The most famous hanok village / neighborhood in all of South Korea is almost certainly Bukchon, simply by virtue of the fact that it is in Seoul.
Bukchon had been an elite yangban neighborhood in Joseon times (that is why it is so close to the palaces), and many of its wooden historic hanok buildings have survived the 20th century.
Since Bukchon is so accessible, both to half of South Korea’s population and the millions of tourists who pass through Seoul, it’s a popular place for historical dress-up (I will say more about that in my next post).
Bukchon is full of various little centers for preservation of traditional Korean culture.
There is one particular street/alley which is particularly famous, known as ‘Gahoe-dong’.
So many tourists go to Gahoe-dong that there are limits on when outsiders (i.e. people who don’t actually live in Bukchon) can walk through it. When I was there, most of the tourists were from other Asian countries, which means they are like most foreign tourists in South Korea.
Most of the galleries / workshops / cultural centers charge a small fee, but there was one dedicated to traditional Korean dolls for protecting / serving dead spirits which was admission free.
I feel that Bukchon is a bit of a victim of its own success. Because it is so accessible, it’s turned into a showcase of artificially preserved Korean culture for tourists rather than a place for people to live, and many people there try to make lemonade from lemons and get some money from the tourists
That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It does help widen appreciation for traditional Korean culture, and no doubt has a good role in cultural preservation.
And then there is hill with good views over Bukaksan, Inwangsan, and the Gyeongbokgung complex.
I also stopped at a teahouse.
Since I had already visited Jeonju, Gyeongju, and Hahoe, I can’t say I got much out of Bukchon which I hadn’t already gotten from those places – with the splendid exception of the views over Bukaksan/Inwangsan/Gyeongbokgung. Furthermore, considering that those other places are not as over touristified/commercialized at Bukchon, I have to say that they offer a more charming hanok experience.
But I like hanok villages in general, and thus I enjoyed my visit to Bukchon as well, and in the next post I will describe the guesthouse I stayed at in Bukchon.