I’d be honest that the primary thing that piqued my interest for Jeonju was it being the “birthplace” of a common Korean dish – Bibimbap. I first tried bibimbap during my university days in NTU – Paik’s Bibimbap – and have been addicted since. As I’m already in South Korea, I just had to get bibimbap from the “original” stall, Gogung Bibimbap (고궁/古宫).
Of course, taking a 2.5 hour journey to Jeonju only for bibimbap would not make much sense, so here’s a list of what I did! The last item really blew my mind away (really worth the scrolling down I promise).
I took about 3/4 of the entire day in Jeonju. We got around Jeonju by bus (the only public transport in that area) and were super thankful to be connected with Roamingman SG. Their seamless connection was our sole mean of getting around Jeonju. All we had to do was key in the name of our destination in our navigating app and all the suggested routes would be displayed (even the location of the bus stop!)
1.Feast on bibimbap
Definitely the number one thing on my list.
There are a couple of branches in Jeonju and we went for the main branch. As this day trip was on a Sunday, the walk to the restaurant was extremely agonising – all the shops on the way were closed. The last thing I want to do was to arrive at an empty and closed restaurant haha.
Thankfully, it was already bustling with life at 11.30am (opens at 11am haha everyone knows where to get awesome bibimbap). The menu is rather simple – 3 types of bibimbap and some sides. Unfortunately, we gave the traditional Jeonju bibimbap a miss as we really wanted to try the other two bowls – the hot stone pot bibimbap (KRW 10,000) and the beef tartare bibimbap (KRW 13,000).
As it was approaching winter, I really liked the fact that the hot stone bibimbap was hot. (duh). Both bibimbap were served with generous ingredients and a bowl of hot beansprout soup.
The marinated beef in the beef tartare was really well done, there was no gamey taste at all. Both bibimbap also came with the chilli paste separated for you to choose your own spiciness levels.
They also have sides like seafood pancake but we were super full by the time we were done with our bibimbaps. You’ve got to try it for yourself 😉
Gogung Bibimbap (Main Branch)
Address: Jeollabuk-do, Jeonju-si, Deogjin-dong, Songcheonjungang-ro, 33 KR
전라북도 전주시 덕진동 송천중앙로 33 KR
Opening hours: 11am – 9pm
2.Stroll along Deokjin Park
If you’ve gone to Gogung bibimbap’s main branch, the park is just a short walk away! Yay!
I read that there was a huge bridge across a huge pond in this huge park. It was supposed to be filled with blooming lilies in July and August. However, it’s end November when we visited…
So the pond was filled with withered lilies Hahahah. Pretty interesting sight for me actually – a pond full of withered plants. But the worst part was actually the huge bridge being closed for maintenance. Just as I thought we had a wasted trip there, I spotted this huge swing which kept us entertained for a good 10 minutes haha.
3. Explore the Jeonju Hanok Village
There were also free walking tours happening around the area so you could go to their information centre to check out their timings.
All the tours are free and conducted by Korean volunteers. Unlike those in Europe where they explicitly mention at the start that you should be tipping them, the ahjumma guides that show up seemed to be genuinely interested to just share about their area.
Traditional Korean clothings were also available for rent here if you’re interested. I gave that a miss because I didn’t want to be restricted by the timing to return the hanbok.
The tour brought us around the traditional houses, the “legendary” gingko tree and the guide even shared some short stories with us. Since we had no idea where to start exploring, we were glad we waited for the tour to start despite being early.
4. Grab some chocopies from PnB Bakery
If chocopies are your thing, you won’t want to miss this.
We realised that there are MANY PnB Bakery outlets in Jeonju and most of them had queues. And so, we joined one. Could not resist getting a couple of flavours at one go and I would say they are all pretty good, just on the sweeter side. If you want to get just one flavour, go for the original.
5. Catch Sunset at the Hilltop
At the back of the Jeonju Hanok Village is a hill that’s great for catching sunset. The steps and railings were well maintained and steps were not steep. Pretty manageable for us.
THE VIEW WAS AWESOME!!
6. Sample wine at the Jeonju Korean Traditional Wine Museum (전주 전통술박물관)
Entry to the museum is free and their exhibits have minimal English. We got to see the equipments and tools used in the making of traditional korean wine and right outside the exhibition area, there was an ahjumma offering alcohol samples. She was probably trying to sell us something but she did not understand English and we did not understand Korean so *shrugs shoulders*
Other than exhibits, affordable lessons were also conducted in the museum. We arrived at around 5.30pm and all the classes had already ended, so you may wish to call their travel hotline to ask for their class timings beforehand!
We also got to try Moju, a herbal infused version of makgeoli, at the wine museum. Our Hanok Village Guide told us that Moju is made with makgeoli and chinese medicinal herbs. It has a low alcohol percentage of around 1.5%. The drink was warm and it tasted a lot like the herbal soups that my mother would make me drink when I was young haha. I think I am sticking to the normal makgeoli.
Jeonju Korean Traditional Wine Museum
Address: Hanji-gil 74, Wansan-gu, Jeonju-si, Jeollabuk-do
전라북도 전주시 완산구 한지길 74 (풍남동3가)
Opening hours: 9am – 6pm (Closed on Mondays)
Travel Hotline: +82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese)
6. Challenge yourselves in a Makegeoli Pub
Jeonju is also one of the makgeoli producing hubs in Korea and they are known to have makgeoli bars along their quiet streets. These bars would serve many side dishes to go along with copper kettles of makgeoli. We decided to visit one ourselves and landed in Gain Makgeoli Restaurant (가인 막걸리 ).
We had this really awkward entrance and communication skills were at an all time low hahah. After lots of hand signs and guessing, we got ourselves a KRW 35,000 set and the really nice ahjummas just kept looking at us.
This one is definitely not for the faint hearted as our feast of side dishes includes silkworms, raw cockles and fermented raw fish. In attempts to “immerse ourselves” in the Korean culture, we decided to try EVERY single side dish. Instant regret when we noticed the Koreans at the other table left the more terrifying dishes untouched…
Gain Makgeolli Restaurant (가인 막걸리)
Address: 35-1 Pungnamdong 2(i)-ga, Wansan-gu, Jeonju-si, Jeollabuk-do
전북 전주시 완산구 풍남동 35-13번지
Opening hours: 1pm – 12am
Tel: +82 63-282-6455
How to Get There
As Jeonju is quite a distance away from Seoul, We went to Jeonju via KTX from Yongsan Station. Ticket timing and prices can be found on the KTX website. You could even book online, up to one month in advance. Be sure to get the tickets early (one day in advance is not enough) or you’ll end up with standing tickets or non-direct trains back to Seoul. For us, our return trip was a standing train which had more stops than usual, so the trip back was an agonising 2.5hour stand hahaha. On the bright side, at least we managed to get back to Seoul.
Navigating Around Jeonju
Getting around Jeonju was a breeze for us with the wifi router from Roaming Man SG. It’s easy to use and their network pretty smooth too! As bus is the main form of transport in Jeonju, I didn’t have to worry about which stop to drop at – just follow the GPS dot on Naver maps. Other apps were also easily accessible because we were connected the entire journey (no need to find public wifi spots!)
During our 2.5 hour stand back to Seoul, we were also playing Clash Royales all the way hahah. Only possible because we were connected with a wireless wifi router. Cheers!