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Capital of southeastern Korea for seven centuries, and then the whole peninsula for another three, Gyeongju is by far the most appealing city in the country. Awash with history, royal treasures and magnificent temples, comparisons with Kyoto are inevitable; while its Japanese counterpart has morphed into a sprawling modern city, Gyeongju maintains a humble, relaxed air more in keeping with its past. Strewn across town are hundreds of green, grassy bumps in which a millennium of kings and queens were buried; the absence of any high-rise buildings means that from the tallest of these hillocks - only 85 feet above the ground - you'd be able to ...

Capital of southeastern Korea for seven centuries, and then the whole peninsula for another three, Gyeongju is by far the most appealing city in the country. Awash with history, royal treasures and magnificent temples, comparisons with Kyoto are inevitable; while its Japanese counterpart has morphed into a sprawling modern city, Gyeongju maintains a humble, relaxed air more in keeping with its past. Strewn across town are hundreds of green, grassy bumps in which a millennium of kings and queens were buried; the absence of any high-rise buildings means that from the tallest of these hillocks - only 85 feet above the ground - you'd be able to see the whole city. Not that you should stop there - the countryside around town contains enough to fill up a whole week of sightseeing, including the intricately painted temple of Bulguksa, the former Confucian academy of Oksan Seowon, treasure-littered Namsan Park, or the splendidly-named "Underwater Tomb of King Munmu." Well-kept secrets are becoming harder to track down these days - Gyeongju is one unlikely to disappoint.

Norbert Paxton
About the Expert

Norbert Paxton is the author of the Rough Guide to Korea and contributor to the Rough Guides to China and Vietnam.

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Norbert Paxton for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: South Korea, in the southeastern corner of North Gyeongsang Province, on the coast of the Sea of Japan. Also known as Kyongju.
  • Language: Korean, English
  • Currency: South Korean won
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall
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  • Best Time to Visit:

    Gyeongju is a popular weekend destination for Koreans, so try to visit on a weekday if possible.