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Gyeongju, South Korea, was the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom and makes a perfect one-night getaway from Seoul. Economical and easily accessible, the city is rich in history, art and artifacts. When visiting, tourists should not miss two sites that lie just outside the city: Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto contain some of the Korean peninsula’s greatest national treasures. This article details how to get to Gyeongju from Seoul, and what to see once there.

From 57 BC to 935 CE, Gyeongju, Korea, was the ancient capital of Silla, a kingdom consuming two-thirds of the Korean peninsula. Today the city, located 370 km southeast of Seoul, remains rich in Korean Buddhist art, historical sites, and artifacts. All of the historic areas in Gyeongju are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, and the city is often called “the museum without walls.” Traveling from Seoul to Gyeongju is easy, and makes a perfect overnight getaway for Seoul tourists seeking a change in scenery.

Getting to Gyeongju

Intercity buses run a four-hour journey from Seoul to Gyeongju for under $20 USD. The fastest way to Gyeongju, however, is the KTX express train, which travels at 305 kilometers per hour and covers the distance in two hours. Cost is just under $50 USD.

It should be noted that Gyeongju has two train stations. The old station, centrally located, has served the city since 1918, and still serves slow-speed trains to and from Seoul. Singyeongju Station, which opened outside of city limits in 2010, is the rail hub of the KTX high speed lines.

Buses 50, 70, and 700 make the 15-minute jouктey between the two train stations in Gyeongju for just under $2 USD. Tourists arriving at Singyeongju station may wish to begin their journey on the No. 700 bus, which travels from the station to Bulguksa Temple in about an hour.

Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto

Most of Gyeongju’s historical attractions are inside the city center, but two lie just outside, in Gyeongju National Park. Bulguksa, on Mount Toham, is the head temple of Korean Buddhism’s Jogye Order. The complex contains over a half-dozen of South Korea’s national treasures and is itself considered a masterpiece of Buddhist art. It is open at various hours, depending on the season, and admission is affordable at around $5 USD.

A bus is available from Bulguksa to Seokguram Grotto on Mount Tohamsan, where tourists routinely go to watch the sunrise over the East Sea. The grotto was completed in 774 CE, and is filled with examples of some of the finest Buddhist sculptures in the world.

Inside Gyeongju City

The best first stop inside Gyeongju City limits is the Gyeongju National Museum (186 lljeong-ro, open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.). A repository of hundreds of Silla artifacts, the well-curated exhibitions tell the story of the Silla Kingdom, and serves to orient tourists and visitors with historical sites.

Although the city has hundreds of historical sites and attractions, one of the most popular is Daereungwon, a large park filled with burial mounds that serve as the final resting place of many of the key players of the Silla dynasty. Daereungwon includes Cheonmachong, the “tomb of the heavenly horse,” an excavated grave available for touring. Outside of Cheonmachong is Cheomseongdae Observatory, a 9-meter-tall astronomical observatory built in about 640 CE.

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