Home to poignant memorials, colourful markets and a vibrant arts culture, Gwangju is a lively town in the heart of South Jeolla. It’s renowned as the setting for South Korea’s pro-democracy uprising and lies on the doorstep of Mudeungsan Mountain National Park.
Things to do in Gwangju
Don’t miss the 5•18 Memorial Park, which remembers Gwangu’s 1980 pro-democracy uprising and is dotted with dramatic bronze sculptures. Learn about the nationalist events that took place at the exhibition hall, then follow the tree-lined walking trail that leads to a hilltop pagoda for sweeping panoramas of Gwangju.
Stroll along the aptly-named Art Street packed with galleries and studios where local artists showcase their paintings, ceramics and industrial pieces. It’s particularly atmospheric in the evenings and ignites each Saturday with an art flea market where you can pick up unique items, such as collector coins, folk drawings and calligraphy materials.
Want to shop with the locals? Head to the lively Yangdong Market, which takes place under Gwangjugyo Bridge on days ending in “2” and “7”. Everything from fresh produce to traditional goods and the latest fashions are on sale, while authentic Korean street food vendors serve up local delicacies.
Make a day trip to Mudeungsan Mountain National Park, known for its dramatic peaks and Buddhist temples, as well as being home to the Gwangju National Museum. Visit the Silla-era stone temple of Jeungsimsa that is nestled on its western slopes and stands as a symbol of Gwangju.
Getting around Gwangju
There are regular flights to both Seoul and Jeju from the Gwangju Airport, although most opt for the two-hour train journey that connects Gwangju with the capital. Subway and bus services access all corners of the city and taxis are readily available.