Jeonju is a cultural gem in the middle of South Korea. Known for its traditional architecture and raw beef bibimbap, this old city has been rejuvenated by modern upgrades and remains one of Korea’s most popular destinations. A walk through this city can be crowded at times, but it’s easy to see why so many people pilgrimage to this tile-roofed Mecca. We’ve visited Jeonju several times and are always happy to return, as it is truly one of the greatest cities in South Korea. Frankly, we’re pretty dumbfounded to realize that we’ve never dedicated a post to this beautiful city before now!
Jeonju isn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, a newly discovered destination. It is, however, about to come alive with color as Korea finishes summer and enters into autumn. With the colors changing and the hillsides surrounding Jeonju turning brilliant warm colors, we recommend anyone waiting to see Jeonju, or simply needing an excuse to return to make your plans now! We’ve been to Jeonju in every season and Fall is easily the most beautiful and well-suited (visually) to the traditional architecture for which Jeonju is known. This city is always an enjoyable destination, but fall is especially beautiful. Below we’ve come up with our top reasons to see Jeonju, especially in this upcoming season.
1. The Hanok Village
Among the cobbled streets and food stalls lining the Hanok Village of Jeonju, every visitor is sure to find the charm of this great city. Jeonju’s Hanok Village is easily recognized as one of the most common destinations in Korea outside of Seoul and Busan, and any length of visit will show why. The tiled-roofs of a bygone era are kept alive in this sprawling neighborhood and this style can be seen in almost any direction while in the city. From several lookout points and elevated cafes, visitors to Jeonju can get an elevated and special perspective of the city’s picturesque landscape. Back down on the street, a world of food, art, and music awaits.
More information: Let’s go to… Jeonju!
The hanok houses aren’t just beautiful, though, as many are able to be reserved as lodging. Staying the night in one of these iconic Korean homes is a great way to get in touch with Jeonju. Beyond the hanok, the streets of this village are literally lined with beautiful tea houses, souvenir shops, and traditional Korean games dating back to the dynastic ages, as well as several national heritage sites where tourists can deepen their understanding of Korean history in the area.
More information: Hanokstay Guide
3. Jeonju Bibimbap
Being a fairly traditional city steeped in heritage, visitors to Jeonju would be remiss for avoiding certain staples of Jeonju culture. First, the bibimbap is a must. While this national dish is well loved from every corner of this country, Jeonju’s is the most revered. Some people might have some apprehension about raw red meats, but anyone who’s had it before can attest to its safety and incredible taste. There are dozens of opportunities to taste this special regional dish, so don’t get too upset when you see the crowds lined up for the most popular restaurants.
To cap off a trip to Jeonju, we suggest renting some traditional clothing from one of the many shops near the Hanok Village. Worn for ceremonial attire since the Joseon Era, this type of clothing (which simply translates into “Korean Clothes”) is a colorful homage to Korea’s past as much as the nearby buildings and architecture in Jeonju. Photo opportunities abound in this wonderful city, and renting hanbok for a few hours is a very cheap way to make the photos special. While in town, you’re sure to see flocks of friends and couples scouring the city for photos while wearing hanbok, or playing traditional Korean games.
5. The Makgeolli Hut with FREE FOOD
Without reservation, we know the greatest makgeolli hut in existence and it’s located in Jeonju. Why is this place so special? With purchase of makgeolli, you are served endless food FOR FREE. Many restaurants across Korea will bring you side dishes with your makgeolli order, but this “Mak-Hut” goes above and beyond. Not only do they serve delicious regional rice wine, but their food is exceptional and in quantities we’ve nowhere else experienced. Essentially, you order some wine and get a free, delicious meal.
We won’t list out every single dish we’ve been served at the Jeonju Mak-Hut, but know beforehand that this story omits many masterfully crafted and abundantly portioned dishes. I can’t stress enough how much food you get to accompany your makgeolli. Generally they’ve served us our first kettle of with standard fare of kimchi and tofu, some sprouts, and some pickled radishes. As the “mak” keeps flowing, however, the dishes continue like 8-10 minute clockwork, escalating into full crab entrees, pajeon, soups, marinated rib meat (galbi), and dozens the makgeolli has erased from my memory.
The key to the Mak-Hut is three-fold: pacing, teamwork, and safety. With the right game plan and enough people joining in, a trip to the Mak-Hut can easily fill your afternoon and evening. Be sure to be safe and plan for a ride afterwards, as it’s unlikely patrons will be fit to operate vehicles. This restaurant truly is amazing and we haven’t even mentioned that the cost of this dining experience comes down to your makgeolli alone. We stayed for 3 hours our first visit and our bill totaled less than 30,000KRW ($28) between four people. It should be pretty clear why we love this place, but you should see it for yourself.