Perhaps there’s no better way to experience Korean culture than staying in a traditional house such as a hanok or choga. While many of these homes – some of which are up to a century old – have been renovated, they still retain classic Korean architectural styles and historical value, making them a unique accommodation option. Most are private residences or have been converted into museums or restaurants, but here are a few you can actually stay in.
Marrying contemporary and traditional hanok architecture, Chiwoonjung in Seoul’s Bukchon Hanok Village offers visitors a glimpse of the past without compromising the convenience of modern living. One way it does so is through its décor, which ornaments each of the rooms of the house and includes traditional paintings, sculptures and ceramics by renowned Korean artists. Other standout features include a gorgeously landscaped courtyard garden and a breathtaking bathroom outfitted with a wooden tub and natural elements that blend harmoniously with the home’s surroundings. Visitors can also enjoy a host of cultural activities and performances and even sample Joseon-era cuisine. Although currently functioning as a boutique hotel, Chiwoonjung has hosted numerous dignitaries, and was once the residence of former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak.
Step back in time as you cross the threshold of Rakkojae, a charming complex situated in Andong’s 600-year-old Hahoe Village. Consisting of four choga – traditional, nature-friendly Korean homes made from straw, wood, and soil – each room offers a calming space of traditional furnishings and its own private bathroom, complete with a Hinoki Cypress whirlpool bath. While Rakkojae is particularly serene at night, when moonlight and quiet encapsulate the space, there’s plenty to do during the day. Start your morning with a complimentary breakfast on the wooden patio of your room. Then, enjoy a traditional mask dance performance or take a ferry to nearby Buyongdae, a 64-meter-high cliff that offers panoramic views of the UNESCO-listed village’s traditional homes and the Nakdong River that winds around them.
The century-old Vinehouse has been a private family home for three generations but recently opened its doors to guests wishing to experience traditional Korean culture in Seochon Village, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Seoul. The hanok boasts four cozy rooms boasting private bathrooms, Korean-style duvets, and ondol underfloor heating. Old furniture, paper-pasted windows, and antiques add to the traditional ambiance while modern amenities such as free WiFi, air conditioning, and laundry facilities make a stay here both convenient and comfortable. What really sets Vinehouse apart, however, is the family atmosphere it offers; guests are welcome to join the family that lives there for a complimentary traditional Korean breakfast every morning. Located within walking distance of Gyeongbokgung Palace, Tongin Market, and Samcheong-dong, and just a short bus ride to Bukhansan National Park, Vinehouse is the perfect place for the tourist looking to do it all. Visit the hanok’s Airbnb page to make reservations.
Perhaps no hanok in all of Jeonju is better known than the Hakindang House. Built in 1908, the structure illustrates the traditional architecture of the late Joseon Dynasty. Commissioned by Baek Nak-jung, a high ranking official during the reign of King Gojong, the building originally served as the first pansori (Korean opera) theater in the country. It was later purchased by the Seo family. Considered a jong-ga, a household descended from a distinguished ancestor through the eldest son of each generation, the family carries on the traditions upheld for the past couple centuries in this special hanok. In addition to lavishly adorned rooms, visitors can enjoy a tour of the home and an explanation of various items like the ancestral tablet and jesa (ancestral rites) items in the attic, and enjoy dishes that have been served up using the same ingredients and cooking methods for the past century. After all, where better to taste the flavors of Korea than the country’s culinary capital?
Conveniently situated in Seongeup Folk Village at the foot of Halla Mountain, this charming Airbnb home, which is part of a larger complex, makes for a great base camp to explore the nearby sights of Jeju Island such as Sunrise Peak and Udo Island. The unique structure balances contemporary architectural elements with black volcanic stone walls, eaves made from local trees, and thatched roofs built with straw – materials that have been used in the construction of the island’s traditional homes for thousands of years. The sparkling clean, spacious home sleeps up to seven and features bedrooms with western-style beds, a private bath, kitchen, and countless amenities including a karaoke TV and free WiFi. Other resort facilities include volcanic stone foot baths and barbeque pits.