Visting Bukchon Hanok Village is one of the most popular things to do in Seoul, Korea. It’s the best way to see the traditional side of Seoul, but very busy! Read on to know what to expect and how to make the most of your visit to the Hanok Village!
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Before we share the most deserted Hanok Village spot let’s cover some basics…
What is the Bukchon Hanok Village?
The first thing to understand is why the Bukchon Hanok Village is so important.
Seoul is becoming one of the leading technological cities in the world. It’s the headquarters for Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Hyndai Motors, Kia Motors, SK Oil, and is the leader in Aisan TV shows and music (anyone else obsessed with the glitz and glamour of K-drams and K-pop?). The city structure is constantly morphing into a more modern landscape, which eventually encroaches on the traditional places.
The Bukchon Hanok Village is the largest collection of traditional houses left in Seoul city. It’s a neighborhood located on either side of a main road, Bukchon-ro, beside the famous area of Insadong and the Gyeongbukgung Palace.
The village is full of ‘Hanok’ houses, which are traditional homes from the Joseon Dynasty made of gorgeous wood, colored tiles, and intricate roofs.
The houses have been maintained by modern owners, and the neighborhood is now part of the official tourist map!
Getting to the Bukchon Hanok Village
Take the subway to Anguk station and exit toward Bukchon. There will be signs leading you in the right direction from the station, or just look for foreigners and follow them!
Once you’re in the area look for an information booth beside the Seoul Education Museum (there’s a closer information station near Seoul Jaedong Elementary School but it is currently under renovation).
Inside information employees will have maps and books available in most languages ready to help navigate you through the area.
Ask the multi-lingual employees for advice on where to go and they will point out on a walking map the traditional Hanok neighborhood as well as other landmarks.
The Gyeongbokgung traditional palace 10-20 minute walk away, there is a traditional Hanok house museum which allows you to see and read about the different room and garden uses, a calligraphy museum, an arts and crafts center, and more!
Follow the map to the side streets behind Bukchon ro and you’ll soon see hordes of tourists going in the same direction. Keep with the flow and you’ll soon see gorgeous wood and tiled roofs peeking out behind white walls!
What to Expect at the Bukchon Hanok Village
The Bukchon Hanok Village is a popular place among tourists. It’s beautiful and completely worth seeing, but don’t expect to be the only person there.
The neighborhood is a cluster of winding roads with traditonal Hanok, or homes. The homes are protected by low, whitewashed stone walls, with wooden pillars and walls which extend past the stone.
The homes are very close together, which creates a beautiful clustered landscape.
The Hanok homes in the village are occupied by real citizens and you’ll see many signs across doorways or garages asking tourists to be respectful. Keep your voice down and don’t encroach on someone’s personal space for your pictures.
The signs will mostly be in English, which gives you an idea of the types of tourists they are used to seeing!
Traditional Hanbok Dress
You’ll also see lots of tradtional Korean dress in the Bukchon Hanok Village, called Hanbok.
Hanbok outfits are distinct dresses and pant suits made of colorful materials and simple lines. Traditional Hanbok were worn by both men and women during formal or semi-formal events, ceremonies, and festivals in Korea. They remain a part of the Korean culture today, and many Koreans own their own set of custom-made Hanbok clothing.
You’ll see Koreans in Hanbok walking up and down the Hanok Village streets. It’s a popular Instagram activity for teenagers, in particular, to create iconic Korean pictures by using both traditional Hanbok dress and surrounded by the Hanok houses.
If you’re interested in creating your own iconic Korean pictures you are able to rent traditional Hanbok clothing from one of the many retailers along Bukchon-ro!
You’ll see many Hanbok stores offering to rent complete outfits for children to adults for as little as $10, or offering a free outfit rental if you sign up for a photoshoot in their studio. This isn’t something we decided to do, but it sounds like another great way to experience the local culture!
We found two teenage girls in traditional Hanbok taking selfies in the village. They were quite giggly and excited when we politely gestured to our phones to ask if they would take a picture with Whit!
Koreans of all ages love children, and I’m glad they were so welcoming of our son! The picture turned out to be a great souvenir of our time in Korea.
How to Avoid Tourists at the Bukchon Hanok Village
For some reason the majority of tourists head to the neighborhood cluster down Bukchon-ro 11-gil, which is on the same side of Bukchon-ro as the Seoul Education Museum information booth. This side of the Hanok Village is nice to see as the streets are longer, which gives you a great view of a dense traditional neighborhood.
Since this is the most crowded spot, however, we recommend you only walk through quickly and resist taking pictures until you’re at a quieter spot.
Our suggested place to see the Hanok houses is back across the main Bukchon-ro. Head across the street to Bukchon-ro 12-gil to find smaller streets of Hanok houses which are virtually deserted!
The neighborhood off of 12-gil is the same area with the traditional arts and crafts experience house. There will be a fabric banner waving out front to signal the right side street. Follow the alley to the craft house, where you can walk into rooms teaching a variety of traditional crafts! The crafts cost between 8,000w-16,000w, and are a great way to further your cultural experience of traditional Korean life at the Hanok Village.
You’ll also find these streets are much quieter. The streets aren’t as long and, therefore, don’t exhibit the breadth of traditional homes as the neighborhood across the street, but you’ll get a better sense of the daily life.
Take this opportunity to snap some pictures in the gorgeous doorways or down the street. You won’t regret taking the extra time to come to this side!
Seoul’s Bukchon Hanok Village is a unique, beautiful place to visit and we hope you get the chance to go!
If you have any other tips for people visiting the Hanok Village please share in comments!