Foodie’s Guide To Restaurants/Cafes in Gyeongju, Korea’s Ancient Capital – Hwangnidan-gil (황리단길)
Famous for being the capital of Korea during the Silla dynasty, Gyeongju (경주) is a must visit during your time in South Korea. From the old burial mounds, to the cultural village, the observatory, Anapji Pond, and the Bulguksa Temple, it is easy to see why it is often referred to as a ‘museum without walls’.
More recently however, another area has appeared that should be added to your list of places to go: Hwangnidan street (황리단길). A burgeoning foodie haven amidst the history and traditions of Korea, this street and the surrounding area has become famous for its variety of cafes and restaurants and with more places constantly popping up, you will be sure to find something to suit everyone.
Here are the top 10 places to give your feet a break and your taste-buds a treat.
Nordic / 노르딕
Touted as the ‘original’ restaurant to kick start the flood of restaurants to Hwangnidan-gil, and situated right at the top of the street, it is normal to see a line of people waiting for a table outside. With only room for a handful of tables, it keeps guest numbers at any one time to a minimum, adding to the aura of desirability. It is a cozy space with a limited but delicious menu. The food is fresh and filling, especially the Nordic salad and French fries!
Bichkkuli / 빛꾸리
Gyeongju has many traditional tea houses, but this is one of the most popular thanks to how instagrammable it is. Bichkkuli is in a beautiful hanok house which you have to take your shoes off to enter because the seating is on the ground, but the atmosphere inside is very peaceful. Their Korean rice cake snacks come in a beautiful range of pastel colours with honey dip and the best part is their delicious drinks. Be sure to try the popular Citron Tea (유자티)!
Temtris / 템트리스
As you push your way in through the huge wooden revolving door, past empty alcohol bottles, you’re welcomed into an atmospheric restaurant reminiscent of an old abandoned house. Imagine if someone had gone and given Miss Havisham’s house a clean, but left all the pictures and chandeliers up. They offer a range of Korean and western food from risotto, pasta, tteokbokki, to fried sides. The tteokbokki is especially good because of the delicious sauce.
Seasoning / 시즈닝
Popular with young people and couples because of the combination of traditional hanok setting and delicious food, Seasoning offers a modern range of pasta and rice dishes. With an interior of exposed wood and white paint, and instagram famous delicious food, I am sure it is definitely worth a visit!
Oncheonjip / 온천집
If you want something a bit different from pasta and rice, then head over to Oncheonjip. A Japanese shabu-shabu chain, it is one of the prettiest restaurants in Gyeongju. An avenue of green bamboo, wicker lanterns, and white gravel lead you past a pond to a traditional wooden hanok with big glass windows. You can have shabu-shabu (hotpot) for 1 person, or Roast Beef Steak Rice Bowl, or Bowl of Rice Topped with Truffle and Fries. All delicious!
Pizaok / 피자옥
Delicious focaccia pizza, steak and pasta in a hanok. If you like focaccia bread, pizza, and traditional hanoks, then this is the place of your dreams. When you walk in, you are hit with the delicious smell from the kitchen and it is difficult to choose just one dish, so make sure to take friends so you can share several different options. The crusty focaccia bread pizza is very good, and definitely hits the spot after a long day of walking around the royal tombs.
Cafe OHI / 카페오하이
A great place to try and catch the sunset, this cafe has incredible rooftop views over the traditional hanok buildings of Gyeongju. Split over 3 floors, this is also a building in the hanok style of exposed wood and white paint. Right on a corner of Hwangnidan-gil itself, it is the perfect spot to take a rest and do some people watching of the street below. It has a great selection of drinks, and the waffles here are very good!
In a different part of Gyeongju, out from the centre of the city next to Bulguksa temple, this cafe is a great place to have a rest before or after visiting the temple and climbing up to see the Seokguram Grotto. The second floor has big glass windows so you can sit and gaze at the gorgeous views of the mountain beyond. Their croissant sandwiches are delicious and be sure to try the black sesame latte if you can!
Venzamas / 벤자마스
This brunch cafe is on the opposite side of the tourist sights from Hwangnidan street, so slightly difficult to get to without a car. However it is such a popular spot that they recently added some new buildings. Despite being very modern, it is a great place to feel like you’re in the Korean countryside because it looks out onto the farmland and mountains. The beef brisket salad is very good, as is the Venzamas Brunch.
Bonjeon Makpo / 본전막포
This makgeolli dive bar is not on Hwangnidan street, but is just a short walk away into Gyeongju city proper. However it is definitely worth the 15-20 minute walk! They have a wide variety of flavoured makgeolli and their food is also incredible. There are three buildings, with some slight menu variations between them. But the main attraction is the decor; the walls are covered in comic book pages and littered with sticky notes from guests gushing about how much they love the bar. Even if you’re not a particular fan of makgeolli, be sure to check it out for the atmosphere and food.
So the next time you visit Gyeongju be sure to go and explore Hwangnidan street and all the deliciousness it has to offer. And be sure to visit the many fashion shops, bookshops, photo studios and cute gift shops nestled in between. If you decide not to visit any of the places listed above, make sure you wander around the area, because every side street and alleyway reveals more hidden gems of Korea’s enticing ‘museum without walls’.