Need a break from the congested highways, rush-hour crowds, and fast-paced daily schedule? With breathtaking highland scenery, picturesque coastlines, and authentic local delights, Gangwon-do is the perfect travel destination for a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Situated 113km away from Seoul, with the Taebaek mountains cutting along the eastern coast, Gangwon-do is the northernmost province of South Korea. Housing some of the most scenic places in the country, Gangwon-do is definitely a charming region, filled with the beauty of nature. It is no wonder Gangwon-do is the ‘top pick’ chosen by Seoulites for a weekend getaway.
Enough of commercialized shopping, overpriced street food, and jam-packed touristy locations, it is time to experience Gangwon-do the (x)clusive way!
#1 – Handmade With Love
There is nothing like a handmade gift from a loved one. Choosing the right souvenir can be difficult, particularly when you are shopping for somebody who already seems to have absolutely everything! If you are a fan of handmade accessories, then head over to Mooee Arts Center where you get to experience making your own unique pressed flower accessory (in the form of either a keychain or a necklace), where no two creations will ever be the same as the other, giving each piece a special meaning on its own.
Mooee Arts Center also exhibits works of notable Korean artists, including Western-style painter Jeong Yeon Seo (who specializes in and is well-known in the industry for painting buckwheat flowers), calligrapher Lee Cheon Seop (who has created his own font), sculptor Oh Sang Wook, and potter Kwon Soon Beom. The open space outside the building turns into an outdoor sculpture park where large-scale sculptures, mostly handcrafted by Oh Sang Wook, are displayed.
Get to experience a range of diversified hands-on programmes from pottery to engraving and calligraphy, and catch the artists creating their art pieces in person right here at Mooee Arts Gallery! Why get a gift that is most probably mass produced off the shelf when you can personally handmake something with love!
Tip: Do remember to call up in advance to check on the artists’ schedule and the availability of the experiential programmes before heading over.
Mooee Arts Center
233, Saripyeong-gil, Bongpyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do
강원도 평창군 봉평면 사리평길
March-October (9AM – 6.30PM) | November-February (10AM – 5PM) – Closed on Mondays
#2 – Walk Through History
The local currency is the handiest thing to have on hand when travelling, but have you ever taken a closer look at the crisp Korean bills? When you do, you will be greatly surprised by the number of details on the notes and how much it tells you about their important historical figures and related tourist sites.
Observe the 5,000 won and 50,000 won bills and they will reveal a secret that cannot be found on any other currency throughout the world! The special relationship of these bills is in the two figures depicted – they are the only two figures known to be related as mother and son. Shin Saimdang (1504-1551), featured on the 50,000 won bill, is also the only female on Korean currency and is well-known for being a good wife and a wise mother. The Ojukheon House, which is featured on the 5,000 won bill behind Shin Saimdang’s third son, Yulgok Yi I (1536-1584), is the birthplace of mother-son pair. Taking a walk through Ojukheon House is likened to taking a glimpse of history.
Fun Fact: You will see Yulgok Yi I’s statue as soon as you step into the entrance. According to a Korean saying, if you touch the statue’s index finger, you will do well in your studies.
24, Yulgok-ro 3139beon-gil, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do
강원도 강릉시 율곡로3139번길 24 (죽헌동)
Ticket booth (9AM – 5PM) | Admission (9AM – 6PM) – Closed on Seollal and Chuseok
#3 – All About Dubu
Curious to learn how to make your own dubu (tofu)? Interested in trying a variety of dubu dishes that are not soondubu jjigae (soft tofu stew)? Then you just found a good reason to head to Gangwon-do!
In Korea, every region has its own special recipe to make dubu. And in Gangneung, seawater from the East Sea is used as a coagulant, a method rarely found elsewhere in the world. Here at Jeonggangwon, we got to see the process of making Chodang Soondubu from scratch – starting from blending the soybeans, boiling the blended soybeans in water, filtering out the pulp, boiling the filtered soybean liquid (soy milk), coagulating with seawater, stirring really gently on low heat, skimming out the curds (for consumption as soondubu), to finally putting the curds in a mould (for consumption as dubu). Witnessing the entire dubu making procedure was indeed an eye-opener as we did not know that much time (It took slightly more than an hour!) and effort went into making a block of dubu. We will definitely be cherishing every single bite of it from now onwards.
Jeonggangwon, more commonly known as the Traditional Korean Food Culture Experience Center, was established in order to preserve, distribute, and promote the values and merits of traditional Korean food culture to the world. So if you are looking for a hands-on session on cooking your own Korean dish (ranging from bibimbap, kimchi to Korean rice cake), do add Jeonggangwon to your travel itinerary!
2010-13, Geumdanggyegok-ro Yongpyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do
강원도 평창군 용평면 금당계곡로 2010-13
As we have mentioned, Chodang Soondubu is Gangneung’s representative food! Indulge in a variety of dubu dishes at Chodang Dubu Village, where you can pick any restaurant and be wowed by the flavourful variations of dubu. Our dinner was at Sonamoo Jib Chodang Soondubu, a restaurant that has been open for almost 50 years, and the dubu jorim (stewed tofu) was something really memorable – a dish I’ll definitely be heading back for.
No matter how stuffed you are after the main course, you always have room for a little dessert. Occupying a small area of the shop in front of Sonamoo Jib Chodang Soondubu is Soontofu Gelato. There is no better way to end a meal than with a soontofu gelato. There are other options such as pistachio, injeolmi, and yoghurt as well.
Chodang Dubu Village
99, Chodangsundubu-gil, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do
강원도 강릉시 초당순두부길 99 (초당동) 일대
Sonamoo Jib Chodang Soondubu
95-5 Chodang Soondubu-ro, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do
강원도 강릉시 초당순두부길 95-5
Monday-Sunday (7.30AM – 8PM) – Closed on Tuesdays
#4 – Yum Yum in My Tum
The way to someone’s heart is no doubt through their stomach! If dubu is not up your alley, we have got you covered!
Bongpyeong, a small town located in the county of PyeongChang, is rumoured to produce the best quality buckwheat in South Korea.
Popular amongst the locals, Dooil Makguksu is a 40-year old cold buckwheat noodles (메밀막국수) restaurant that strictly uses Korean buckwheat. The buckwheat noodles, that come in cold and spicy variations, are the perfect solution for summer. The whole chicken soup with wild mushrooms (능이토종닭백숙) is highly recommended as well.
강원도 평창군 진부면 방아다리로 324
324, Bangadari-ro (Duil-ri), Jinbu-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do
Daily (9AM – 8PM)
As the saying goes, “When in Chuncheon, eat dakgalbi (spicy stir-fried chicken)!”
Get your dakgalbi cravings satisfied at Eoullim Dakgalbi! The marinated chicken (options of original, soy, and spicy) is grilled over charcoal instead of the usual skillet or barbeque grill pan. The tender, smokey meat, coupled with a panoramic scenic view of the mountains, is something you’ll think back on often.
Fun Fact: There are so many restaurants selling dakgalbi in Chuncheon, there is even a Myeongdong Dakgalbi street dedicated to the dish.
Eoullim Dakgalbi 어울림 닭갈비
강원도 춘천시 동면 만천리 340-65
340-65 Mancheon-ri, Dong-myeon, Chuncheon, Gangwon-do
Daily (11.30AM – 10PM)
Burgers and Pasta
It is probably kind of peculiar to introduce burgers and pasta in an article on South Korea, but if you need a change of taste after gorging Korean food for days, do give Kkorovei a shot! Kkorovei is a quaint container café, well-known for its brunch menu. Popular amongst the locals, the food they serve is 100% organic and locally sourced. Everything on their menu is made from scratch, and that includes their bread, burger patties, and jam. This cafe is charming in its own way and will be a nice addition to your travel itinerary if you are having a late start to your day.
Fun Fact: Kkorovei do sell their homemade bread and jam, so if you cant get enough of them, you can bag one home!
68, Taegi-ro, Bongpyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do
강원도 평창군 봉평면 태기로68
Daily (10.30AM – 9.30PM) – Closed on Mondays
#5 – Back To Nature
Being constantly stuck in a concrete jungle, where all we see are buildings, buildings and more buildings, the thought of returning to nature during a vacation is welcoming. A trip to Daegwallyeong Sky Ranch no doubt brings out the best ranch experience, where you get a chance to hop on a tractor, ice-sledge on fertilizer bags, ride a horse, feed ranch animals, and even flock sheep. Being the widest grassland ranch in Asia, Daegwallyeong Sky Ranch possesses fantastic panoramic views that look like something out of a dream while you walk amid the early morning mist. Head to the observation deck and be mesmerized by the highland scenery and windmill meadows! There is nothing better than spending some time in the arms of nature to recharge from the bustle of city life at this place where the locals call the ‘Asia version of the Alps of Swiss’.
Tip: To get a closer experience with the sheep, do sign up for the feeding experience where you get to feed these fluffy animals with hay, and if you are lucky enough, a selfie with them.
Daegwallyeong Sky Ranch
458-23, Kkotbadyangji-gil, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do
강원도 평창군 대관령면 꽃밭양지길 458-23
October-March (9AM – 5.30PM) | April-September (9AM – 6PM)
#6 – Addicted to Coffee
For centuries, tea was undeniably the go-to drink in Korean culture. However, within the last few decades, due to a shift in youth culture, coffee has emerged as the caffeinated beverage of choice. This fact is glaringly obvious not only in Seoul, but most of the major cities in South Korea, where it is effortlessly easy to spot a café at every other corner.
You may be surprised but Gangneung is actually well recognized as the ‘City of Coffee’ as most of the cafés that serve specialty coffee in the area roast their own coffee beans.
Learn all you need about coffee at Terarosa Museum! Despite being a coffee buff and sustaining on multiple cups of caffeine daily, how much do you actually know about the coffee you are drinking? Get all your questions answered at Terarosa Museum – from the different types of coffee beans, harvesting and refining, sampling of beans, formulating the right blend, the roasting process, all the way to grinding the beans, and finally, brewing the blend. This museum, which features a guided tour through the history of coffee is like a secret lab, filled with all the coffee knowledge you need. The only downside though, is that the guided tour is only available for booking in Korean. That said, there are English explanations on all the panels in the museum, so one can slowly read and absorb at your own pace.
One thing for sure, Terarosa coffee definitely lives up to its name. Their hand-drip coffee is spectacularly aromatic (and a must-try if you are a coffeeholic) and best paired with their in-house desserts (especially the pecan pie and tiramisu)! The semblance to a warehouse, coupled with the rustic interior decor, Terarosa Café is perfect for the gram as well. With quality coffee, delectable desserts, and a great atmosphere – what more can we ask for!
Tip: Do remember to call up in advance to make a reservation, especially if you are interested in getting a guided tour.
Terarosa Café and Museum
강원도 강릉시 구정면 현천길 7
7 Hyeoncheon-gil, Gujeong-myeon, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do
Café (9AM – 9PM) | Museum (10AM – 6PM)
If you need a dose for your daily caffeine fix, head to Anmok Coffee Street and you’ll be spoilt for choice! At Anmok Coffee Street, every café has its own unique characteristics, where no two cafés share the same theme. Spending an idle afternoon at one of the cafés and people-watching sounds like the perfect holiday plan, don’t you agree?
There are also artworks and sculptures scattered all over Anmok Beach, so there is no lack of photo spots. As some of the art installations are seasonal, here’s just another reason for you to head back to Anmok Beach to see what’s in store for you!
Anmok Coffee Street
17, Changhae-ro, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do
강원도 강릉시 창해로 17 (견소동)
Changhae-ro 14beon-gil, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do
강원도 강릉시 창해로14번길 (견소동)
Fun Fact: Gangneung is the first city in South Korea to host a coffee festival to support local coffee artisans, as well as to promote the development of coffee related facilities and contents (such as coffee museum, coffee street, coffee factory, and barista academy).
#BONUS – For Hallyu Fans
If you are an avid fan of Korean dramas, then you should be familiar with Winter Sonata, Descendants of the Sun and Goblin. The Pyeongchang, Gangneung and Jeongseon area is the hub for the Hallyu wave, where many drama filming locations could be found. Try Jumunjin Breakwater in Gangneung, where you could explore the blue waters of the east coast and take a nice long stroll along the beach, reminiscing the scene in Goblin where Kim Go-eun and Gong Yoo first met on the rocks. Sounds pretty ideal for Korean drama fans, right?
ARMYs travelling to Jumunjin Beach can now visit the iconic BTS bus stop from the group’s ‘You Never Walk Alone’ album. It is the perfect spot to recreate your favourite scenes from the group’s concept photos!
1609, Haean-ro, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do
강원도 강릉시 주문진읍 해안로 1609
210, Jumunbuk-ro, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do
강원도 강릉시 주문진읍 주문북로 210 (주문진읍)
Seoul and Busan have their own unique charms but it is sometimes nice to break out of the concrete jungle and escape to somewhere less populated. Time to take a chill pill and experience Gangwon-do the (x)clusive way!
With 7 cities (Chuncheon, Donghae City, Gangneung, Samcheok, Sokcho, Taebaek, and Wonju) and 11 counties (Cheorwon, Goseong, Hoengseong, Hongcheon, Hwacheon, Inje, Jeongseon, Pyeongchang, Yanggu, Yangyang, and Yeongwol), what we’ve shared is only the tip of an iceberg of what Gangwon-do has to offer. Not forgetting the panoramic landscapes that change with the season, wait for me, Gangwon-do! I’ll definitely be back for more!
This article is brought to you in collaboration with Korea Tourism Organization (Singapore)!