5 reasons to visit Jeonju

5 reasons to visit Jeonju

"The Best Taste City in Korea" throws bibimbap festivals and features seven makgeolli towns
Colorful books made of hanji at a traditional Korean paper shop in Jeonju. Hanji lasts for more than 1000 years.

Hankering for a weekend getaway from Seoul? The Jeonju Bibimbap Festival kicks off today at its namesake city in the south of the peninsula. A little under three hours away by bus, Jeonju features a historical setting, an artistic vibe and a culinary reputation. Here are five reasons to visit the city. 

1. Bibimbap

bibimbap festival Bibimbap is so central to Jeonju culture, there is an entire festival dedicated to the dish.

Among its many titles, Jeonju is known as "The Best Taste City in Korea," and for good reason. The Jeonju version of Korea's beloved lunch in a bowl counts bean sprouts (콩나물) and raw beef (육회) as key ingredients, and is regarded by most to be the best.It comes as no surprise then, that bibimbap restaurants can be found at every corner in Jeonju. 

Upon arrival, make a beeline for Gajeok Hwaegwan (가족회관), one of the most famous restaurants in the area for Jeonju bibimbap.  It’s so good, there’s not even a menu. Simply take a seat and you will be presented with an array of fresh and flavorful side dishes and your steaming bibimbap bowl will promptly follow. It might be a little on the pricier side (especially outside Seoul) at ₩11,000, but the difference is in the quality of ingredients, and is well worth it. 

The 2011 Bibimbap Festival will be held from October 20th-23rd and showcases tastings, performances and various contests in the city's Hanok Village.

Gajeok Hwaegwan (가족회관), Wansan-gu Joongang-dong 3-ga 30, Jeonju (전주시 완산구 중앙동 3가 80번지); +82 63 284 0982; www.jeonjubibimbap.com 

More on CNNGo: The new bibimbap: A modern take on a Korean food favorite

gukbapAdd Jeonju's gukbap to your list of hangover cures.
One can't subsist on bibimbap alone, however. Try the area's kongnamul gukbap (which literally translates to bean sprout soup rice). The steamy stew will cure your hangover in no time with its curative spices. One of the best places to find it is Sambaek Jip (삼백집), conveniently located within a hazy walking distance of the Jeonju Tourist Hotel, and a stone’s throw from the Hanok Village.  A lunch for two will set you back a clean ₩10,000. 

Sambaek Jip (삼백집), Wansan-gu Gosa-dong 454-1, Jeonju (전주시 완산구 고사동 454-1); + 63 284 2227; www.300zip.com 

2. Jeonju Hanok Village

jeonju hanok It's living history not a movie set.

Korea's stunning traditional houses are displayed beautifully at Jeonju's Hanok Village. Self-proclaimed living history, the Hanok Village in Jeonju has more than 700 traditional hanok houses, many of which offer rooms to stay in. They can be a little more expensive than the regular hotel or backpacker prices. Prices vary according to just how fancy the hanok is, but a good place to start is the Hotel Jeonju Hanok Village. 

hanokLook down on the village from Tomorrow.

You don’t need to stay overnight in a Hanok to feel the history and culture however. The village itself is where many of the festivals and events are held, and every weekend it is brimming with craft markets and street food stalls. Cafés serving traditional teas and coffees can be found throughout the village, but for the best view try Tomorrow Café, perched high above. It claims to be the only place with a view of the entire village, and is perfect for sunset and a glass of wine.

Jeonju Hanok Village, Wansan-gu Jeon-dong 166-3, Jeonju City, North Jeolla province (전라북도 전주시 완산구 전동 166-3);+82 63 287 1515; www.jeonjuhanokvillage.com 

Tomorrow Café, Wansan-gu Poongnam-dong 19-6, Jeonju City, North Jeolla province (전라북도 전주시 완산구 풍남동 1가 19-6);+82 63 288 6455

More on CNNGo: Hanok revival in Bukchon 

3. Makgeolli Towns

jeonju makgeolli The nutritional value takes the guilt away from downing those extra cups.

In North Jeolla, makgeolli is almost considered a food rather than an alcohol. The traditional fermented rice liquor, which is high in protein, 10 essential amino acids, vitamin B complex and lactobacillus, is usually served in a large metal kettle and accompanied by a vast array of side dishes. 

Jeonju produces one of the three most well-known kinds of makgeolli, and a glance at the street map will show not one but seven makgeolli towns.  

So where to partake?  It all depends on the side dishes. The city's youth congregates at the most up and coming part of town known as Seoshin-dong, in particular at a hot spot called Yetchon Makgeolli (예촌막걸리). The makgeolli houses here are bustling and have a wait list, and their side dishes are characterized by chicken soup, smoked pigs' trotters and live squid. The other makgeolli towns have similar sparse decor, with the number and quality of dishes varying from place to place. 

More on CNNGo: 5 best makgeolli bars in Seoul

But if you’re looking for a more laid-back, sit-on-the-floor traditional makgeolli experience, there’s a place outside of the towns that comes highly recommended. Cheonnyeon Nungribom (천년능리봄) is a warm and friendly drinking spot with an emphasis on on both quality and quantity. The more makgeolli you order, the more dishes that come with it. Also try the Mountain Bibimbap, which comes with an abundance of veggies. Prices begin at around ₩12,000 for a standard kettle of makgeolli and side dishes.

Yetchon Makgeolli (예촌막걸리), Wansan-gu Seoshin-dong 847-13, Jeonju City, North Jeolla province (전주시 완산구 서신동 847-13); +82 63 251 5388; www.yetchon.com 

Cheonnyeon Nungribom (천년능리봄), Gyeongwon-dong 2-ga 53-1, Jeonju City, North Jelloa province (전주시 경원동 2가 53-1); +82 63 288 8813

4. Jeonju International Film Festival

jeonjuWe'll see you at JIFF in a jiffy.

Second to bibimbap, Jeonju is famous for its annual International Film Festival, affectionately referred to as the JIFF, which is held in the last week of April.  

During the Festival, Jeonju invites actors and directors from all over the world, and film buffs can create a schedule beforehand and book tickets online through JIFF's website. A certain number of tickets are reserved for on-the-day purchase, so an early morning visit to the central theatre means you can still catch a film or two.  

Film Street comes alive during the festival with outdoor concerts, street vendors and the Hanok Village hosts a parade of famous film characters. Take a trip during cherry blossom season and soak up the sun while taking a walk through nearby parks. 

For more information, go to eng.jiff.or.kr.

More on CNNGo: Busan International Film Festival 2011: Asia's largest film festival gets a major makeover

5. Hanji Paper

hanjiColorful rolls of hanji are perfect for gift-wrapping.

Every visit calls for a good souvenir, and hanji paper qualifies as one of Jeonju's best. The Korean traditional paper made from the bark of mulberry trees is dyed and designed into an array of vibrant colors or ancient scripts. Hanji can be made into almost anything: lamps, socks and even neckties.

hanjiLamps made of hanji. Fire and paper; always a great idea.

Jeonju hosts the Jeonju Hanji Culture Festival, conveniently scheduled around the same time as the JIFF, which includes fashion parades and art exhibitions. But if you’re just looking to pick up a little something special, head to any of the Hanok Village art stalls for a unique gift. 

For more information go to www.jhanji.or.kr.

More on CNNGo: 5 reasons to visit Paju Book City