It’s impossible to explore Bukchon Hanok Village without encountering a sense of temporal displacement. Everything will be fine one moment while you’re walking by a 7-11, then you’re standing outside a building that looks completely out of place like it was lifted out of another era.Walking into Bukchon is like slowly wading into the waters. At first it’s just one or two buildings that look out of time, a well, a sign, and then suddenly you don’t know exactly when you are.
A hanok is a term used to describe a traditional Korean house. By which traditional refers to something that would have been traditional one hundred to several hundred years ago.
Bukchon isn’t a normal tourist attraction like the palaces or Lotte World. Here you’re not in an exhibit, you’re in a neighborhood. There are signs everywhere reminding you that this is a place where people live and these amazing structures from out of time are homes with people living inside. And because it’s a neighborhood, there isn’t a line to follow and there isn’t just a central exhibit. While visitors will take from Bukchon what they will, those with a sense of wanderlust will be the better for it. Following the main street gives you a chance to see the village, just a chance. To get a full sense of the architecture and culture, you have to take the time to explore the alleyways and wander up and down the hidden stairs tucked away behind corners.
Even though the village is tucked away between the palaces and other tourist hotspots, it deserves it’s own day or at least a few hours. While the palaces are always going to be the main draw for tourists in Seoul, there is something fundamentally amazing to know that there are places that still look like this.
As far as photography is concerned, the village is a buffet of potential. Light filters into the alleys through gaps between the houses and over the tiled roofs. While I visited during midday, I could imagine that it wouldn’t be hard to photograph the area at dawn or dusk. I spent a little over two hours wandering the village and spent almost every second either staring at the houses, most of the time through a lens. Absolutely worth my time and definitely looking forward to a second visit.
Bukchon Hanok Village is located just outside Exit #2 of Anguk Station (안국역) on Line No. 3 (Orange Line). Head straight out the exit and you’ll see the signs pointing you in the right direction. Good luck and Happy New Years.