Bukchon Hanok Village: What To See, Where To Go & What To Do
Bukchon Hanok Village is one of the most visited areas of Seoul, Korea. The neighborhood of Bukchon is special due to the numerous traditional Korean homes, or Hanoks, that are located there. The neighborhood was originally home to high-ranking government officials and nobility so you would be right in assuming that these Hanok estates are rather nice. Bukchon is a neighborhood that sits to the east of Gyeongbokgung Palace, the main palace in the capital city of Seoul, and west of Changdeokgung Palace, known for its gorgeous secret garden. The neighborhood to the west of the main palace, while not as traditional in architecture, is also a great spot to find things to do. Check it out after visiting Bukchon. Whether you live here or are just visiting, there is bound to be something in Bukchon that you should see. In this guide, I will be focusing on the Bukchon Hanok Village and the places to go, what to see, and what to do.
The village is STILL a residential neighborhood and that is very important to note as just walking up into homes is not cool. While some Hanoks have been converted into cafes, restaurants, and museums, NOT all of them have. Do be respectful of residents, be quiet while you’re walking the narrow alleys, and don’t just walk into doors unless it explicitly says it allows visitors.
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EXPERIENCE PROGRAMS & TOURS
Kum Bak Yeon: Gold Leaf Printing: This experience is a unique way to enjoy and learn about the Bukchon Hanok Village. Sit in a traditional Hanok house and learn about the tradition of gold leafing application on to silk. You can choose from various options including a sash, bag, and bookmark. Partake in this delicate experience under the guidance of some experts. I have done this experience and taken tourists there and have loved it each time. This is my number one recommendation in the area for experiences. The staff is knowledgeable and patient and no matter what you choose to do, you’ll walk away with a great keepsake from the area. Book your gold leaf experience easily here.
Address: 24-12 Bukchon-ro 12-gil Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea (서울특별시 종로구 북촌로12길 24-12)
Traditional Korean Tea Institute: Visit the institute to be led through a traditional tea ceremony and learn about Korean culture in a fun and interesting way. The experience includes the tea ceremony in which visitors take part as well as a tea food making course and a green tea hand and foot massage. Learning the delicate art of tea brewing is a really great way to learn about the culture in this historic village and to enjoy a rather calming experience. Book your tea experience here.
Address: 50 Yulgok-ro 1-gil Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea (서울특별시 종로구 율곡로1길 50)
Bukchon Traditional Culture Center (북촌문화센터): This center is usually where I suggest people go to start their walk in the area. Walk in the open Hanok here to learn about the structure and why they’re shaped the way they are. This is a self-guided space and the walls of the Hanok are labeled with information. When you’re headed out, you can pick up a great walking map of the area too. This is a FREE stop and just offers great information on what else you can find in and around the alleyways of the neighborhood. If you’ve never been in a Hanok house and what information on their architecture, this is a great spot to learn more about that too!
Address: 37 Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 계동길 37)
Gahoe Museum (가회민화박물관): This traditional Hanok house which may look small from the street view houses over 1,500 relics from Korea’s past. This is one of the very first places I visited on my very first trip to the area way way back. Folk paintings adorn the walls and a curator will easily explain the colors and symbolism there within. Walk through the small L shaped building and then sip on green tea as you listen to the explanations. Did you know that fish were traditionally painted on screens to be in a person’s bedroom because fish have eyes that never close so they are seen as an animal that will watch over you and protect you? Yeah, that’s something I learned on my first trip here. The museum also offers hands on experiences like T-shirt or fan painting, amulet stamping and wood block rubbing for a small fee.
Address: 17 Bukchon-ro 12-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 북촌로 52)
Han Sangsu Embroidery Museum (한상수 자수박물관): Established by master embroider Han Sang Soo who is a third generation enthusiast of the craft, the museum seeks to preserve this aspect of Korean aesthetic culture. There are two main exhibition halls with a variety of Korean garments and embroidery art and the experience program here allows visitors to embroider their own handkerchief and take it home with them.
Address: 29-1 Bukchon-ro 12-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 북촌로12길 29-1)
OneDay Hanbok Rental: One of the most popular activities in Bukchon is to dress up in Hanboks, traditional Korean dresses, and stroll the historic streets. Choose a colorful skirt and top and head out to take gorgeous pictures among the Hanok homes and tea houses. This is the most popular experience for a reason… it’s just fun. There are numerous colors to choose from and Koreans invite anyone and everyone to wear their traditional clothing so don’t be shy about taking part. I personally own four Hanboks and love every one of them. It’s definitely an experience to wear one and I highly recommend it.
Address: 2nd Floor, 4 Bukchon-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 북촌로5길 4)
This stop in the Bukchon Hanok Village is a new one for me but a very interesting one. The owners use vintage cameras to take portraits of those that come in. The prices are reasonable and the vintage photos are gorgeous. There is a long retro looking bar of sorts on the main floor where you can get coffee or tea when you stop in for photos. The building itself stands out in the area as it is NOT a Hanok but definitely an older building that was gutted and renovated a bit. Definitely a must visit and a great place to take a photo after you’ve rented those Hanboks so you’ll have a lovely keepsake to take back with you.
Address: 84-3 Gyedong-gil Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 계동길 84-3)
MUST VISIT CAFES
There are cafes up, down, and all around the Bukchon Hanok Village, and Seoul for that matter. Whether you’re looking for a coffee or a more traditional tea, there is something for everyone. For this post, I want to focus on the cafes that are either in a Hanok or provide some gorgeous Hanok views.
Greenmile is definitely an Instagrammers dream. If you’re looking for a spot to get a pic with Hanok tiled roofs in the background, this is the cafe for you. Drinks and snacks are only allowed to be eaten inside so the rooftop is just for that photo. Live it up though folks. The coffee is good, the snacks delicious and the photo-appeal gorgeous. Wear your Hanbok for an ultimate Korea-inspired shot here.
Address: 64 Bukchon-ro Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 북촌로 64)
Another picture perfect cafe sits just next to the Seoul Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art and features a beautiful glass window that overlooks a section of the museum with a traditional building in view. While the cafe is a bit more modern and the gallery open, the traditional aesthetic additions and view cannot be missed. The cafe and gallery are a little disconnected. There is also a restaurant here too so when you go in, keep your eyes peeled for the various doors. The entrance to the gallery is actually through the outside corridor and behind the cafe and restaurant.
Address: 54-3 Yukgok-ro 1-gil Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 율곡로1길 54-3)
Cha Masineun Tteul (차 마시는 뜰)
A beautiful spot to have tea in the area that cannot be overlooked is Cha Masineun Tteul. Set in a traditional Hanok House, most seating is on the floor save one private room that features a table with chairs. The seating looks out windows to view Gyeongbokgung Palace. This is one of the best tea houses in the area and has some very delicious teas made in house. This is the cafe I take all of my own visitors to. There is something for every tea lover.
Address: 26 Bukchon-ro 11na-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 북촌로11나길 26)
Layered is a popular bakery in the area. Set in an old converted Hanok house, the central courtyard has been covered so that light can still enter and brighten up the space, but now there’s more indoor area for people to sit while they dine on sumptuous pastries that have been baked in house. A great spot if you like English style baked goods such as scones and cakes. Get some coffee and you’re good to go. This is definitely a spot that you’ll want to hit early as it does fill up. We rocked up at 10:00 a when they opened and upon leaving just after 11:00 the spot was pretty busy. Great place to start a walk in the area.
Address: 2-3 Bukchon-ro 2-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 북촌로2길 2-3)
The Coffee Mill (커피방앗간)
The Coffee Mill is an old Hanok house that now houses a very cozy cafe. The owner of said cafe is also known to sit and draw the people that come by. Stop over to purchase a coffee and a drawn headshot for a little fun in the area. While many places in this neighborhood have undergone a lot of changes recently, this cafe is tried and true. This cafe is near the end of the route that I usually suggest to people in the area. Get your afternoon pick-me-up in this hot spot only the locals can find. There’s also some great street art that is on the cement walled paths around this cafe so keep your eyes peeled.
Address: 8-11 Bukchon-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 북촌로5가길 8-11)
Onion is a cafe that first opened up in the hip Seongsu-dong, or Brooklyn of Seoul, and after much success with their renovated space, they’ve expanded into Bukchon. They gutted and opened up an old Hanok house and have done it in rather stunning fashion. Where walls once stood, windows have been placed and now you can see completing through so that you can completely enjoy the Hanok tiled roof and wooden inner structure. If that weren’t enough, the coffee and bready treats are legit! It’s a must stop if you’re a hipster or like where hipsters hang.
Address:: 5 Gyedong-gil Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 계동길 5)
Anguk 153 is a bakery that is easily found on the main street near Anguk Station. The first floor welcomes you in with the site of loaves of bread and the aromas of recently made treats. Put in an order for tea and some buns and then head upstairs to find a seat on one of the numerous chairs and tables. While this isn’t necessarily a Hanok house or feature the views, it’s a spot to keep on your radar. It’s on the main street, easy to find, and has delicious treats if you need a quick snack or drink before or after a stop in the area.
Address: 51 Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 율곡로 51)
One of the best things about the area is that there are numerous art galleries and museums and most of them, if not all, are FREE. Want to do something budget friendly in the area? Hop from gallery to gallery. I cannot possibly name them all and exhibitions are every changing so I’ll name just a few spots that you can shoot for but by all means keep your eyes open for anything with “gallery” on the side and walk right in. That’s what I do and I have not been led astray. While not all exhibitions speak to me aesthetically, it’s still a fun thing to do and it sure gets the creative juices flowing.
Songwon Art Center
The Songwon Art Center was founded in 2006 and is a spot to check out from inside and out. The building was designed by Kisu Park of Mass Studies and the space is both a culture and art space. There are five floors with multicultural spaces and they exhibit art of young and upcoming artists. (The Songwon Art Center Website)
Address: 75 Yunposun-gil, Hwa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 윤보선길 75)
PKM Gallery is a newer space that leads from the Hanok Village toward the Blue House, or the President’s house. It’s spacious and is a good spot to shoot for to get a bit off the beaten path in the area. (PKM Gallery)
Address: 40 Samcheong-ro 7-gil Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 삼청로7길 40)
Arario Museum in Space
This modern art museum was established by Arario Corporation’s chairman Chang Il Kim. The building was designed by famous architect Kim Swoo Geun and until the 1980s it was his office and home. Today, the museum houses a rather interesting collection of artistic pieces, some not suitable for children so people 10 and under are not permitted entry. If you do have children, still head to the area to visit the cafe that’s in the courtyard. It’s a great little Hanok space with a pagoda to sit around. If you do go inside, follow the maze of hallways and staircases to see everything and then get some coffee in the courtyard from Fritz Coffee and sit where a temple pagoda rests.
Address: 83 Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 율곡로 83)
WHERE TO EAT
In such a traditional neighborhood you might not expect to find a good burger joint, but there it is with a drive-in style sign calling passerby into the gutted Hanok house that is now a burger diner. The style inside is a bit awkward with hip-hop signage and retro tables and chairs but don’t let that deter you, the burgers are GOOD and skinny fries guys… skinny fries. This spot has managed to stand the test of time (so far) and has been in the area for a couple of years to my delight. Go go go while you can!
Address: 74-3 Yulgok-ro 3-gil Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 율곡로3길 74-3)
Doore Yoo (두레유)
Want some Korean fine dining? This is the spot for you. Michelin-starred chef Tony Yoo combines temple cuisine, which is a vegetable-based cuisine from Korean Buddhist temples, with traditional Korean cuisine and makes some truly beautiful modern dishes. Ingredients are from across Korea and this is truly a special meal when had.
Address: 65 Bukchon-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 북촌로 65)
This is a spot that you could easily walk right by, especially if you can’t read Korean as the sign outside eludes to a sauna inside with its logo and yet there’s a pasta restaurant in this hole in the wall. The word dosirak means lunch box in Korean and the square metal tins you see are traditional retro Korean dosiraks. The pasta was DELICIOUS, the chef and owner kind and attentive, and the retro setting super cool. A must stop! Honestly, I was not expecting much but was very pleasantly surprised.
Address: 124 Gyedong-gil Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 계동길 124)
Know Where To Go!