Cities are all about rising buildings and tall skyscrapers, but if you want to get a sense of the olden day Seoul, you need to check out their hanoks, the korean name for the olden day Korean style building.
In Seoul, there are two major places you can head to to check them out, one is the Bukchon Hanok, located between the Gyeongbokgung and the Changdeokgung, and there is the Namsangol Hanok, located at the foot of Namsan hill.
Now I had visited Bukchon Hanok already, so I was hoping to get a more close-up view of the quaint little hanoks here. Unlike the Bukchon which remains a residential area, Namsangol Hanok is a tourist attraction, a park complete with a mini village of 5 restored hanoks from the Joseon era. Now 5 houses may seem pretty sparse, but you do have the chance to walk through the buildings and thoroughly examine the architecture up close. Also, the interiors have been recreated so you have a feel of olden village life.
I signed up for the free english tour at 1030am, and I was the only one who did so it was personal tour for me! The tour guide lady was enthusiastic and pretty detailed, but her English had a pretty strong Korean accent so paying attention could be a little tough, but she definitely made an effort so kudos!
One thing you realize about olden day Koreans? They’re really small and had really small rooms and furniture – large pieces of furniture were a sign of wealth. Each house belonged to a different person and came from a different region, so you got to see the variations of region and wealth, which was pretty nice.
While the admission and tour is free, you have the option to purchase several ‘traditional experiences’ which were conducted in each of the houses. There was calligraphy, and , I decided to go with something simple – Hanji, and ended up sticking bits of paper together to form a little collage of hanbok. Thought it’d be more crafty though, I basically just glued together pre-prepared pieces of paper… I was hoping it’d be more origami and hands on!
Also to note, and why I didn’t go for the calligraphy in the end, is that the traditional experience classes are conducted in Korean, so it might be challenging if you don’t have an intepreter!
Apparently if you pick the right time to come, you’ll get to see demonstrations of traditional Korean ceremonies, like wedding ceremonies and dance performances! Didn’t see any when I was there unfortunately… There’s also a time capsule in the garden up the hill, which I didn’t explore given the gloomy weather.
It might be just a little touristy, but its a quick and simple way to get up close to Korean culture. Overall a nice way to get a full Joseon dynasty experience, especially f you’ve already seen the palaces! These hanoks used to line the outer grounds of the palaces, all clustered together. It must have really been a sight!
Hours: 9am – 9pm (apr – 0ct), 8pm (nov – mar)
Closed on Tuesdays
Namsangol Hanok can be accessed via Subway (Chungmuro station, Line 4, Exit 4). Don’t get distracted by the Seoul House on your left, take the right fork and you’ll see it straight ahead.
Around the area:
- Myeongdong is 1 stop away at Myeongdong station (line 4)
- The traditional market Namdaemun is 2 stops away at Hoehyeon station (line 4) –> links coming soon!
- You could combine a tour of Namsangol Hanok with N Seoul Tower if you’re taking the yellow bus.
- Korea House is where I got lost at and a stone’s throw away from Namsangol Hanok. It’s a theatre cum restaurant where you can experience Korean traditions and meals… doesn’t look too cheap though!