If you can’t decide whether you want to be in the hustle and bustle or go full out in relaxation mode, there’s a city in Korea that does both. Daejeon is a hub for technology and research institutions like KAIST, which just so happens to be one of the most prestigious universities in Korea. But you’ll also find rivers, mountains and hot springs surrounding and within the city too. It’s a true balance of both which makes Daejeon so special amongst Koreans.
To show you exactly why, I thought I would introduce you to the eight ‘beautiful sights’ first, deemed by the city government. It’s already a feat in itself when this includes five mountains and Lake Daecheonghosu. But there’s more to this with Yuseong Foot Spa. Honestly, the name doesn’t really do it justice. More of a natural hot spring than just a ‘foot spa’, you’ll find it tucked in Yuseong-gu’s park. Once you're done relaxing, go out and enjoy the park’s other features - fountains, streams, water wheel and also colourful lighting to brighten the park at night 🌈 This is perfect for a cute date night idea as you glore over the vibrant lights as you stroll.
The last of the eight ‘beautiful sights’ is Expo Science Park, which includes landmarks like Hanbit Tower and Expo Bridge. The Hanbit Tower, also known as ‘Tower of Great Light’ sits at 93 metres, offering a picturesque view of the city from its observatory. But that’s not it, it turned into a museum in 1993. During that year, there was a world exhibition held temporarily and only after that, did the city decide to keep it. Here is where you can enjoy traditional Korean dishes at the tower’s restaurant as you immerse yourself in the incredible skyline views.
To prove further that Daejeon is the place for technology, the Expo Bridge spans across the Gapcheon River. It holds a lot of meaning; from the blue and red arches to symbolise Yin and Yang and the 100 cables that hold the bridge together. This is to represent the 100th anniversary since Korea’s first participation in international exhibitions.
The ‘beautiful sights’ are all about modernised Daejeon but that doesn’t mean you won’t find more natural landmarks. The Daejeon Hanbat Arboretum is also really meaningful to the city as it is the largest manmade arboretum in Korea. It’s worth visiting no matter what season it is! Each of the four seasons gives it a whole different look offering a total escape out of the city life.
The Cheongnamdae Presidential Villa is another attraction, where it was once a retreat villa for the former presidents of Korea. For quite some time, it has since been opened for the public to visit yet still beautiful kept. You’ll find a golf range, heliport, and fishing area here too among the plentiful species of wild flowers and trees.
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When it comes to food, there is a wide variety of specialty dishes but flour-based noodle dishes and bread are known as the representative foods. It may seem a bit basic, but this all comes from a bit of history. Ever since Daejeon became the distribution centre for flour in 1960, flour-based foods became a signature for Daejeon. Kalguksu (칼국수) is one of them - it’s simply knife-cut wheat flour noodles but because it’s with a light yet hearty soup, this dish is very comforting; you can think of it as Korean soul food. That’s why you’ll find many restaurants specialising in Kalguksu scattered throughout Daejeon. So you really can’t go wrong with many!
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Sung Sim Dang Bakery is also SUPER popular among Koreans. It started in 1956 as a small steamed bun stall in front of Daejeon Station. Now it’s a huge bakery with a huge selection of baked goods. These are just some of the most recommended that I came across - fried soboro bread (their signature), chives bread and salted pollack baguette.
If you think that’s all there is to see and do, don’t be fooled. If you are craving more, you’ll also find Daejeon O World amusement park, plenty of science museums, and more nature parks to wander through. It’s an interesting city to visit and only less than an hour away from Seoul so if you have extra time, maybe add Daejeon to the trip?