Gongju is a small city in South Chungcheong province. It’s one of the lesser-travelled cities of Korea, but it’s beautiful and packed with rich history, pertaining particularly to the Baekje dynastic period of Korea. For most people, knowing where to get started in Gongju might be a puzzle, but we’ve gone and done it for you, so you don’t have to.
Follow our itinerary for all the best things to see and do, including where to stay and what to eat, during a 1 night-2 days visit to Gongju, South Chungcheong.
Before Your Trip:
How To Get There:
You’re going to Gongju! But how are you going to get there? No matter your financial situation, physical ability or simply your preferences, there are several ways to get to Gongju from Seoul.
By car: Without a doubt, travelling by car is the easiest way to get to Gongju and some of the sights it has to offer from everywhere in Korea. It’ll take around 1.5-2.5 hours to drive there from Seoul (traffic dependent), and it’s also the easiest way to get to the temple in our itinerary. Rent a car from Lotte Rent-a-car or Avis.
By bus: There are both express buses and standard intercity buses available from Seoul to Gongju, from Seoul’s Express Bus Terminal. A return ticket on the weekend will cost around 30,000W for the express bus, or 20,000W ($17.50/£13.50) for the intercity bus. The express bus takes around 2.5 hours, whereas the intercity bus will take around 3 hours. Book your ticket at TxBus.
By train: To take the train direct from Seoul to Gongju you’ll have to take a KTX which costs 35,600 one-way. An indirect train through Cheonan/Asan or Gwangmyeong will cost you between 200W and 3,700W more than a direct train, but it should be noted that the Seoul-Gongju direct train only runs 6 times a day: 3 in the morning, and 3 in the afternoon. Book your train tickets on the Korail website.
By plane: The closest airport to Gongju city is Cheongju, which is 1 hour from Gongju by car, or 2.5 hours by bus. We don’t recommend this route, unless you’re going directly to Gongju from outside mainland Korea.
Where To Stay:
Gongju is an historical city and so where better to stay than in one of Korea’s traditional houses – a hanok! There are so many options to choose from, but we recommend staying as close as you can to the Gongsanseong Fortress, or to the Gongju Hanok Village.
We stayed in this beautiful hanok-style guesthouse with multiple rooms. It was clean and comfortably fit five people, sleeping on thick floor mats with lovely plush bedding. The Moonlight Garden guesthouse is a convenient 5-minute walk from the Gongsanseong Fortress and Geumgang River, and an easy 5 to 10-minute drive away from all the main attractions to see in Gongju city.
Book this Airbnb room here.
Gongju: Day 1 (Magoksa Temple, Gongju Hanok Village, Gongju National Museum, Gongsanseong Fortress)
To fit everything on this itinerary into your trip to Gongju, we recommend that you leave Seoul around 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning. This will also allow for potential traffic on the roads, particularly if you’re driving down there, and will let you get the most out of your time in Gongju!
The first stop of the trip is Magoksa Temple (마곡사), a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the head temple for the Jogye order of Buddhism for its district. Situated on the eastern slope of Mt. Taehwasan, its location was chosen for its auspiciousness. The river around it forms a taeguk shape – the shape on the Korean flag – and for this reason it was designated as one of Joseon’s ten utopian sites. As such, it was believed that this location would be free from war or other troubles, and so many cultural heritage artefacts are kept and displayed here.
Magoksa is also famous for its two prayer halls set on two different levels. However this is not the only atypical property of this temple. Where most temples have been repainted to preserve the original images of the buildings, Magoksa has been left to age gracefully over the years. Its faded and flaking exterior is quite charming, and lets the visitor feel the age and history of the structures.
Magoksa Temple is situated just a 30-minute drive north-west of Gongju. For this reason, we recommend visiting on your way into Gongju rather than entering the city and driving back out.
Address: 966, Magoksa-ro, Gongju-si, Chungcheongnam-do
충청남도 공주시 사곡면 마곡사로 966 (사곡면)
Public transport: From Gongju Bus Terminal, take Bus 610, 611 to Magoksa Temple Parking Lot bus stop.
Entry fee: Adults 3,000 won / Teenagers 1,500 won / Children 1,000 won
Accessibility: The temple site is 800m from the car park along a path dotted with trees, making wheelchair access only possible by road. Entry into the temple grounds is flat with no steps. Access to the second level, housing the second prayer hall, is only available by a set of 20 stone steps.
Gongju Hanok Village
Gongju is an incredibly historical city, so it may come as a surprise to hear that its hanok village is one of its newest attractions. Opened in 2010 for the Great Baekje World Festival, Gongju Hanok Village (공주한옥마을) offers an up-close experience not easily found in other parts of Korea, with its stunning woodwork and open-door opportunities.
Read more about Gongju Hanok Village, what to do and see there, and learn about the history of hanoks themselves in this article.
Originally named Ungjinseong, Gongsanseong is an ancient fortress that originally housed a royal palace, soldiers’ training facilities and more. Built during the Baekje period (475-538CE) when the city was called Ungjin (its original namesake), it measures over 2.5 kilometres in length, and is constructed mainly of stone. Today, you can walk the walls of this UNESCO World Heritage site, take in the views of the Geumgang River, and observe the scenery of the sprawling city surrounded by mountains.
Address: 280, Ungjin-ro, Gongju-si, Chungcheongnam-do
충청남도 공주시 웅진로 280 (금성동)
Public transport: From Gongju Station or Gongju Terminal, take bus number 200 to Gongsanseong Fortress stop
Entry fee: Adults 1,200W / Students 800W / Children 600W
(Admission before 9am and after 6pm is free.)
Accessibility: Entrance into Gongsanseong Fortress complex is flush with the pavement, and the paths are slopes or flat – some slopes are quite steep. To walk on top of the wall, and to enter some pavilions, access is only by stairs, and the ground on the wall is uneven in most places – not suitable for wheelchairs or walkers. There are not many places to sit and rest while walking the walls and complex.
Gongju: Day 2 (King Muryeong Tombs, Gongju National Museum)
Muryeongwangneung Royal Tombs in Seongsan-ri
Gongju was the capital of the kingdom during the Baekje Period. As such, it is home to the royal tombs of King Muryeong. King Muryeong, the 25th king of Baekje, is one the most famous kings of his era, and supposedly strengthened the Baekje kingdom and its relations with China and Japan. His tomb (also the resting place of his unnamed queen) and the surrounding tombs at Songsan-ri are one of the most famous attractions of Gongju. Discovered by accident during drainage work in 1971, the royal tomb housed over 2000 historical artifacts from the Baekje era. Twelve of them were named as national treasures, and all of them including the crowns worn by the king and queen, are now on display in the Gongju National Museum.
As well as learning about the fascinating history of Baekje, the complex surrounding the tombs offers beautiful scenery, perfect for a morning walk. Take a stroll up the hill through the tombs and forest, and down the other side – there is a small lily pond and pavilion at the bottom that would be beautiful in summer.
Address: 37-2, Wangreung-ro, Gongju-si, Chungcheongnam-do
충청남도 공주시 왕릉로 37-2 (웅진동)
Public transport: From Gongju Terminal, take bus number 101 to Gongju Art & Culture Center stop.
Opening hours: Every day, 9:00 – 18:00 (last admission 17:30). Closed on Seollal and Chuseok days.
Entry fee: Adults 1,500W / Teenagers 1000W / Children 700W
Accessibility: Entrance into the tombs complex and park is flush with the pavement. There are no stairs here – all paths around the complex and into the tombs are wide and flat, though some paths up the mountain are a little steep. When walking the park, keep in mind there are no locations to sit and rest.
Gongju National Museum
The Gongju national museum is located right next to the Gongju Hanok Village and has two floors displaying over 10,000 artifacts from the Baekje and prehistoric periods. All the relics in this museum have been excavated in South Chungcheong Province and the Daejeon area. Here, you can see the ancient artifacts from King Muryeong’s tomb on display, as well as 19 national treasures, and rotating special exhibitions.
Address: 34, Gwangwangdanji-gil, Gongju-si, Chungcheongnam-do
충청남도 공주시 관광단지길 34 (웅진동)
Public transport: Take bus number 108 to Gongju National Museum stop.
Opening hours: Monday – Friday: 10:00 – 18:00
Weekend: 10:00 – 19:00
Closed: Mondays, New Year’s Day, Seollal and Chuseok days.
Entry fee: Free
Accessibility: Entrance into the museum is via a small set of a stairs or a wide ramp. Maneuvering inside the museum seems to be accessible with flat, wide pathways.*
*Disclaimer: As we tried to visit the museum during the pandemic, we were unable to go inside, so any accessibility advice has been made from looking at photos and videos of the museum. We endeavour to update this information after visiting the museum in person.
Where to Eat and Drink:
Gomanaru dolssambap restaurant
If you look in all the guide books and search the internet for places to eat in Gongju, it’s highly likely that Gomanaru will be one of the first options to show up, and for good reason too. Situated directly opposite the entrance to the Gongsanseong Fortress, Gomanaru serves a simple but delicious ssambap meal, offering a wide array of meats, fish and vegetable side dishes, making it suitable, if not ideal, for most people with dietary and religious requirements. Grab a lettuce leaf, put some of the tasty dishes and sauces inside with rice, wrap it all up and pop it in your mouth in one go. Don’t forget to pour hot tea into your hot stone bowl after scooping out the rice, to make a delicious rice soup to feast on after you’re done with the wraps.
Address: 5-9, Baekmigoeul-gil, Gongju-si, Chungcheongnam-do
충청남도 공주시 백미고을길 5-9
Public transport: From Gongju Station or Gongju Terminal, take bus number 200 to Gongsanseong Fortress stop
Opening hours: Every day, 11:00-21:00 (last order 20:00)
Closed every 4th Monday of the month.
Price: 14,000W/person for the set menu, extras vary
Accessibility: Narrow entrance into the restaurant, shoes must be removed, one step up to the dining area, tables and chairs available.
Perfect for taking a rest after a morning or afternoon exploring everything Gongju has to offer, Edge Cafe is a charming little cafe located inside a newly-built hanok-style building. Tucked away down the backstreets of Gongju, not far from the fortress and other popular attractions, Edge serves a menu of drinks for all tastes, alongside a great selection of desserts and snacks made in-house. Besides this, they have a small flea-market inside the main cafe building where you can buy items created by local artists, or hire an Instagram-worthy picnic kit.
Address: 12, Minari 2-gil, Gongju-si, Chungcheongnam-do
충청남도 공주시 미내리2길 12
Public transport: From Gongju Terminal, take bus number 200 to Gongsanseong Fortress stop, then from eMart24 walk south away from the fortress, take the first right, then the second left, and the cafe will be on your left at the next corner.
From Gongju Terminal, take bus number 540, 550 or 760 to Sanseongdong stop, then walk north on the main road until you reach the petrol stations, turn left off the main road through the petrol stations, and the cafe will be on the corner of the second road on your right.
Opening hours: Every day 12:00-18:00, closed on Mondays
Price: Around 6,000W for drinks, desserts vary
Accessibility: Wide entryway, grass and flat stone path, one step up to the entrance of the cafe, flat entrance into the cafe building, spacious cafe buildings with varied seating including window bench seats and chairs and tables.
Baekje Cultural Festival
Every year in September or October the city of Gongju and the county of Buyeo team up to host the Baekje Cultural Festival: a week-long cultural art festival celebrating the Baekje period, its culture, art, and kings. Taking place across several UNESCO World Heritage sites, the festival showcases Baekje history and culture through street parades, live dance and music performances, lantern displays, and a traditional floating bridge crossing, as well as the Samchungje (Ritual for the Three Loyal Officials) and Surykjae (Water and Land Ceremony) which have been conducted since the festival’s first organization in 1955.
More information: www.baekje.org
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