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Jeonju insider

The Jeonju you never knew.

Written by
jin soo lee

Transportation Express bus
Time 2hrs 40mins

Ticket 12,800 won (from Express Bus Terminal) 
*Until Dec 27th, foreign passport holders can apply to take a free shuttle bus from Seoul (the parking lot of the Donghwa Duty Free Shop near Gwanghwamun) to Jeonju’s National Intangible Heritage Center and back. Applications are taken at and buses leave every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

“Jeonju? Yeah, their bibimbap is famous.” For five years, I lived in Seoul and people still talk about bibimbap whenever I first tell them where I am from. “But people in Jeonju don’t often eat that,” I protest.

I say this, as a Jeonju native who at some point found myself hesitating to talk about the city. Seemingly out of nowhere, different restaurants serving octopus skewers and shrimp dumplings, which I’ve never even tasted before, became “famous” at the Jeonju Hanok Village. The Hanok Village’s main street has always been full of new restaurants and crowded with people waiting in long lines to buy food. Jeonju became a famous tourist attraction and is no longer the hometown that I remembered it to be. 
No matter how tasty that octopus skewer might be; I hope that is not what people remember after they visit Jeonju. With all my Jeonju pride, I’d now like to introduce the real face of Jeonju as experienced by someone born and raised there, in order to keep the city’s true colors alive. As such, I went on an overnight trip and instead of staying at my parent’s place in Hyoja-dong, I decided to stay at a hanok in the Jeonju Hanok Village.

Jeonju is a great destination for a one-night, two-day trip. It’s a small city in terms of population, buildings and its actual size. There are no subways; but taxi fees, even when far, rarely come out to more than 10,000 won. However, must-see places are easy to pass by without insider knowledge and it’s easy to miss some of the hot spots without noticing. So, please don’t think you had a look at the whole city after taking a selfie in front of Jeondong Catholic Cathedral and taking a short walk in the Hanok Village.
The greatest allure of Jeonju is that it becomes so different if you allow yourself some space to explore. A whole new scenery’s out there if you just walk down another alley and cross that bridge. The places I am going to introduce here might be relatively unknown as I didn’t include places you can easily read about online. Instead, these are places that my friends, family and neighbors recommended. I still go to Jeonju once every month, but to be honest, even I learned about a lot of places thanks to this trip. 
Hagindang Hanok
  • Things to do

I wanted to stay at a hanok, because I was at the Hanok Village. I looked up dozens of places online
and many of them seemed to only be a “hanok” on the outside.

Then I found this place—the oldest house in the whole village. I never thought I would be able to stay overnight at this cultural heritage that was built in 1908. Their gate is always closed and you need to make a reservation if you want to visit. This decision was made by the descendants of Baek Nak-joong, the builder of Hagindang Hanok who was a wealthy landlord during the Joseon Dynasty. The hanok’s atmosphere was serene and I walked in the garden and sat down on the floor without caring about a thing. The beautiful garden was right in front of the door and their food, wind and tea made all the old things feel brand new. In the attic, they keep Lee Mi-ja’s LP together with white porcelain china. They also offer cultural programs guided by direct descendants of Baek Nak-joong.

Korea Expressway Corporation Arboretum
  • Travel
“There’s an arboretum in Jeonju?” you might be asking. The answer is: yes. It is not as big as Yeomiji Botanical Garden in Jeju, but this is the only arboretum in Korea built by a public corporation. It started in the ’70s as a seedbed when Korea Expressway Corporation planted seedlings here as a means of conservation. Admission is free and it’s located near the tollgate.
Look down on Jeonju from Chimyeongjasan Mountain

Look down on Jeonju from Chimyeongjasan Mountain

If you want to get a good look at this quiet city, try visiting Chimyeongjasan Mountain and Omokdae Pavilion. It takes ten to twenty minutes to get here from the Hanok Village by foot. Pass Namcheongyo Bridge and near
the Hanok Village shuttle bus parking lot, you will easily spot the entrance. It’s 306m above sea level and you can take in a serene panoramic view of Jeonju after 30-40 minutes of hiking.

Unam Sikdang
  • Restaurants
What actual Jeonju natives enjoy more than bibimbap is gukbap (rice served in soup). The most famous places to get it are Jo Jeom-rye restaurant (in Jeonju Nambu Traditional Market) and Waengijip Kongnamulgukbap restaurant. In the market, there are a lot of places that are less touristy and loved by the locals. Unam Sikdang restaurant, which is right next to Jo Jeomrye restaurant is one of them. True gukbap lovers will notice how they serve a half-boiled egg in a separate dish instead of adding it to the soup. You can have as much rice rice as you want without paying extra.
Mom’s Bread
  • Restaurants
Mom’s Bread began as a small place three years ago in Hyoja-dong and has since opened another shop right behind Gyeonggijeon Shrine in the Jeonju Hanok Village. Try the popular squid ink cream bread and bibimbap bread. 

“Gamaek” all you want

“Gamaek” is a combination of the words for store (ga-gae) and  beer (maek-ju). Jeonil Super is definitely the most famous for their dried pollock, but there are other gameak places just a block away. Yeongdong Super is known for their chicken feet and gizzards. Apparently, film director Hong Sang-soo visited this place too. One of the oldest gaemaek places, Chowon Super, serves chewy grilled pollock with their delicious sauce. They may look simple, but I bet you can't taste their special dishes anywhere else. 

Chowon Super
  • Bars
One of the oldest gaemaek places, Chowon Super, serves chewy grilled pollock with their delicious sauce. They may look simple, but I bet you can't taste their special dishes anywhere else.
Yeongdong Super
  • Bars
Yeongdong Super is known for their chicken feet and wizzards. Apparently, film director Hong Sang-soo visited this place too. 
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