Gwangju is a city in the southwestern part of South Korea that is known for its vibrant art scene and range of culturally significant attractions and events. The Gwangju Biennale is one of the most popular events in all of South Korea and is held every other year at Jungoe Park, also one of the main Gwangju attractions. The first was held in 1995 and was conceived as a way to set a new course for a city that had largely been associated most closely with Korea’s pro-democracy resistance movement and the related student uprisings.
It has grown in size and scope over the years and now plays hosts to hundreds of artists from around the globe who come together to share visions, ideas, and works of art. The idea behind the three-month gathering is to foster a sense of international community as well as a distinctly artistic reputation for the city of Gwangju. Attending one of the many exhibitions, gallery displays, and workshops is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Gwangju.
Some of the most popular Gwangju attractions can be found along Gwangju Art Street which hosts a flea market every Saturday to put on display the best works of art and craft by artisans from around the country. People literally travel from all over the country to put their works of art on display and many make a good living this way. It is a long street peppered with galleries and exhibition spaces, many of which exclusively feature the work of local emerging artists. You will find everything from paintings to ceramics, textiles to metal works. There are a variety of traditional markets where you will also be able to located many precious antiques and one-of-a-kind sculptures and pieces of jewelry. As in many of the cities in South Korea, one of the best things to do in Gwangju is to set out on the town to explore the various shops, cafes, tea houses, and local attractions.
The Gwangju National Museum is a veritable treasure trove of cultural relics and artifacts that date back to the earliest recorded periods in the history of what would become the country of Korea. There are artifacts that predate the Paleolithic Age and many relics from the founding of the Joseon Kingdom are present in this elaborate museum. You have the option of watching the whole process of pottery making unfold before your eyes or perhaps you would rather just stroll through the museum at your own pace. Guided tours are another great way to get a sense for the history of not only Gwangju, but also of the entire Korean Peninsula and greater Asia as well.
When it comes to stunning natural beauty, none of the Gwangju attractions can rival Mudeungsan Provincial Park. There are a variety of gorgeous temples that you can explore at the foot of the hills and the mountain is not too steep to climb all the way to the top. If you have a chance to visit during the spring this would be one of the top things to do in Gwangju. The flowers are in full bloom and the countryside thrives with lush vegetation. Gwangju is a city where you can enjoy the best of city as well as rural South Korean life.
Image: Kevin Jaako (Flickr)