Last December, I was invited to photograph the beautiful North Jeolla Province at a three day press tour. Our first stop was Jeonju Hanok Village; a beautiful area of Jeonju, full of traditional Korean wooden houses (Hanok). In Jeonju alone there was so much to photograph that it won't fit in one blog post, so I will split it into three. Here I will touch upon some good photography spots inside the Hanok Village; in the next post I will show you where we stayed at (the beautiful Hakindang Hanok); and in the last post, I will show you a hidden area with small shops and cafes, which you would otherwise have missed when you visit this beautiful city.
A Hanok is a traditional Korean wooden house, which was frequently used during the Joseon Dynasty. Although there are still several used by families to live in, nowadays apartments outnumber Hanok by far. Recently there is somewhat of a Hanok revival going however, and several have been restored, rebuilt, or completely re-engineered. Hanoks are now used as cafes, tea houses, restaurants or places for people to stay in (which we did during this press tour).
Each Hanok is unique and therefore they are an excellent photographic subject. I just love photographing them. If you do too, then Jeonju Hanok Village is the place to be. The Village is made up out of several Hanok, although they are not all hundreds of years old. Some are fairly new, but built in the traditional style.
Having so many traditional houses in one place makes for a truly special atmosphere. There is this sense of past and calm that permeates the narrow streets between the Hanoks. The best way to explore this area is just to wander the streets and get lost. You will stumble on something worthy to photograph any which way you go.
As an extra bonus, there are the many young people that walk through the village in traditional Korean wardrobe, which they rent in the many shops in the area. While wandering the streets of the Hanok Village they take selfies or photos of each other. Because they're so occupied getting the perfect picture with the age-old area as a backdrop, it creates a good opportunity for you to take some photos of them as well. In fact, there are so many of these opportunities, that it is a street photographer's dream.
In addition to all the Hanoks and Hanboks, there are some other places of interest to photograph in the Village. There is an old confucian school, a palace that was built just to hold the portrait of the king, a cathedral (which we sadly didn't visit), a hill from which you can take a cityscape shot, and also a cafe with an amazing view of the Hanok Village. I'll address them below, together with a map, so you can find out where these places are.
Jeonju Hyanggyo Confucian School (전주향교)
This Confucian school was first constructed sometime early in the 15th century and later rebuilt, because it was destroyed during the Second Japanese Invasion in 1592. It used to be an important school during the Joseon Dynasty, but now people just come here as tourists. Fall is a very popular time to visit, because of the big ginkgo trees that are on the premises. Unfortunately, we were there early December and all the leaves had already fallen off and turned brown. Nevertheless, even without the yellow ginkgo leaves there was plenty to photograph.
Address: 139, Hyanggyo-gil, Wansan-gu, Jeonju-si, Jeollabuk-do (전라북도 전주시 완산구 향교길 139)
Gyeonggijeon Shrine (경기전)
Gyeonggijeon Shrine has all the characteristics of a Korean palace, but wasn't used as one. The whole place was built in 1410 to hold the portrait of King Tae-jo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty. It was basically an early version of an Instagram profile. Portraits of successive kings are also on display.
As you walk the straight road from the entrance to the main building, it becomes apparent that symmetry was very important to the architect of this place. It is therefore quite easy to take esthetically pleasing photos. Just point you camera straight ahead, frame your main subject in the center, and release your inner Stanley Kubrick.
Address: 44, Taejo-ro, Wansan-gu, Jeonju-si, Jeollabuk-do (전라북도 전주시 완산구 태조로 44)
Omokdae & Imokdae (오목대와 이목대)
Although the building on this hill and the hill itself have a history of their own, photographically speaking, it is the view that is the most interesting. It's fairly easy to climb up the hill because there is a wooden staircase and the hill isn't very high. The view from the hill is great, although the view from cafe 전망 (described below) is even better. The difference between the two is esthetically: on this hill you can see the cathedral, which is harder to spot at the cafe. You are also not required to buy an overpriced cup of joe, which is an extra bonus for some.
Address: 55, Girin-daero, Wansan-gu, Jeonju-si, Jeollabuk-do (전라북도 전주시 완산구 기린대로 55)
At the end of the day there was some time to wander around. The sun was slowly setting and I knew I had to get somewhere up high to get a nice cityscape shot of the village. I knew exactly the place to go to. However, I went somewhere else entirely.
As I found out, there are not one, but two cafes both located on the hill right at the start of the village. Because they are elevated, they have a great view of the Village. While Tomorrow Cafe (the place I initially wanted to go to) has a cozier atmosphere, Cafe 전망 (Cafe View, what's in a name) has a better view. The cafe has two stories filled with tables and seats where you'll have a great view from the city through the windows. There is also a terrace, which has an even better view, and the bonus that you don't have to try to photoshop out the glare from lights reflecting in the windows.
Although my hands were freezing off as I was trying to get some shots of the area, I could do it in relative peace, as there was not anybody crazy enough to attempt the same. I doubt that will be the case in warmer months though. Luckily there was coffee to warm me up afterwards.
Address: Jeollabuk-do, Jeonju, Wansan-gu, Pungnam-dong, 한지길 89 (전라북도 전주시 완산구 한지길 89 전주한옥마을 전망)
I still want to come back one day to explore the Hanok Village on my own and take my time to photograph, because it is incredibly beautiful. There is so much to photograph, that just an afternoon of exploring doesn't do it justice. If you want to come photograph Jeonju, I highly recommend being here for more than one day. At least stay here overnight, so you can shoot during the late afternoon, night, and early morning. That way, you can explore this beautiful city in every possible light condition.
Disclaimer: This post is written in exchange for an all expenses paid tour through North Jeolla Province with the Jeollabuk-do Tourism Board. However, all views are my own.