Chungju is a city located in the northern part of the North Chungcheong Province 충청북도. Until the 10th century it was called Jungju 중주 which means ‘middle village’ and was a key battleground during the Three Kingdoms Era with the Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje Kingdoms all fighting for this strategic region.
TRAVEL ITINERARY: ONE DAY TRIP
1. Chungju Goguryeobi Monument 충주 고구려비
2. Liquorium 리쿼리움 (술박물관)
3. Chungju Museum 충주박물관
4. Jungangtap Park 중앙탑사적공원 / Chungju Seven Story Pagoda (Junangtap) 충주 탚평리칠층석탑 (중앙탑)
5. International Martial Arts Park 충주 세계무술공원
6. Tangeumdae Terrance 충주 탄금대
To get to Chungju from Seoul, take a bus from Central City Bus Terminal in Gangnam. It will take 1 hour and 50 minutes and costs 7,800 won each way for a regular ticket.
Once you arrive at the Chungju Central Bus Terminal 충주공용버스터미널, take either a cab or bus 411 to the Chungju Goguryeobi Monument Exhibition Hall 충주 고구려비전시관. The bus trip takes 20-25 minutes. This exhibition hall is built in the general area where a Goguryeobi Monument aka Stele was found. The actual monument has been moved to a secure location, and there is a replica in it’s place.
Before Silla took control of central Korea, Goguryeo was the most powerful kingdom of the three. The Goguryeo Kingdom was located on the northern part of the Korean peninsula which is now mostly in modern day North Korea and China, so the Goguryeobi Monument (Stele) is the only monument of its kind in South Korea. This Goguryeobi Monument was built by King Munja to celebrate the success of King Jangsu’s southern expansion. FYI King Jangsu (413-491) is the son of King Gwanggaeto the Great who is the most well known Goguryeo King due to his expansions of the kingdom’s territory. There is a similar monument dedicated to King Gwanggaeto in China.
This monument was first discovered in 1979 by the Association for Research on Yeseong Culture. For a long time the monument was thought to be just one of many old sculptures because the inscriptions were worn away and covered in moss. Then one of the association members discovered the writings under the moss and today the monument is a huge source for validating several events in Goguryeo and Silla history.
Chungju Goguryeobi Monument Museum Admission Fee: free
Operating Hours: 9am – 6 pm / Closed Mondays
Contact Information: 043) 850-7301
Average Viewing Time: 1 hour
Outside the museum there is a replica of the monument.
From there you can catch bus 411 to the Jungangtap Park. It’ll also take about 20-30 minutes to walk the 2.6km to the park. I prefer to walk because the path follows the Han river and you’ll see lots of locals fishing and rowing here. There’s a brown signpost all along the road guiding you towards the park.
Right before you get to the park you’ll see the Jungangtap Information Center which is much larger than the one in the bus terminal. Check that out for some pamplets and then get lunch at the Noodles Street 국수 거리 located on either side of the info center.
The Jungangtap Park 중앙탑사적공원 is a sculpture park that contains the Chungju Seven Story Stone Pagoda. 충주 탚평리칠층석탑 (중앙탑). The Seven Story Stone Pagoda is also known as Jungangtap which literally means ‘central pagoda’ since it’s located at the center of the unified Silla Kingdom. This is the only Silla era pagoda with seven stories, and it’s from the late 8th or early 9th century and is about 14.5 meters tall. This pagoda was likely built to encourage Buddhism among the locals.
Jungangtap Park Admission: free
Operating hours: 24 hours
Average viewing Time: 30-45 minutes.
There are two museums located by the park.
The first is the Liquorium (술박물관 리쿼리움). The entrance is made out of brewing equipment that was actually used in Scotland. The museum focuses on European liquors as well as drinks made by Korean nobles. The museum is made up of lots of diagrams and equipment. There are limited English translations available, but then again there are limited Korean descriptions available as well since this type museum is more about the visuals.
Liquorium Admission Fee: 5,000 won / adult
Operating Hours: 10 am – 6pm / Closed Thursdays, Seollal, Chuseok
Contact Information: 043) 855-7332 www.liquorium.com
Average Viewing Time: 45 minutes
Next to the pagoda there’s the Chungju Museum 충주박물관 which is made up of two side by side buildings. The museum has an English guidebook, but the panel descriptions are in Korean with limited English translations. It’s worth checking out though even if you don’t speak Korean. You’ll find relics from prehistoric to modern Chungju and learn about some of the city’s most famous residents.
Chungju Museum Admission Fee: free
Operating Hours: 9am- 6pm / Closed Mondays, New Years, Seollal, Chuseok
Contact Information: 043) 850-3921 www.cj100.net/museum
Average viewing time: 45 minutes
Then take a bus to the International Martial Arts Park 충주 세계무술공원/박물관. You can ask about bus routes at the Jungangtap Info Center. The International Martial Arts Park is fairly large. In September or October, there is a martial arts festival held here.
There is also a museum where you can learn about martial arts from around the world, although one of the focuses is Taekgyeon, a form of Korean traditional martial arts.
International Martial Arts Park & Museum Admission Fee: free
Operating Hours: 9am – 6pm
Average Viewing Time: 1 hour
The Tangeumdae Terrance and Park (충주 탄금대 & 공원) is right next to the martial arts park. The terrace is historically significant because it’s where the famous court musician Ureuk would play his gayageum, a 12 stringed instrument. This is also the site of Yeoldu Cliff which literally means Twelve Cliffs, because General Sin Lip 신립 of the Joseon Dynasty climbed this cliff twelve times when he was fighting against the Japanese in the Imjin War (1592.) General Sin Lip and most of his army died during this battle so you’ll find a memorial statue here as well.
Tangeumdae Terrance and Park Admission Fee: free
Operating Hours: 24 hours
Average Viewing Time: 30 minutes
From here it’s a 1.84 km walk to the bus terminal or you can take the bus.
Because of the Han River bike trail,Chungju is a great place to travel by bike if possible and all of the destinations I mentioned in this post are right by the Han River, so they are accessible by bike as well. There are lots of other museums in this city, but some of them are difficult to get to without a car.