Daegu Korea – Daegu, located inland in the middle of South Korea, is a progressive city with a split down the middle of contemporary developments and ancient tradition preservation. A running joke in the country is that ‘many of the gorgeous girls come from Daegu’ (and if you’re a fan of watching Korean drama, you might remember this reference from the series ‘Oh My Venus’!). With a reputation like this, who isn’t slightly intrigued about this unfairly unfamiliar city?
Whilst Daegu is known for many things by the locals, it’s most famously known to be the hottest place in summer in Korea. As it is a city that is situated down the middle at the bottom of a wide mountainous area, in summer, the heat becomes trapped between the valleys and causes the city to heat up to extremely high levels, hence it’s nickname, ‘Daefrica’, which is an amalgamation of Daegu and Africa. The name Daegu itself literally translates to ‘large hill’.
Daegu is also home to some of the strongest practices of traditional oriental medicine in Korea, with an entire street market dedicated to generations of families selling their sought-after solutions to the locals who still hold oriental medicine in high regard.
Light-year’s away from the incomparably more popular Seoul metropolis and Busan seaside city, Daegu retains a small-town cultural charm that’s quite reminiscent of Hualien in Taiwan, or Shikoku in Japan. There is a myriad of inherently Korean experiences to embrace, if only you just give it a chance.
How to get there?
Daegu is around a 4-hour bus ride away from Seoul. One of the cheapest options is to take the express bus. With this option, you can purchase it on the day at the Seoul or Central City Express Bus Terminal, or you can head online and purchase your tickets there. For adults, tickets start at only 25,200 won (23$) for a seat on the ‘excellent’ bus (so incredibly cheap!). There is also a ‘premium’ grade above excellent, and an ‘economy’ grade below excellent. To check for tickets for the dates that you’re planning, click here. Here is how the buses look like:
Another option from Seoul would be to take the KTX (Korean high-speed trains) from Seoul to Dongdaegu station in Daegu. This option is the quicker option (roughly 2 hours) but could cost anywhere between 38,000 won (34$) to 88,750 won (80$), which is considerably more expensive than the highway bus option. To book a ticket or see the train schedules, click here.
But if you plan to travel often by train in South Korea, you can save a lot of money by getting a Korail Pass. This pass will allow unlimited travel during a defined period of time. You can reserve it here and get 5% off: Korail Pass.
Where to stay?
Guesthouse – Casual House Sono
Casual House Sono offers a range of amenities, including a shared lounge, a bar, and free Wi-Fi. Each room has a wardrobe, and selected rooms also feature a kitchenette, a microwave, a fridge, and a stovetop. Walkable distance to Seomun Market.
Why Guests Love It: Ideal location as it was around 10-minutes walk to central shopping area, bus stop and metro station nearby, staff were extremely helpful and friendly, rooms were clean and comfortable.
Book It Here: Casual House Sono
Hotel – Rivertain Hotel
Rivertain Hotel is only a 6-minute walk from Jungangno Subway Station. Free Wi-Fi is provided throughout the property, and all rooms come with air-conditioning, a flat-screen TV, a fridge and a desk. Private bathrooms include an electronic bidet.
Why Guests Love It: Comfortable bed, great breakfast buffet, cleaning service was excellent, staff had broken but adequate English skills and were always polite, location was in the middle of Daegu but it was still quiet.
Book It Here: Rivertain Hotel
Top Things to do in Daegu Korea #1 – Yangnyeongsi Market (Daegu Herb Wholesale Market)
Yangnyeongsi Market is one of the largest and oldest oriental medicine markets in all of Korea. This market was established all the way back in 1658, and stretches along Namseong-ro Road near Yangnyeongsi Oriental Medicine Cultural Centre. It’s also known locally as ‘Yakjeon Golmok’ (if you get lost and are asking for directions, throw both names out!).
If you’re heading to Daegu, make sure to check this market out. It is quite unlike any other market in Korea (actually, you probably won’t be able to come across anything like this anywhere else in Korea), and you will most likely learn a thing or two about the ancient methodologies of traditional oriental medicine. And if not, well, seeing first-hand the sheer number of medicinal solutions that are created from ingredients so unlike the modern medicine we unthinkingly consume today is a great eye-opener.
Access: From Daegu, take the Subway Line 1 to Jungangno Station and use Exit 1. It is a 5-minute walk from there.
Hours: Vary from stall to stall. (Closed on Mondays, January 1st, Lunar New Year and Chuseok)
Top Things to do in Daegu Korea #2 – Hiking the Surrounding Mountains
Being a city that’s situated in the middle of mountains, you can bet that there is a plethora of day hikes you can engage in whilst in Daegu, and they all have equally amazing views from the top.
Palgongsan Natural Park in Daegu Korea
Palgongsan Natural Park is situated at Palgongsan Mountain. It’s one of the easier hikes, with its trail being only 1.2km long, which takes the average person roughly 45 minutes to reach the top. At the peak of Psalgongsan Park sits the famous Gatbawi statue, a monumental Buddha statue. It was built in the 7th century, and its most notable feature would probably the flat rock that was used for its head (hence the name Gatbawi, ‘bawi’ meaning rock, and ‘gat’ meaning a traditional hat, both in Korean). There is a long serving legend that the statue honours prayers, and so every year during sunrise, the locals make the climb up to pray and watch the sunrise. For those who need to sustain energy for this hike, there are stalls selling food on the way up.
Address: 229, Gatbawi-ro, Dong-gu, Daegu
Access: From Dongdaegu Station, take the Bus 401 or the Express Bus 1 and alight at the Donghwasa Temple (roughly 20 to 45 minutes).
Biseulsan County Park in Daegu Korea
Biseulsan County Park is located in the far southern region of Daegu, and its most notable feature is the blooming azaleas that come out in spring. It’s so beautiful, in fact, that there is a festival dedicated to it every year in May. It’s a tad further out than most hikes, but that just makes for a less touristy and more soulful adventure in the wild. Hikers heading to this destination would want to get a glimpse of the famous ‘twin peaks’ – Johwabong and Gwangibong.
Access: From Daegu, take the red metro line to Daegok station and alight there. Hop onto the Express 8 bus to Daegu National Science Museum. From there, flag a taxi and head to the ‘forest entrance of Biseulsan’ (taxi ride should cost roughly 10,000 won).
Activity #3 – Daegu’s annual Chicken and Beer Festival (Chimac)
As one of Daegu’s most famous festivals, which celebrates something that global citizens have come to love and appreciate, we need to talk about their annual ‘Chimak’ festival, a festival dedicated entirely to Fried Chicken and Beer (yep, you read that right!).
Koreans are notoriously famous for their unique style of fried chicken. A favourite pastime that’s quickly being adopted worldwide is to couple that with some cold beer, and you’ve got yourself a good time. During this festival, close to one million visitors flock in to celebrate, with stalls upon stalls selling fresh food and beer, and music and cultural performances to liven the atmosphere. In the past, there have been some pretty crazy line ups, including some of Korea’s top idol groups performing.
The even usually happens in July, and admission is usually free. This year in 2018, it is happening from July 18th to July 22nd.
Access: From Dongdaegu, take Line 2 to Banwoldang Station. From Daegu, take subway Line 2 to Duryu Station.
Hours: 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Website: Chimac Festival
Top Things to do in Daegu Korea #4 – Donghwasa Temple
Donghwasa Temple is one of the most famous temples in Daegu, with a history that dates back to the 17th century. It’s also located on the mountainside of Palgongsan Mountain, so you can most likely visit both sites on the same day. The temple itself has been destroyed and rebuilt many times.
The most notable feature of this temple would be the giant standing Buddha statue that is 33m high (it’s official name is the Tongil- yaksayeoraedaebul Buddha, for your information!). It’s the largest stone Buddha in all of Asia. The entire temple area is full of historical statues, pillars and shrines to explore. During Buddha’s birthday, people flock in from all over Daegu to see the lantern festival, where strings of beautifully coloured lanterns are lit across the entire temple.
Address: 1, Donghwasa 1-gil, Dong-gu, Daegu
Access: From Dongdaegu station, head to the exit near parking lot no. 3 and use the bus stop located nearby to take the Bus 402 or Express Bus No. 1 to Donghwasa Temple Bus Stop (20 to 45 minutes). It is an 8-minute walk to the temple.
Hours: Sunrise – Sunset
Cost: Adults: 2,500 won (2$)
Top Things to do in Daegu Korea #5 – Banwoldang
Of course, no trip to any city is complete without getting to know the nightlife and the ‘city’ aspect of it to see just how borrowed or unique it is compared to the larger metropolises. In Daegu, Banwoldang is where you want to go when you’re craving those streets adorned with nightlights, rows of stores selling fashion and accessories, and streets aligned with restaurants that just smell divine. It is populated by expats, who endorse the culture of coffee and bar hopping on any given day there. You will also be able to indulge in international treats here (albeit they’re most likely ‘koreanised’ such as Turkish kebab and burgers). Fashionistas, head to the stalls set up on the streets to find unique prints and cuts you won’t see anywhere else, or else just head to the many department stores and shop to your heart’s content.
Access: From Daegu Station, take the Bus 401 to Banwoldang Station (Exit 1). This will take roughly 3 minutes, and it is 3 stops away.
Activity #6 – E-World 83 Tower
Aptly known as the symbol of Daegu, 83 Tower observatory offers visitors an incredible panoramic view of the city. Whilst during the day, you are able to see for miles and miles across the city skyscrapers, it is at night where you get the most out of the view. The glittering lights transport you away from the small city of Daegu, and the great views over Nakdonggang River can be quite romantic.
During the Cherry Blossom season, the trees become strung with lights that come to life at night, and if you head up to the observation deck, the view you’ll see is quite magical, with the pink and yellow hues contrasting with the white city lights in the distance.
Aside from the observation deck, the bottom floors of the tower offer all sorts of entertainment options, including an ice skating rink (which in winter becomes beautifully decorated with a Winter Wonderland theme), and a Euroseum (similar to a Trick-Eye Museum). Head to the third level if you’re after some food, and be prepared to be conflicted between the western, Asian, and fusion cuisines all offered across multiple restaurants.
Access: From Daegu Station, take the Subway Line 2 and alight at Duryu Station. Use Exit 15, walk along Duryupark Road for 300m, and then take a left at Yaoeeumakdong-ro Road.
Hours: 10:00am – 10:00pm
Cost: (for the observatory) Adults: 10,000 won (9$), Children: 5,000 won (4.5$)
Book Here (42% Off): E-world Tower
Top Things to do in Daegu Korea #7 – Seomun Market
A gift from history, Seomon Market is one of Korea’s last remaining markets from the Joseon Dynasty. Whilst still retaining its traditional market culture and atmosphere, it has evolved in the years to offer pretty much anything and everything you can think of. Through its (approximate) 4000 stall vendors, you can purchase anything from high-quality traditional hanboks to local snacks such as Seomun fish cakes. The specialties of this market, however, remain to be textile and fabric-related, and include items such as silk, satin, knitted goods, and clothing.
Rest assured, although this market has not been commercialised and fine-tuned to cater for visitors in the most part, it does include a heating and cooling system for those skewed seasons, and you can happily spend a few hours just meandering the market, taking in the slow atmosphere, jostling with the residents, and sampling local produce, all at very low costs.
Access: From Daegu, take the Subway Line 2 to Seomunisijang Station, and use Exit 1. Head straight for the Dongsan Intersection, turn left, and walk 300m. Turn left again, and head to the market.
Hours: Opening hours vary from stall to stall, but they’re generally from 9:00am – 7:00pm (Closed every 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month)
Top Things to do in Daegu Korea #8 – Apsan Park
Apsan Park is located on the lower end of Daegu, and consists of a range of mountains and valleys that make up the entire park (Apsan, Sanseongsan, and Daedeoksan). It is quite picturesque, especially during peak seasons such as the cherry blossoms season or in Autumn, when foliage is abundant. Within the park itself, there is a moderate-size museum that is dedicated to the history of the Korean War, particularly the victory of the Nakdonggang River Battle (Nakdonggang River is located in Daegu).
Visitors can easily reach the summit of the mountain 790m up through the cable car service that runs from the ground up to the observatory where sweeping views of Daegu await. During sunset, this view is particularly special. At the foot of the mountain near the cable car centre, there are a number of activities that visitors can partake in, including archery, horseback riding, and swimming. This park is also popular with locals, as there are many walking paths that wind around the mountains, providing for a perfect weekend stroll.
Access: From Daegu Station, take Bus 300/410/410-1/750 to Apsan Park.
Cost (for cable car): Adults: 7,500 one way (7$) , or 9,500 return (9$)
Activity #9 – Suseong Lake
It’s hard to imagine that a place in the middle of the country like Daegu would have much of a water feature, but Daegu again just comes up with more surprises. Susong Lake is one of the most popular places to visit in spring and summer. Located in the middle of the city, the area is great for sightseeing, water views, and grabbing some food. The entire lake area can be walked in about 2 hours if you’re pressed for time, but you could also spend an entire day here, milling around, perusing the shops, grabbing coffee, and even hiring a swan boat and paddling out into the middle of the lake itself! There is also an amusement park located nearby that could entertain kids for hours. As the only aquatic activity on this list, Suseong Lake just might be worth the visit. If you’re heading there anytime between May to October, visit it at night to catch the gorgeous water light show that’s operated twice every night during that period.
Access: From Daegu, take the Bus 403/410/449/564 to Suseong Lake (Suseongmot)
Top Things to do in Daegu Korea #10 – Daily Oasis
Anyone and everyone who is a). into cute food and b). into coffee needs to visit this place. Located near the Kyungbook University Hospital, Daily Oasis serves up just about the cutest decorated cactus coffees you’ve ever seen. Majority of their menu is cactus themed, and is (fittingly) matcha green tea flavoured. However, if you’re after a legitimate cup of coffee, they also sell Americanos and café lattes without the cactus references. The adorable café is decked out with real cacti and flowing plants, so if you’re after a wound-down café to spend a leisurely Sunday morning, head to Daily Oasis for your dose of adorable Korean culture. They also serve up some mean brunch dishes and pastries.
Access: From Daegu Station, take the Bus 651 (Blue Line) to Dongin Negeori 1 Stop (2 minutes, 3 stops), and then walk 7 minutes to the café.
Hours: Mon – Fri: 10:00am – 9:00pm, Sat: 10:00am – 8:00pm (Closed Sundays)
Daegu has many surprises lurking at every corner, and with it only being a few hours away by public transport from Seoul (at ridiculously cheap prices), it would be the perfect accompaniment to an otherwise urbanised experience of Korea. Get out of the city for a day or two and explore ‘Daefrica’; head there in Summer to experience what true Korean heat is like and try to align your trip with the Chicken and Beer festival!