Bukchon Hanok Village, one of Seoul’s most charming neighborhoods, is a collection of hundreds of traditional houses (hanok) built on a hillside between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace, two of the city’s five main royal palaces.
These magnificent ancient homes are from Korea’s Joseon Dynasty period and have elegant sloping roofs made of wood and ornamental tiles. While some remain private dwellings, many of the aristocratic houses have been turned into guesthouses, tea shops, restaurants, and museums to give visitors a taste of old Korea.
The term “bukchon” translates to “northern village,” and the neighborhood was named by its location north of Jogno and Cheonggyecheon Stream, two major attractions in Seoul. During the Joseon Dynasty in the 15th century, the area was created as a residential sector for aristocracy and high-ranking government officials who worked in the neighboring palaces.
What to See and Do
While many visitors are pleased to take photos as they wander through the small lanes between the beautiful residences, others want to immerse themselves in Korean history by visiting the different tours, museums, and cultural institutes found in Bukchon Hanok Village.
- Bukchon Traditional Culture Center: A visit to the Bukchon Traditional Culture Center is recommended for a free and in-depth look at traditional Korean culture. This multipurpose complex, housed in a charming hanok house, welcomes guests with a diverse range of activities and experiences. Calligraphy workshops, tea ceremonies, and history lectures are just a few of the options for people interested in local customs.
- Bukchon Asian Cultural Art Museum: The Bukchon Asian Cultural Art Museum is housed in a hanok-style home with an imposing stone gate. The museum, which was built from a private collection accumulated over 30 years, displays artwork from Korea and other Asian countries. Aside from the treasures, the museum allows visitors to participate in events such as culinary lessons and folk painting.
- Gahoe Museum: Though it appears to be a little museum from the outside, it exhibits over 2,000 ancient Korean objects ranging from folk art to religious amulets. Lessons in folk painting are also provided.
- Hansangsoo Embroidery Museum: Textiles and folk art have played a vital role in Korean culture for generations, and the Hansangsoo Embroidery Museum is the place to learn about them. Han Sangsoo, a skilled needlework artist who was awarded the uncommon designation of “Important Intangible Cultural Property” by the Korean government, founded the museum. The museum has three display spaces and offers lessons such as cloth patchwork and handkerchief embroidery to guests who are interested.
Where to Eat
It stands to reason that there would be a plethora of restaurants providing traditional fare in one of Seoul’s oldest towns. Visitors can find a range of amusing cafes and modern dining alternatives despite the old-fashioned appearance.
- Bukchon Samgyetang: Samgyetang is a well-known Korean soup that provides stamina during the summer heat.Bukchon Samgyetang is a popular location to enjoy this Korean dish, which consists of a whole young chicken filled with garlic, ginger, and herbs and simmered in a ginseng broth. Meals are provided in a basic dining room with low tables and floor cushions.
- Cha Masineun Tteul: Cha Masineun Tteul, located in a small hanok overlooking the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace, is possibly the most iconic Korean tea establishment in Bukchon Hanok Village. Seating is on floor cushions with low tables arranged around an open-air courtyard garden, and the menu includes a diverse selection of teas (including ginger, apricot, and quince), many of which are produced in-house.
- Layered: Try an English-style afternoon tea at Layered for an international experience set among Korean architecture in a historic hanok. Scones with cream and strawberry jam, red velvet cupcakes, and various sweets and tarts are presented in a shabby-chic setting, while beverages range from espressos to classic teas. Children are not permitted.
Where to Stay
If you want to stay in a historic hanok, Bukchon Hanok Village is your best bet. The rooms range from basic to luxurious, and while most beds are on the floor, a few hanoks have elevated beds.
- Chiwoonjung Hanok Boutique Hotel: Chiwoonjung Hanok Boutique Hotel ticks all the criteria for a wonderful hanok experience. This polished hanok, a former presidential house and a hangout for monarchs during the Joseon Dynasty, has carved-wood décor, a tranquil garden, and a sauna. Beds are traditional floor sleeping mats.
- Bonum 1957: With a name that translates to “a jewel-like place,” it’s no surprise that Bonum 1957 is one of the most sought-after accommodations in Bukchon Hanok Village. This boutique hanok residence is modern, with chandeliers, beds, and flat-screen TVs in the rooms. However, as you go out into your private garden or terrace overlooking the charming tiled roofs of the adjacent village, you will feel as if you have stepped back in time.
How to Get There
Take Seoul Subway Line Three (the Orange Line) to Anguk Station and exit through Gate Three to go to Bukchon Hanok Village from Seoul Station. Continue straight ahead and turn left at the first street. Then continue walking till you see the Bukchon Traditional Culture Center on your left. The center is an excellent place to get acquainted with the area, and there are maps and excursions available to assist you.