Today, we are taking you on an adventure to the east of South Korea. Far beyond the mountains and forests lies a beautiful coastal city at the edge of the country, Gangneung. Situated in Gangwon Province, Gangneung borders the East Sea and is relatively remote but it is a Korean favorite for short getaways and day trips. Laden with breathtaking sceneries, great food, and robust coffee, what more can we ask for?
With the KTX, getting from Seoul to Gangneung is made even simpler for foreigners. Alas, making a trip down to the birthplace of coffee is now a nap away.
To Get to Gangneung:
We highly recommend you to take the KTX from Seoul Station to Gangneung Station as it the most affordable and convenient way to get there! One-way ticket prices range from 20,000KRW to 30,000KRW depending on whether you are traveling during peak or non-peak periods, and the journey would take approximately 2 hours.
Fret not because train services run from early morning to late afternoon so you can travel with an ease of mind; For more specific details, check out the KTX website.
1) Gangneung Jungang Market / 강릉중앙시장
Upon arriving at Gangneung KTX station, make a quick pitstop at the local traditional market, Gangneung Jungang Market to fill your tummy with Gangneung’s specialties while basking in the local atmosphere. Hearing the shouts of vendors trying to get your attention, seeing your food being cooked right in front of you, this is as authentic as you can get.
The must-try snacks here are the Croquette (크로켓), Tteokgalbi (떡갈비), Hotteok (호떡) and Dakgangjeong (닭강정). These are super popular so don’t be surprised to see a queue forming even in the early morning!
Address: 21 Geumsong-ro, Gangneung-so, Gangwon-do (강원도 강릉시 금성로 21)
2) Ojukheon House / 오죽헌
Nestled inside an abundance of lush greenery and well-maintained courtyards lies a traditional wooden house that’s said to be one of Korea’s oldest residential houses. Named after black bamboo trees that grow around the area, Ojukheon is the house where Shim Saimdang and Yulgok Yi I lived during the Joseon Dynasty. Even if you haven’t got an inkling on who they are, they are someone you come across every day because these are the people on your 50,000₩ and 5,000₩ notes respectively.
Shim Saimdang is known to many as the ideal Korean woman, the model of Confucian ideals and a great artist/poet. On the other hand, Yulgok Yi I is Shin Saimdang’s son, who is a Neo-Confucian prodigy, well known for building up the country’s military forces, for reforming tax systems and more. I could go on and on but this paragraph is about to explode so to learn more about this significant family in Korean’s history, head to Ojukheon and visit the surrounding museums while you’re at it!
Tip: If you want to explore another type of Hanok, especially the kinds that the upper-class nobles of the past used to live in, you can also check out Seongyojang House 선교장 that’s located a 15-minute walk away!
Address: 24 Yulgok-ro 3139 beon-gil, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do (강원도 강릉시 율곡로3139번길24 오죽헌)
Opening Hours: 9 am to 6 pm (Ticketing closes at 5 pm)
Tickets: 3,000₩ (Adult) | 2,000₩ (Student) | 1,000₩ (Child)
3) Gyeongpo Lake / 경포호
How can people go to Gangneung without experiencing the place’s own sun and breeze? After taking a stroll along the beautiful homes, take a quick bus ride down to Gyeongpo Lake, and enjoy another side of Gangneung – It’s nature. Gyeongpo literally means “clear as a mirror” and the waters here are definitely true to its name, a sight to behold.
More than just clear waters, the fresh air, and lush flora just makes this place a perfect getaway waiting to be discovered. The Gyeongpo Lake is also home to the Gyeongpodae Pavilion and the latter is said to be an ideal date spot for the Gangneung locals because there, “You can see the moon reflected 5 times – One in the lake, one in the ocean, one from your drinking glass and two in your lover’s eyes”.
Tip: Get the most out of your visit there by renting a 2 or 4-seater bike to explore the area! You’ll be amazed at the amount of beauty this humble place has to offer. And if you’re there at beginning of April, be amazed at the number of cherry blossoms blooming in the area, the magnificent view is sure to blow you away.
Address: Jeo-dong, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do (강원도 강릉시 저동)
4) Chodang Tofu Village / 초당두부마을
After a day of walking and exploring, a piping hot bowl of Soondubu sounds like the perfect way for you to recharge your batteries. Enter Chodang Tofu Village, a tofu heaven made out of a cluster of over 20 stores selling the same dish – Tofu. However, unlike how the rest of Korea does their tofu, this area takes regular tofus up a notch by using all-natural ingredients to produce them. That means unlike others, the tofu here is made with seaweed-infused water, giving it its signature milky taste and soft and fluffy texture that’s unlike any other.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of shops in the area, just let your nose lead you to one and enjoy your feast! (PS. This place is safe for vegetarians too~)
Address: Chodang-dong, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do (강원도 강릉시 초당동)
Opening Hours: Varies by shops
5) Coffee Cupper Museum
Koreans really love their coffee and when they name Gangneung “The City of Coffee”, you know that there’s got to be some sort of legitimacy to that statement–Gangneung was even the first local district in Korea to host a coffee festival! With such a rich history at the base of this city, a visit to the local coffee museum is not to be missed!
At Coffee Cupper Museum, learn more about the process of how a coffee transforms from a bean to a cup. Though it isn’t very English-friendly, there are still a ton of other unique coffee relics and antiques waiting for you to learn about!
Address: 341 Haean-ro, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do (강원도 강릉시 해안로 341)
Opening Hours: 8:30 am to 9 pm (Last entrance: 8 pm)
6) Anmok Coffee Street / 안목커피거리
Enjoying a cup of joe as you hear the waves crashing onto the shores nearby is a great way to end your day trip at Gangneung. 30 years ago, coffee vending machines were the norm for people looking to get their cuppa but fast forward to 2019, cafes have made their mark and Anmok Coffee Street is the ultimate tribute to this caffeinated beverage.
At first glance, the 40 or so shops look nothing special but as you start venturing into each café, you’ll realize that every one of them are different and have their own unique characteristics. Trendy amongst Koreans, this street is a nice place to chill at and with the number of cafes for you to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Once you’re done relaxing, you can even head over to the beach nearby and take a look at the coffee-related art pieces that are scattered around!
Address: 17 Changan-ro, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do (강원도 강릉시 창해로17)
Opening Hours: Varies by shop
Getting Around Gangneung:
Before you officially start your trip, take note that Gangneung covers a big perimeter and if you were to visit the attractions outside the main city, it can be quite confusing especially if you don’t know your way about.
To get the full experience of what Gangneung has to offer in a day, put aside some money for cab rides or just rent a car at ~60,000KRW a day (but you would need an international drivers’ permit).
Of course, buses are still an option albeit a bit time-consuming and confusing so we highly recommend you to download Naver Maps to prevent yourself from getting lost! Alternatively, to save the hassle, you can also check out this day tour to Gangneung from Seoul.