There is something about this time of year. The weather is getting colder and there’s nothing we like more than finding places to hole up while on a weekend trip out of town. It’s the perfect weather to try a hanok homestay and get snuggly and warm with their warm heated floors. Korea is home to many traditional areas, rife with culture, but we would like to highlight some of our favorite cities for anyone looking to experience South Korea by staying in a hanok. Below is an unofficial list of some of Korea’s oldest cities where you’d be sure to find some great hanoks.
Bukcheon Hanok Village
An easy choice for tourists in the capital city. Located near the major tourist areas of Gyeongbokgung and Insadong, Bukcheon is a perfect location to stay in a hanok while visiting the largest city in South Korea. This lovely neighborhood contains a sprawling neighborhood that offers hours of scenic views and beautiful photo opportunities. Many guesthouses are sprawled throughout the Bukcheon Village and several of them have English booking through the site we shared at the bottom. As with hotels, some are far better than others but any of them would be well suited to your traditional stay while in Seoul.
Famous for its bibimbap and hanok village, Jeonju is the perfect place to book a hanok for the night or an extended weekend. Many of the hanoks for rent are near the major tourist attractions, so visitors are sure to have plenty of dining and entertainment opportunities. We have found Jeonju to be the perfect mix of city and tradition. While not too far outside of Seoul, Jeonju will require a small bit of travel but is still out closest recommendation for people wanting to experience a hanok stay outside of Seoul. Accessible via the KTX train, this city has a lot to offer and some beautiful hanoks to stay in.
Suncheon Nagan Folk Village
Probably not found on most travel sites, Nagan Folk Village has a veritable hanok village alongside their ancient fortress grounds. This old, walled city is a great place to spend an afternoon or a full day after checking in to your traditional hanok stay. While probably not the most popular site due to its distant location, nearby Suncheon is a very nice city with many things to see and do if you’re not satisfied with just staying in a hanok house. While not having as many options as some of the other cities, there are still several hanoks located in the traditional area west of town.
One of the most famous cultural cities in South Korea, Gyeongju is north of Busan and offers many things that others on this list do not. While the hanok village is absolutely sprawling, expansive, and stellar, this one also has the distinct advantage of being rural and mountainous. Many villages are larger, but this one is woven throughout the valleys and ridges of Gyeongju’s mountainous surroundings. With many cultural attractions in town, Gyeongju is not a one-trick pony. The burial mounds in town are beautiful, as well as Gyeongju Tower, the lily pond, and a few famous temples are located in and around Gyeongju for when you venture away from your awesome hanok stay.
In our opinion, probably the best place to experience a traditional hanok stay; Andong is famous for being one of the oldest and best preserved cultural areas of Korea. Having one of the largest hanok villages in the Korea, Andong offers many places to stay to travellers as well as one of the most intact functioning hanok villages you’ll find. Located in a beautiful valley with countless cultural sites, Andong is the perfect example of the place you’d rather be when the city becomes too much. I won’t even get into this city’s penchant for the best food in all of Korea, but there are ample other reasons to get our ass to Andong and you’d might as well stay in a hanok while you’re there.
How to Book
Agoda is a great website for booking hotels. They even have a few options for hanok houses depending on the area you are looking to stay at. To sort your options better for a hanok guesthouse, click the “Guesthouse/Bed & Breakfast” option from the accommodation type section on the left side of the page. Be sure to check out the reviews of the place before you book to ensure that the place is up to your expectations.
Booking is another great hotel website for reserving hanok houses around Korea. More hotels and guesthouses use this site than Agoda and therefore you can get a better idea of the rating and reviews. Again, be sure to filter your results by accommodation type by selecting “guesthouse” and “bed & breakfast.”
Korean Tourism Organization
We have occasionally run into the problem where the hotel sometimes doesn’t check their accounts on Booking or Agoda for reservations and we have shown up only to be told that they were already fully booked and couldn’t accept our reservation. That’s why we suggest checking out the Hanokstay booking website through the Korean Tourism Organization. If you right click on the page, you can click “translate page to English” and then browse by region and city. Some of the accommodations allow online booking, others you can email for a reservation, and if all else fails you can simply call and make a reservation. Our hanok owner in Jeonju spoke a bit of broken English and we were able to make a reservation with him over the phone. Be prepared to make a bank transfer (typical Korean style!) to pay for the hanoks that don’t have online booking or provide your credit card information so they can charge you.