meticulously recreated, with opening scheduled for sometime in 2020 (though one can never tell with state-run projects, haha.)
Add this to the long list of reasons behind my desire to pay Jeonju another visit. 🙂
But for the moment, it’s time to say farewell and head back home – well, back to the place where I’m staying anyway.
Part 4 – Returning to Suncheon
Another bus ride, this time back to Jeonju Station, where I boarded a southbound KTX service for the short hop to Suncheon. You can read more about the journey in my separate Rail Report.
And there we have it. A brief, certainly incomplete visit to Jeonju – but satisfying from start to finish.
Back again soon, I hope!
Until then, cheerio.