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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Hwangnidan-Gil: Gyeongju’s Trendiest Street

The one thing that has always impressed me about Gyeongju was the fact that everyone in this area has been there numerous times and still it is a busy place on weekends and holidays. The reason for that, I believe, is that although the sites are centuries old, the city keeps reinventing itself. The recent trend of “instagramable” locations and cafes is flooding the city with hanbok-clad youngsters and trendy cafes.

One of the more surprising changes took place in the Hwangnamdong district. What was once just a quiet side street where you could probably find a place to park your car for free near the Daereungwon Tomb Park, is now a trendy area full of cafes, restaurants and line ups of people waiting to eat and post pics on social media.

The Main Strip: Hwangnidan-Gil

I have to laugh now, but I have walked past this street so many times over the years. Now to see it bustling with tourists makes me smile. However, what is actually bringing so many people here? For the most part dining around the area of the tombs was limited to either Gyeongju Bread or Heang Nam Bread. Over the years, chain cafes flooded in alongside the staple korean-style restaurants that have been there for many years. With the youth of today looking for trendier shops and cafes like in Seoul, Ssam-bap and red bean-filled pastries have lost their appeal.

Cafe owners were quick to adapt and the result is a street of hip shops, independent books stores that pay homage to the building styles of the past with a trendy new angle. Many of the shops and cafes keep the style of the past, but what they are serving certainly is not. From craft beer to vegan cuisine, Hwangnidan-Gil has something for everyone.

The main street stretches from the tip of the tomb park, up along the road that will take you to the bus station, and then down towards the road that takes you to Cheomsangdae. However, due to the popularity, the area is growing and you will find some hidden places tucked into the alleys that branch off the main street.

Coffee, Food and Cool Places

Roastery Dong Kyeong

While coffee shops in Korea are as abundant as sand on the beach, there are a number of great places that are worth exploring. The first being Roastery Dong Kyeong. Tucked away in an alleyway, just off the main street, this shop attracts a ton of people of the weekend. It’s built into an old home and has some great coffee as well as a delicious chocolate pound cake.

Roastery Dong Kyeong’s pound cake

Cafe Ohi is on a corner near Roastery Dong Kyeong and has a great view of the area. Not to mention that they have wine, if that turns your fancy. However, the main attraction here has to be the location and the roof. From the roof on a nice day you can look out over the tiled roofs of the tradition houses and really get a sense of the history.

Along the main street, right at the “entrance” coming from the bus station, is Cafe Nordic. This place has a limited menu but sees huge lineups. Ranging from salad to an amazing grilled cheese sandwich, Cafe Nordic is an interesting addition to the area. It is a small cafe that has only about 5 or 6 tables but is constantly busy. Not to mention that the service is pretty good as well.

Cafe Nordic Salad

Another cool place to check out is Seasoning, which is a pasta restaurant tucked in behind the main parking lot by the tomb park. It’s traditional look and modern menu make this the perfect spot for dates and couples flock to it. Like most of the popular spots mentioned here, they do get overrun with couples and tourists on the weekends and holidays. Keep this in mind when visiting.

The main street is filled with a mixture of cafes and other interesting shops. There is an independent bookstore and a photoshop that looks like you step back in time when passing through the door. Simply walking down the streets and alleys can be a great experience. With that being said during busy times, the lack of sidewalks does create a bit of a headache. Keep your wits about you as you dodge legions of hanbock-clad couples armed with selfie sticks and careless drivers speeding through the narrow streets.

Stay Traditional

If you are going for the full experience, Hwangnamdong is filled with hannock hotels that give you a very comfortable sleep in a traditional Korean style home. These places are a little more pricey than the average AirBnB but are worth it. Many of them are newly built but have kept the traditional construction and design. HwangnamGwan, is a really nice hannock inn located near the bottom (quieter part) of Hwangnidan-gil. It prices are fairly reasonable and it’s facilities are beautiful.

Gyeongju is a great place that deserves a full weekend. Thus, I would highly recommend staying there. While you can find more modern accommodations around the city and the Bomun Lake area in particular, the hannocks around Hwangnidan-gil give a sense of true Korean heritage.

Jason Teale is a freelance photographer and writer based in South Korea specializing in travel, Cinemagraphs, food, and documentary photography. Available for assignments in Ulsan, Busan, Seoul, and nationwide.