10 Cultural Things to do in Gyeongju, South Korea

Gyeongju is the ancient cultural capital of Korea, and it is one of the most beautiful place in the entire country. It is filled with culture, nature, and delicious food. There are so many things to do in Gyeongju, but these are the top things to do in Gyeongju.

Gyeongju has a unique vibe and culture to it that I haven’t seen anywhere else in South Korea.

The city is laid back and feels more rooted in the traditional aspects of Korean life.

Probably because the entire city is one outdoor museum, and you stumble across ancient tombs and structures wherever you’re walking.

Gyeongju may be more traditional than big Korean cities like Seoul and Busan, but it is still a fairly modern city.

It is full of technology and innovation. The city just doesn’t have the skyscrapers you normally associate with a modern city.

And that adds to the charm of it!

A lot of people visit Gyeongju as a day trip from Busan, but there are so many things to do in Gyeongju that you should spend at least two days in the city. Three is better!

Check out my 72-hours in Gyeongju itinerary if you’re trying to figure out the best way to see everything Gyeongju has to offer in a short period of time!

And be sure to read my how to travel from Seoul to Gyeonju article if you’re planning to visit Gyeongju after Seoul!

But enough with the fluff!

You’re here to learn about all the amazing things to do in Gyeongju, so we’re going to jump into that right now!

PS- Don’t forget to check out my wifi in Korea article.

The wifi situation was nothing like I imagined it to be, and I don’t want to you make the same mistakes I did the first time I visited!

1. Bulguska Temple

Bulguska Temple is one of my favourite things to do in Gyeongju, and I make sure I visit it every time I’m in Gyeongju.

The temple was built in 528 BC and is one of the largest and most beautiful relics from the Silla dynasty.

The temple was built by King Beop-heung as a wish to his people for peace and prosperity.

Unfortunately, Bulguska Temple caught fire during the Imjin War from 1592-1598 and become a popular target for theft and vandalism.

Reconstruction began on the temple in 1920, and it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Bulguska Temple and Seokoguram (coming up next on this list!) were two of the first three Korean sites ever designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

That makes visiting Bulguska Temple even more special and incredible.

Bulguska Temple is not just one temple but a series of temples that you can visit. The ground are quite large, so you can easily spend half a day at this one attraction.

There are seven Korean national treasures located in the Bulguska Temple complex, so you know you’re seeing some incredible history when you walk through the ground.

The entrance fee is 6,000 won for adults (about $5USD), and there are small discounts for children and groups.

The temple is open to guests every day, but the opening hours vary depending on the season.

From March to September, it is open from 9am to 5pm, and the rest of the year it opens at 7:30am and closes between 5pm and 5:30pm.

I recommend you get to Bulguska Temple as early as possible.

It is one of the most popular things to do in Gyeongju, and it gets quite busy during peak hours. I normally arrive right when it opens, and it is starting to get quite busy when I leave 3 or 4 hours later.

Bulguksa Temple Gyeongju South Korea

2. Seokguram Grotto

Seokguram Grotto is located walking distance from Bulguska Temple. It is the perfect afternoon adventure after spending the morning at the temple.

Of all the things to do in Gyeongju, Seokguram Grotto was the one that surprised me the most.

I wasn’t expecting much from this attraction, but it blew me away.

Seokguram Grotto is a temple built during the Silla dynasty from 751 BCE to 774 BCE.

It is home to the second most beautiful Buddha statue I’ve ever seen (second only to Fo Guang Shan’s Big Buddha).

Seokguram Grotto’s Buddha statue is built in a chamber underneath a stone dome that was carved to hold the statue. It is a sitting Buddha statue and is over 3.45 meters tall.

The Buddha statue is surrounded by 41 figure sculptures that are arguably the most beautiful in all of Korea.

There is some controversy surrounding Seokguram Grotto though!

The sight was reconstructed by the Japanese during the 20th Century (when Japan occupied Korea), but many Korean scholars say that the Grotto was not reconstructed to reflect the original temple’s design.

Even worse, since the reconstruction, Seokguram Grotto has suffered from humidity problems, and the sculptures are being damaged from that.

There have been protections put in place to limit the damage being done to the carvings.

There is a glass wall separating guests from the Buddha statue and carvings and only a certain number of people are allowed into the enclosed space at one time.

You also aren’t allowed to take pictures of the inside of Seokguram Grotto.

The entrance fee to view Seokguram Grotto is 5,000 won (approximately $4USD), and there are discounts for young people and children.

I can honestly say that this was the best 5,000 won I spent in Gyeongju.

Seokguram Grotto is absolutely incredible, and no trip to Gyeongju is complete without visiting it!

In all the things to do in Gyeongju, this is without a doubt my favourite and the one thing I would recommend everybody do no matter how long they’re in the city for!

Seokguram Grotto Gyeongju South Korea

3. Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond

Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond is one of the most beautiful places in Gyeongju.

Especially when it is lit up at night!

It was used as a secondary palace by the crown prince of the Silla dynasty, and banquets were frequently held there.

Interestingly, the sight used to be called Anapji. The name changed when excavators found a piece of pottery with the work “wolji” carved into it. Wolji means “a pond that reflects the moon”, which is exactly what the pond at the palace does.

Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond is absolutely gorgeous!

The palace itself isn’t anything spectacular, but the nature surrounding it is. The greenery and pond are breathtaking. It is especially gorgeous at night when the palace lights reflect on the pond.

By the way, did you know that the pond is man made?!

The entrance fee is 3,000 won (approximately $2.50USD) for adults. There are small discounts for teenagers and children. Groups also receive a small discount.

Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond is open year round! It opens at 9am and closes at 10pm with last admission 30 minutes before closing.

This is the most popular thing to do in Gyeongju at night. It gets very busy, so you’ll want to arrive early in the evening to avoid the huge crowds.

It is well worth fighting those crowds though! This is for sure the most Instagramable place in Gyeongju!

Donggung Palace and Wolji Pong Gyeongju South Korea

4. Mount Namsan

It is well known that South Korea is home to a lot of gorgeous nature and hiking trails. There are hikes near pretty much every city, and Gyeongju is no exception!

Mount Namsan is inside Gyeongju National Park and is the perfect thing to do in Gyeongju if you’re looking to get away from the city and explore some nature.

Gyeongju National Park is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to seven different mountains, but Mount Namsan is the most famous and most popular one.

Mount Namsan is not your ordinary hike.

It is home to over 100 temples, 80 Buddha statues, and 60 stone pagodas. The mountain was an important part of the Silla dynasty, and you can see relics from this period nearly everywhere you look.

It truly is an open-air museum!

The most popular thing to see on Mount Namsan is the Seven Buddha Hermitage.

It is located at the top of Bonghwa Valley. This hiking route takes you past a number of stone Buddha carvings and ends at a very small temple.

The monk who runs the temple is very friendly, and he often invites hikers to enjoy a cup of tea with him before they continue on their way. His English isn’t the best, but you don’t need to be able to speak to feel his warmth and kindness.

The hiking paths on Mount Namsan are well marked and well maintained.

They are easy to navigate and safe- even if you’re a solo traveller.

Mount Namsan is one of the few free things to do in Gyeongju, which adds to its appeal.

You may be asked to provide your name and phone number before you start hiking as a safety precaution in case of wild fires and other potential unforeseeable events.

It is so nice to get out of the city and take in the fresh mountain air. Mount Namsan is the perfect combination of nature, history, and culture all packed into one amazing day!

Mount Namsan Gyeongju South Korea

5. Tumuli Park

Tumuli Park is one of the most fun things to do in Gyeongju. You can’t miss it!

Tumuli are small hills that are deceiving because they aren’t actually hills.

They are graves.

And not just any graves. They are the graves of the most prestigious men and women from the Silla Dynasty.

If you didn’t know the mounds were graves, you would just think Gyeongju has some weird hills. And a lot of them.

You can find graves all around Gyeongju, but Tumuli Park is the only place you can go inside a tomb!

Cheonmachong tomb is one of the most famous tombs from the Silla Dynasty, and it is open to the public to enter.

What you encounter inside the tomb is seriously surprising!

I certainly didn’t expect it to be as large as it was or as intricate.

I’m not going to spoil anything, but going inside this tomb is an essential activity when you’re in Gyeongju!

There are tons of other things to see in Tumuli Park outside of Cheongmachong tomb.

There are gorgeous walking paths through the park, a few praying areas, and some lovely flowers and green spaces. You can easily spend two or more hours wandering through the park and experiencing all it has to offer!

Please be respectful of the rules when you’re visiting Tumuli Park.

You’re not allowed to walk on the graves, and it is best to stay on the marked path. This goes for anywhere in Gyeongju you see a grave.

There is a small entrance fee of 1,500 won (approximately $1.30USD).

It is a small price to pay to go inside an ancient tomb.

Tumuli Park and Cheongmachong tomb are two of the most unique things to do in Gyeongju!

Tumil Park Gyeongju South Korea

6. Indulge in the Local Food and Drink

South Korea is known for its incredible food, and Gyeongju is no different.

In fact, Gyeongju takes the delicious tastes one step further because it has its own regional bread.

It it absolutely delicious and not to be missed when in Gyeongju.

The bread is commonly referred to as “Gyeongju bread”, and you can find it pretty much anywhere in the city.

This yummy treat is more of a small pastry than it is bread, but no matter what you call it, it is the perfect afternoon snack.

Outside of the famous Gyeongju bread, there is tons of delicious food to be had.

There are traditional Korean restaurants, pizza and tacos restaurants, over-the-top cafes, and a couple of vegan restaurants.

Korea has an amazing coffee shop culture, so you need to stop by (at least) one cafe for quick break from exploring all the things to do in Gyeongju.

I’m personally obsessed with matcha lattes and find myself in a cafe people watching pretty much everyday when I’m in Korea.

No regrets!

No matter what your food and beverage preferences, I guarantee you’ll find something delicious you fall in love with!

Bibimbap South Korea

7. Gyeongju National Museum

I’m a sucker for museums and tend to visit nearly every one I encounter on my travels (especially when entrance is fee!).

I’ve been to hundreds of museums around the world, and the Gyeongju National Museum is one of the ones that surprised me the most!

It is incredibly well curated and super interesting. You learn so much without getting that bored museum you can get after reading one too many dry descriptions written in tiny font.

(Even this museum lover feels that way fairly often.)

The Gyeongju National Museum walks you through ancient Korean history with a heavy focus on the Silla Dynasty. Makes sense since Gyeongju is the ancient capital of the Silla Dynasty!

The museum also discusses the excavation process and touches on more modern Korean history.

There is also an outdoor display where you can view relics from the Silla Dynasty that are too large to be held inside!

The best part of the museum is that it is free to enter!

A lot of the things to do in Gyeongju come with a (small) entrance fee, so it is nice to be able to visit the Gyeongju National Museum without having to pay.

It is is the perfect activity for people on a tight budget or on days when the weather is less desirable.

Gyeongju National Museum

8. Woljeonggyo Bridge

Wolijeongggyo Bridge is one of less than a thousand covered bridges remaining in the world. It is truly an incredible sight to see and not something you’ll commonly come across in your travels.

The bridge is located right next to Gyonchon Traditional Village, which was a contender to make this list but just missed the cut.

You should stop by the village when you visit Woljeonggyo Bridge! It is a traditional village where you can see how Koreans lived in the past. It is really cool but not as elaborate as the traditional villages in Seoul and Busan.

The bridge was originally constructed in the 19th Century, but it, unfortunately, didn’t survive. It was rebuilt quite a few years later based on extensive research to ensure the reconstructed bridge is as true to the original bridge as possible.

The best part of Woljeonggyo Bridge is that you can climb up the four towers that anchor it to the ground.

There is a staircase in each of the four towers, and you get a great view of Gyeongju and Gyonchon Traditional Village.

The bridge is lit up at night, so that is the best time to go if you’re looking for the perfect Instagram photo. There is a stone pathway in the water under the bridge where you can get the best photos.

Just be sure you don’t fall in the water when walking between the stones!

There is no entrance fee to visit the bridge, and it is open daily from 9am to 6pm if you want to climb the towers.

Gyeongju is full of unique things to do, and visiting a covered bridge of this size (it is massive) is definitely on that list!

Woljeonggyo Bridge Gyeongju South Korea

9. Vist an Excavation Site

Gyeongju is known as an open-air museum. Everywhere you turn you stumble on something historical you didn’t expect.

There are so many ongoing excavation sites in the city that you’re bound to stumble on one or two when you’re walking around the city centre.

Most excavation sites have viewing areas where you can walk up some stairs they set up, so you can see over the barrier around the excavation. A number of the most important excavation sites have information on a sign where you can read and learn about what they are unearthing!

You literally get to watch history being uncovered in Gyeongju!

You never know what you’ll see when you’re walking around Gyeongju. The last time I was there they were working on uncovering an ancient king’s small palace.

There are even tombs being excavated where they set up a dome around it, and you can view the tomb from above.

It is an incredible experience!

When you’re wandering around Gyeongju and come across something that looks interesting, take the time to stop and learn about what it is.

You never know what you’ll come across, and it may be one of the best parts of your trip!

Excavation Site Gyeongju South Korea

10. Cheomseongdae Observatory

Cheomseaongdae means stargazing in Korea, and the observatory in Gyeongju is the oldest exciting astronomical tower in Asia! It may even be the oldest existing astronomical tower in the world, but that hasn’t been confirmed 100% yet.

And it is just sitting in the middle of a park filled with tumuli graves.

You could easily walk past Cheonmseongdae Observatory and not realize and appreciate its historical importance. It is truly a no-fuss tourist attraction!

The observatory was constructed during Queen Seon-deok’s reign from 632BCE to 647BCE. The exact dates aren’t widely known, but we do know that it is hella old and incredibly important historically.

Cheomseongdae Observatory stand just over 9 meters tall and is 30cm in diameter. It isn’t huge, but it is an important sight to visit in Gyeongju nonetheless.

The observatory has 27 levels inside, but the first 12 are filled with soil.

You can’t go inside the observatory (for obvious reasons), but you’re able to walk around the exterior and take photos of it.

You’re bound to naturally stumble on the observatory when you’re visiting all the other things to do in Gyeongju, and when you do, be sure you take the time to marvel at it!

Cheomseongdae Observatory Gyeongju South Korea

A Quick Note on Internet Safety

No matter where you are in the world, when you connect to a public wifi network, you’re opening yourself to having your data stolen.

And nobody wants to deal with the consequences of having their online data stolen and sold.

It could be as harmless as getting targeted ads that make you feel spied on, but you could also have your banking information stolen.

That happened to a friend on mine when she was travelling, and it is no fun trying to cancel all your bank cards when you’re outside your home country (or city).

The easiest way to prevent having your data stolen is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network).

A VPN puts up an invisible forcefield around your data, so you’re the only one who can see what you’re doing online.

It is the only way to keep your data 100% private when you’re using public wifi.

That includes hotel wifi that is password protected too!

I personally use NordVPN and have been using them for years now. They are the only VPN that doesn’t slow down your device to a crawl while keeping your data secure and private.

NordVPN often (basically all the time!) has huge sales, and you can get your VPN for up to 70% off.

With the inexpensive prices that NordVPN offers, there is no excuse to not have a VPN protecting you and your online data wherever you are in the world!

Don’t forget to check out my wifi in Korea post to learn everything you need to know about using wifi in Korea as a tourist.

It may surprise you!

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a lot of cultural things to do in Gyeongju. I would argue that Gyeongju is the place to visit in Korea if you’re looking to learn about the country’s ancient history and get a better understanding of how Korea became the nation it is now.

There are many other things to do in Gyeongju, but I think the items on this list are the most important things to do if you want to appreciate the city’s history and culture.

I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with Gyeongju, but I did.

It is now one of the cities I recommend everybody visit in Korea. You leave Gyeongju with a deeper appreciate of all of Korea, and it is unlike anywhere else in the country.

How to Get From Seoul to Gyeongju

Seoul and Gyeongju are two of the most popular cities for tourists to visit while in South Korea. Many tourists travel from Seoul to Gyeongju and then onto Busan (that is the route I took).

Travelling within Korea is incredibly simple and easy for tourists, and the trip from Seoul to Gyeongju is no exception!

There are three main ways to get to Gyeongju from Seoul: train, bus, and plane. This post will take you through the three main modes of transportation from Seoul to Gyeongju. It will also help you choose what transportation option is best for you!

Getting to Gyeongju by Train

Types of Trains and Where They Stop in Gyeongju

There are two different types of train in Korea. The slow trains are called Seamaeul, and the fast trains are called KTX.

Both the Seamaeul and KTX stop in Gyeongju. There are, however, two different stations in Gyeongju.

The KTX stops of Singyeongju Station, which is approximately 3km from Gyeongju City Centre.

The Seamaeul stops at Gyeongju Station right in the heart of the city.

You may want to look into get a Korail pass if you’re planning on taking a day trip to Gyeongju from Seoul or using the intercity train frequently during your visit to Korea.

Bulguksa Temple Gyeongju South Korea

The KTX and Getting Off at Singyeongju Station

The KTX is the quickest train option and doesn’t require a transfer. It only takes approximately 2 hours from Seoul to Singyeongju. The KTX to Singyeongju Station from Seoul costs 40000 Won or $34USD.

You can purchase tickets at Seoul Station on the day you depart or buy them online from the Korean Rail website. I recommend using the website to purchase your ticket. It is easy to use, and you’ll be sure to have your ticket in advance in case it is busy and fully booked on the day you want to depart. The website is in Korean, but you can use the translation feature in Chrome to easily convert the webpage to English.

If you purchase tickets at Seoul Station, you are able to purchase them either at a ticket machine or at a manned ticket counter. The machine has the option of purchasing tickets in English, and the staff at the ticket counter should be able to speak basic English. So you don’t have to worry about a language barrier. You will be able to purchase your ticket easily without having to use a translator.

You can book first class or economy tickets. Economy seats are quite nice, so you don’t need to splurge to upgrade to first class if you’re on a tight budget.

Be sure to print your ticket if you purchase it online as you are required to have a paper ticket when boarding the train. A mobile ticket is not accepted.

Getting to Gyeongju from Singyongju Station

Once you get off the KTX, you have to take a city bus to Gyeongju city centre. The bus rides is approximately 15 minutes, and you are able to use your transportation card if you got one in Seoul.

You can get on the following buses:

  • 50
  • 60
  • 61
  • 70
  • 203
  • 700

The bus fare is 1300 Won or $1.10USD. You get a 50 Won discount if using your transportation card!

You can ask the bus driver to drop you off at Express Bus Terminal (Gosok Teominal) if you aren’t certain where exactly your hotel is. The bus station has wifi that you can connect to, so you can pull up Google Maps and figure out how to get to your hotel.

The Express Bus Terminal is centrally located, so you shouldn’t have that far of a walk to your accommodation if you’re staying in the heart of Gyeongju.

You will probably need to catch another local bus if you are staying outside the city centre.

Taking a taxi is also another option if you have a lot of luggage or don’t want to take the bus. Taxis are very inexpensive in Korea (especially compared to nearby Japan!), so taking a taxi into the city centre won’t cut into your budget too much.

Getting from Seoul to Gyeongju by Using a Combination of the KTX and Seamaeul Trains

If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of taking a bus from Singyeongju Station into the city, there is another train option available to you.

You take the KTX from Seoul to Dongdaegu then transfer to a slow Seamaeul train from Dongdaegu to Gyeongju Station, which is located right in the heart of the city. You can easily walk anywhere in the city centre from Gyeongju Station!

This is personally the way I got from Seoul to Gyeongju. It was easy, relatively fast, and convenient.

The Practical Information You Need to Know if You Choose This Method

There are a few things you should know before embarking on this route. Hopefully I’ll be able to anticipate all your questions and give you all the information you’re looking for!

  • The total trip, including the time it takes to transfer from one train to the next, is about 3 hours. It isn’t much longer than taking the KTX all the way to Singyeongju.
  • It costs 4700 Won (about $38USD) for the entire trip. This method is slightly more expensive than the KTX, but it drops you off at Gyeongju Station, so you don’t have to deal with getting from outside the city to the city centre like you do on the KTX.
  • The second train from Dongdaegu Station to Gyeongju Station is small and doesn’t have designated luggage storage. I put my luggage behind my seat because I was sitting at the back, but this could be a problem for groups with a lot of luggage.
  • Making the transfer is incredibly easy. All the gates are clearly marked in both Korean and English, so it is easy to determine where you need to catch the second train. There are also audio announcements in both languages.
Gyeongbokgung Palace Seoul South Korea how to get from Seoul to Gyeongju

Once You Arrive at Gyeongju Station

Gyeongju Station is in the heart of the city center, but it is on the opposite side of the city center as the Express Bus Station. It is just as easy to walk to your hotel and most Gyeongju attractions from the train station as it is from the bus terminal. But it is definitely something to be aware of when you’re making plans.

You shouldn’t need to transfer to a local bus to get to your hotel if you arrive at Gyeongju Station. Most hotels are less than a 15 minute walk away from the train station. When you exit the station, you will most likely need to walk down the main street in front of you, and your hotel should be somewhere along the way!

There is luggage storage at Gyeongju Station if you need to store your luggage for any reason. The cost is around 1000 Won or $1USD, so it is very affordable.

So What Train Should You Take from Seoul to Gyeongju?

This is a difficult question to answer because everybody has their own preferences on how they like to travel. Taking the KTX or a combination of the fast and slow train both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Taking the KTX

  • It is an hour quicker
  • The ticket costs slightly less than the combination method
  • There is designated luggage storage for the entire journey

Disadvantages of Taking the KTX

  • You have to get off a few kilometers out of Gyeongju and take a different form of transportation to the city center/your hotel
  • You may be forced to take a taxi rather than a local bus if you have a lot of luggage

Advantages of Taking the Train Combination Method

  • The train drops you off right in the city center
  • You can walk to your hotel/Gyeongju attractions

Disadvantages of Taking the Train Combination Method

  • The ticket is slightly more expensive, and the journey takes an hour longer
  • No designated luggage storage on the second train
  • You have to transfer trains, and this may make some travelers nervous

What Would I Recommend?

I personally prefer transferring trains in Dongdaegu and getting of at Gyeongju Station rather than Singyeongju Station.

I enjoy being able to walk to where I am staying and not having to worry about dealing with my luggage on a public bus, which can be quite busy at times if you arrive during peak transportation hours.

But I also understand the appeal of not having to transfer from one train to another and having a shorter journey time. Taking the KTX train directly from Seoul to Gyeongju is perfect for people who are only taking a day trip or don’t enjoy a slow pace of travel like I do.

So, really, either option is a great option. I know it is annoying to not get a definitive option, but it really comes down to what works best for you. Both train routes have their pros and cons, and you have to decide which is best for you.

No matter which route you take, you will have a quick, comfortable, and safe journey. The train system in Korea is great!

The Bus from Seoul to Gyeongju

From Seoul City Centre

Taking the bus from Seoul to Gyeongju is by far the most cost-effective method. But it is also the longest. The bus costs 20400 Won (about $20USD) and takes 3 hours and 45 minutes. This is assuming there is no traffic. If you run into a traffic jam, your journey could be much longer!

The bus leaves from the Seoul Express Bus Terminal and arrives at the Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal. They depart approximately even 40 minutes, so it is great for travellers who like to wing things and not have to book ahead. You can just show up and wait for the next bus.

Buses is Korea are quite nice. They are comfortable and always clean, so that is a nice bonus! The buses are equipped with shades at each window, so you can easily keep the sun out of your eyes. Most buses also have USB charging stations at each seat, so you don’t have to worry about running out of battery on your device!

If you choose to take the bus, you will have a comfortable and carefree journey!

From Incheon International Airport

You also have the option of taking a limousine bus directly from Incheon International Airport to Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal. This is great for people who are landing in Korea and need to go directly to Gyeongju without stopping in Seoul first.

The fare is 39000 Won ($33USD), and the trip takes approximately 5 hours. The buses from from just after midnight until 9:30pm, so you are able to catch a bus basically no matter when you land.

Technically, it could be faster to take a limousine bus into Seoul and then get on the KTX train, but that is a bit of a hassle. It is nice to have the option of getting on a bus right at the airport and not having to get off until you reach Gyeongju.

Is Taking the Bus to Gyeongju Worth It?

I personally don’t think taking the bus is the best option. It is the least expensive option, but it is also the longest option. To me, it is worth paying a little bit more to take the train and cut a few hours from the journey time.

You are only paying $10-15USD more to take the train over the bus, so you’re not saving much money by taking the slower option. The difference in price isn’t worth sitting on a bus for a few extra hours compared to the train.

That being said, I think taking the bus straight from the airport to Gyeongju Station is a great option. It is far more convenient than taking the bus into Seoul and then transferring to a train.

Anapji Pond Gyeongju South Korea 72-Hours in Gyeongju

Flying from Seoul to Gyeongju

The final option to get from Seoul to Gyeongju is to fly. You fly from Seoul to Busan and take a bus from Busan to Gyeongju. Yeah, it is a bit of a trip.

You fly from either Incheon Airport or Gimpo Airport in Seoul and land in Gimhae Airport in Busan. A one-way flight is normally less than $75USD. The flight takes an hour, so it is quick and easy!

You can take a bus directly from Gimhae Airport to Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal. It costs 11000 Won or approximately $8USD. The bus ride takes an hour, and the bus leaves the airport 20 times a day. The first bus leaves at 6:45am, and the last bus leaves at 10:45pm.

Taking a flight is, obviously, the most expensive and time consuming way to get from Seoul to Gyeongju. You need to get to the airport early enough to get through security, fly from Seoul to Busan, get out of the airport, and catch the bus from the airport to Gyeongju. Once you add up all that time, it ends up being longer than taking the bus.

Should You Take a Flight to Gyeongju?

I wouldn’t recommend taking a flight from Seoul to Gyeongju to the average traveler. The only people I could see this being a good option for people who are flying into Korea and landing in Seoul and needing to go Gyeongju right away.

If you’re already at the airport, it might be more convenient to get on another flight rather than getting on a bus. That, of course, would depend on how long you would have to wait to get on a flight to Gyeongju and if flying is worth the added cost.

I personally would still take a bus from the airport in Seoul to Gyeongju, but that is just my preference. I prefer taking ground transportation over flying whenever possible. You may find it easier to fly rather than take the bus.

So What is the Best Way to Get to Gyeongju to Seoul?

Now it is time to answer the question you have been waiting for. Which of the three methods should you use to get from Seoul to Gyeongju?

I think it is pretty obvious from the article so far, but I think the train is the best way to get from Seoul to Gyeongju.

It is the quickest and is also relatively inexpensive. The best of both worlds! The fact that it only costs a few more dollars than the bus and takes a lot less time than the bus. It is also far more convenient than flying- especially if you’re already in the city of Seoul and not the airport.

As previously discussed, both train options are great, and it really depends on your preference on which option you choose. No matter which train route you take, it will be superior to either the bus or a plane.

Gyeongbokgung Palace Seoul

Conclusion

To end, I want to reiterate how amazing of a city Gyeongju is. I highly recommend making the trip from Seoul to Gyeongju. It is relatively quick, and Gyeongju is so different from Seoul that it is almost like being in a different country.

Gyeongju is one of my favourite cities in Korea, and I would recommend it to anybody who is looking for recommendations on where to visit in Korea.

As you learnt in this article, it is extremely easy and quick to get from Seoul to Gyeongju, so there is no reason for you not to make the trip!

72-Hours in Gyeongju Itinerary

Gyeongju is Korea’s ancient capital. It was the capital of Korea during the Silla Kingdom, which lasted over 1,000 years. Since it is the ancient capital, it is filled with historical sights that can’t be found anywhere else.

Often people visit Gyeongju on a day trip from Seoul. I, however, believe it deserves to be explored for multiple days. There are so many historical sights to see that it would be a shame to rush your time in the city and feel as if you missed out.

This 3 day Gyeongju itinerary allows you to see the best the city has to offer while not feeling too rushed. You also get to visit some of the lesser known places in Gyeongju!

Anapji Pond Gyeongju South Korea 72-Hours in Gyeongju

Getting to Gyeongju

From Seoul

Getting to Gyeongju from Seoul is very simple. You will take a train from Seoul station to Dongdaegu. At Dongdaegu you will transfer to another train that will take you all the way to Gyeongju.

The entire trip (including the transfer) takes approximately 3 hours. Tickets can be booked online here. You need a physical copy of your ticket, so you will need to print your ticket rather than saving a copy of it to your phone.

Trains in Korea are simple to use, and they run on time. Be sure to arrive at the train station at least 30 minutes before you depart. This will allow you enough time to find your gate and go to your platform before the train arrives.

It is important to note that there are two train stations near Gyeongju. Do not get off at Singyeongju Station. This station is 2km from the heart of Gyeongju and will require you taking a bus into the city. The next stop will be at Gyeongju station. Get off there, and you will be able to walk to wherever you are staying.

For a more in-depth explanation of how to get from Seoul to Gyeongju, check out this article. It covers all the different ways you get travel between the cities and the pros and cons of each method.

From Busan

Travelling from Busan is even easier than from Seoul. There is frequent bus service between Busan and Gyeongju. The trip takes anywhere between 40 and 60 minutes. The buses run very frequently, so you can show up at the bus depot at anytime during the day without having to wait too long before the next bus leaves.

You will either be dropped off at the train station or the bus depot depending on what bus you take. They are both centrally-located, so you can walk to your hotel no matter which bus stop you are dropped off at.

Cheonmachong Tomb Gyeonju South Korea 72-Hours in Gyeonju

Where to Stay

Gyeongju has lots of unique hotel options, and there is something for everybody.

Day One

Morning

Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond

To start off this Gyeongju itinerary, you’ll visit Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond. Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond were the prince’s palace during the Silla Kingdom. The palace was forgotten after the Silla Kingdom came to an end. In 1974 the palace was excavated, and it eventually was opened to the public.

Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond are located just outside the heart of the city. You can take buses 12 or 603 to reach the palace, or you can walk (it is less than 2km from the city centre).

The entrance fee is less than $2USD at the time of writing. This makes it an incredible value because the palace and pond are stunning. Be sure to take your time and walk all the way around the pond. The trees and flowers surrounding the pond add to the beauty.

Your visit will last anywhere between 45 and 120 minutes depending on how much of the information you read and how quickly you walk around the pond.

Gyeonju D√ľngung Palace and Wolke Pond  South Korea 72-Hours in Gyeongju

Afternoon/Evening

Gyeongju National Museum

The Gyeongju National Museum is where you can learn about the Silla Kingdom and Korean history. It is also free to visit. It features both indoor and outdoor exhibits that include history and artwork from the region.

The museum is best known for showcasing the Divine Bell of King Seongdeok, which is a national treasure. You could easily spend upwards of 4 hours at the museum if you take the time to explore every exhibit in depth.

I feel like the museum is missed by a lot of tourists who visit Gyeongju. I think it deserves a lot more love than it gets, and that is why I’ve included it on my Gyeongju itinerary!

Divine Bell of King Seongdeok Gyeongju National Museum Gyeongju South Korea 72-Hours in Gyeongju

Eat Traditional Food

Gyeongju has delicious food. No matter what neighbourhood you are in, you will be able to find somewhere to sample traditional Korean food. There is a mixture of street food vendors, food markets, restaurants, and pubs for you to check out.

Gyeongju is known for their bread. Gyeongju bread is the most famous type of bread, but it really more like a bite-sized pastry. You can find it at any bakery, some street food vendors, and often at restaurants as well. So be sure not to miss this speciality treat when in Gyeongju.

Korean Food Gyeongju South Korea 72-Hours in Gyeongju

Day Two

Morning

Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa Temple is an ancient Buddhist temple that was built during the Silla Kingdom. It and Seokguram Grotto were the first two Korean sights given UNESCO World Heritage Sight status in 1995. Thus is an important part of Korean history.

You can take buses 10, 11, or 700 to reach the temple. Keep in mind that it takes approximately 45-60 minutes on the bus to reach the temple from the city centre, so plan accordingly. The temple is always busy, so it is best to try to get there shortly after it opens.

The entrance fee is approximately $5USD at the time of writing. This makes it one of the most expensive sights in Gyeongju, but it is worth the price.

The temple is located in the mountains and consists of multiple pavilions. Pick up a guide map as you enter the temple because there isn’t much English information in the temple.

It will take you a minimum of two hours to explore the temple, but I recommend you budget three or four hours for exploring.

This is by far the most popular destination in Gyeongju and is on every Gyeongju itinerary you’ll come across, so you’ll want to make sure you get there early to beat the crowds!

And don’t forget to bring your camera! Bulguksa Temple is one of the most Instagrammable places in Korea!

Bulguska Temple Gyeongju South Korea 72-Hours in Gyeongju

Afternoon

Seokguram Grotto

After you’re done exploring Bulguksa Temple, head to Seokguram Grotto. It is home to a 1,000 year old stone Buddha that was not rediscovered until 1909! This is a must-do when you’re in Gyeongju.

To get to Seokguram Grotto from Bulguska Temple you can either walk or take bus number 12. If you are walking, be sure to exit from the main gate as that is where the walking path is located.

The walk is approximately 2.5km through the forest, but it is mostly uphill. Do not walk if you are in poor physical health as it can be a bit strenuous at times. The walk is scenic though.

The entrance fee is approximately $5USD at the time of writing. Once you enter the sight, you will walk through some of the forest then up some stairs to the building the buddha is located. Pictures are not allowed.

Visiting Seokguram Grotto does not take very long because the sight consists of only the one building. However, visiting Seokguram Grotto could take 2-3 hours if you choose to walk up and down the mountain.

Getting Back to Gyeongju

How you get back to Gyeonju will depend if you walk back down to Bulguska Temple after your visit, or if you take the bus. The walk down is relatively easy, so even if you took the bus to Seokguram Grotto, you may want to consider walking back to the temple.

If you don’t want to walk down, take bus 12 and get off at the stop for Bulguska Temple. Once you’re back at Bulguska Temple (whether you walked or took the bus), take bus 10, 11, or 700 back to Gyeongju city centre. It is important that you get on the bus on the same side of the street as you got off the bus. If you get on the bus on the wrong side of the street, you will be going in the wrong direction. The bus ride will take approximately 45-60 minutes to reach the centre of Gyeongju.

Bulguksa Temple Gyeongju South Korea 72-Hours in Gyeongju

Day Three

Morning

Tumuli Park

Gyeongju is home to tombs from the Silla Kingdom. Somebody that isn’t aware of the tombs would think that Gyeongju is unnaturally hilly, but the “hills” are in fact burial tombs of the Silla elite and wealthy.

Tumuli Park contains the largest number of tombs. The entrance fee is approximately $2USD at the time of writing.

The park is home to the most famous Silla tomb in Korea called Cheonmachong. Cheonmachong means sky horse. The tomb got its name because there was a beautiful painting of a horse inside the tomb.

As part of your admission fee, you are able to go inside Cheonmachong to see what the inside of tomb looks like. Tumuli park has a circular pathway for visitors to walk along, and Cheonmachong is located near the main entrance on a side path, so be sure you don’t miss it!

The entire complex is incredibly interesting. There aren’t many English signs, so you will have to do you own research to learn more about the tombs. It is worth the effort though.

There is a double hill in the park. This is actually two tombs as one. A man and wife were both buried there, and their mounds have created one large hill with a dip in the middle.

I spent three hours in the park looking at the tombs. It is incredibly peaceful and makes for a great place to relax while still taking in the sights.

You must respect the rules while you are in the park (and in Gyeongju as a whole). This means that you do not walk on or climb the tombs. It is extremely disrespectful, and if you are caught, a large fine.

Cheonmachong Tomb Gyeongju South Korea 72-Hours in Gyeongju

Afternoon

Explore the Rest of Central Gyeongju

Central Gyeongju has a number of other sights worth visiting. You will stumble upon one sight after the next when you’re walking around the central part of the city after visiting the tombs.

Some sights you should be on the lookout for are:

  • Cheomseongdae Observatory: This is a star gazing tower that was built in the 7th Century. It is thought to be the oldest star gazing tower in East Asia. You can’t go inside the tower, so you will only be able to look at it while walking by and read the information provided.
  • Gyochon Traditional Village: Here you are able to see what traditional Korean buildings look like. This neighbourhood is filled with traditional buildings that have been converted into stores and cafes. It gives you a good sense of what Korea looked like years ago. It does close early, so you may want to stop there early in the afternoon.
  • Wolijeonggyo Bridge: This is one of my personal favourite sights in Gyeongju. It is a bridge that was built in the 8th Century during the unified Silla period. You are able to see the bridge from Gyochon. On both sides of the bridge you can climb to the top section and get a magnificent view of the city.
Woljeonggyo Bridge Gyeongju South Korea 72-Hours in Gyeongju

Conclusion

Gyeongju is full of sights. You need more than a day trip if you want to experience all the city has to offer.

For anybody interested in Korean history or traditional architecture, Gyeongju is the place for you. Most of the sights are well-curated and allow you to understand the history behind the places you visit.

Korea is a modern country, but it is important to take the time to learn about its history, so you can appreciate how it developed into the country it is today. Gyeongju is the complete opposite of Seoul. It is filled with short buildings, open park spaces, and it has a relaxed pace and atmosphere.

Make sure you put Gyeongju on your itinerary on your next trip to Korea. It is an amazing city.