Seoul Hanok Courtyard

My Hanok Homestay Experience – living in a traditional Korean house

In Korea by Jaclynn SeahLeave a Comment

One thing I love about Seoul is how they’ve managed to preserve quite a large proportion of their traditional housing, also known as Hanoks. Popular tourist areas like the Bukchon Hanok and Namsangol Hanok are populated with these quaint, beautiful little houses – I decided that beyond walking amidst them in the day time, I wanted to take a mini trip back in time and spend a night or two in a Hanok.

I didn’t quite know where to start – thanks Carol from KTO who directed me to BnBHero’s Hanok Stays to start looking – I narrowed it down to two choices and nearly went with Doo Guesthouse, I ended up picking this particular hanok homestay instead for my 2-night stay.

Here’s a more detailed review of my Hanok homestay experience in Seoul.


Location of the Hanok Homestay

Seoul Bukchon Hanok Jac

one of the busier streets in the Bukchon Hanok area – all those people in the background are intrepid tourists. You can see N Seoul Tower on Namsan Hill in the distance

My hanok homestay was located in the Bukchon Hanok area between the two palaces Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung, a very central location when it comes to seeing the tourist sights. While I love the quaint hilly neighbourhood of Bukchon Hanok, it is pretty overrun with tourists and can get rather crowded and noisy at times.

Seoul Bukchon Hanok Slope

More tourists! this is the same road but from the bottom walking up

Thankfully, my hanok was located off Gyedong-gil, a quieter end of the Bukchon Hanok area. Also, the hanok itself isn’t quite along the main road – it is located off a small fork road, so it was much quieter than I expected in the hanok was practically a sanctuary.

The closest subway line is Anguk Station on Green Line 3 (exit 3) and there is an airport bus stop for Bus #6011 (Changdeokgung station) about 10mins walk down Gyedong-gil, so it is pretty convenient whether you’re coming from another part of Seoul or the airport.


The Traditional Hanok

My host Jihyun was friendly and welcoming – she speaks enough English to be conversational and even prepared hot citron tea for my arrival, and helped me figure out which bus numbers would take be to Hyehwa (where Ihwa Mural Village is – it requires a few train line changes by subway, or quite a bit of a walk as I ended up doing…)

Seoul Hanok Courtyard

That’s the entrance of the hanok from the inside courtyard. My room is in the doorway on the right side. The family lived in rooms off to the left and behind me

The hanok itself is very cosy – olden-day housing was very compact with low ceilings and doorways, so tall folk might feel rather cramped. This hanok housed a family of 3, with one separate spare room for guests to stay in. Jihyun let me look around the main house a little – you’ll be quite amazed at how much you can fit into a tiny space!

Seoul Hanok Room Wide from Door

From the doorway – the door on the left leads to the bathroom. The bedding is the small pink pile on the right.

The features of the hanok are meant to effectively regulate temperature during hot and cold weather. Doors and windows are covered with thin rice paper which keeps you cool in summer but don’t do that much to keep out the cold in winter. The general tranquility of the area and thin walls also means it’s

Seoul Hanok Room with Bed

With the bedding set up – as you can see it’s pretty tight – barely enough room for my suitcase. I’m standing against the wall to take this picture

One key feature of the hanok is that there are no beds and you sleep on the floor – There is a large thick blanket to lie on and another thick cushy duvet to snuggle under. She also spread an additional blanket on the floor which helped to trap some heat. Lying down on heated mats in winter is absolutely lovely and made getting up so, so difficult.


Winter time in a Hanok

Hanoks have a distinctive floor heating feature called Ondol – in olden times it consisted of a furnace under the hanok stone foundation that was lit to warm the stones, thus warming the entire hanok from the floor – these days the heat comes from piping laid into the flooring. I was quite concerned about whether the Hanok would be warm enough, and it definitely is very cozy, especially when you are sitting on the floor. The various blankets and duvets help to trap the heat in as well, so I ended up curled up and snuggled in a nest of blankets on the ground, reluctant to move in the morning.

Seoul Hanok Bed Legs

Here’s a view from me lying down on the bedding. It was hard to get up some times as the bedding was so snug and warm~

One of the reasons I booked this Hanok over others is because it has an attached bathroom, quite rare as most hanoks have an outhouse-style toilet which means having to brave the outdoor winter air just to pee or shower.

Seoul Hanok Toilet Sink

Perhaps the tiniest toilet I’ve been in – that’s the sink, and you can see that there’s a shower hose as well

Seoul Hanok Toilet

The rest of the toilet is just space for the toilet bowl, and all the toiletries and paper kept in the cupboard so it doesn’t get wet!

Note that I still wore track pants, a thin windbreaker and woolen socks to sleep – it’s still not as warm as a heated hotel room (where I can make do in a tshirt and shorts even in winter) and you can feel the chill seep in a little through the paper-screen doors, but I found the temperature mix quite pleasant. The paper on the screen doors (Hanji) is supposed to help filter the air as well as block the draft.

It also made showering a really, really chilly affair. I was very glad to be able to jump right under the blankets and change without having to brave too much of the cold, but I didn’t wash my hair for 2 days because I found it just too cold! My big plan was to head to a Jimjilbang (Korean bathhouse) and wash up there, though that sadly didn’t pan out~


Cost of my Hanok Homestay

My stay cost US$60 per night – with the additional BnBHero fee, the total came up to US$157 for 2 nights (US$78.50 per night, or around S$110 per night).

Comparing prices on the BnBHero site – there were cheaper rooms in Seoul going as low as US$30, and for other parts of Korea, there were prices in the US$20 range. On the more expensive end, there were entire Hanok houses or rooms going at up to US$350 per night.

For those on a budget, it might be considered expensive as there are widely available and cheap hostels where you can get a bunk bed for US$20 and a private room for under US$40 per night.

However, I did enjoy my stay and the interaction it allowed with the homeowners. I recommend trying out the Hanok for a night or two just for the experience, but I’ve been pampered by a comfortable bed at home – sleeping on the floor does make my back ache, though I love the heated floors. I probably wouldn’t do it again unless there was something quite unique about my next Hanok stay! They have Hanok Hotels now to cater to those who want the Hanok experience but without the ‘discomforts’.

Seoul Bukchon Hanok Bicycle

Idyllic scene in the Bukchon Hanok area

See what else I did on this trip to South Korea:

Or find my other stories from exploring South Korea and its other regions.

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