A lot of general tourist information on Gyeongju is repeated else ware, so I’m going to try and keep this short by giving links for more detailed information. But before I get into it, every expat and foreign tourist in Korea needs to tattoo this phone number on the back of their hands: 1330
1330 is the number for English tourist info in Korea and I’m amazed how many foreigners here don’t know about it. I ring them up on a regular basis for everything from bus and train times, to restaurant reservations and movie showings. The trick is, if you’re calling from a cell phone, you’ve got to dial the local area code + 1330. Seoul is 02+1330 and Gyeongju is 054+1330. Learn it and love it.
Like I said, there’s already a lot of handy information on Gyeongju already online. The Korean government’s tourism website has a lot of very good background and historical information on the big tourist sights, as does the Gyeongju City Government’s English website.
The official E-guide to Gyeongju also provides a lot of detailed English info including hotels, restaurants, sites and history. Just remember, even though the phone numbers are listed, most of the hotel and restaurant proprietors here don’t speak much English
For more travel tips and recommendations, you might want to check out the Virtual Tourist page on Gyeongju. It’s got posts from past visitors, though it seems most folks posting there haven’t gotten too far off the beaten path.
If you’re coming into Gyeongju by train or bus, you first thing you want to do is stop off at the tourist info centers just out side both the bus and train station. They look like little cement pagodas and are right next to the humungo tourist maps.
Here you can pick up an English map of the area, but don’t forget to ask for the free English guide book called “Gyeongju: the evergreen spirit of Silla that has been alive for a thousand years.” Don’t let the title put you off. This thing is amazingly thorough and has a lot of cool info, like maps, historical anecdotes and admission prices.
Also, if you plan on doing any hiking or biking, ask for the Korean map of Mt. Namsan. They’ve got a brand new map of Namsan in English, but through some oversight they forgot to actually put any of the hiking trails on the map. Believe me, even if you can’t read a lick of Korean, you’re better off hiking with a map that actually has trails on it.
UPDATE (06-20-10): I’ve just posted reviews of a several great guidebooks Gyeongju, but the best of the best is Gyeongju: A Field Guide to History published by the Korea Cultural and Historical Survey Society. If you’re planing on spending any time at all in Gyeongju, I highly recommend buying this book. It’s available from the Gyeongju National Museum bookstore or you can purchase it online here. It’s about 27,000 won and it’s chock full of photos, maps, legends plus lots of detailed historical and archeological info. I promise it’ll make any visit to Gyeongju a lot more rewarding.
UPDATE (10-02-10): Here’s a list of blog posts I written that provide practical information for both tourists and long-term visitors to Gyeongju. I’m listing and linking them here by topic and I’ll try to update it when I get other posts written: