With the KTX slated to start running to Gyeongju by next Winter(fingers crossed), there’s been a lot of hustle and bustle around town lately If you’re local you may have noticed there’s been a lot of construction downtown over this last year. Seems the city decided to give a serious makeover to the pottery and antiques street, just a block over from McDonalds and Baskin Robbins.
As of last December, the city officially unveiled Bonghwang-ro (봉황로) or “The Pheonix Street of Traditional Culture,” and I dare say they did a fairly bang up job with it. Bonghwang-ro is named after an ornate Shilla Dynasty gold crown excavated near by in the 1920s. If you stroll down Bonghwang-ro, the first thing you might notice is that all the street lamps are shaped like Cheomseongdae Observatory. Perhaps a bit tacky, but if you look a bit closer, each lamp post has an old photo of Gyeongju from back during the late Chosun Dynasty and Japanese Occupation, complete with English explanations. As a history junky and photo hound, I’m all about it.
You might also notice that Bonghwang-ro is lined with quirky stone carvings of people and animals. No, the city hasn’t been blowing tax-payer money of the latest wave of faux naïve Art Brut public sculpture. These are actually recreations and enlargements of clay figurines excavated from Shilla Dynasty tombs from the 5th & 6th cen. C.E. Why not break out the camera, have the kids saddle up, and everybody say “Kimchi!”?
Of course what Bonghwang-ro is really all about is shopping. If you’ve got a fewbucks to spend and you’re looking for souvenirs and gifts that go beyond the usual tourist trinkets and postcard packs, this is the spot. There’s a good mix of pottery, traditional crafts, paintings and antiques, so it won’t get boring. And if you need to take a break and put you’re feet up, relax with some tea at Ah Sa Ga Tea House (아사가찻집) .
A lot of the restaurants are new, so I don’t have any tips on them (yet). But if continue on Bonghan-ro north past the city courthouse and cross the main drag, you’ll soon come upon a stretch of about 20 restaurants serving everything from bosam and puffer fish to barbecued duck and dog soup.
The Phoenix Street of Traditional Culture is in the center of Downtown Gyeongju, just a block West of McDonalds and Baskin Robbins. It covers just a 4 block section of downtown, stretching from the south gate at the Nodong-ri and Noseo-ri tombs, to the North Gate, just across from the City Courthouse. As the Bonghwang-ro is lit up like a Christmas tree after dark, it makes for a great evening walk along with the Nodong-ri and Noseo-ri tombs downtown.
View Phoenix Traditional Culture Street, Downtown Gyeongju in a larger map