Gyeongju is a smaller city located in the southeast region of South Korea. It was once the ancient capital of the Shilla Kingdom. Over time it has become an excellent location to learn more about the Korean culture of the past. Key features of the city include the Royal Tombs, the Woljeong Bridge, and the Gyochon Village. The area containing most of the touristic sights is very flat and walkable. There is also a great network of buses that cost about $2USD to ride.
The Royal Tombs are very interesting to see. Essentially, they are huge hills that have been well manicured and maintained. Inside though are remains and artifacts that are hundreds of years old. Archaeological digs are currently underway and during the early day time you may be able to see the archeologists at work.
Bulguska Temple is another major sight in the area. It is about 22 km outside of town, but very easy to get to on the public bus. The temple complex itself is beautiful and of the Buddhist faith. There are many buildings to explore and the Buddha statues were quite fascinating. After our visit we ended up at a local restaurant and enjoyed some awesome Kalguksu. Neither of us knew what we were ordering initially. Yet, when the non-English speaking owner gave her recommendation via pointing with a thumbs up, a head nod and smile, we figured it was the best option. It turned out to be delicious.
We ended our day visiting the gardens and oldest observatory in Eastern Asia as well as the Woljeong Bridge. The garden area was really spacious and a great place to walk and enjoy quality time. Even though it was October, there were still many flowers in bloom. We continued our walk out toward the Woljeong Bridge. Photos of the bridge at night are amazing. However, visiting it during the day was lovely too. This gorgeous covered bridge was originally created by the 35th king of Shilla. It was destroyed a long time ago, however, reconstruction has recently been completed. The Gyochon Village is also located right near the bridge. This village was made by the Choi Clan ( a wealthy family). There are a few museums you can visit, but we arrived too late. It was still nice to wander the streets and look at the historic houses.
The next morning, we took a stroll around Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond. The area was really peaceful and serene. Because we went so early, we had the park pretty much to ourselves. Afterward, we brunched at this amazing little restaurant near our hotel called Heester Piece. It was Devine! The brunch platter we got was almost too beautiful to eat.
Gyeongju is a place you visit when you want to delve into Korean history. The city is tourist friendly without being too claustrophobic. We enjoyed taking in some nature while also learning more about ancient culture.