Bukchon village is located on a small hill just north of the Seoul city center. Literally “north village”, Bukchon consists of more than 700 traditional Korean houses, or hanoks, crammed into narrow streets and alleyways. The neat thing about this area is that while being a popular tourist attraction, it’s also a regular residential area. People actually live here (and apparently have complained about the noisy tourists), and if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of daily life in this old traditional village. Granted (as it also was 600 years ago), normal here means well-heeled and prestigious. This was, after all, the residential area of high ranking officials and noblemen during the Joseon Dynasty, and even today this looks like a very exclusive neighbourhood. It is also a very popular filming location for Korean TV series.
The Seoul tourist association lists “Eight Bukchon Views” on the official area maps as representative of the spirit and beauty of the village, and have installed picture point markers at each location. I managed to visit seven of the eight sites (the omitted one being somewhat out of the way). So here are, in no particular order, my Seven Views of Bukchon!
Click on the photos for larger versions.
Stone steps from Samcheong-dong
These stone steps connect Bukchon hill with the adjacent Samcheong-dong Cultural Street. They are carved directly out of the mountain rock and lead up to a great westward view of the surrounding area and shops below.
31 Gahoe-dong, side alley
This small alley is near the top of the hill, and in this quiet area you’ll find some beautifully maintained traditional homes. Best of all, there’s hardly any tourists here, so you can really enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. The old doorways are impressively constructed – makes you wonder what the interiors look like. Residents are indeed lucky to be living here.
31 Gahoe-dong, downhill
Gahoe-dong is the main thoroughfare in Bukchon, running downhill for almost the entire length of the village. This view is often referred to as the best of the official photo spots. When not crowded by throngs of visitors, you can see the many hanoks lining the street in contrast to the modern city center highrises in the distance.
31 Gahoe-dong, uphill
Walking down Gahoe-dong and looking back up the hill, you get another of the official views of Bukchon. It seems that the further down the hill you go, the less prestigious the address (just my perception, but maybe that was the way back then too)? Some of the buildings are less elaborately decorated. At the bottom of Gahoe-dong, friendly tourist guides are happy to help you find your way through the maze of small streets.
Rooftop view of Bukchon
There is a narrow alleyway on a small hill where you can get a great view of the tiled hanok rooftops. This is another of the official views.
11 Gahoe-dong museum alley
Near the bottom of the hill, a narrow alley contains a number of hanok buildings converted into small museums and traditional crafts workshops. This is known as the museum alley.
View of Changdeokgung Palace
Bukchon village is adjacent to Changdeokgung Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site. At the bottom of the hill, you’ll find a panoramic view of the buildings behind the palace walls. By the time we got there, the palace was closed for the day, but we could still see the impressive front gate with its intricate carvings and elaborate paintwork.