Travel: Visiting Bukchon Traditional Village in Seoul, Korea

I may have been to Korea many times, but there’s one thing that I really want to do – stay in a traditional Korean house. These are known as Hanoks (한옥). If you’ve watched any period Korean drama or even modern day ones like Personal Taste, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Aren’t they just the quaintest houses? Maybe I’m just projecting my inner period princess (ok, that actually came out sounding worse than I’d expected), but I really like the idea of having different areas for your life, thus making it compulsory for everyone to live in a compound with sprawling grounds.

In Seoul, there’s apparently only one cluster of traditional houses left, and they’re at Bukchon Traditional Village, presumably a place marked out for preservation and tourism purposes. Plus, I also heard that these houses aren’t cheap – if my memory serves me right, prices start at about a million dollars. I’ve also visited the traditional houses in Jeonju, but cos I was freezing, I didn’t take any photos.

Here’s my collection of photos of Seoul’s Bukchon Traditional Village. They were garnered over several trips, in case you start wondering why I had to change clothes halfway up to the top of the village.

My handsome Korean friend trying to find the way to the Bukchon traditional village from the subway

Spotted while walking to the village – an interesting artpiece disguised as a bench

when I first went there, I didn’t know how to read Korean, so I thought this was a sign pointing us to the village and very excitedly took a photo of it. Clearly, I’m illiterate as well as blind, cos there’s English there, which says “this way to the museum and children’s museum”. FAIL. So people, if you see this sign on your way, don’t follow it.

The appearance of traditional houses means we’re on the right track!

Making our way up to the top – the slope is no joke. It may look gradual but trust me, it really takes a toll on you and you’ll be huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf’s geriatric grandmother within 10 minutes.

This photo was taken in 2009 -that’s my lovely Korean friend Yumee on the left, with a Singapore journalist Leng Tuan from a daily paper (wanbao? straits times?) on the right.

Beginning to huff and puff – it didn’t help that I was out partying in Gangnam the night before till 6am. Oh yeah baby, I was doing Gangnam Style back in 2009. muahahahaha.

At this point I usually start to perspire and that leads to me not taking any photos.

Finally! I’ve reached the top!

These roof-tiled versions of hanoks are called giwajib, 기와집 which means they were built for the upper class (yangban 양반). Those of the lower class lived in straw-thatched roofed hanoks called chogajib 초가집. Jib집 = house. Korean word of the day, learned 😀

Back in 2009 when I was fatter and my hair was redder (I sound like an overweight fire extinguisher). Totally not looking the best but I decided to put up this photo to show how high the walls were – to prevent busybodies from peering into the houses – yes, people still live in them! – and also to prevent accidents from happening. Remember, this is at the top of a hill.

Beginning to make our way down – some of my stamina has been recovered so commence the photo-taking!

Standing on a wall to peer into the houses – just look at their courtyard! It’ll be so awesome for gatherings, bbqs and flash mobs doing gangnam style.

Many people – locals and tourists – taking in the sights

A rare second that there weren’t many people blocking the houses – shoot away!

Clearly a photo taken on a different camera – this one’s to show the actual roads leading up and how narrow they are. It’s barely enough to accommodate 2 cars. Korean drivers defo have mad driving skills. And yes, that’s my head sticking out in the corner.

Yet another beautiful hanok that’s been slightly modified to the times –  there’s electronic alarm systems and possibly some refurbishments. I think the inside remains largely the same though.

A hanok that’s not easy to find – it’s the one from 개인의 취향 Personal Taste!

Lee Min Ho at the hanok during the filming of the drama. To find out more about the interior of this particular hanok, click here.

As you can see from my photos, I’ve only been able to admire the exterior of these beautiful places. They’re apparently really wonderful too:

  • They are environmentally friendly and use only natural and recycleable materials – soil, timber, and rock, straw, etc.
  • The Hanji (Korean paper) for their windows and doors is made of paper coated with bean oil, which gives it a polished look, makes it waterproof, and yet still allows air to pass through.
  • They aren’t shoebox units – there are different living spaces.
  • They also come in different shapes and sizes. They differ by regions because of the weather. The most popular shape is the  ㄱ,  while in the colder northern regions they’re built in the ㅁ shape to retain heat. The warmer southern regions built them in the  ㅣ shape for faster cooling.

There’s also a unique floor heating system called ondol 온돌 – see picture below for illustration.

Perhaps one day, I might be able to stay for at least a week in these hanoks while wearing a hanbok (traditional Korean costume) 😀

Bukchon Traditional Village

Address: Seoul-si Jongno-gu Gahoe-dong, Jae-dong, Samcheong-dong, Gye-dong, Wonseo-dong

Website: http://bukchon.seoul.go.kr/eng/index.jsp

How to get there: Anguk Station (Line 3), Exit 2. Go straight for about 300m to arrive at Bukchon Hanok Village. Best to check the map for the correct exit or look for landmark logos before exiting the subway station.

To read more about hanoks, you can check out KTO’s website and also Wikipedia.

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10 thoughts on “Travel: Visiting Bukchon Traditional Village in Seoul, Korea

  1. hey Dalja, great post! love the traditional buildings so much 😀

    btw looks like you’ve been to Korea in different seasons. Have you been there around end of October/ beginning of November? Do you know hows the weather there during that period? I think that time should be mid of autumn right? Do you know what type of outfit will be suitable for that season? I hope I will neither cold-to-death nor dress up like an insane snow queen there hehe

    • Yup, I’ve been there at end-Oct/ early nov several times cos it’s near my birthday 😀

      I think the temperature should range from 5-15 degrees celsius, and it’s definitely chilly. The wind is what kills you though – it hits the bone, which is totally brrrrr. No need for anything thermal or heatpacks though.

      For your outer wear, you defo need a decent winter coat – not the type of sub zero degree though.

      On the inside you can wear normal clothes (not the singlet / chiffon types) – maybe say a normal thickness dress + stockings + boots. If you’re going out at night or to windy places, add a scarf to protect the neck or don a hoodie to cover the head cos the wind and cold will cut into your head.

      If you prefer layering, you can wear a singlet + long-sleeved top + blazer + thin scarf + bottom (either skirt + stockings or jeans). This will not be enough for night outings though.

      Id totally just recommend going with your usual clothes, then popping into Forever 21 or H&M on your first day to buy some stuff – it’s cheaper there and so, so, so much nicer than singapore since they have different buyers and cater more to the korean tastes. There’s no better excuse to buy a good cape / jacket there 😀

      • wow it sounds like a winter more than autumn! I’d better get well prepared. Thanks for your advise! 🙂

  2. Dear,i plan to go this place…Is it just get down from Anguk Station (Line 3), Exit 2. Go straight for about 300m ,then can arrive at Bukchon Hanok Village?? Can you tell me how to get there in details?? Thanks ^^

    • Hey Krissie,
      Hmmm that’s tough to say – I wasn’t searching specifically for it, I just happened to stumble across it. There are so many little winding roads so it might be a be tough for you to find it, unless you have a map.

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