A historical tour of Korea must encompass its unique traditional homes. Seoul is currently brimming with hyper-modern architecture and design but Bukchon Hanok Village is a reminder of its architectural roots. Bukchon Village has the largest concentration of traditional Korean homes, known as hanok, in Seoul and is located in an area known for its abundance of historical landmarks, in between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgong Palace. During the Joseon Dynasty, this village was inhabited by the elite Yangban noble class. As the Yangban began to lose influence under Japanese colonial rule, their large hanok estates were broken up into multiple homes in the 1930's to accommodate Seoul’s growing population. It was at this time that the neighborhood took its current form of tight alleyways winding through a sea of tightly packed traditional homes.
Visitors to Bukchon Village can marvel at the architecture of the houses while walking through its old alleyways, feeling like they've stepped back in time. Those who want to experience the interior can find many hanok in the village functioning as cultural centers which provide information and workshops in traditional crafts. Other hanok have been converted to cafes and restaurants, where you can sip on coffee or tea and eat in traditional surroundings.
About the Hanok:
- Hanok: “han” means “Korean” and “ok” means “home”
The architectural design of hanok considers the harmony between the home and its surrounding landscape. For instance, in Korean tradition, the strategic location of rivers in the front and mountains in the back is an ideal location for homes.
- Bukchon: “buk” means “north” and “chon” means “village”
The hanoks in Bukchon reflect this ideal with Cheonggyecheon Stream located south of the hanok village, and Bugaksan (Mount Bugak) situated behind the village. The structure of a hanok consists of natural materials. A common design is a heavy clay tiled roof resting on a wooden frame with walls made of hanji, thick Korean paper made from tree bark. Its heating system is constructed of stone, under the floor, and is called ondol (the modernized version of which is still used to heat up Korean apartments). This Korean ondol (under-the-floor) heating system was a source of inspiration for American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who incorporated this system in the construction of Jacobs I, a single-family home in Wisconsin and an architectural feat that is a national historic landmark in the United States.
The number of original hanoks in Korea is diminishing rapidly in the face of large-scale urban redevelopment. Bukchon Hanok Village was once home to over 2500 hanoks not long ago but nowadays hosts fewer than 800. People continue to reside in the hanoks of Bukchon Village, with some in the area also preserved to showcase the neighborhood's history. Because it is still a residential neighborhood, visitors to the village are urged to be as quiet as possible and not litter in order to not bother local residents during their visit.
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South Korea, Seoul, Jongno-gu, Gye-dong, 계동길 37 Bukchon Hanok Village
Take Line 3 to Anguk Station and go out Exit 2 -> Walk straight 300 meters and you will arrive in Bukchon Hanok Village
The main entrance to Bukchon Village is between a souvenir shop and a pharmacy. Though no big signage indicates this entrance, you can find public tour guides there to provide any more information you need.