As far as cultural weekend trips around Korea go, there are few places as fun to visit as Jeonju. Not only is their Hanok Village one of the most famous and iconic in Korea but it’s also packed full of quirky street food vendors. We decided to make our way to this historic gem of a city over Christmas and it was definitely one of the best Christmases either of us have had abroad. There is so much to see in Jeonju, and even more to eat and drink. Located just 2 hours outside Seoul, this is a place worth putting on your Korea travel list.
What to Eat
Let’s be honest here. Most people head to Jeonju for the food on sticks with a backdrop of culture. The place really is a haven for foodies. Here’s a peek at all the yumminess that we managed to fit in on our short 24 hour trip to Jeonju!
Skewered Meat and Cheese
As a vegetarian, Jeonju (like most of Korea) was not kind to me! However, for Veeran, it was a culinary dream. As you wander around the hanok village, you’ll notice that almost everyone is carrying some kind of food on a stick.
Veeran decided to go for the skewered spicy chicken which was completely lathered with mozzarella cheese. Other options included octopus and sausage. According to him, it tasted like dalk-galbi on a stick, which sounds pretty good to me!
Imsil Cheese Stick
Just 30 minutes from Jeonju is a small town called Imsil, famous for being Korea’s first cheese-making village. However, you can find plenty of vendors around the hanok village where you can try a sample of Imsil cheese for yourself! The most popular way to have it is grilled on a stick (of course) with the dipping sauce of your choice.
Being used to crappy processed cheese slices or rubbery mozzarella in Korea, my hopes weren’t too high for the Imsil cheese. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it tastes really similar to halloumi, one of my favourite cheeses, but with a much softer texture.
At 3,000 won for a tiny stick, it doesn’t come cheap. Especially in comparison to the mammoth meat skewers. However, it’s definitely worth trying.
Traditional Jeonju Bibimbap
Herbivores rejoice! Bibimbap is one of Jeonju’s most famous dishes and the bibimbap here is worth writing home about. With a huge colourful array of different veggies, this is a far cry from the bibimbap that hails the 24-hour kimbab shops. For carnivores, there’s also the option to get some raw beef thrown in there too.
You’ll find bibimbap shops all over the city but do your research first- they’re not all created equally. I don’t believe that ours really was the best bibimbap in Jeonju (despite the signs saying so….) Still, itwas pretty damn good and I’m glad I got to taste bibimbap in its home territory!
Novelty Ice Cream
Doesn’t matter what temperature it is, it’s never too cold for ice cream. (According to my South African boyfriend….) To be honest, as much as I enjoy ice cream, I’m not as huge a fan as he is. But, one thing that I can appreciate is a good novelty ice cream and Jeonju does have loads of those.
I remember last summer being so jealous of all the people who live in Seoul showing off their novelty ice cream fads on Instagram. There are surprisingly a lot of crazes in Korea that don’t really make it out of the Seoul city boundaries! So, when I got to Jeonju and realised that they had all the fads, I was very chuffed.
Since I only had 2 days I only had enough room for one ice cream. (I’m sure Vee would have loved to have had more…) I chose wisely and went for tiramisu and have absolutely no regrets! Hopefully before I leave I can finally try the gourmet style bunggeopang ice cream.
A long queue spanning street corners is usually an indicator of how good a restaurant is, regardless of where you are in the world. For long queues and mandu that doesn’t disappoint, head to Dawoorang. One of the most popular street food shops in the hanok village.
Veeran had the shrimp dim sum which, according to him, was succulent and fresh tasting. I had the vegetable mandu which ended up being laced with meat. I wouldn’t recommend this place to veggies. (I asked in Korean if it contained meat and was assured that it didn’t so it was a bit of a surprise.) However, for meat eaters, this is a great place for a quick bite and is definitely deserving of its long queues.
Imsil Cheese Hoddeok
Yeah, so pretty much the only street food for vegetarians in Jeonju is cheese, cheese and more cheese. For vegans, the struggle is real! I am a huuuge fan of regular hoddeok so I was so excited to try this weird combo of cheese and hoddeok.
It was all going well until I agreed to have a bit of sauce on it. Turns out the standard sauce to serve with what is basically a fancy cheese toastie is…. condensed milk? Apart from that weird addition, cheese hoddeok was delicious and was devoured in less than a minute!
Croquettes are big business in both Japan and Korea and vendors come up with some imaginative fillings. Gyodong Croquettes has a bunch of fillings to choose from, including Jeonju bibimbap, curry, kimchi and cream cheese.
I ended up going for the boring old potato and vegetable croquette because it was the only savoury vegetarian option. Still yummy with a soft fillings and light crispy fried exterior. If anyone has tried the curry or bibimbap flavour, please report back so I can live vicariously through your tastebuds!
When we were researching Jeonju, one of the things that Veeran was most looking forward to was this baguette burger. Gilgeoriya is another hugely popular street food outlet in Jeonju so expect queues.
In return for your time (and 4,000 won) you’ll get a hollowed out baguette with burger mashed up with a special dressing and salad. Veeran enjoyed it but wasn’t sure if it was worth all the hype.
Yayy to another veggie friendly dish in Jeonju. Kongnamul gukbab translates to bean sprout rice soup and that is precisely what it is. Although this might sound a bit boring, it’s hot, spicy and delicious. Particularly so on a cold day. One food that I really miss and crave is haejangguk (hangover soup) so I’m glad to have found this vegetarian substitute.
One of Korea’s most common convenience store snacks gets a bit of a gourmet makeover in Jeonju. At PnB, one of the oldest bakeries in the city, you can buy handmade choco pies in a variety of flavours. We stuck to white chocolate and milk chocolate and they have both officially ruined regular old choco pies forever.
What to Drink
Food isn’t the only thing getting a novelty makeover in Jeonju. Nope, this is Korea after all so, of course, good old maekju (beer) needed a bit of a facelift! I went for the slush puppy grapefruit beer and it was cold and refreshing without being too sweet, like a lot of grapefruit beers in Korea.
“That would taste good with a dash of moju” became a bit of recurring phrase in Jeonju. Moju is an extremely weak Korean spirit made with cinnamon, cloves and ginseng. Believe it or not, this stuff is even more Christmassy than Bailey’s! We tried it straight, in makgeolli and even in our americanos. Tip: if you want to buy some to take home, save money by buying bottles from the convenience store and not the street vendors.
Jeonju is famous for its makgeolli and it’s even considered as a food in its own right. For those who don’t know, makgeolli is a Korean rice wine with a slightly fizzy but creamy flavour. Although we never made it to any, the city is home to a few makgeolli streets where you are given plates and plates of free food for every kettle of makgeolli that you order. This is one things that I’m gutted to have missed as I am a huge makgeolli fan!
Being home to a traditional village, there is no shortage of traditional tea houses in Jeonju. Traditional teahouses are a fun cultural experience and a nice alternative to the masses of coffee shops that line Korea’s streets. A few of my favourites to order include yuja cha (citrus honey tea), sujeong gwa (cinnamon tea) and saenggang cha (ginger and honey tea.) Yum!
What to Do
Yes, there is more to do in Jeonju than just eat food! Here’s how we kept ourselves entertained.
Stay at a Hanok House
It would be a shame to come to Korea’s most famous hanok village and stay in a love motel. Jeonju is full of commercial hanoks for tourists to stay in. This is a great way to experience a unique part of Korean culture without breaking the bank too much.Hanok’s are typically slightly more than standard hotels but it’s worth doing at least once during your time in Korea.
We came over Christmas and stayed in Heungbuga hanok which I would recommend to anyone making a trip to Jeonju! It’s really centrally located in the middle of the village (read: near the food), the owners are kind and friendly and the rooms are super cosy, too.
Get Kitted out in Hanbok
Jeonju’s hanok village is a strange mix of old and new; you’ll see old-fashioned houses with K-Pop music blaring out of huge speakers, girls in hanbok taking selfies on their latest Samsung phones and age-old recipes, like bibimbap, being served along completely new creations like baguette burgers.
Getting dressed up in hanbok is, undoubtedly, the most popular thing to do here, though. You’ll even see some couples doing a gender switch! Hanbok rental is fairly cheap in Jeonju and you can hire one for around 10,000 won. If you’re not bothered about wearing one yourself, it’s always fun to snap sneaky pictures of other people all dressed up.
Get a View from the Top at Omokdae
For a stunning view of Jeonju hanok village, I recommend heading for Omokdae. From the top of this short hike, you can see out across all the roofs of the hanok village. It makes the perfect vantage point for photographers.
There’s so much more to do in Jeonju that we didn’t manage on our short trip. We would also have loved to have visited the Art Village but just didn’t have time on such a short journey. Deokjin Park is also supposed to be beautiful but winter isn’t the best season for visiting.
Jeonju has lots to offer and, most importantly, the dining options are endless! If you have a spare weekend in Korea and what to visit somewhere that’s both fun and a bit cultural, definitely head for North Jeolla province and see what Jeonju’s all about. You might come back a couple of kilos heavier but I’m sure you’ll love it.
Have you ever been to Jeonju? Leave me a comment and let me know what you enjoyed most about the city!
Disclaimer: I’m an affiliate for Hotels Combined and have linked to one of their properties in this post. If you’re going to be in Jeonju and book your stay through my website, I’ll get a small amount of commission that helps me run this blog.