A Day to Remember at Bukchon

I spent the last three years of high school in Seoul before returning to the States for college.  At the time, one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city was Insadong which was known to be a particularly artistic district.  I loved wandering through the tiny galleries and stores, admiring antiques and traditional handicrafts.  It was the one place in the city that hadn't been taken over by concrete towers of modernity.  Here, old buildings still stood with dusty windows, sliding doors, and tiled roofs.  This was the Korea I imagined when my parent's told me of their childhood.  

Sadly, this version of Insadong has steadily disappeared as arcades, coffee shops, and shiny contemporary art galleries have encroached upon it's once quaint alleyways.  I later learned that T's father also loved and mourned the Insadong of my memories.  So when he came to visit us while we were in Seoul, we were excited to take him to Bukchon in hopes of reliving our nostalgic memories of Insadong. 

As it turns out, the neighborhood just north of Insadong had been protected and renovated with the help of the Korean government so that it may serve as a safe haven for historic architecture and traditional arts and crafts.  As it is located in the northern reaches of the city, it has come to be called 'Bukchon' which literally translates to "northern village."  It is an impressive expanse of winding alleyways and roads lined with stately 'hanoks' or traditional Korean houses.  

Unlike other folk villages in Korea, Bukchon is an actual residential area so there are signs throughout the neighborhood reminding tourists to be mindful of their noise level, trash, and respect for privacy.  Nevertheless, I've also heard that some residents open their home to the public and provide private tours or even overnight accommodations.  Additionally, there is a healthy sprinkling of tourist information centers, cultural centers, and artisan workshops all throughout the neighborhood... not to mention beautiful stores and restaurants from which you can enjoy traditional handicrafts and tasty treats.  

If you ever plan on visiting Bukchon yourself, here are a couple of my recommendations:

For more on the '8 Views of Bukchon' and other information to plan your trip check out the Bukchon Hanok Village webpage.


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