5 Places to Visit in Korea That Aren't Seoul

You guys all know Seoul has had a piece of my heart since I first stepped foot in Incheon Airport back in 2011. It's the first city I was by myself in. Home to my K-pop riddled fantasies. It saw me when I was every inch the eighteen-year-old, fresh with youthful ambition. It saw me again four years later, much more mature, more traveled, and more eager to learn about Korea beyond the glitz and glamour. I still visit the city around once a month, and I still enjoy exploring the lesser known spots or just fulfilling cravings (Mexican food, ohmygosh) and visiting friends. However, you should know, as I'm sure anyone who has lived in Korea has muttered in annoyance at least a handful of times, Korea is more than Seoul. Seoul, really does get all the good stuff first, and if you are  Korean pop culture lover, it will seem like everything is in Seoul. Pretty much every drama is set there, and when they talk about family in the countryside, you will immediately imagine sun worn halmonies crouching down and pulling up sweet potatoes. Korea is not just farmland filled with vegetables and kimchi tins outside of Seoul, and here are 5 places to prove it.  


In terms of Korean travel, you can think of Busan as Seoul's rival. Think of it as Korea's LA if Seoul is its NYC. Busan is Korea's largest port city and the second largest in terms of metro area population, with 8.2 million to Seoul's 25.6 million (yes, that's a big difference). You will find the conveniences of Seoul (English translations, more common franchises, ease of public transportation) without a lot of the crowds. Plus Busan is a port city, meaning water! It has that feeling of an ocean side city mixed with being a huge metropolitan area. There are gorgeous walks, beaches, and more at your fingertips in Busan, including my favorite place Gamcheon Culture Village.


Image from Wikimedia Commons
Gwangju is only an hour from me, so when I'm craving franchise shopping or just a bigger city feel, this is where I go in an instant. It's a smaller metropolitan area, big enough for its own metro system, small enough that you can just taxi around if you really want to. I haven't been able to look into his historical and cultural aspects as much as I'd like to, but Gwangju has quiet the history with scholars and politics. You can pay respects to those who died in the Gwangju Uprising, visit a Confucious school Gwangju Hyanggo with houses from the first century of the Joseon Dynasty, and much more. And, if you're in the mood for something non-Korean, might I recommend Tequilaz, a delicious Mexican restaraunt. 


Daegu's nickname is Colorful Daegu, and its biggest aim is to be Korea's fashion city. It is Korea's third largest metro area after Busan and Seoul. Surrounded by mountains, it has an abundance of parks and hiking trails around the city as well as amazing temple views. Beware of going in the summer, apparently Daegu is known has the hottest place in Korea. Since its aim is to be Korea's fashion hub, you can check out Dongseongno for some serious shopping. Dongseongno is considered Korea's largest and widest downtown area after Seoul. I haven't had the chance to explore Daegu as much as I wished, but I've heard great things, and I did get to see Duryu Park, which is pretty stunning.


If you want to learn about Korea, sans the K-pop, K-dramas, and K-Idols, then Jeonju is the place to go. It was once the capital of the Hubaekje Kingdom (892-936) and a spiritual capital of the Joseon Dynasty (otherwise known as Korea's defining era, lasting from 1392-1897, until *cough* Japan *cough*). Explore the Hanok Village, full of traditional Korean houses, shop in Gaeksa, and experience the ever famous bibimbap.  I highly recommend a tour of the Hanok Village. I believe one of the universities is trying to set something up, and there's also adorable guides dressed in hanboks! 


I have to give a shout-out to my current town, don't I? Namwon is considered Korea's City of Love (its name is 사랑의 도시 남원시), and it plays up that title with glee. It is known for being the setting to one of Korea's great love stories, their version of Romeo & Juliet, and the focus is more on the female than the male. You can read here for the story, and see The Servant (2012) for a different take on it. There is a festival every year called the Chunhyang Festival, and Namwon apparently goes all out. Its symbol is the heart, and it is everywhere, from buildings to over a bridge and more. Check out the main attractions, and if you're into hiking, Jirisan is the second largest mountain range in Korea. 

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