It would be fair to say that Gyeongju has more cultural and historical relics than any other part of South Korea, earning it the nickname ‘the museum without walls’. Capital of the Silla kingdom for over 1000 years, from 57BC to 935AD, the city has a staggering amount of tombs, temples, statues and ruins, all wonderfully well preserved and backed by green rolling hills just outside the city centre. There is nowhere better to get your Korean culture fix.
With a huge collection of relics of Silla, the National Museum gives a fantastic overview of the kingdom. Although many of the finds are not on display the ones that are are suitably impressive, with jewels, weapons, Buddhist works of art and even elaborate crowns given pride of place. Don’t forget to have a look at the Emille Bell, one of Asia’s largest and most resonant bells – though unfortunately you will not be able to hear it for yourself.
In Tumuli Park you can walk amongst royalty – 23 tombs, or ‘tumuli’ of Sila monarchs hidden under grassy hillocks. Located right in the centre of town, the area has been turned into a lovely tree-filled park that is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll. One of the tombs, Cheonmachong, from the 5th century is open to visitors. This one tomb yielded about 12,000 relics – copies of some line the walls of the tomb whilst some originals are in the National Museum.
Bulguksa is considered the paramount example of Silla architecture. Built in 528 it was partially destroyed in 1593 and left to fall into ruin until the president ordered its reconstruction in the 1970s. The complex encompasses seven national treasures and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with Seokguram Grotto. The ponds, paths and bridges of the grounds make a popular picnic spot, whilst the striking patterns and bright colours of the buildings make for an even more impressive sight. Just four kilometres from Bulgaksa, the Seokguram Grotto, overlooking the Sea of Japan is home to some of the world’s best Buddhist sculptures.
Excellently located in the Bomun Tourist Complex, the Hilton Gyeongju offers an elegant and stylish place to stay. Decorated throughout in a modern Art Deco style the Hilton exudes an ambiance of relaxation and comfortable, especially in it's cool and calm guests rooms, as well as swimming pools and plenty of international dining options.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.