When you visit Seoul, you might be forgiven for spending all your time in the city. But venture just beyond into Korea’s beautiful countryside and you’ll find Jecheon – where our friend Bethan lives! She’s a local in the area now, so we asked her to put together a list of her favourite things to do in Jecheon!
If you tell any Seoulite that you plan to visit the city of Jecheon, you may be met with incredulous faces and exclamations of “But it’s in the middle of nowhere!” or “But there’s nothing there!” But don’t be fooled! Thanks to the KTX train, installed in 2020, the humble countryside city of Jecheon has never been more accessible.
Jecheon is located in the heart of the Korean countryside and is known as ‘The Healing City’, named for the traditional medicines it produces. But this name goes beyond the local exports: the juxtaposition between city and countryside that can be found here is truly a healing experience, especially if visiting from the hustle and bustle of busy Seoul. Around an hour from Seoul on the KTX train (or around two hours by other means), a visit to Jecheon is perfect if you want to visit the Korean countryside easily, whilst maintaining good transport links and everyday amenities.
Just like Seoul, central Jecheon has regular buses and a convenience store, a cafe and a restaurant on almost every street. And unbeknownst to most tourists and Seoul residents, there is a huge array of things to do here. If you’re visiting Seoul and want to slow down a bit and experience life outside of the capital city, here are our favourite things to do in Jecheon!
How to get to Jecheon
If you are travelling from Seoul, it’s easy enough to get to Jecheon thanks to the KTX service. This train runs every few hours from Cheongnyangni Station and costs 15,400W (around £10) for a one-way ticket. I recommend booking tickets up to a week in advance if possible as some trains, especially at peak travel times, will sell out quickly. However, if you can’t take a KTX there are other rail services (Mungunghwa, Nuriro and ITX) that can take you from Cheongnyangni Station in Seoul to Jecheon in just over two hours for between 9,200 – 12,800W. There is also the option to get a bus to Jecheon Bus Terminal from the Express Bus Terminal in Gangnam. The bus usually costs between 15,000W – 17,000W and takes around two hours and thirty minutes depending on traffic.
Things to do in Jecheon
Jecheon is famous for the Uirimji Reservoir which has become the main attraction for tourists and residents alike. From the walkway lined with traditional pagodas to the local cafes and tiny amusement park, there is entertainment to be found for everyone. Walk along the glass bridge over the waterfall, ride the Swan Boats across the lake or visit the museum to learn about the history of Uirimji and maybe even catch a traditional performance or two. If you have time to sit and relax, bring a picnic blanket down to the waterfront or grab a book and relax in the hammocks.
If you stay until dark, the wooden walkways around the lake illuminate, and you can catch a ten minute light show projected over the lake every thirty minutes featuring a particularly impressive dragon. If you like a walk and want to wander further afield, there’s a nearby park with a stream that leads up to another, smaller lake, which is much quieter and more peaceful than the main reservoir – but still just as beautiful!
If you are a fan of the K-pop group BTS (or just a fan of scenic walks), you must visit the old airstrip, just a few minutes away from Uirimji. Edged in colourful pinwheels and surrounded by flowers, this airstrip is no longer in use by aircrafts, but has become a relaxing walkway lined with cafes and restaurants. BTS fans may recognise it from the group’s ‘Young Forever’ music video, and it’s a must add to your K-pop tour itinerary. Come here to marvel at the seasonal flowers, including towering sunflowers in the summer. I recommend the nearby cafe Bihaeng, which has rooftop seating and is a great place to catch the sunset over the airstrip and mountains.
Samhan Green Road
If you like to spend time in nature and take in the countryside scenery, there is a walking path leading to Uirimji which provides just that. Winding through the rice fields, this path, like so many hidden spots in Korea, does not need to be as pretty as it is! It is especially beautiful in the spring and summer, when the seasonal flowers are all in bloom. As you walk, you’ll be met with the sound of peaceful jazz music from hidden speakers in the lampposts, and if you happen to be walking at night, you might even find some tiny frog friends enjoying a sunbathe in the lamplight. The path starts at Kune Children’s Park and can be identified by the bike rental shop. If you walk at a leisurely pace, you should arrive at Uirimji within an hour, but you won’t even notice the time passing as you take in the gorgeous scenery.
The Local Market
If you really want to experience the life of the locals, you have to visit the traditional market. As well as cheap, locally grown fruit and vegetables (definitely try the strawberries in the winter!), you can find homemade rice cakes and an array of street foods to try such as hodeok (a sweet pancake filled with honey and seeds) or mandu (meat or kimchi filled dumplings.) You can also sample a variety of homemade kimchi and other Korean side dishes. If you want a quiet and authentic market experience, Jecheon Market is the place to go.
For incredible mountain views, pay a visit to Cheongpung Lake. Just 30 minutes outside of the city by bus, Cheongpung is a village at the base of a mountain, filled with little cafes and restaurants and is well worth the trip. You can take the Cheongpung Cable Car (15,000W per person) up to the top of the nearby mountain to get a view of the entire lake, as well as some great photo spots and a cosy cafe to relax in. I highly recommend visiting during cherry blossom season in late April – early May: this is my favourite place to see the blossom lined streets without the enormous crowds you get in the popular cherry blossom spots in Seoul, and I personally think it’s the most beautiful. There are also boat trips, zip-lining, and bungee jumping available for the more adventurous!
If you are travelling to Korea during August, you may be able to catch the Jecheon International Music and Film Festival. Held alongside the lake in Uirimji, this festival includes performances by Korean Indie and Hiphop artists that may be typically hard to see; just this year headliners included 10cm and Stella Jang, with the previous year featuring Simon D and Zico. A little known place to catch your favourite artists – and best of all, it’s free!
What to eat in Jecheon
Jecheon is in Chungbuk Province, and is well known for its agriculture – meaning that the the seasonal fruit and vegetables here are another level of delicious. If you’re looking for an area with lots of different food options (including Italian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese), Jangrak-dong has just what you need. The Italian restaurant Chef’s Note is a favourite amongst locals and is known for the stone-baked pizzas piled with toppings, and the delicious mushroom salad.
However, for authentic Korean food, I recommend Chaesungdang Shabu Shabu restaurant. This hearty and filling hot-pot is a fun, Korean do-it-yourself style meal that is as healthy as it is delicious. Dip meat in a simmering beef broth filled with delicious vegetables, and add dumplings or make Vietnamese style spring rolls for an extra fee. You can also add noodles to soak up the leftover broth when you’re done or use the leftovers to make a super tasty fried rice.
If you’re in the mood for a drink with your meal, the Cheongjeon-dong area is the place to find bars, fried chicken restaurants and BBQ places galore. However, my favourite BBQ restaurant, Haengbokhan BBQ, can be found in Haso-dong, alongside the river. This restaurant uses real charcoal-based grills, giving the meat a deliciously smoky flavour, and the side dishes are all homemade by the owners (the pickled cucumber is particularly tasty).
Finally, if you have a sweet tooth and want to find a comfy cafe, Uirimji-dong is the area you want! Visit Cafe Merrily and meet Cream, the adorable Samoyed that lives there, or Cafe Namu, which has a large tree protruding through the middle. However, my favourite cafe in that area (and maybe in the whole of Jecheon) is Villa De Dohwari. This cafe has incredible mountain views, resident ginger cats and a super tasty croffle covered in injeolmi powder (a sweet powder usually used to cover rice cakes). If you go there in the evening on a cool and clear day, you can sit by one of the fire pits roasting complimentary marshmallows. I have yet to find a more relaxing spot!
Ultimately, Jecheon has everything you need for a calm day in the Korean countryside surrounded by nature, without having to leave the comforts of the city behind. There’s plenty of things to do in Jecheon for both adventurers and relaxers alike!
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