Bukchon Hanok Village is a collection of traditional Korean houses that date back 600 years. It is also a popular tourist attraction, drawing throngs of visitors with the lure of providing a glimpse into the traditional Korean way of life.
What’s unique about Bukchon (lit. Northern VIllage) is that this is a genuine residential neighbourhood in Seoul. Many of the houses here are privately owned family homes (hanoks). Perhaps because of the historic surroundings, it is not uncommon to see residents here carrying on with centuries old practices, such as running errands within the neighbourhood while dressed in hanboks – traditional Korean garb.
Today, Bukchon is a fascinating mix of cultural centres, guesthouses, restaurants, gift shops and cafes, intermingled with residential homes. This imbues the area with a vivid authenticity that is hard to find anywhere else.
Understandably, it is tempting to want to capture a piece of living history and make it your own. While you’re visiting and enjoying this rustic gem of a village, do remember to be mindful and respectful of the residents who live here.
Here’re our top recommendations to fully enjoy Bukchon.
NOTE: Due to excessive crowds and their attendant problems, the government has restricted visiting hours to Bukchon. Visitors are only allowed from 9am to 5pm, Mondays to Saturdays.
What to See & Do
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An easy and fun way to enhance your immersion in this delightful village is by dressing the part. Head over to any of the hanbok rental shops to get fitted and dressed for the day. Now you’re ready to truly enjoy Bukchon.
Han Sangsu Embroidery Museum
The Han Sangsu Embroidery Museum offers classes where you can learn to embroider handkerchiefs for the perfect souvenirs. The two halls filled with Korean embroidery exhibits and garments should provide plenty of inspiration.
Another option for craftsy folks is kum bak yeon, traditional gold printing on silk, which will garner you some truly unique and personalised keepsakes.
What to Eat & Drink
Bokchon Son Mandu
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Korea’s cuisine is delicious, and their traditional fare – emphasising fresh ingredients – even more so. Have a bite of history at Bukchon Son Mandu, a nationally beloved dumpling chain said to have its beginnings right here in Bukchon Hanok Village.
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Another unique option is the Michelin-starred Doore Yoo, which serves up a rendition of Korean vegetarian incorporating original recipes from Korea’s Buddhist temples. There’s even a foraging menu available, if you book in advance.
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If you’re in a need of a pick-me-up, head over to Baengnyeon Samgyetang, conveniently located at the entrance of the village. Tender and flavourful whole chicken, boiled with ginseng and herbs, is a popular folk remedy to revive vitality.
Besides delicious home-style cooking, there are also plenty of modern cafes to indulge your sweet tooth.
The Coffee Mill
The Coffee Mill is a converted hanok that now houses a cosy cafe, run by an artistically inclined owner that likes to draw headshots of customers. Come by to pick up a coffee and chat, and you might walk away with a handdrawn headshot. Its slightly secluded location makes it the ideal rest stop for crowd-weary travellers.
Cha Masineun Tteul
Tea lovers should make a visit to Cha Masineun Tteul, which is said to have some of the best teas in the area. Set in a hanok, the cafe features floor-seating and commanding views of the nearby Gyeongbokgung Palace
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If it’s cake and pastries you’re after, you’ll want to head over to Layered. The popular bakery serves up English-style treats such as scones, pound cake and bread.
Top image courtesy of Korea Tourism Organisation.