With a population of 210,000, Chungju, located in the geographic center of South Korea, is the second largest city in the province of Chungcheongbuk-do. The central downtown area has a vibrant traditional covered market in Chungin-dong and a small area (Seongseo-dong) with a great youthful vibe on the weekends. Both areas offer traditional street food whilst in addition the latter provides a variety of restaurants, bars and shopping.
The 2013 World Rowing Championships, the highlight of the international rowing calendar, will be held at the stunning Tangeum Lake International Rowing Regatta from the 25th August to the 1st September. This will provide Chungju with an unparalleled opportunity to promote its green credentials and boost the local economy and its tourism profile. The city leaders have identified the event as a catalyst for re-generating and diversifying the local economy away from a reliance on agriculture, labeling Chungju as a “Watersports City”.
The Regatta infrastructure is complete and the event has the potential to attract cosmopolitan competitors from 137 member countries. Great Britain, Germany and New Zealand lead the team world rankings and will all bring powerful teams. This will be a great chance for Chungju to celebrate its long history, Korean culture and a host of natural and man-made attractions.
Northeast is the monumental lake, Chungjuho, a popular fishing destination. It is Korea’s largest artificial lake and was created by the construction of Chungju Dam. The road across the dam is accessible to visitors and offers striking views. An observatory elevator leads to the top of Uan Park; a cultural center displays the story of the dam project. On the park’s lower level is a café as well as impressive views of the dam and a nature trail.
Across from the dam is the Chungju Ferry Terminal, where round-trip cruises are offered to Woraksan National Park and further on to Danyang, home to the spectacular Gosu Caves and Guinsa Temple. The nearby hiking trails of Mt. Gyemyeongsan (774 m) provide remarkable views across Chungjuho Lake towards Woraksan. The adjacent Mt. Namsan also has walking trails and is the location of Seokjongsa Temple.
Woraksan National Park and the Suanbo area
Located south of the city, Woraksan National Park has well-marked hiking trails. A trip to Woraksan should take in the Chungju Mireukdaewonji temple site, Deokjusanseong Fortress, and the Songgye Valley. There is excellent camping, and the restaurants serve local produce. The nearby Deokjusa Temple is the start of an enjoyable hike to a spectacular rock carving and a hermitage.
Back towards Suanbo, Seongwon Traditional Korean Food Village offers pheasant, a local delicacy. The Park Hotel and the Chosun Tourist Hotel are excellent spa choices in Suanbo. Nearby Sajo is a ski resort in winter.
Tangeumdae Park and Jungangtap area
West of the terminal, the earthen fortress of Tangeumdae Park is the place where Master Ureuk played the gayageum, 12-stringed harp, for King Jinheung. It is also the site of General Shin Rip’s great battle Imjinweran during the first Japanese invasion of Korea in the 16th century.
Tangeumdae Park has a beautiful pine-tree-shaded circular walk. Highlights include the Chungju Archery Center, a stylish café, and a Buddhist temple. There’s a memorial to Master Ureuk and a viewing platform with panoramas across Imperial Lake towards Jungangtap Park.
Neighboring Tangeumdae is the World Martial Arts Park, which hosts a festival every September/October with competitions, cultural performances, and a local farmers market. The various martial arts disciplines are celebrated in the World Martial Arts Museum. This locale is family-oriented and includes areas to picnic; bikes can also be hired in the park.
Near Jungangtap Park in the hamlet of Chang-dong is one of my favorite places in the city—the site of the Jungwonchangdongmaaebul (carved Buddha from the Goryeo period). Beyond here a left fork leading to the Chungju Num-ri Ancient Tombs, which date from the Silla Dynasty.
At Jungangtap Park, the seven-story pagoda known as Jungwon Tappyeongni marks the center of Korea and dates from 785 AD during the Silla Dynasty. The park includes a sculpture garden and the Chungju Museum and is alongside the venue for the 2013 World Rowing Championships. Close to Jungangtap, a museum has been built to house the Goguryeo Stele of Chungju. It is said to be the only Goguryeo Stele left in Korea; it’s a worthwhile short diversion.
Dining & Nightlife
The downtown areas Seongso-dong and Yeonsu-dong are popular.
A favorite place to eat in Seongso-dong is Italian Bella Luna, and the coolest bar is Jazz & Sanjo. It’s a five-minute walk between the two venues.
It is on the edge of town, but the area around Konkuk University is also popular.
The tourist-class Chungju Grand Hotel is a 5-minute taxi ride from the bus terminal and a 10-minute walk from the market and downtown area.
There are motels in the area close to the train station and 10 minutes’ walk from the bus terminal.
Seokjongsa Temple Experience www.seokjongsa.org (Korean only) T. 043-854-4505
From Seoul it’s a 100-minute express bus journey from Express Bus Terminal.
It’s a one-hour express bus ride from Cheongju International Airport.
Taxis are available outside the main bus terminal and in the downtown area.
Chungju is an easy city to cycle around; bicycles can be rented at the World Peace Park.
There is a tourist information office inside the bus terminal.