Filled with amazing ancient tombs, temples, burial mounds and rock carvings, South Korea’s Gyeongju deserves its nickname “museum without walls” and impresses visitors with all of its incredible tourist attractions. Having been the capital of Silla – an ancient kingdom on the Korean Peninsula – many of its monuments date back over a thousand years, and one of the best things to do in Gyeongju is to explore the impressive architecture and ancient buildings that it has to offer. ‘they can be. seen around town.
Located in the south-east of the country, Gyeongju often goes unnoticed in favor of Seoul, Busan or Jeju. That means it’s a great place to visit if you want to immerse yourself in South Korea’s rich history, culture, and heritage without the crowds.
As you stroll through its ancient streets and well-preserved archaeological sites, you will feel like stepping back in time, and the beautiful hills and mountains that surround Gyeongju are just the icing on the cake.
1. Bulguksa temple
Located on the slopes of Mount Tohamsan, Bulguksa Temple is a masterpiece of Buddhist art and architecture. It is widely considered to be the most impressive temple in all of South Korea. Built in the 8th century, the temple has amazing stone pagodas and Buddha statues, and seven of the country’s national treasures are scattered throughout its complex.
In perfect harmony with the majestic mountainous landscape that surrounds it, the temple’s many courtyards and gardens are fascinating to walk through, with beautiful architecture displayed everywhere you look.
Although Bulguksa Temple is of great historical and cultural significance, it continues to function as a place of worship, which is why monks and pilgrims are often seen singing or performing rituals. It is the highlight of many people’s visit to Gyeongju, and no trip to the city can be complete without passing by this fantastic ancient temple, which, surprisingly, is still in use over a thousand years after its construction.
2. Cheonmachong Tomb
Cheonmachong means “sky horse” and owes its name to the fact that a spectacular painting of a white horse was discovered during the excavation of the tomb in 1973. More than 11,500 objects were found in the tomb. While these offered a fascinating insight into the society of the Silla Kingdom, unfortunately they do not reveal which king was buried in the burial mound.
Believed to date back to the 5th century, Cheonmachong is the only tomb that can be entered into the Daerungwon Mound complex, and is worth doing if given the opportunity. Inside are many interesting artifacts, as well as the wooden coffin and royal accessories in which the king himself was buried. Despite its small size, Cheonmachong Tomb offers invaluable insight into an important part of South Korea’s illustrious history.
3. The Anapji Pond
Created in 674 AD by King Munmu to celebrate the unification of the Korean Peninsula under Silla, the Anapji man-made pond is today one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions and is part of the national park. from Gyeongju. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and wonderfully reconstructed pavilions and palaces, Anapji Pond is certainly a beautiful sight and is best seen at night, when the gardens are magically lit up.
The Donggung Palace, in particular, has an incredible appearance which is reflected in its waters. In the fall, many honeymooners flock to this location to take photos among the colorful lotus flowers that cover the pond.
4. Lake Bomun
Surrounded by luxury hotels, shops and restaurants, as well as expansive parks and gardens, the man-made Bomun Lake is where many Gyeongju residents come to relax. Located just five kilometers from the city center, Lake Bomun offers many walks and bike rides around the lake. You can even sail in its calm waters or enjoy a round of golf at one of its resorts.
From April to August, the Bomun Open Air Show Theater regularly hosts performances on its shores, and the permanent exhibits at the nearby Seonjae Art Gallery are well worth a visit. Although Lake Bomun is very scenic and peaceful at all times of the year, it is especially popular to visit during the summer months or in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
5. Daereungwon Mound
One of Gyeongju’s most popular tourist destinations, Daereungwon Tumulus Complex is located in the center of the city and features 30 royal tombs dating from the time of the Silla Kingdom.
Located between two pretty parks, the large grass mounds are very characteristic. As some of them reach over 20 meters in height, it is difficult not to notice the tombs while walking around the city.
The most impressive are those of Hwangnam Daechong and King Michu, both dating from over a thousand years ago. As well as a leisurely stroll around the complex, you can venture inside Cheonmachong Tomb – the most famous of the mounds – to get a glimpse of some of the many artifacts that have been unearthed at the site.
Declared a national treasure in 1962, Seokguram is one of the most important historical, cultural and religious places in the country. Part of the Bulguksa temple complex, Seokguram Cave, as it is popularly known, is nestled on the slopes of Mount Tohamsan, overlooking the East Sea in the distance.
Completed in 774 AD, the cave houses one of the finest examples of Asian art in the form of its impressive Buddha sculpture; it is said that the deity watches over and protects South Korea. Although the art and architecture are amazing, the beautiful mountainous landscape is no less attractive and the cave is the perfect place for contemplation and meditation.
7. Gyeongju National Museum
Widely regarded as one of the best museums in the country, the Gyeongju National Museum is the place to go if you want to learn all about the Silla Kingdom and the rise of civilization in South Korea.
Located next to the Daerungwon Tumulus Complex, its various buildings are full of informative and interesting exhibits and exhibits, with a plethora of dazzling jewelry, ancient weapons and important religious works on display.
Among its many wonders, the most important is the 5th century golden crown of Geumgwanchong, which sparkles and shines and is so finely crafted and decorated. With a number of stupas, sculptures and statues scattered throughout the buildings and grounds of the museum, one could easily spend an entire afternoon or more exploring all the delicacies that the Gyeongju National Museum has to offer.
8. Yangdong Folk Village
Filled with beautiful old houses and buildings dating back to the Joseon era, the popular city of Yangdong is simply wonderful to walk around. Its panoramic location in a green valley with surrounding mountains only adds to the perfect scene.
Built in the traditional architectural style of the Joseon Dynasty, its complex of buildings is very picturesque, surrounded by lush gardens; the vast majority of them are still inhabited today. Although the city is quite difficult to access, as it is located about 20 kilometers north of Gyeongju, it is worth it if you want to experience the traditional way of life in an authentic environment.
9. Cheomseongdae Observatory
Although not very impressive, the importance of Cheomseongdae is unmatched; It is the oldest astronomical observatory preserved not only in all of Asia, but possibly in the world. Built in 632 AD, during the reign of Queen Seondok, the ancient structure is just over 9 meters high. Today you can find many beautiful gardens around it.
The Cheomseongdae Observatory, built with 365 stones – one for each day of the year – has been used for centuries by astronomers, who came to contemplate the stars and planets. It is worth a visit at dusk, when the observatory is spectacularly illuminated and its tower stands out against the night sky.
10. Gyeongju National Park
Established in 1968, Gyeongju is unique among the country’s national parks in that it is the only one dedicated to the preservation, protection and enhancement of the wealth of historical monuments it houses.
This means that while some sections of the national park are close to Gyeongju, others are located in the center of the city itself. Therefore, it is possible that we find ourselves in the national park without knowing it when we visit one of the impressive mounds, temples or tombs that dot the city.
Beyond that, Gyeongju National Park has some absolutely stunning scenery to explore, and there are many fabulous hikes to do in its hills and mountains. The view from the top of Tohamsan Peak, for example, is simply breathtaking, and on its slopes are Bulguksa and Seokguram, two of Gyeongju’s most famous temples.