Ancient Capital Of Shilla, Gyeongju (경주)

The museum without walls.

Gyeongju (경주), often referred to as “the museum without walls”, is the second largest city by area in the North Gyeongsang Province, after Andong. Gyeongju was the capital of Shilla, the ancient kingdom from 58 BC – 935 AD, and as such a big number of archaeological sites as well as ancient artifacts still remain in the city. The reason Gyeongju still remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Korea is the fact that many historical treasures and UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Bulguksa temple, Seokguram grotto, Gyeongju Historic Areas as well as the Yangdong Folk Village can be found in Gyeongju, and are relatively well preserved. Gyeongju can be easily reached by rail from Seoul in under 3 hours. Nearby major cities include Busan and Daegu.

Here we recommend some of the must-see places in Gyeongju.

There are two train stations in Gyeongju – the main Gyeongju Station as well as this Bulguksa Station, which is nearer to the Bulguksa Temple.
Design of the station reflects the many history of Gyeongju as the ancient capital of Shilla Dynasty.
A small and unassuming train station.

1. Bulguksa Temple

Designated as a World Cultural Asset by UNESCO in 1995, Bulguksa Temple is the first thing that comes to mind when people talk about Gyeongju. Bulguksa Temple was built in the year 528. The temple underwent numerous renovation works, in part due to the new dynasties that took control from the Shilla Kingdom, as well as the Japanese invasions from 1592 to 1598. Today, it is one of the main reasons travellers from all over Korea visit Gyeongju. Bulguksa Temple is also designated as a Historic and Scenic Sight #1 by the South Korean government.

The entrance of Bulguksa Temple.
Passing through the corridor of the gods.
Here you can buy ceramic tiles which you can pen your well wishes on.
Koreans believe that penning your well wishes down can help them come true.
Korean students on a school trip.
Spring time at Bulguksa Temple.
The temple’s colourful exterior contrasting against the clear blue sky.
Marvel at the ingenuity and brilliance of Korean architecture.
Spring flowers in full bloom.
Natural and man-made beauty.
From another angle, still as charming.
A foreign visitor checking out the Goddess of Mercy temple.
Like a colouring book.
The beautiful temple compound.
A great spot for selfies don’t you think so?
Koreans believe that wish-making while stacking up pebbles like this greatly increases the chances of your wishes coming true.
Remember to take off your shoes before entering the temples.
Perfect spring weather.
Spring water.
Korean lady selling snacks outside the temple.

To get to Bulguksa Temple, hop on bus 11 from the bus stop across the road from Bulguksa Station. There are a total of 6 stops which should take you no more than 20 minutes.

2. Cheomseongdae Observatory

Cheomseongdae, an astronomical observatory is the oldest existing observatory in Asia. It was used to observe the stars during the reign of Queen Seon-deok during year 632 – 647. It was designated as the National Treasure No. 31 on December 20 1962. Cheomseongdae was built with stones 30cm in diameter. The Vernal Equinox, Autumnal Equinox, Winter Solstice, Summer Solstice and 24 solar terms were determined by the observation of the stars.

Dad and son enjoying the lovely spring weather.
Cherry blossoms in full bloom at the park surrounding the Cheomseongdae Observatory.
Tram rides are available too at the park.
A cyclist slowing down to take pictures of the cherry blossoms.
A family enjoying a day out at the park.
Cotton candy and cherry blossoms go hand in hand here in Korea.
Even their Starbucks outlet is modelled after a Korean traditional house!
Gyeongju’s very own Starbucks tumbler.
Cheomseongdae at night.

To get to Cheomseongdae from Bulguksa Station, take bus 40 from the same bus stop across the train station. There are a total of 14 bus stops which should take you no more than 40 minutes.

To get to Cheomseongdae from Bulguksa Temple, hop on bus 10 from the entrance of Bulguksa Temple. There are a total of 21 stops which will take you no more than 55 minutes.

3. Anapji Pond

Wolji Pond was built during the 14th year of the Shilla Kingdom. Together with the Donggung Palace, the Wolji Pond has been designated a historical site no. 18 on January 21 1963. The entry to the Anapji Pond costs 2,000 KRW per adult, 1,200 KRW for teenagers aged 13 – 18 and 600 KRW for children aged 7 – 12.

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Anapji Pond.
School children on an excursion.
Students walking beside a lit stream.

To get to Anapji Pond from Cheongseomdae Observatory, most people would actually walk or cycle as it is located relatively nearby. You can also take bus 11 or 600 from the entrance of Cheongseomdae towards Anapji Pond. There is a total of 1 stop which will take you less than 10 minutes.

So that’s it, our 3 must-see places in Gyeongju. Gyeongju is an exciting city that is going to be very different from what you are used to seeing in Seoul or Busan. There are not a lot of tall skyscrapers in the city, the roads are not as crowded and you definitely would not find as many shopping malls or pubs on the streets of Gyeongju. What you can expect though, is plenty of historical sites and artifacts that have been designated as national historical sites, as well as world cultural assets such as the aforementioned Bulguksa Temple and Cheomseongdae Observatory, among many others. You would not find as many of such important historical artifacts located in one city other than in Gyeongju!

From Busan – Geuma Tour Shuttle Bus

The Geuma Tour shuttle bus will bring you to Gyeongju directly from Busan’s Gimhae International Airport.

From Busan – Inter-city Bus

You can also take the city bus from Busan Central Bus Terminal (부산종합버스터미널) to Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal (경주고속버스터미널) .

  • Duration 50 min
  • Scheduled every 15 minutes
  • Fare: 4,800 Korean Won
From Seoul – Inter-city Bus

A bus from Seoul Express Bus Terminal (서울고속버스터미널, near the Express Bus Terminal Subway Station on Line 3, 7, 9) will get you to Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal.

  • Duration 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Scheduled every hour
  • Fare: 20,600 ~ 43,500 Korean Won depending on the type of coach

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