20+ Must-Do’s in Korea’s UNESCO World Heritage Site

Gyeongju is Korea’s UNESCO World Heritage city in Gyeongsang Buk-do in the Southeast region. It was the capital city of the ancient Silla Kingdom and the United Silla for a thousand years.

This historical city is often called the “museum without walls” with its glorious history and relics present across the area. Like Rome, significant archaeological remains have been discovered and are yet to be unearthed.  

However, there are many things to do in Gyeongju, even if you are not a history buff. Gyeongju is a picturesque city with well-preserved nature and stunning ancient architecture. In harmony, renovated hanok cafes and hotels are popping up in the heart of the town. This cultural phenomenon of sophisticatedly mixing the old and new cultures is appealing to the young and the hip of Korea. The ancient capital has completely revived its glory as the hip travel destination of today.

This article will serve you as a quick guide for what to do in Gyeongju and provides an interesting historical background of the ancient capital.

>> If you are not sure how to prioritize your time, see my detailed Gyeongju itinerary that includes all of the must-visit sites for three days; where to stay in Gyeongju; Gyeongju food & restaurants; and how to get to and around Gyeongju.

>> Also, if you are on a time crunch, see how you can make the most out of time in one day in Gyeongju.

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20 Things to Do in Gyeongju, Korea’s UNESCO World Heritage City: Immerse yourself in a thousand-year-worth history and culture in the ancient capital city. | Travel like a Local in Korea (Written by a Korean) | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites

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Interesting Facts about Gyeongju

  • Gyeongju was the capital of the Silla kingdom of ancient Korea for a thousand years (BC 57 – AD 935).
  • Silla unified Three Kingdoms in the mid-7th century by conquering Baekje and Goguryeo.
  • After the unification, Gyeongju became the center of economy, culture, arts, and science. Foreign trades by land and sea with China, Japan, and Arab led to the economic boom in Silla. 
  • A prosperous economy and cultural interactions encouraged Silla to learn and advance its artisanship with precious metals such as gold, silver, and glass from Persia. 
  • At its peak time, the Unified Silla is believed to have almost 1 million inhabitants.
  • Buddhism was first introduced through the Silk Roads in the 5th century. Queen Seondeok declared it as the national religion
  • During the Silla period, the capital city used to be called Seorabeol or Gyerim. When Goryeo absorbed the Unified Silla in AD 935, it was renamed as Gyeongju to celebrate its victory without bleeding a single drop of blood.
  • Silla is the only kingdom in Korea ruled by three queens.
  • In 1995, Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple became the first UNESCO designated heritage sites in the country.
  • In 2000, Gyeongju Historic Areas was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
  • In 2010, Yangdong Folk Village, along with Hahoe Folk Village (in Andong), was designated by a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Amazing Things to Do in Gyeongju

Mt. Tohamsan (#1-2)

Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #1. Seokguram Grotto - The only artificial stone cave in the world | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites #SeokguramGrotto

#1. Seokguram Grotto

Seokguram Grotto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Korea’s National Treasure no. 24. It also is the only artificial stone cave in the world

The stone cave temple of Seokguram was built in 751 by Silla Prime Minister Kim Daeseong. The beauty of a granite statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha makes it Gyeongju’s must-visit site.

Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #1. Seokguram Grotto - The only artificial stone cave in the world | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites #SeokguramGrotto

A white granite Buddha at Seokguram Grotto (Image credit: Richardfabi, CC, Wikipedia)

It is amazing how the masters of Silla made the artificial stone cave on a ground where a water stream runs underneath so that the damp air is concentrated at the bottom. At the same time, an open structure regulates the humidity and ventilation by itself. 

Unfortunately, the naturally moisture-wicking structure was brutally damaged during the Japanese occupation when the Japanese tempted to plunder. After the failed attempt to strip it away and move to Japan, they couldn’t figure out how to put the granite blocks back and ended up cementing the dome. Even with today’s advanced technology, there is no way to drill down the cement to restore the cave without further damaging this precious heritage. 

Now, the cave uses a dehumidifying machine. And the Sakyamuni Buddha is protected with a wooden antechamber and glass walls because every breath visitors take can build moisture and damage the statue. 

Photography and videography are forbidden for protection. I saw many tourists disrespectfully ignore the sign. You probably cannot hold your breath, but at least manage your temptation to snap a shot, please. 

How to Get to Seokguram

  • From Intercity Bus Terminal, take bus #10 or #11 to Bulguksa Temple  Transfer to bus #12
  • From Expres Bus Terminal, take bus #700 to Bulguksa Temple  Transfer to bus #12

Hours: Spring & Fall (Feb. – March, Oct.) 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. | Summer (March – Sept.) 6:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. | Winter (Nov. – Jan.) 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Admission: 6,000 KRW | Youth: 4,000 KRW | Children under 13: 3,000 KRW

Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #2. Bulguksa Temple - The head temple of Korean Buddhism with 7 National Treasures | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites #BulguksaTemple

#2. Bulguksa Temple

On the Mt. Tohamsan, you can find another significant Korea’s Buddhist hermitage you absolutely should not miss. Visit Bulguksa Temple to enjoy the beautiful scenery that changes each season and learn about Korea’s Buddhism.

Bulguksa Temple, also known as the “Temple of the Buddha Land,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with seven national treasures of South Korea – including the Dabotap Pagoda (no. 20), the Seokgatap Pagoda (no. 21), the Yeonhwagyo and Chilbogyo Bridges (no.22), the Cheongungyo and Baegungyo Bridges (no. 23), Golden Bronze Vairocana Buddha Sitting Statue (no. 26), Gilt-bronze Seated Amitabha Buddha of Bulguksa Temple (no. 27), and Stupa (no. 61).

Also, excavation of the Seokgatap revealed a sarira (reliquary casket) containing the world’s oldest woodblock-printed document, a copy of the Dharani sutra.

If you look at the Korean ₩10 coin, you might be able to identify one of these treasures!

Read more about Bulkguksa Temple in this guide.

How to Get to Bulguksa Temple

  • From Intercity Bus Terminal, take bus #10 or #11
  • From Expres Bus Terminal, take bus #700

Hours: Feb. 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. | March – Sept. 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. | Oct. 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. | Nov. – Jan. 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

Admission: 6,000 KRW | Youth: 4,000 KRW | Children under 13: 3,000 KRW

Gyeongju Daereungwon Ancient Tomb Complex (#3-14)

Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #3. Daereungwon Ancient Tomb Complex | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites #Daereungwon

#3. Daereungwon Royal Tomb

Daereungwon is one of the most significant Silla tumuli complexes with 23 ancient tombs. You may or may not like the idea of strolling along with the ancient graveyard, let alone entering one. However, once you are there, you will see how gorgeous a tomb park can be. Although gigantic, it is a great place to take a walk and enjoy the greenery. (I love autumn foliage here!)

For a quick stop, I’d recommend focusing on two major ones: the Hwangnamdaechong Tomb and the Cheonmachong Tomb (see #4 below). 

Insider Tip: You may notice that some Silla tombs are called “Reng” (e.g., Muyeolwangreng), while others are called “Chong” (e.g., Cheonmachong) in the name. “Reng” indicates a tomb buried with one of Silla kings, whereas “Chong” is used when an unidentified royal or noble member was buried.

Hours: 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Admission: 2,000 KRW | Youth: 1,200 KRW | Children under 13: 600 KRW

#4. Cheonmachong Tomb

The Cheonmachong Tomb (The Heavenly Horse Tomb) is the most famous Silla tumuli, and one of few tombs visitors are allowed to enter

While the anthropologists could not confirm the identity of the owner, Cheonmachong is regarded as an exemplary Silla tomb most likely belongs to a high-class nobleman. The inside has turned into a small museum where you can see the Shilla burial mechanism and replicas of splendid treasures and valuable artifacts excavated from this site. 

Some of the authentic enshrining items are exhibited in the Gyeongju National Museum (#8) and the National Museum of Korea in Seoul.

Hours: 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Admission: 2,000 KRW | Youth: 1,200 KRW | Children under 13: 600 KRW

Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #15. Cheomseongdae Observatory - the oldest astronomical observatory in Asia | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites #cheomseongdae

#5. Cheomseongdae Observatory

Cheomseongdae (National Treasures no. 31) is one of the most famous surviving ancient structures in Gyeongju. This mid-7th-century observatory tower was built in the reign of Queen Seondeok (632-647) and is the oldest astronomical observatory in Asia

Given that seasonal change was crucial in agriculture, astronomical observations were significant at the time. And reading the movement of celestial bodies also meant political power and stronger monarchy.

Cheomseongdae observatory tower was the centerpiece of a large science complex. This 9.17m-high stone tower incorporates 365 granite blocks in 27 layers, indicating 365 days and Queen Seondeok of the 27th reign. A south-facing window was used as an entrance and captured the sun rays on the interior floor on each equinox. 

What’s fascinating is that Cheomseongdae has maintained its original structure for 1,300 years. When the 5.8-magnitude-scale earthquake hit Gyeongju in 2016, Cheomseongdae retained its structural integrity while the modern buildings in the city were collapsed or severely damaged.

Hours: Summer 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. | Winter 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Admission: Free

Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #6. Hwangnidan-Gil, Gyeongju’s hippest street with renovated hanok guesthouses, restaurants and cafes  | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites #Hwangnidan-gil #황리단길

#6. Hwangnidan-Gil

Have you heard of the term, new-tro? This coined term combines “new” and “retro,” referring to a cultural phenomenon sweeping Korea right now.

Hwangnidan-Gil is Gyeongju’s trendiest street, lined with renovated hanok stays, restaurants, cafes, and bars. With the new-tro trend observed everywhere in Korea, the small alleyways became a hot place among the young Korean travelers. The beauty of it all is that these new-tro places co-exist in harmony with traditional businesses with a long history

Note that most cafes and restaurants open after 11 a.m. Check out my other post for my recommendations on Hwangnidan-Gil restaurants and cafes.

Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #7. Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond - One of the best night view sites in Gyeongju  | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites #DonggungPalaceandWoljiPond

#7. Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond (Anapji Pond)

Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond are one of the best night views in Gyeongju. The illuminated palace boasts a gorgeous scene with its reflections on the pond. I highly recommend visiting this place at night! 

If you are visiting Gyeongju in July, this place is worth visiting during the day as well. You can see beautiful lotus flowers on the pond.

The King Munmu built Donggung Palace as the primary residence for a crown prince. Later, the artificial Wolji Pond was added. Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond is the original party palace where the Silla royals threw extravagant festivals and VIP banquets. It is also Korea’s first zoo and botanical garden with a menagerie of exotic birds and animals to entertain the guests.

The place was deserted for a long time, giving it a nickname of Anapji Pond, a lake only wild geese and ducks inhibit. But the cleaning project had a surprising reveal of thousands of valuable Silla artifacts fallen into the lake. It goes to show how extravagant the Silla people partied! 

Hours: 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Admission: 2,000 KRW | Youth: 1,200 KRW | Children under 13: 600 KRW

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20 Things to Do in Gyeongju, Korea’s UNESCO World Heritage City: Immerse yourself in a thousand-year-worth history and culture in the ancient capital city. | Travel like a Local in Korea (Written by a Korean) | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites

#8. Gyeongju National Museum

The Gyeongju National Museum is one of the largest and most prestigious museums in Korea. And this is where you will see the authentic artifacts of Silla

Over 3,000 relics unearthed from the UNESCO-designated Gyeongju Historic Areas are in the exhibit. You can see a variety of treasures from the Silla period, including sophisticated golden crowns excavated from the burial mounds, Buddhist art collections, and sarira reliquaries, and daily wares of the royal court scooped up from the Wolji Pond.

The museum offers three permanent exhibition galleries, including the Silla History Gallery, Silla Art Gallery, and Wolji Gallery, as well as one Special Exhibition Gallery for feature programs. The outdoor exhibition also showcases a variety of stone sculptures, the Divine Bell of King Seongdeok, and the Three-story Stone Stupa from the Goseonsa Temple. 

Also, the Children’s Museum provides abundant resources and educational/cultural experiences for children.  

Insider Tips

  • Download the National Museum of Korea app (iOSGoogle Play) for the free audio guide. 
  • Wheelchairs and strollers are available on request.
  • Sign up on-site for a free museum tour (English, 90 min) at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays & Sundays.

How to Get to Gyeongju National Museum

  • From Shingyeongju Station: Bus #700 (Get off at Donggung and Wolji)
  • From Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal, Express Bus Terminal or Gyeongju Station: Bus #11, 153, 600, 601, 602, 603, 604, 605, 607, 608 or 609

Hours: Mon. – Fri. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. | Weekends & Holidays 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Closed: Jan. 1, Lunar New Year’s Day, Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving)

Extended Hours: Open until 9 p.m. on last Wed. of each month & Sat. from March to December

Admission: Free

Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #9. Gyochon Hanok Village  | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites #GyochonVillage

#9. Gyochon Hanok Village

First, let me start by saying Gyeongju Gyochon Hanok Village has nothing to do with Korea’s famous Kyochon Chicken. The name derives from the presence of the Gyeongjuhyanggyo Confucian School (Treasure no. 1727).

Gyeongjuhyanggyo was built in 682 by Silla King Sinmun as a government-run school to teach Gukhak. Later, the buildings got updated and restored many times during the Joseon Dynasty. Now the Confucian school holds memorial services for Confucian scholars and provides Confucian education.

Another place worth visiting in Gyochon Village is the Historic House of Rich Man Choe. The Choe family was wealthy through 12 generations and practiced noblesse oblige. This well-preserved house also follows a typical nobility house style of the Joseon Dynasty. 

Right next to the Choe’s house, you will find the Gyeongju Beopju Distillery operated by the Choe family members. The famous Gyeongju Beopju is made with the secret recipe passed down for 350 years in the family. It is regarded as one of the best Korean traditional liquors. If you are interested, you can purchase directly from the distillery.

How to Get to Gyochon Village

  • Take bus #60, 60-1, 61, or 61-1 and get off at Nambu Church

Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #10. Woljeonggyo Bridge | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites #WoljeonggyoBridge

#10. Woljeonggyo Bridge

Woljeonggyo Bridge was constructed in AD 760 under King Gyeongdeok’s rule of the Unified Silla. It was an important transport route connecting Wolseong Fortress (city center at the time) and Namsan Mountain.

The bridge you see today is not the original structure. In 2009, it was restored to 66m in length, 9m in width, and 8m in height based on historical documents. Today, the illuminated bridge reflecting on Namcheon Stream is known as one of the best night views in Gyeongju. (Be sure to visit at night!)

Hours: 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Admission: Free

#11. Bunhwangsa Temple

Bunhwangsa Temple was built in 634 in the 3rd year of Queen Seondeok’s reign as one of the 7 Buddhist Temples. The Stone Brick pagoda (National Treasure no. 30) was the first stone pagoda during the Silla period

Besides cultural relics, this temple has an interesting story. Queen Seondeok became the first woman to rule Silla. At the time, Silla was a weak country frequently invaded by neighboring countries. Tang Dynasty of ancient China was one of them awaiting an opportunity to invade.

Taejong, the Tang Emperor, gifted Queen Seondeok with a painting of peonies without bees or butterflies along with unfragranced flower seeds. The hidden meaning of this insulting present was to portray the Queen as an unattractive woman.

The Queen’s response? Building a Buddhist temple for herself and naming it the “Fragrant Imperial Temple.” Take that, ha!

Hours: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Admission: 1,300 KRW | Youth: 1,000 KRW | Children under 13: 800 KRW

#12. Hwangnyongsa Temple Site (Hwangnyongsa History Culture Center)

The Hwangnyongsa Temple was commissioned to build in 553 and completed in 645. According to the tale, King Jinheung initially planned to build a palace on the site; however, after he dreamed a yellow dragon (hence the name of Hwangnyong) soared to the sky from the pond, he constructed a Buddhist temple instead. 

Silla’s famous painter Solgeo (#16 Gyeongju Solgeo Museum) drew a mural on the wall. It is a well-known story that his pine tree drawing was so real that many birds were killed in a failed attempt to sit on the branch. 

In 643, Queen Seondeok commissioned to build a 9-story Hwangnyong Pagoda in the Hwangnyongsa Temple Site per Jajang Yulsa’s advice. Each of the nine floors represents nine neighboring countries that frequently invaded Silla; the queen expressed her ambition of the unified kingdom under the power of Buddhism and stronger Silla.

Unfortunately, the Hwangyongsa Temple, as well as the famed nine-story wooden pagoda and Solgeo’s mural, were all burnt down during the 13th-century Mongol invasions. 

Today, at the newly opened Hwangnyongsa History Culture Center, you can see the replica of Hwangnyong Tower (in 1/10 of actual size), learn about the original architecture, replicas of relics from the site, and imagine how Silla would have looked like from the observatory.

Insider Tip: Make sure to watch a 3D animation at the top of the hour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It helps to understand the background and significance of the Hwangnyongsa Temple in Silla history.

How to Get to Hwangnyongsa History Culture Center

  • From Gyeongju Bus Terminal, take bus #10, 10-3, 15, 100 or 150 and get off at Gyeongju High School 

Hours: March – Oct. 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. | Nov. – Feb. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Closed: Mondays, Jan. 1, Seollal (Lunar New Year’s Day) and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving)

Admission: 3,000 KRW

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Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #13. Gyerim Forest: Silla’s sacred place  | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites

#13. Gyerim Forest

Gyerim Forest is Silla’s sacred place where the father of the country’s royal clan was born. And today, it is a beautiful place to stroll along with the ancient trees during the day.

As the legend goes, Kim Al-ji was born from a magical scarlet egg in Gyerim (literally meaning the Rooster Forest). He merged six villages, which became the foundation of Silla. While he did not rule as King of Silla, his descendants did.

Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #14. Wolseong Fortress  | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites

#14. Wolseong Fortress

The royal palace of Silla was built inside the Wolseong Fortress, also known as Banwolseong, Sinwolseong, and Jaeseong. At its peak time, one million people lived in Wolseong. The city was large enough to have 180,000 homes, four royal palaces (one for each season of the year), temples, grand market squares, parks, and artificial lakes. These buildings used ceramic tiles, which is another evidence of the wealth and prosperity of Gyeongju at the time.

It is difficult to find any traces of the royal palace today, except parts of the fortress wall. Nevertheless, the excavation of the site by Korean anthropologists and historians are still in progress.

Although it is not an area public can access, you will be able to see from the distance. I saw it on my walk from Gyochon Village to Gyerim.

Bomun Tourist Complex (#15-18)

#15. Gyeongju World Culture Expo Park 

Gyeongju World Culture Expo Park opened in 1998. Since the inaugural expo, it has hosted a total of 11 cultural expos. If not during the expo period, the park hosts cultural performances and historical exhibits.

Besides the cultural performances and interactive media arts, Gyeongju Tower and Solgeo Art Museum (See #16) are two distinguishable places you should not miss at Gyeongju Expo Park. 

Gyeongju Tower is an observatory tower featuring unique architecture. If you have visited the Hwangnyongsa Temple Site (#12), you would probably understand the cultural significance of the 9-story Hwangnyongsa Pagoda. Gyeongju Tower features the inverted silhouette of the Hwangnyongsa pagoda at the center of the tower. Inside this 82-meter-tall structure, you can overlook the Bomun Tourist Complex, watch the video presentation, and virtual tour of Silla. 

Did you know Gyeongju Tower was married in 2015? Across the Gyeongju Tower, you might notice another architecture built with the Hwangnyong Pagoda motif, called “Hwangnyongwon” Joongdo Tower. It is said that Hwangnyongwon (the groom, right on the photo above) fits right into the center of the Gyeongju Tower (the bride, left on the photo above). The wedding of the Gyeongju Tower and Hwangnyongwon sounds quirky; regardless, in my opinion, it was a brilliant PR stunt.

Exhibit Hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Park Hours: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Admission: 8,000 KRW | Youth & Children: 7,000 KRW

Gyeongju Tower Observatory: 3,000 KRW

*Hours and admission can change during the Expo period.

Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #15. Gyeongju Solgeo Art Museum   | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites #SolgeoMuseum

#16. Gyeongju Solgeo Art Museum

The Gyeongju Solgeo Art Museum is inside the Gyeongju World Culture Expo Park (#15). Named after the legendary Silla painter Solgeo, this small museum exhibits contemporary paintings, sculptures, and art installations.

The main permanent exhibit includes Korean ink-and-wash paintings by Park Dae-sung (pen name: Sosan), a master of true-view landscape paintings. Upon the outbreak of the Korea War, he witnessed the communist soldier killed his parents when he was only four. In the same incident, his left arm was chopped off by the sword. He overcame the trauma and harsh reality by self-learning and mastering traditional ink painting.

He has established a unique art world, which received worldwide acclaim. While using traditional media such as ink on Hanji paper, he reinterpreted and recreated modern artworks with a daring sense of space, sophisticated brush strokes, and splashes of light color. He is best known for the contemporary interpretation of grand-scale landscape ink paintings. He also frequently features Silla’s representative cultural heritage – such as Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram Grotto, and Namsan Mountain – in his artworks.

Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #16. Gyeongju Solgeo Art Museum | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites #SolgeoMuseum

Baekdusan by Park Dae-sung (pen name: Sosan), a master of true-view landscape ink painting


It is a small gallery, but worth the visit. Words cannot describe the feeling of awe when you see Sosan’s paintings. Photos won’t do justice. Just go and see it yourself! 

Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Closed: Mondays, Jan. 1, Lunar New Year’s Day, Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving)

Admission: 1,000 KRW | Youth: 700 KRW | Children under 13: 500 KRW

Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #17. Gyeongju World - Ride Draken, a steel dive coaster that drops 90 degrees from 63 meters high  | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites #Draken #rollercoaster

#17. Gyeongju World

Did you know Gyeongju has many modern theme parks? Perhaps you can save them for later when you visit another city. Most of these amusement parks have nothing to do with the historic city. However, Gyeongju World is one of its kind that you might consider visiting, in my opinion.

The most famous ride at Gyeongju World is Draken. It is a steel Dive Coaster that drops 90 degrees from 63 meters high. (See the yellow curvy structure in the photo above?) For thrill-seekers, Draken is a must-try ride! Check out this video if you are curious (Korean only).

You can purchase an all-inclusive pass with admission to enjoy all the rides you would like. Or, pay admission alone and buy an individual ride ticket, if you are only interested in checking out Draken (8,000 KRW). 

Hours: 9:50 a.m. – 6 p.m.

All Inclusive Pass [or Admissions only]: 47,000 KRW [26,000 KRW] | Youth: 39,000 KRW [20,000 KRW] | Children under 13: 33,000 KRW [17,000 KRW]

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Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #18. Cherry Blossom at Bomun Lake | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites #cherryblossom #BomunhoLake

Cherry Blossom at Bomunho Lake (Image Credit: Lee Beomsu, Korea Tourism Organization)

#18. Bomun Lake (Bomunho Lake)

If you visit Gyeongju in spring, Bomun Lake is a must-visit place to enjoy beautiful cherry blossoms. The best time to see cherry blossoms is in early April.

But note that the area traffic and parking are horrible. Consider taking these limited-time cherry blossom Gyeongju day tours from Busan (here and here). 

Bomun Lake also boasts lotus flowers in summer, colorful foliage in fall, and snow-covered gazebo in winter.

No wonder why CNN listed Bomun Pavillion as one of the most beautiful places to visit in Korea, right?

Hours: 24 hours

Admission: Free

Outskirt of Gyeongju City (#19-20)

Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #19. Royal Tomb of King Muyeol  | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites

Take photos! But be careful not to sit on the stone altar.

#19. Royal Tomb of King Taejong Muyeol

King Taejong Muyeol (Kim Chun-chu) was the 29th ruler of Silla. He is a historically significant figure. He overcame social barriers and became the first king from Jingol (second social class). He also laid the foundation of the Unified Silla.

The Royal Tomb of King Taejong Muyeol is also a culturally important one. Thanks to the son who commemorated his late father with a tombstone, his tomb became one of a few Silla tumuli with the confirmed owner

Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Admission: 1,000 KRW | Youth: 600 KRW | Children under 13: 400 KRW

Things to Do in Gyeongju, South Korea - #20. Yangdong Folk Village | #Gyeongju #SouthKorea #Korea #KoreaTravel #AsiaTravel #ThingstodoinKorea #UNESCOWorldHeritageSites #YangdongFolkVillage

View of Yangdong Folk Village (Image Credit: Lee Hangwoo, Korea Tourism Organization)

#20. Yangdong Folk Village

Yangdong Village is Korea’s folk village with 500 years of history. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its well-preserved ancient architectures and lifestyles from the Joseon Dynasty

The ancient village was founded by the Gyeongju Son clan and the Yeogang Yi clan. It features 150 tile-roofed hanok called Giwajip, Joseon’s typical upper-class house style. 

You can peek into the traditional houses and lifestyles, and learn about the Confucian culture and customs dominated in the old times.

>> Yangdong Folk Village is a bit away from the city center. If you are coming from Busan, stop by Korea’s largest traditional village with this tour

How to Get to Yangdong Folk Village

  • From Express Bus Terminal, take bus #203.

Hours: April – Sept. 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. |  Oct. – March 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Admission: 4,000 KRW | Youth: 2,000 KRW | Children under 13: 1,500 KRW

Outside of the city center, Gyeongju has so many other places to visit. I did not get to explore all of them, but I include the list for your consideration. Many of these are in the mountain or seashore with stunning views.

Gyeongju Namsan Region

Rock-carved Buddhas at Chilburam Hermitage in Namsan Mountain, Gyeongju, South Korea

Rock-carved Buddhas at Chilburam Hermitage in Namsan Mountain (Image Credit: Kim Jiho, Korea Tourism Organization)

  • Najoeng Well
  • Changnimsa Temple Site
  • Poseokjeong Pavillion Site
  • Samneunggol Valley
  • Yangjanggol Valley
  • Seochulji Pond
  • Rock-carved Pensive Bodhisattva at Sinseonam Heritage, Rock-carved Buddhas at Chiburam Heritage
  • Tongiljeon
  • Rock-carved Buddha in Tapgok Valley off Namsan Mountain

Donghae Region

Gyeongju Donghae Region - Tomb of King Munmu

Tomb of King Munmu (Image Credit: Jeong Sangho, Korea Tourism Organization)

  • Kirimsa Temple
  • Golgulsa Temple: Rock-carved Seated Buddha at Golguram Hermitage
  • Gameunsa Temple
  • Tomb of King Munmu (Great King Rocks)


Gyeongju is a hidden gem in Korea. The ancient capital offers historical, cultural experiences unique to Korea. And the historic city continues to re-inventing itself as a hip destination by tastefully modernizing its classic beauty. If you are traveling south to Gyeongsang-do, I highly recommend visiting Gyeongju.