Love Korean food? Then you’ll most likely love Jeonju too – Koreans themselves call this charming city their culinary capital. And if filling your belly’s not enough, its central district of traditional wooden hanok buildings might just be the most attractive neighbourhood in the country.
With its magnificent collection of slate-roofed hanok houses, and a street food scene brimming with lip-smacking treats, it’s a wonder that more people haven’t heard of Jeonju. The Koreans have long extolled its wonders: “Eat once in Jeonju and be spoiled for life” is the local saying, and there are plenty of opportunities to ruin the rest of your tastebuds’ existence. Wolf down the local take on bibimbap or knock back cinnamon-infused moju (a creamy rice beer) – almost everything you order is served with an army of expertly prepared banchan side dishes.
If all that eating leaves you hungry for more Korean culture, don’t fret. Many of Jeonju’s best places to eat are located in and around the city’s delightful Hanok Village – Korea’s traditional wooden hanok buildings have largely been replaced with high-rise structures across the land, but thankfully this neighbourhood lives on, to give visitors (not to mention locals) a flavour of olden times. Its hundreds of traditional dwellings are threaded through with cobbled alleyways, often only just wide enough for two people to pass. Some buildings have been converted into teahouses – another rarity in today’s Korea – and venues for demonstrations of local traditional practices; the nightly musical performances are a particularly riveting watch.
The Hanok Village is particularly charming after dark, when twinkly lights give it the appearance of a film set – so it’s a real bonus that you can stay overnight here, in one of a number of wooden guesthouses. It doesn’t have to be a splurge, either, since there are choices to suit all budgets.