Everyone, and I mean everyone in Korea has convinced themselves that Daejeon has nothing to do. So imagine my surprise when I found Daejeon a wonderland of museums, historical parks, delicious food, and fascinating day trips. It’s an easy trip from Seoul by bus($9-15) or train ($14-20) so head on down – especially if you’re on your way to somewhere else. Daejeon is a major transport hub and an easy stop in any itinerary.
1. The Village 15 Minutes from the Train Station
I don’t know if it has a specific name, but there is a tiny area with many delicious restaurants and cafes within walking distance of the Daejeon train station. You can easily navigate yourself there by searching for 온천집, a Shabu Shabu restaurant in the area. I highly recommend the Shabu Shabu experience, as it’s the best I’ve ever had and stunningly quaint. Across the street is a lovely cafe with a small bamboo forest. I recommend this area first because Daejeon is often a place you may have a “layover” in for an hour or so. In fact, on my recent train trip across the country my friend and I met up to do just this before heading to Cheongju.
2. The Historic Park
When I went to UAM Historical Park, I was expecting something rather small. Instead, a large park with several traditional buildings and a beautiful pond awaited. There are a few such parks in Daejeon but this one seems to be the largest. We arrived just before golden hour and loved watching the sun glimmer over the village-like buildings as we walked. It’s a great way to end a day!
3. Daejeon Museum of Art
With rotating exhibits and visiting galleries, there’s always something to occupy you at Daejeon’s main art museum. This city is, surprisingly, full of museums. But this is the largest and most comprehensive. It’s a great way to learn about Korean artists you may not have heard of before. If you’re not interested in the museum – or perhaps you’ve seen too many on your trip to Daejeon, the grounds outside at actually worth the trip. They are absolutely the perfect scene for a picnic, with wide mown lawns, fountains, and sculptures to wander through.
4. Lee Ungno Museum
Just across the street from the previous museum you can find a fascinating smaller museum. It is primarily dedicated to one artist, Lee Ungno, who worked with a lot of mixed media. It’s interesting to see his evolution of style throughout the years. This museum also has a lot of rotating exhibits, particularly those which focus on the use of technology in art. When we were there a particularly trippy exhibit with VR and projections was installed. We chilled out in the museum for awhile, absorbed in the moving art. As an extra treat, the interior architecture is really cool, with primarily one-way walking in a spiral, with windows to interior small gardens and glimpses of rooms behind and ahead.
5. Hanbat Arboretum
I’ll admit, this probably isn’t worth it in the winter, when I went. They don’t have many evergreen trees, just in one area – which are very pretty. However, this space in the middle of the city, surrounded by skyscrapers, is a little piece of peace. From the pictures I’ve seen, it is particularly stunning in autumn, and very pretty in spring and summer. It’s fairly close to the museums so it’s worth a walk through if you need a break from city sights.
The best shopping area in Daejeon also has a fun quirk. Huge screens extend down the road, flashing scenes from concerts and festivals. It’s a little trippy at night, an inverted Times Square (on a smaller scale of course). I wouldn’t say the shopping is all that different from anywhere else in Korea, but there is a famous bakery with some truly delicious options. Head to Sungsimdang Bakery before you head home to stock up on treats! Be aware there are two locations on the Skyroad. One has your savory treats like sandwiches and breads, and the other has sweets like tarts and cakes.
7. Day trips to Buyeo and Gongju
Yes, I know, not technically in Daejeon. But Daejeon is the easiest and cheapest place to base yourself in to see these two fascinating towns. Both have a lot of Baekje history, one of the Three Kingdoms that rivaled Goguryeo (Modern Seoul) and Shilla (Gyeongju). There are fortresses, tombs, temple hikes, lotus ponds, and history museums to explore! Each is only about an hour away from Daejeon and both can be seen in a single day if you’d prefer. If you’re looking for guides, I have one to Buyeo here.
8. The Weird Little Museums
I don’t really know how to describe this. If you’re not tired of museums, just open Kakao Maps (Guide for How to Use Kakao Maps) and zoom around Daejeon for anything that says “Art Museum.” Sometimes, there’s nothing to see. Other times it’s a tiny, almost abandoned exhibit. Honestly, it gets pretty creepy because seemingly no-one is ever there to man them and the topics are weird. For instance, the most memorable one is a clothing exhibit with bizarre lighting, materials, and arrangements. The picture I’ve given in no way does it justice. That dress is made of fish skin, though, and not in a pretty way. We practically ran away! So if you want some urban thrills or more art perhaps you should stop in to some of these.
And that’s what I have to say about Daejeon! As a bonus, I absolutely loved the Uzbek food I got at ______. Super delicious, clearly a local favorite, and friendly staff. Check out Daejeon on your next trip!
Check out my other posts:
47 Wonderful Places to Visit in Korea