Best Gangneung Travel Itinerary

Gangneung sits at the top of our list of best weekend travel spots. I used to live on the east coast and it feels like coming home. The culture is vastly different from where I live in Pyeongtaek and more my speed on the weekends. This is my version of the Best Gangneung weekend travel itinerary.

What Does Best Mean to Me?

I have called this post “The Best Gangneung Itinerary” but obviously best has no definitive meaning. Therefore, I will define what it means to me. The best trip always includes time to rest, good food, relaxing moments by water, and a sense of peace. I’m looking to recover from a busy week in a place that makes me feel at home.

Personally, I’m not going to spend a lot of time at tourist destinations. I’m going to just relax and hang out with my friends who usually travel with me. I’m also going to try to indulge in the elder-hipster lifestyle of trying things that are well made and on the more expensive side.

About Gangneung

Gangneung sits on the edge of Gangwondo on the east coast of South Korea. It’s about 1.5 hours south of Sokcho and connected to Seoul by both the KTX and a freeway that cuts across the country.

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For those of us obsessed with Gangneung, we love it because it mixes both city life and nature. It’s also filled with artists and artisans being nerdy and fabulous in a very hometown way. If you love the process of making things, Gangneung has what you want. It might take a few trips to connect with all the hidden corners. You won’t regret taking the time to fall in love with the place.

Gangneung also has spectacular food. Some of our favorite international and Korean restaurants exist in this seaside town. From homemade tofu, to fabulous crab, the perfect brunch, and excellent craft beer – Gangneung has it all.

Leaving Pyeongtaek

Traffic from Seoul to the east coast should scare you on the weekends. The 3.5-hour trip can easily become 6 to 8 hours. In order to avoid this insanity we make one of 5 choices:

1) leave Pyeongtaek around 8 pm on Friday night and travel in the evening

2) depart at 6 pm on Saturday and don’t stop for a rest until after Wonju

3) take the express bus so that we don’t have to worry about driving.

4) travel with a tour so that we don’t have to worry about any planning

5) book a KTX ticket long before we plan to travel (Keep in mind, KTX does not leave from Pyeongtaek so you have to plan this into your travel time. We don’t usually make this choice.)

Usually we choose to drive simply because we take quite a few things with us like skate boards, inline skates, and tents for the beach. Driving fits our active lifestyle better. Let’s make this itinerary assuming we leave early on a Saturday.

9:00 am Rest Stop Past Wonju

Although the most fantastic rest stops exist before Wonju, stopping at them can kill your whole day. Getting past all the interest exchanges before 8am means a fast strip. Don’t let the magic rest stops trick you into 6 hours on the road. This means we usually stop at the Pyeongchang Rest Stop. It’s not exciting but it gets the job done.

Pyeongchang Rest Stop

Pyeongchang Rest Stop0

033-334-5100

Copy and paste phone numbers into Naver Maps to get directions

Hangul Address

강원 평창군 용평면 경강로 2159-58

Small freeway bus stop with restaurants, bathrooms, etc.

(Listing information provided by the South of Seoul app)

12:00 pm Lunch in Gangneung

Assuming that we leave on Saturday morning we start with lunch at Budnamu when we arrive in Gangneung. Their craft beers coupled with artisan mushroom pizza and BBQ burgers start our trip off right. Nothing like artisans obsessed with their craft to put us in the mood to forget all our problems.

Thank you to the Osan Craft Beer Club for introducing us to Budnamu. Follow Osan Craft Beer Club on Facebook for more craft beer recommendations like this. They also plan beer themed trips and meetups across South Korea. You can see their beer themed Gangwon-do itinerary here. Just a little side note for those wanting to connect to more people and resources.

Budnamu Brewing

Budnamu Brewing5

033-920-9380

Copy and paste phone numbers into Naver Maps to get directions

Hangul Address

강원 강릉시 경강로 1961

A budnamu is a willow tree. Budnamu Brewery was founded in Gangneung-si in 2015. The brewery is situated in Gangneung’s oldest makgeolli distillery which creates a comfy atmosphere for those who visit. The dining room has a mixture of high and low ceilings, with wood and brick accents throughout. It is very interesting to observe the architecture and craftsmanship from 70+ years ago. An outdoor seating area is out the side door and provides the opportunity to eat and drink alongside flowers, trees, and a few kittens. Many of Budnamu’s beers have signature local ingredients such as chrysanthemum, pine, and rice. These ingredients blend nicely with the barley and hops and highlight what the local market can add to the beer. Budnamu also has a great food selection. The burgers are big and filled with plenty of toppings. The pizzas are also large, with thin crusts and fresh toppings. In addition to the brewery and dining room in Gangneung, Budnamu also has a pub at the Lake Como mall in Dongtan New City.

(Listing information provided by the South of Seoul app)

1:30 Arrive at the Beach

To be honest, when we visit Gangneung we mostly just want to go to the beach and that’s where we go right after lunch. Although Gangneung has many other activities that tourists surely love. That’s not what “the best” Gangneung weekend looks like to us. We prefer chilling out with folks at the beach and having a laugh.

Many beaches in Gangneung have things to do from zip lining to speed boats. We don’t often do the extra activities. Instead, we look for a less-visited beach with nice cafes. We usually have beach snacks with us and just need a place to grab coffee and ice cream. We bring tents, mats, and everything else we need to spend the day napping and swimming without getting too much sun.

Gyeongpodo Beach Cafe Area

Gyeongpodo Beach Cafe Area0

Hangul Address

강원 강릉시 사천면 순포안길 6

A beautiful beach lined with lined with excellent cafes.

(Listing information provided by the South of Seoul app)

Terarosa Coffee Forest

Terarosa Coffee Forest5

033-648-2760

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Hangul Address

강원 강릉시 사천면 순포안길 6

Beautiful cafe tucked away in a seaside forest. There are a few Terarosa Coffee Shops in Gangneung.

(Listing information provided by the South of Seoul app)

2:00 pm – 5:00 pm Check-in to the Hotel

Once we have finished with the beach on saturday we go check into our hotel. Different hotels have different check-in times. This varies depending on the weekend. Basically, anything we can get for less than 80,000 won will be our choice. All we will do is a shower and sleep for like 8 hours anyway. No need to get fancy.

Keep in mind that Seoul people love to visit Gangneung on the weekends. This means that hotels book quickly in the summer. Finding places to stay in Gangneung at the last minute may be complicated. Additionally, hotel prices in summer may be on the higher side.

6:00 pm Dinner

After finishing our time on the beach and checking into our hotel, we head to a big Korean dinner. We live for Korean meals with extensive side dishes. Especially Gangwon-do side dishes which tend to be heavy with red pepper paste, potatoes, fish, and other things we love.

Gangneung is known for it’s tofu which they make using seawater. We LOVE a good handmade tofu meal so we try to fit this in on Saturday. Such meals tend to be absolutely massive so we don’t like to do them on Sunday before the drive home.

It’s important to note that many restaurants in Gangneung close at 8:00pm. You need to be seated by 7:00 pm to have time to enjoy your dinner. Since we like to feast on fish and homemade tofu meals, we usually eat dinner a bit early.

Solhyangcho Handmade Tofu

Solhyangcho Handmade Tofu0

0507-1378-8894

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Hangul Address

강원 강릉시 초당순두부길 67

If you visit Gangneung you need to try the tofu made with sea water. It’s often served with fish and many other side dishes.

(Listing information provided by the South of Seoul app)

Our favorite option might be this humble little spot on the edge of town. It’s not fancy but the food delights us. It’s a bit more tofu heavy than the previously recommended option.

Gyeongpo Handmade Tofu

Gyeongpo Handmade Tofu0

033-655-9800

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Hangul Address

강원 강릉시 운정길 131

A fantastic traditional tofu restaurant with excellent sides.

(Listing information provided by the South of Seoul app)

7:30 pm Gelato and Walk on the Beach

After dinner we usually have dessert. Soontofu Gelato offers many flavors including on option made from Gangneungs famous tofu. The sizes aren’t large but the flavors pack a light and lovely punch. They even had non-dairy options when we visited.

Soontofugelato

Soontofugelato5

010-4752-5534

Copy and paste phone numbers into Naver Maps to get directions

Hangul Address

강원 강릉시 경강로 2642

(Listing information provided by the South of Seoul app)

8:30 pm Snacks and Drinks

We’ve lived in Korea for a very long time. For us, a Saturday night out with friends involves at least 3 or 4 stops. Two of these stops might be considered multiple meals by those who are not from Korea. At 8:30 we generally start the second meal which includes something like fried chicken, grilled squid, sashimi, or other tasty treats along with drinks. We might then hang out late into the night laughing and talking.

We have no favorite spot for this. It’s simply whatever happens to be open in the area we want to hang. It’s all about keeping life simple. Generally, we choose a place close to our hotel since drinking usually happens and driving won’t be an option. Additionally, choosing a place close to our hotel allows anyone who wants to sleep early the chance to head to bed while others stay up late.

However, if you don’t feel comfortable with off-the-cuff late nights. We recommend giving Sun Record Bar a try. They offer a spot to hang out with drinks, and snacks while listening to some vinyl. It’s a vibe. Remember that in Korean drinking establishments you may be required to also order some food.

Long Bread Brunch Cafe

Long Bread Brunch Cafe5

033-652-0030

Copy and paste phone numbers into Naver Maps to get directions

Hangul Address

강원 강릉시 창해로14번길 10

An all day brunch cafe that deeply invests in the quality of its ingredients. The flavors are rich. The cafe is beautiful with beautiful views of the beach.

(Listing information provided by the South of Seoul app)

When this happens we head to Little Diner which also has fabulous breakfast options. They open at 11:00 am it’s not an early bird spot. This little western-style diner sits outside of town near some large beaches on the south side of Gangneung. It’s certainly best accessed with a car.

12:00 pm Beach

After breakfast, we usually don’t like to drive so we chose a beach based on where we had breakfast. If we had breakfast at Long Bread we setup at Amnok Beach across the street from the cafe. It’s very busy since it’s an easily accessed tourist location.

Amnok Beach And Coffee Beach

Amnok Beach And Coffee Beach3

Hangul Address

강원 강릉시 창해로14번길 20-1

A commercialized and popular beach with cafes and restaurants.

(Listing information provided by the South of Seoul app)

If we eat at Little Diner we go to the beach right nearby. This beach feels like Korea a decade ago. It’s comforting to us but those new to the country might feel a little more culture shock in this area. Things won’t feel as westernized.

Namhangjin Beach

Namhangjin Beach5

Hangul Address

강원도 강릉시 남항진동 1-1

(Listing information provided by the South of Seoul app)

5:30 pm Get Showered

On Sunday we already checked out of our hotel room earlier in the day. Therefore, we use the beach showers to get ready for the head home. Almost all public beaches in South Korea have public showers. Sometimes they cost a few thousand won so have some cash available. Not all showers offer warm water so be ready to feel the chill.

Also, these public showers don’t have individual stalls. Everyone showers in a large open space. Take this into consideration. Aditionally, you will need your own shower shoes, towel, and toiletries. It’s simply a large room with many shower heads and water. Nothing fancy.

7:00 pm Dinner

We like to grab something light and fresh before heading back on the freeway. If we eat a heavy dinner it can make us too tired for the drive. Sashimi or a salad hits the spot. Mesi 56 makes a nice place for a fresh sashimi bowl.

Mesi 56

Mesi 560

033-644-3929

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Hangul Address

강원 강릉시 초당순두부길 56

Beautiful sashimi bowls with stunning fish.

(Listing information provided by the South of Seoul app)

However, if fresh fish doesn’t fit your style you can also grab some burgers before heading back out on the road. Gangneung has a variety of handmade burger options and we have a few listed in the South of Seoul app. The app is Available on Google Play and in the Apple App Store. Burger Hada and Burger Works are two I recommend trying.

Burger Hada

Burger Hada0

0507-1406-5940

Copy and paste phone numbers into Naver Maps to get directions

Hangul Address

강원 강릉시 연당길 89

A small handmade burger joint with fun burger options. An moderately priced handmade burger option.

(Listing information provided by the South of Seoul app)

Burger Works

Burger Works5

033-652-4160

Copy and paste phone numbers into Naver Maps to get directions

Hangul Address

강원 강릉시 창해로14번길 12

A classic burger and beer restaurant right near the beach.

(Listing information provided by the South of Seoul app)

8:00 pm Cafe

After dinner we always feel a little tired no matter what we ate. After dinner we stop to grab coffee and some bread for the road. This means we can stay awake via coffee and sugar. Since most rest stop coffee shops and restaurants close at night, we dont’ want to get caught without a food and drinks to keep us awake.

24 Frame

24 Frame0

033-651-0926

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Hangul Address

강원 강릉시 난설헌로 73

A spacious bakery and coffee shop with plenty of indoor and outdoor space. They open relatively early.

(Listing information provided by the South of Seoul app)

9:00 pm Drive Home

You might think, “Why leave so late? It’s 3.5 hours. You will arrive at 12:30am?” Guess what! Even if you leave at 5:00 pm you will be arriving that late except you spent all day sitting in your car on the freeway. Leaving late allows you to avoid sitting in traffic for 6-10 hours in a non-stop traffic jam back to Seoul.

If we do leave at 5:00, we take the countryside roads and spend 8 hours exploring out-of-the-way cool things instead of sitting on the freeway.

Don’t get played by the return freeway back to Seoul in summer. Either plan on spending 8 hours enjoying backroads across the country or leave late at night and plan on arriving home late. To avoid traffic simply take the KTX. You may have to take a lot of taxis in Gangneung but you avoid the freeway hassles.

10 Things to do in Gangneung

If you need more in your life than relaxation and perfect water, you can also do the following things during the day. We’ve done all the things over the years and found them delightful. You can’t go wrong with adding them to your itinerary. Everyone has their own version of what the best Gangneung travel itinerary might look like and I want you to be empowered to make your own.

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