Gwangju Travel Guide: Top 20 Things to Do in Gwangju, South Korea

Ready for an adventure? Let’s dive into Gwangju, South Korea’s sixth-largest city, tucked away in the southwestern corner of the peninsula. This place is a vibrant blend of rich history, passionate culture, and bustling urban life. Gwangju is not just a city. It’s a living canvas, painted with stories of artistic rebellion, a spirited fight for democracy, and a warm, welcoming community. Whether you’re an art aficionado, a history buff, or a foodie at heart, Gwangju has something special in store for you. Let’s unpack what makes Gwangju a must-visit for anyone looking to explore the depth and diversity of South Korea.

Gwangju traditional architecture in South Korea

A Beacon of Art and Culture

Creative Souls Unite: Gwangju is famously known as the city of light, but it’s also a city of art. Home to the esteemed Gwangju Biennale, this city buzzes with creative energy, from cutting-edge galleries to vibrant street art that tells stories of hope and resilience.

A Storied Past

The Spirit of May: The May 18th National Cemetery and the Gwangju Uprising Memorial Hall stand as solemn reminders of the city’s fight for democracy in 1980. These historical sites offer a deep dive into a pivotal moment in South Korea’s modern history, honoring the spirit and sacrifices of the Gwangju citizens.

Culinary Delights

A Taste of Gwangju: Get ready to tantalize your taste buds with Gwangju’s unique culinary offerings. Known for its delicious and diverse street food, the city is particularly famous for its Korean-style pancakes (jeon) and the savory delight that is Gwangju kimchi. Don’t miss exploring the Yangdong Market for an authentic taste of local life.

Green Escapes

Urban Oasis: Amidst its urban landscape, Gwangju boasts beautiful green spaces like the Mudeungsan National Park. Here, hiking enthusiasts can explore ancient temples nestled in the mountains, serene walking trails, and breathtaking vistas that showcase the natural beauty surrounding the city.

Gwangju Nightlife

When the Sun Goes Down: The city comes alive at night with its bustling markets, chic cafes, and lively bars and clubs. The neighborhood around Chonnam National University is a hotspot for those looking to experience the vibrant youth culture and energy of Gwangju after dark.

So, pack your bags (and maybe an appetite for adventure), and get ready to immerse yourself in the unique charm that is Gwangju.

Gwangju Travel Guide: Things to do in Gwangju, South Korea views of the city

Gwangju City Guide: A Brief History Of Gwangju, South Korea

Gwangju is a city with a story that resonates deeply within the soul of every Korean. It’s a narrative of art, struggle, and transformation that has propelled Gwangju from its historical roots into a bustling hub of culture and democracy. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and uncover the layers of history that define Gwangju.

Ancient Beginnings and Royal Ambitions

Roots in the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasties: Gwangju’s journey begins in the mists of Korea’s ancient history, with its strategic importance coming to light during the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties. It was a place of scholars, artists, and royals, contributing significantly to the cultural and political landscape of historical Korea.

The Cradle of Democracy

The May 18 Democratic Uprising: The most pivotal chapter in Gwangju’s history unfolded in May 1980, when the city became the epicenter of a pro-democracy uprising. Citizens took to the streets in a brave stand against martial law, an event that would forever mark Gwangju as a symbol of resilience and the fight for democratic freedom in South Korea.

Cultural Renaissance

Artistic Awakening: In the wake of its tumultuous past, Gwangju emerged as a vibrant beacon of art and culture. The city’s streets, galleries, and festivals—like the Gwangju Biennale—reflect a commitment to freedom of expression and the healing power of art. Gwangju’s culture is a testament to its citizens’ strength and creativity.

Gwangju Today: A City of Progress and Peace

From Ashes to Action: Today, Gwangju stands as a dynamic city that honors its past while boldly facing the future. It’s a place where history is remembered, not just in museums and memorials but in the spirit of its people—forward-thinking, resilient, and ever welcoming.

Gwangju’s Gastronomic Heritage

A Feast of Flavors: Beyond its historical and cultural significance, Gwangju is also known for its rich culinary traditions, from the famous Gwangju kimchi to the bustling food markets that offer a taste of the region’s bounty. The city’s food scene is a delicious reflection of its history—diverse, vibrant, and deeply rooted in the land.

Gwangju traditional gate in South Korea

Gwangju Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in South Korea

While South Korea is now one of the world’s leading democracies, it wasn’t always so free. Before its democratization, the country was under the control of authoritarian leader President Park Chung-hee for 18 years. After his assassination in 1979, the military seized power.

Pro-democracy activists began agitating for elections, a free press, and a minimum wage shortly after that. The opposition was most vigorous in South Jeolla province, whom Park Chung-hee neglected during his reign.

As demonstrations raged against the military junta in May 1980, the strongest happened in Gwangju. Students gathered at the gates of Chonnam National University in defiance of its closure. After a confrontation with soldiers, protests grew to 2,000 people later that day. Civilian protesters overcame the core of Gwangju – this led soldiers to escalate to lethal force.

A 29-year-old deaf man was the first victim, as soldiers beat him to death with clubs. The next day, soldiers bayoneted and opened fire on protesters. This provocation only made things worse – a local TV station was set ablaze, and militants raided armouries. Soon after, hastily-formed civilian militias managed to push the military out of the core.

A few days later, though, reinforcements arrived, which included helicopter gunships. It was a slaughter – while the official death toll was under 200, other estimates put it between 1,000-2,000 souls.

Important History

The remains of these freedom fighters were laid to rest within the May 18th National Cemetery. It consists of several highlights – the graves, the memorial hall, and the May 18th Memorial Monument. The graves are simply kept mounds with headstones, the memorial hall contains photos of many victims of the Gwangju Uprising, and the May 18th Memorial Monument consists of a pair of pillars that stand 130 feet tall. It is a sombre place, so dress respectfully and mind your behaviour – many victim’s relatives are still alive.

Those wanting to include a Buddhist hall of worship in their Gwangju sightseeing will want to check out Jeungsimsa Temple. Located on the slopes of Mount Mudeungsan, be sure to visit this peaceful place during the fall. The reds, oranges, and yellows of its surrounding foliage make for excellent photos during this season.

As for the temple itself, it is an active retreat for monks. As you admire its wood carvings, Buddha statues, and other highlights, make time for a chat.

Get a feel for how life once was by stopping by the Gwangju Folk Museum. Over two floors, this institution showcases things like food, clothing, handicrafts, and various customs from the past. Dioramas chronicle daily scenes from life centuries ago, while video presentations show off nine relics of South Jeolla’s culture.

While in Gwangju, learn more about Asian culture by visiting the Asia Culture Center. In this modern hall, you’ll find visual displays and video presentations on cultures spanning the entirety of Asia. However, try to take in a stage show, as they do a great job representing this continent’s diverse cultures.

Gwangju park gorgeous autumn colours

Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Gwangju, Korea

Gwangju is a city defined by not just by culture and nature, but by tragedy as well. While it is home to temples and surrounded by beautiful mountains, its people bled for democracy in the 1980s. In 1980, thousands were said to have perished as the army quashed the rebellion.

Ultimately, this heavy-handed response spelt doom for the military government, as free elections followed just years later. If you want to understand how South Korea became a prosperous democracy, visiting Gwangju is a must.

Nature lovers will want to spend at least one day exploring Mudeungsan National Park. It protects Mount Mudeungsan, the peak from which it takes its name. Despite rising 1,100 metres above the surrounding landscape, it is a relatively easy mountain to climb. Try to scale it during the week, as everybody and their dog comes here from Gwangju on weekends.

More Attractions

Even so, those who choose not to scale this peak will still have plenty to do. The Gwangju National Museum is one such attraction, as it contains artifacts from surrounding provinces.

As South Korea developed over the past generation, older-style neighbourhoods have emptied. In Gwangju, authorities have redeveloped one of them into an attraction known as Yangnim-dong Penguin Village.

Everywhere you look its buildings have been decked out in a variety of penguin murals. With Instagram moments aplenty, you’ll be in heaven if you love snapping selfies.

Get a taste of local life by strolling through the stalls of 1913 Songjeong Station Market. Built in 1913, it retains much of its old charm while mixing in modern elements. Come here for the food – from hoddeok to fish cakes, you’ll find the best meals of Gwangju here.

After a long day spent explore Gwangju, spend time relaxing at Pungam Reservoir. Initially built for agricultural purposes, officials redeveloped it into a park in 1999. Surrounded by trees, pavilions, and parkland, it is the perfect place to exercise or watch the world go by.

source: Cherie Moore on YouTube

Top 20 Things To Do in Gwangju, Korea For Visitors

Here are the top 20 things to do in Gwangju:

Gwangju high vantage point views in South Korea

1. Visit the Gwangju National Museum

The Gwangju National Museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the traditional culture and history of the Jeolla region. It features a wide range of artifacts, from prehistoric times to the Joseon Dynasty, including ceramics, paintings, and sculptures. The museum also hosts special exhibitions and cultural events throughout the year. It’s a great place to learn about the rich cultural heritage of Gwangju and its surrounding areas.

2. Explore Gwangju Biennale Exhibition Hall

The Gwangju Biennale is a contemporary art exhibition that takes place every two years, attracting artists and art lovers from around the world. The Biennale Exhibition Hall hosts this major event, showcasing a diverse range of contemporary art pieces, including installations, paintings, and multimedia works. It’s a must-visit for those interested in modern art trends and international cultural exchange. The venue also holds various art-related events, workshops, and lectures throughout the year.

3. Wander Around 5.18 Memorial Park

5.18 Memorial Park is a poignant site commemorating the May 18 Democratic Uprising against the military government in 1980. The park contains memorials, sculptures, and exhibition halls that honor the victims and educate visitors about the event’s significance in South Korea’s struggle for democracy. It’s a place of reflection and learning, set within a peaceful green space. The park also hosts cultural and commemorative events, especially in May.

4. Enjoy the Scenery at Mudeungsan National Park

Mudeungsan National Park, known for its stunning mountain landscapes, is perfect for hiking and outdoor activities. The park offers trails of varying difficulty levels, leading to beautiful waterfalls, ancient temples, and scenic viewpoints. It’s a favorite among locals and tourists for picnics, mountain climbing, and exploring nature. The park’s highlights include the famous Jeungsimsa Temple and the peak of Mudeungsan Mountain, offering panoramic views of the city.

5. Experience Traditional Korean Culture at Gwangju Folk Museum

Gwangju Folk Museum provides insights into the traditional lifestyles, customs, and history of the Korean people in the Jeolla region. The museum features exhibits on traditional Korean houses, clothing, tools, and ceremonies, offering a glimpse into the daily lives of Koreans in the past. It’s an educational visit that allows guests to experience Korea’s rich folk heritage. The museum also organizes cultural experiences and craft workshops for visitors.

6. Discover Art at Gwangju Museum of Art

The Gwangju Museum of Art showcases contemporary Korean and international art, with a focus on works by local artists from Gwangju and the surrounding areas. The museum’s collections include paintings, sculptures, and multimedia art pieces. It serves as a cultural hub for the city, hosting various art exhibitions, workshops, and educational programs. The museum’s modern architecture and peaceful surroundings make it a pleasant place for art lovers to explore.

7. Shop and Eat at Yangdong Market

Yangdong Market is Gwangju’s oldest traditional market, offering a vibrant atmosphere where visitors can shop for local produce, clothing, and handmade goods. The market is also famous for its food stalls, serving delicious Korean street food and traditional dishes. It’s an excellent place to experience the local culture, try authentic Korean flavors, and interact with friendly vendors. The market comes alive at night, making it a perfect spot for evening outings.

8. Take a Leisurely Walk at Uchi Park

Uchi Park is a beautiful green oasis in the city, offering walking paths, a lake, and sports facilities. It’s a popular spot for jogging, cycling, and family picnics. The park also features an outdoor amphitheater where concerts and events are held. It’s a peaceful retreat for those looking to escape the urban hustle and enjoy nature.

9. Visit the Gwangju World Cup Stadium

The Gwangju World Cup Stadium, built for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, is an architectural marvel and a must-visit for sports enthusiasts. The stadium hosts football matches, including games of the local team, as well as concerts and events. Visitors can take a tour of the stadium to learn about its history and architecture. The area around the stadium includes parks and recreational facilities.

10. Learn at the Gwangju Science Center

The Gwangju Science Center is an interactive museum that makes science fun and accessible for all ages. It features hands-on exhibits, a planetarium, and science shows designed to educate and entertain. The center is especially popular with families, offering a variety of educational programs and workshops. It’s a great place to spark curiosity and learn about science and technology.

11. Enjoy the Views from Sajik Tower

Sajik Tower, located on a hill overlooking the city, offers panoramic views of Gwangju and its surroundings. The tower is a popular spot for photography, especially during sunset. Visitors can climb the tower for free and enjoy the scenic vistas. The surrounding park is also a nice place for a leisurely stroll.

12. Experience Nightlife at Chungjangno Street

Chungjangno Street is the heart of Gwangju’s nightlife and shopping district, lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs. It’s a bustling area where locals and tourists gather to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere, live music, and delicious food. The street is particularly lively at night, offering a glimpse into the city’s modern urban culture. It’s also a great place to find trendy fashion and unique souvenirs.

13. Relax at Pungam Reservoir

Pungam Reservoir is a peaceful spot ideal for walking, cycling, and enjoying the natural scenery. The area around the reservoir features well-maintained paths, picnic spots, and art installations. It’s a favorite among locals for morning jogs and evening walks. The reservoir also hosts the Gwangju Lake Music Festival, combining outdoor activities with live performances.

14. Admire the Gwangju Hyanggyo Confucian School

The Gwangju Hyanggyo is a traditional Confucian school dating back to the Joseon Dynasty, offering a glimpse into Korea’s educational past. The school features ancient architecture, a tranquil courtyard, and educational exhibits. It’s a cultural heritage site that provides insights into Confucian teachings and practices. Visitors can enjoy the serene atmosphere and learn about Korea’s historical approach to education.

15. Explore the Kimdaejung Convention Center

Named after the former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, the Kimdaejung Convention Center is a modern facility hosting international conferences, exhibitions, and cultural events. The center’s architecture is impressive, and it serves as a symbol of Gwangju’s role as a hub for international exchange. Visitors can attend various events or explore the public spaces and art installations within the center. It’s a focal point for business and culture in the city.

16. Taste Local Cuisine at Songjeong Market

Songjeong Market is known for its traditional Korean foods and ingredients, making it an ideal place for foodies to explore. Visitors can sample local specialties like tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), kimbap (Korean sushi rolls), and freshly made tofu. The market retains a charming old-school atmosphere, with vendors selling a variety of goods. It’s an authentic experience that offers a taste of Gwangju’s culinary diversity.

17. Walk Along the Gwangjuho Lake Eco Park

Gwangjuho Lake Eco Park surrounds a beautiful artificial lake, offering paths for walking and cycling, as well as areas for picnics and leisure activities. The park is designed to protect the local ecosystem while providing recreational space for visitors. It’s an excellent spot for bird watching and enjoying the peaceful natural environment. The Eco Park also features art installations and sculptures, adding a cultural dimension to the natural beauty.

18. Visit the Asian Culture Center

The Asian Culture Center is a cultural complex promoting Asian arts and culture through exhibitions, performances, and educational programs. The center includes theaters, galleries, and libraries, aiming to foster cultural exchange and understanding. It’s an architectural landmark that hosts a wide range of cultural events, from film festivals to art exhibitions. The center is a testament to Gwangju’s commitment to cultural diversity and international cooperation.

19. Enjoy Water Sports at Wonhyo Reservoir

Wonhyo Reservoir, located just outside Gwangju, is a popular spot for water sports and outdoor activities. Visitors can rent kayaks, paddleboards, and boats to explore the tranquil waters. The reservoir is surrounded by lush greenery, making it a picturesque location for a day out. It’s a refreshing escape from the city, offering opportunities for adventure and relaxation.

20. Participate in the Gwangju Kimchi Festival

The Gwangju Kimchi Festival celebrates Korea’s most famous dish, offering visitors a chance to learn about the art of kimchi making. The festival includes workshops, cooking competitions, and tastings of various kimchi styles. It’s a culinary event that highlights the importance of kimchi in Korean culture and cuisine. Visitors can also enjoy cultural performances and traditional games, making it a fun and educational experience for all ages.

Korean sundae is a must try fish in Gwangju, South Korea

What To Eat and Drink at Restaurants in Gwangju, South Korea

Here’s a taste of what Gwangju has on the menu, from traditional Korean dishes to local specialties and modern delights.

Traditional Delights

1. Gwangju Kimchi: Renowned for its depth of flavor, Gwangju kimchi is a must-try. This fermented delight, made with a unique blend of spices and fresh local produce, is a staple at every meal.

2. Tteokgalbi: These grilled short rib patties, marinated in a sweet and savory sauce, are a Gwangju specialty. Tteokgalbi’s tender texture and rich flavor make it a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

3. Boribap: A healthy and satisfying meal, boribap consists of barley rice served with a variety of seasoned vegetables and a spicy gochujang (chili paste) sauce. It’s a simple dish that’s packed with flavor and nutrition.

Street Food and Snacks

4. Sundae (Korean Blood Sausage): Gwangju’s version of this popular street food is known for its rich flavor and chewy texture. Sundae is often served with liver, lungs, and other offal, along with salted shrimp sauce for dipping.

5. Chueotang (Mudfish Soup): This hearty soup, made with ground mudfish, vegetables, and a rich, spicy broth, is believed to have numerous health benefits. It’s a comfort food that warms you from the inside out.

Modern Twists and International Flavors

6. Gwangju Cafe Culture: The city’s vibrant cafe scene offers everything from traditional Korean teas to artisanal coffee and modern desserts. Don’t miss trying a cup of locally sourced coffee or a slice of inventive cake in one of Gwangju’s trendy cafes.

7. Fusion Cuisine: Reflecting Gwangju’s cosmopolitan vibe, many restaurants and eateries offer creative fusion dishes that blend Korean flavors with international culinary techniques. From Korean-style tacos to kimchi burgers, the options are endless and exciting.

Local Brews and Beverages

8. Makgeolli: This milky, slightly sweet rice wine is a traditional Korean alcohol that pairs perfectly with Gwangju’s spicy and savory dishes. Enjoy it in a traditional Korean restaurant or a makgeolli bar for the full experience.

9. Soju and Bokbunja: No meal in Gwangju is complete without a shot of soju, Korea’s most popular spirit. For something a little different, try bokbunja, a sweet wine made from local black raspberries.

Sweet Treats

10. Hwangnam Bread: A Gwangju favorite, this small pastry is filled with sweet red bean paste and has a soft, chewy texture. It’s perfect as a snack or a light dessert.

Gwangju stone wall in South Korea

Tours For Visitors To Gwangju, South Korea

Here’s a selection of tours that will make your visit to Gwangju unforgettable:

1. Historical Tours of the May 18th National Cemetery

Explore the solemn grounds of the May 18th National Cemetery, where heroes of the Gwangju Uprising are memorialized. This guided tour provides insights into the events of May 1980, offering a profound look at Gwangju’s fight for democracy and human rights.

2. Gwangju Biennale and Contemporary Art Tours

Dive into Gwangju’s renowned art scene with a tour of the Gwangju Biennale and other contemporary art galleries. These tours highlight the city’s role as a hub for modern art in Korea, featuring both established and emerging artists.

3. Culinary Tours of Gwangju’s Markets

Indulge in the flavors of Gwangju with a culinary tour through its bustling markets, such as Yangdong Market. Sample local specialties, learn about traditional Korean foods, and even try your hand at making some dishes under the guidance of local chefs.

4. Gwangju Urban Culture Walk

Discover the vibrant streets of Gwangju on an urban culture walk that takes you through historic neighborhoods, modern murals, and hidden gems. This tour is perfect for those looking to experience the city’s youthful energy and artistic vibe.

5. Mudeungsan National Park Hiking Tours

For nature enthusiasts, guided hiking tours of Mudeungsan National Park reveal breathtaking vistas, ancient temples, and serene natural beauty. These tours cater to various fitness levels, ensuring everyone can enjoy the park’s splendor.

6. Gwangju Night Market and Street Food Tours

Experience Gwangju after dark with a tour of its night markets. Savor street food favorites, discover new tastes, and enjoy the lively atmosphere that makes Gwangju’s culinary scene truly unique.

7. K-Pop and Youth Culture Experience

Immerse yourself in the world of K-Pop and contemporary Korean youth culture with a tour focused on music, fashion, and entertainment. This is a great way to understand the trends and passions driving Korea’s younger generations.

8. Traditional Korean Tea Ceremony Experience

Participate in a traditional Korean tea ceremony, where you’ll learn about the art and etiquette of tea preparation and service. This tranquil experience offers a glimpse into Korea’s rich cultural heritage.

9. Gwangju Craft Brewery Tour

Explore Gwangju’s emerging craft beer scene with a tour of local breweries. Taste a variety of brews, learn about the brewing process, and meet the people behind the craft.

10. Architectural and Design Tour of Gwangju

For architecture and design enthusiasts, Gwangju offers tours highlighting its modern architecture, urban design, and public art installations. Discover how the city’s design reflects its history, culture, and vision for the future.

Gwangju aerial views in South Korea

Gwangju Accommodations Guide: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels

Here’s a guide to help you find your perfect stay in this vibrant South Korean city.

Luxury Hotels

1. Ramada Plaza Gwangju: Offering top-notch amenities and services, the Ramada Plaza is perfect for those seeking comfort and luxury. With its spacious rooms, indoor pool, and on-site dining options, it provides a pampering experience.

2. Holiday Inn Gwangju: Known for its modern rooms and excellent customer service, the Holiday Inn is conveniently located near the Gwangju Airport and Kimdaejung Convention Center, making it ideal for business and leisure travelers alike.

Mid-Range Hotels

3. ACC Design Hotel: This boutique hotel, located near the Asia Culture Center, offers uniquely designed rooms and a rooftop terrace. It’s a great choice for travelers interested in exploring Gwangju’s artistic side.

4. U-Square Hotel: Situated close to the Gwangju Bus Terminal, U-Square Hotel provides easy access to public transportation, comfortable accommodations, and all the essential amenities at a reasonable price.

Budget Accommodations

5. Pedro’s House: A cozy and friendly guesthouse that’s perfect for backpackers and solo travelers. With a communal kitchen, lounge area, and both dormitory and private room options, it’s a great place to meet fellow travelers.

6. Gwangju Guesthouse: Offering a homey atmosphere and warm hospitality, Gwangju Guesthouse is located in the heart of the city, close to many attractions and dining options.


7. Namdo Hostel: This clean and comfortable hostel provides affordable dormitory-style accommodations, a shared kitchen, and a common area for guests to relax and socialize.

8. May Guesthouse: Popular among young travelers, May Guesthouse features both dormitory rooms and private rooms, a cozy lounge, and a friendly vibe, making it an excellent base for exploring Gwangju.

Specialty Accommodations

9. Lake Hills Gwangju Hotel: Nestled near Mudeungsan National Park, this hotel offers stunning views, making it perfect for nature lovers looking to escape the city’s hustle and bustle.

10. Mudeung Park Hotel: Located at the base of Mudeungsan Mountain, this hotel combines convenience with scenic beauty, providing guests with a peaceful retreat after a day of exploring.

Gwangju green tea field day trip from Gwangju, South Korea

Day Trips From Gwangju, South Korea

Here’s a list of day trips that promise to make your stay in Gwangju even more memorable.

1. Boseong Green Tea Fields

Just a short journey from Gwangju, the Boseong Green Tea Fields offer a picturesque landscape that feels like stepping into a vibrant painting. Walk among rows of meticulously maintained tea bushes, and learn about the tea-making process at the Daehan Dawon Tea Plantation. Don’t forget to sample some of the finest green tea and green tea-flavored delicacies. The area is especially beautiful in May when the tea leaves are lush and green.

2. Suncheon Bay Wetland Reserve

Explore one of South Korea’s natural wonders at the Suncheon Bay Wetland Reserve, renowned for its reed fields and migratory bird populations. Take a walk along the eco-friendly boardwalks to observe the area’s diverse ecosystem up close. The Suncheon Bay Garden is also nearby, offering beautifully themed gardens from around the world. Sunsets here are spectacular, casting a golden glow over the landscape.

3. Damyang Bamboo Forest (Juknokwon)

Immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of the Damyang Bamboo Forest, where pathways lead you through towering bamboo groves. This peaceful escape also features traditional pavilions and a pond, making it a perfect spot for relaxation. Nearby, you can visit the Damyang Slow City to experience a slower pace of life and traditional Korean culture. The area is also famous for its bamboo shoots, used in various local dishes.

4. Mudeungsan National Park

A short drive from Gwangju, Mudeungsan National Park is a haven for hikers and nature lovers, offering trails that lead to stunning vistas, ancient temples, and unusual rock formations. The park’s highlight is the Jeungsimsa Temple, set against the backdrop of majestic mountain scenery. Hiking to the top of Mudeungsan Mountain rewards adventurers with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The park is beautiful year-round, with each season offering a different experience.

5. Hwasun Dolmen Site

Discover one of the largest collections of dolmens (megalithic tombs) at the Hwasun Dolmen Site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This archaeological wonder provides insights into the prehistoric culture of the Korean Peninsula. The site is set in a picturesque landscape, making it a great spot for both history buffs and nature enthusiasts. It’s a quiet, contemplative place that takes you back thousands of years.

6. Nagan Folk Village

Step back in time at the Nagan Folk Village, where you can explore well-preserved thatched-roof houses and experience traditional Korean village life. The village often hosts cultural events and workshops, from pottery making to traditional music performances. It’s surrounded by fortress walls, offering lovely views of the surrounding countryside. Local specialties, such as the Nagan black bean noodles, are a must-try.

7. Jeonju Hanok Village

Experience the charm of traditional Korean architecture at Jeonju Hanok Village, a couple of hours from Gwangju. With over 800 traditional Korean “hanok” houses, this village is a cultural hub, offering workshops, traditional tea houses, and artisan shops. Don’t miss trying Jeonju’s famous bibimbap, considered the best in Korea. The village also boasts beautiful murals and street art, adding a modern twist to its historical ambiance.

8. Yeosu

The coastal city of Yeosu offers stunning ocean views, historical attractions, and delicious seafood. Highlights include the Yeosu Expo Ocean Park, with its impressive Big-O show, and the romantic Jasan Park and Odongdo Island. Yeosu’s cable car provides panoramic views of the coastline and city. The night market is a great place to indulge in local street food and fresh seafood dishes.

9. Gochang Dolmen Site

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Gochang Dolmen Site features a fascinating array of prehistoric dolmens. The site offers a unique window into Korea’s Bronze Age and is set against a scenic rural backdrop. Walking paths allow for easy exploration of the area. Combine your visit with a trip to the nearby Gochang fortress for a full day of history and nature.

10. Wando

Explore the beautiful island of Wando, known for its pristine beaches, clear waters, and abundant seafood. Wando’s Seomjingang River is perfect for leisurely boat rides and fishing. Visit the Wando Tower for panoramic views of the island and its surrounding archipelago. The island also hosts the Wando Seaweeds Expo, celebrating its rich marine harvest.

Gwangju views at night in South Korea

Gwangju Transportation Guide

Here’s a comprehensive travel guide to help you explore Gwangju with ease.

By Bus

  • City Buses: Gwangju’s bus network is extensive, connecting all major districts, attractions, and residential areas. Buses are frequent, affordable, and an efficient way to get around the city. Look out for the color-coded buses: Blue for main lines, Green for branch lines, and Red for rapid services.
  • Intercity Buses: The Gwangju Bus Terminal serves as a hub for those looking to explore beyond the city, with regular services to Seoul, Busan, and other major cities.


  • Gwangju Metro: The city’s subway system, though modest with just one line, covers key areas and attractions. It runs from the northwest to the southeast, including stops at the Gwangju Bus Terminal, Culture Complex, and Gwangju Airport. It’s clean, timely, and user-friendly, with plans for expansion to better serve travelers.

By Taxi

  • Taxis: Available and reasonably priced, taxis in Gwangju are a convenient option for direct routes or when public transportation schedules are limited. Most taxi drivers do not speak English, so it’s helpful to have your destination written in Korean. Apps like Kakao T provide a handy solution for booking taxis and communicating destinations.

By Bicycle

  • Bike Rentals: Gwangju promotes green transportation with its public bike rental system, offering an enjoyable way to explore the city, especially its parks and less congested areas. Rental stations are conveniently located throughout Gwangju, making it easy to pick up and drop off bicycles.

On Foot

  • Walking: Many of Gwangju’s attractions are located within walkable distances, particularly in the downtown area and around cultural sites. The city is equipped with pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and crosswalks, making walking a pleasant and safe option for sightseeing.

Rental Cars

  • Car Rentals: For those wishing to explore Gwangju and its surrounding regions at their own pace, renting a car is a viable option. Several rental agencies operate at the Gwangju Airport and in the city. Keep in mind, navigating and parking in the city center can be challenging due to traffic.

Special Transportation Tips

  • Gwangju City Tour Bus: For a hassle-free introduction to the city’s main attractions, the Gwangju City Tour Bus offers thematic routes covering historical sites, cultural districts, and more.
  • T-Money Card: Simplify your transit in Gwangju by using a T-Money card, a rechargeable smart card that can be used on buses, the subway, and even taxis. It’s available at convenience stores and subway stations.
  • Transportation Apps: Utilize apps like KakaoMap and Naver Map for real-time navigation, bus and subway schedules, and to find the best routes across Gwangju.

Suncheon is a must visit place after Gwangju, South Korea

Where To Visit After Your Trip To Gwangju?

Here’s a list of destinations to consider for your journey beyond Gwangju, each offering a unique glimpse into the heart and soul of South Korea.

1. Jeonju

Experience the charm of traditional Korea in Jeonju, renowned for its Hanok Village, where over 800 traditional Korean houses line the streets. Savor the authentic flavors of Jeonju bibimbap, considered the best in the country. Explore the Jeonju Hanji Museum to learn about traditional Korean paper making. Don’t miss the vibrant atmosphere of the Nambu Night Market for delicious street food and local crafts.

2. Suncheon

Suncheon Bay Garden showcases eco-friendly design and stunning botanical displays, making it a must-visit for nature lovers. Explore the Suncheon Bay Wetland Reserve, a natural habitat for migratory birds and home to vast reed fields. Take a stroll in the historical Naganeupseong Folk Village, where residents still live in traditional Korean houses. End your day with a visit to Suncheon Open Film Set, where you can step onto the sets of famous Korean dramas and films.

3. Yeosu

Yeosu charms visitors with its beautiful coastal scenery and the impressive Expo 2012 site, now a park with futuristic architecture and ocean-themed pavilions. Ride the Yeosu Cable Car for breathtaking views of the coastline and islands. Visit the historic Jinnamgwan Hall, the largest single-story building from the Joseon Dynasty. Enjoy fresh seafood at the bustling Yeosu Fish Market, where you can select your meal and have it prepared on the spot.

4. Boseong

Famous for its green tea fields, Boseong offers a picturesque landscape that’s both calming and invigorating. Walk through the lush, terraced tea fields of Daehan Dawon Tea Plantation and learn about tea production. Enjoy green tea ice cream and other tea-infused treats at local cafes. Visit the Yulpo Beach and Sea Water Pool to relax by the sea with views of the tea plantations.

5. Mokpo

Mokpo, a port city with a rich maritime history, serves as a gateway to the Dadohaehaesang National Park. Explore the Mokpo Modern History Museum to learn about the city’s past as a trade and migration port. Take a ferry to nearby islands for hiking and beach visits. Enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the West Sea from the top of Yudalsan Mountain.

6. Damyang

Damyang is renowned for its lush bamboo forests, particularly the Juknokwon Bamboo Garden, where you can enjoy the serene ambiance and cooler temperatures. Explore the traditional Korean houses and cultural exhibits at the Damyang Gasa Literature Collection. Taste local specialties like tteokgalbi (grilled rib patties) and bamboo shoot rice. Don’t miss the Damyang Slow City for a chance to experience a slower pace of life in harmony with nature.

7. Gochang

Visit the Gochang Dolmen Site, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where you can see prehistoric stone tombs scattered across the landscape. Enjoy the scenic beauty of Seonunsa Temple, nestled within Gochang’s lush forests. Explore Gochang Fortress for a glimpse into the region’s historical defenses. In spring, the Gochang Green Barley Field Festival offers stunning views of vast green fields and cultural performances.

8. Buyeo

Dive into the history of the Baekje Kingdom in Buyeo, an ancient capital with significant archaeological sites. Visit the Buyeo National Museum to see artifacts from the Baekje era and learn about this influential period in Korean history. Explore the Baekje Cultural Land to see reconstructions of ancient palaces, fortresses, and tombs. Don’t miss the Lotus Flower Festival at Gungnamji Pond, where the blooms create a breathtaking spectacle.

9. Jindo

Experience the natural wonder of the Jindo Sea Parting Festival, a unique phenomenon that occurs twice a year, allowing visitors to walk between islands on the exposed sea bed. Discover the rich musical heritage of Jindo through its traditional Korean folk music, particularly the Jindo Arirang. Meet the famous Jindo dogs, a beloved and loyal breed native to this island. Enjoy the pristine natural landscapes of Jindo, perfect for hiking and exploring traditional Korean villages.

10. Haeundae, Busan

Relax on the sands of Haeundae Beach, one of South Korea’s most famous beaches, known for its lively atmosphere and cultural festivals. Explore the nearby Dongbaekseom Island for scenic walks and views of the APEC House. Dive into the vibrant nightlife and culinary scene of Haeundae Market. Visit the SEA LIFE Busan Aquarium for an up-close look at marine life from Korea and beyond.

Penguin alley in Gwangju, South Korea

Gwangju Travel Guide: Final Thoughts

As we conclude this Gwangju travel guide, we hope that it has provided you with useful information and insights to help you plan your trip to this amazing city in South Korea. Gwangju has a rich history and culture, with numerous attractions and activities to offer visitors. From exploring its many museums and temples to sampling its delicious cuisine and enjoying its vibrant nightlife, there’s something for everyone in Gwangju.

In addition, Gwangju is a great base for exploring other parts of South Korea, such as the bustling capital city of Seoul or the stunning natural beauty of Jeju Island. The country’s efficient transportation system makes it easy to get around and explore all that South Korea has to offer.

We hope that you have a wonderful time in Gwangju and that this travel guide has helped you make the most of your trip. Safe travels!

Gwangju Memorial Park views in South Korea

Ode To Gwangju

Gwangju, a city of culture and art, Where history and modernity entwine, A place where beauty and tradition start, And nature’s wonders always shine.

From the temples and museums in the city, To the lush green mountains and sparkling lakes, There’s something for everyone, it’s easy to see, And every step you take, a new adventure awaits.

The food and drink are simply divine, From street vendors to fine dining cuisine, You’ll taste the flavors of Gwangju’s rhyme, And savor each moment like a dream.

As day turns to night, the city comes alive, With music, dance, and art on every street, The nightlife here will keep you revived, And your soul with inspiration replete.

Gwangju, a city that captures the heart, Where memories are made that will forever last, So come and explore, let your journey start, And discover the magic of Gwangju at last.

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