Welcome to Gwangju, South Korea
Gwangju, Korea’s sixth-largest city, may look like any other city but its history sets it apart. In 1980 a peaceful pro-democracy demonstration, known as the May 18 Democratic Uprising, was put down by the then military government and remains a strong part of the identity here.
Gwangju has a thriving youth and art culture that shines through at every turn. Further to this, the city has numerous art galleries and hosts a biennial Biennale. 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.
Gwangju is famous for its cuisine as 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.
Things to See
The 5·18 Memorial Park is located in the beautiful 5.18 park, in central Sangmu and was established to remember the May 18 Democratization Movement. Covering an area of 204,985㎡, the park houses various historical and cultural facilities, including the 5·18 Library, 5·18 Cultural Center, Education Center, Daedong Plaza, Owoldae Tower, and other memorial sculpture and monuments that enlighten visitors to the events that lead to the violent democratic uprising. The park is also home to Mugaksa Temple and walking paths.
Gwangju Art Street is aimed at developing Gwangju’s traditional art scene through the exhibitions of local work. The street is 300m long spanning approximately three blocks and located behind Jungang Elementary School, nearby Gwangju Dongbu Police Station. Items commonly found here include Korean fine art such as paintings, ceramics, writings, and industrial art.
Every Saturday, the Street of Fine Arts is blocked from traffic, and people from all over the nation gather to share and enjoy art culture. Part of the attraction is the stories the collectors share with each part of their collection. Enjoy the many shows and exhibitions that draw regular crowds to this famous road.
Yangdong Market started in the 1910s as a traditional market held on dates ending in 2 and 7 of every month on the white sand beach under Gwangjugyo Bridge. The market has a long history and local citizens have many sayings referring to the multitude of items available here. Yangdong Market is an outstanding traditional market among all markets throughout the nation. The market has upgraded with the times to include modern conveniences, including a consolidated market logo, online shopping mall, and shop owner education classes. The river edge is beautifully lit at night, and with its coloured lights and shopping areas nearby, is rapidly becoming a symbol of Gwangju – the City of Light and Culture.
During the May 18th Democratization Movement, both Yangdong and Daein markets were a grand venue where the citizens of Gwangju gathered together to rally for the democratization of the nation. Merchants of the markets provided food, beverages, and medicine to the protestors and participated in the movement alongside their fellow citizens.
Songjeong Station Market was opened in 1913, in connection with the opening of Gwangju-Songjeong KTX Station. For many years, the market was the go-to-place for necessary items and produce. Subsequently, the entire Songjeong Station Market underwent a revitalisation process and was redesigned around the theme of time. Today, you can stroll down this quaint street and taste artisanal Gwangju bread, feast on a variety of street snacks or taste delicious local craft beer. Visitors can enjoy all the classic market foods here, such as hotteok (hot griddle cakes), gyeran bap (rice with egg), and eomuk (fisk cake).
Things to Do
Situated between Damyang-gun and Gwangju Metropolitan City, Damyang is a small village best known for a serene bamboo forest that stretches for 25 acres. Damyang Wetland is one of the best places to experience the ecology of Yeongsangang River. The forest is riddled with hiking trails, waterfalls and artisanal shops where you can pick up all kinds of creative souvenirs made from this distinctly Asian plant.It is a habitat for the hawk, wildcat, Boreal digging frog (endangered species), and kestrel. If you want to experience Damyang inside-out, be sure to treat yourself with bamboo-flavoured ice cream, served at numerous stands and cafés at the edges of the forest.
Yeongsangang River (136 kilometres) is the shortest of the four major rivers in Korea. The river starts from Yongchubong Peak (560m) located in Yong-myeon in Damyang, Jeollanam-do. It runs through Damyang, Gwangju, Naju, and Yeongam and eventually flows into the Yellow Sea at Mokpo through the estuary bank with a well paved footpath along all the parts of the river in the city. It is perfect for a nice walk or cycle with a few park areas spaced out along the banks.
Gwangju Kimchi Town is dedicated to kimchi, Korea’s representative food. Visitors have the opportunity to not only learn about the history and culture of kimchi but also experience making this dish first-hand. Another popular program available is the kimchi tasting experience, with a variety of kimchi kept fresh and ready to eat through a HACCP-certified system.
The Jusangjeolli cliffs of Mudeungsan Mountain consist of Seoseokdae, Ipseokdae, and Gyubong Rocks formed about 70 million years ago. Ipseokdae and Gyubong Rocks are both of a distinct pillar shape as they have been heavily weathered, and Seoseokdae, which was less weathered, looks like a folding screen. The Neodeolgeong (cluster of rocks), which sit on the mountain slope, were made when stone pillars collapsed. The standing rocks and Neodolgeong have been designated as Natural Monuments due to their rarity and uniqueness.
Gwangju Riverside Eco Park (185,124m²) is divided into themed districts and features a natural observation centre, an eco-experience centre, and many more. In the flower district, visitors can see more than 170,000 kinds of wildflowers including azaleas, forsythia, smile rosebay, roses, royal azaleas and hydrangeas. Visitors may also enjoy the picturesque view of over 3000 kinds of trees including snowbells, quince, Chinese parasol trees, Japanese maples, and Metasequoia trees. At the wetlands district, you may actually see how birds hatch and grow.
Mudeungsan National Park is a mountain park lining the edge of Hwasun-gun, Damyang-gun and Gwangju. Mudeungsan Mountain (1,186m) features three rock peaks called Cheonwangbong, Jiwangbong, and Inwangbong, also known as the “Jeongsang Three.”
Mudeungsan’s gradual slope makes it an easy climb for all. Locals once worshipped Cheonwangbong Peak as it was considered a mountain of God. Among the more majestic of these sites are the Seoseokdae, Gyubong, and Ipseokdae peaks. At the base of the mountain are several famous temples including Yaksaam, Jeungsimsa, and Wonhyosa. Mudeungsan Mountain is also known for its beauty throughout the year.
Below the mountain, there is a variety of recreational facilities and tourists sites for visitors. This includes Gwangju National Museum, a traditional Korean style building with exhibition space and artefacts on display. These items total 2,000 artefacts and include treasures excavated from the sea of Sinan, items from Honam province (made during the Seonsa, Baekje, and Silla periods), and paintings from the Joseon Period.