Gwangju

Not to be confused with Gwangju (Gyeonggi).

Gwangju (광주, 光州), also known as Kwangju, is in South Jeolla, South Korea.

Understand

Gwangju has a thriving youth and arts culture and even a glance down the streets of Geumnamno will note a generally more fashion-conscious populace. Further to this, the city has numerous art galleries and hosts a biennial Bienalle.

Gwangju Massacre

Gwangju is well known in South Korea for the Gwangju Massacre of May 18, 1980, in which at least 207 (or far higher depending on whom you ask) demonstrators were killed by the army in the course of suppressing a pro-democracy demonstration. Gwangju was seen as the forefront of the relevantly recent democracy movement in South Korea. The people of the city are proud of the uprising and tend to be at the forefront of any political upheaval in the country.

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 7.6 9.7 14.5 21.1 25.8 28.2 29.8 28.3 27.6 22.6 15.3 5.6
Nightly lows (°C) -2.7 -0.1 3.8 9.4 13.3 19.1 21.8 21.7 18.1 11.3 6.2 -2.4
Precipitation (mm) 12.9 8.6 101.7 62.5 57.0 72.0 239.4 370.2 116.5 105.0 95.5 47.5

Source: 2014 Korea Meteorological Administration

The city has an interesting claim to fame as having the largest and most modern bus terminal and possibly the largest single pedestrian drinking, dining and clubbing district in the country. This is reflective of the city in general, which holds a much more modern and clean appearance than anywhere else in the country, save perhaps Busan.

In Korea, Gwangju is famous for its cuisine as is the province of Jeolla. The entire area is considered the breadbasket of Korea. On the practical side, food is generally tastier and easier on the wallet throughout this province.

Get in

By plane

Gwangju Airport (IATA: KWJ) has domestic flights to Seoul Gimpo, Jeju island and Yangyang airport in the remote north east of the country. Some travelers find it easier and cheaper to take a direct bus from Incheon International Airport instead (4 1/2 hours) or even Gimhae International Airport in Busan (3 hours).

By train

Korail and KTX trains run from Seoul multiple times a day and are the quickest option for travelers wanting to go to Gwangju from Seoul. The trip takes 3 hours and the cost is ₩33,000-₩39,000. Note that all trains depart from Yongsan Station in Seoul, not the main Seoul Station.

A separate KTX Honam line is under construction and when completed around 2014, going from Seoul to Gwangju will take 90 minutes.

By bus

Buses from major cities throughout the country arrive and depart from Gwangju Bus Terminal, a large, fancy and recently renovated bus terminal near the geographic center of the city. The largest and fanciest in the country to be precise: this place looks like an airport. Every taxi driver in Gwangju knows the bus terminal as 버스 터미널, or "Beosuh Teo-mee-nal". Seoul Gangnam to Gwangju prices are either ₩16,900 or ₩23,000 for the standard bus or the limousine bus respectively. Prices to other cities are comparable.

Get around

Getting around in Gwangju is really quite easy, though rush hour significantly adds to travel time. There are two basic options: buses and taxis. Taxis are generally cheap but buses are frequent and more or less comfortable. The recently completed subway line stretches from the southeast near downtown to the west southwest, forming an arc with the northernmost point being near the bus terminal at Nongseong Station (농성역 - Nongseong Yeok).

By subway

The subway is cheap - ₩1200 to any location. The four main stops on the subway (though there are 19 total) are the Culture Center (former Provincial Office), Geumnamno-4 & 5 (pedestrian downtown), and Sangmu (the unofficial commercial center and western-style downtown area). To get to the bus terminal, exit at Nongseong Station (농성역 - Nongseong Yeok) and walk straight north (10 minutes) past E-Mart and Shinsegae. The bus terminal is juxtaposed to those two buildings. To take a train, take the subway to Songjeong-ni station and follow the signs for the train station. The second subway line that will eventually form a circle around the city will break ground towards the end of 2009. Eventually there will be three lines in Gwangju.

By bus

Buses are arranged by colors. Red buses are express buses, running often, making very few stops, and covering large parts of the city. Bus number 1 connects Sangmu area to the train station to Chosun University. Buses 6, 7, and 9 cover the rest of the city making large squares that intersect in important locations. Yellow buses are standard buses that run every 10 – 20 minutes. Green buses are village buses that connect smaller communities and rural areas to transfer points. Purple buses are district circulator buses, generally going to the outskirts of the city. Every neighborhood (동 - dong) to main locations around the city.

By taxi

Taxis are incredibly cheap (by western standards). A taxi ride will cost ₩2200 for the first two kilometers then ₩100 after that. Basically, on a traffic free night, you can get across the city for around ₩10,000. Black taxis have a higher surcharge than white or silver taxis but due to the fact they charge on distances only, tend to drive more unpredictably.

See

Travelers coming to Gwangju can experience a slower paced experience than Seoul, despite still feeling the bali bali (빨리 빨리 - hurry hurry) lifestyle of Korea. Gwangju also serves well as a good hub for touring the surrounding province of South Jeolla.

Center Statue

Do

Downtown Gwangju

Hike

Eat

Korean Food

International Food

Drink

There are several popular foreigner-friendly bars(though all will cater to foreign customers) in Gwangju including; Soul Train Speakeasy, Bubble (거품), German Bar and Mix all located in Chungjangno/충장로 (the main downtown area).

Sleep

Budget

The cheapest place to sleep anywhere in Korea is at the local jjimjilbang (찜질방). This is a kind of public bathhouse that has a communal room for sleeping on the heated floor. Expect sauna access, cotton pyjamas, a locker to put your stuff in and a price under ₩10,000:

Mid-range

Gaudy motels abound in Korea, and this is no less true in Gwangju. The main concentration of motels are in and around Sangmu area, between the Sangmu and Uncheon subway stops and Cheomdan area, near the Lotte Mart. Motels can range from ₩30,000-₩50,000 and tend to be very seedy. One can judge the quality of a "love" motel by the movie selection usually proudly displayed near the cashier and the vending machines located throughout the motel.

Splurge

There are two quite reputable hotels in Gwangju. One is the Ramanda in Sangmu where a room can generally cost around ₩100,000 a night. The other, near Mount Mudeung, is the Shinyang Park Hotel. The Sangmu Ramanda is more conveniently located for business where as the Shinyang Park Hotel offers a more peaceful and quiet stay.

Go next

Head north, to Jeonju, birthplace of bibimbap, to see it's well-preserved hannock village, or perhaps take a train or bus south to the coastal towns of Mokpo and Yeosu respectively.

If in season, the iconic world famous green tea plantations of Boseong are also a very short hop away to the west. You've likely seen this place on someone's computer desktop.

Unjusa, about 40 kim south of Gwangju, is one of the most famous temples in Korea.

Routes through Gwangju

Mokpo Naju ← Gwangju Songjeong  SW  NE  Jeongeup Seo-daejeon



This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, February 20, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.