Ancient Cheomseongdae Observatory

cheomseongdae-observatoryAn imposing view of the ancient observatory

Introduction

Cheomseongdae Observatory is an interesting stone structure used to study the heavenly bodies in the olden Korean days. 

It is located in Gyeongju, South Korea. The observatory was built during the reign of Queen Seondeok and served as a place to observe stars for astrological purposes.

The observatory consists of three main parts; the lower part which is 24 meters in diameter and 2.5 meters high, the upper part which is 8 meters in diameter and 2.5 meters high, and the entrance which is 5.1 meters wide by 1.2 meters deep. It was built with 367 stones of local sandstone that were cut to form a circular shape and then joined together with iron nails for stability.

The structure has been well-preserved over time, and is now a major tourist attraction in the area. Its most remarkable feature is its 12-meter diameter stone ceiling which has accurately marked out the positions of stars and constellations.

This indicates that it was used for both astronomical observation as well as divination purposes.

astronomical cheomseongdae observatory

Cheomseongdae Observatory (첨성대) is one of the top travel destinations in Gyeongju City. It is beautiful by day and more so mesmerizing  with spotlights in the evening.

It is a structure built by ancient Koreans to study heavenly bodies. It is believed to be the only one that exists in the world today.

Cheomseongdae Astronomical Observatory is an interesting sight given that it is ancient. Besides, it is surrounded by many interesting sights in the area.

So it attracts visitors from both local and international travelers... And I was one of those drawn into its astronomical beauty! ^^

brief origins

This astronomical observatory was constructed during the reign of Queen Seondeok in 632-647. Literally, the word ‘cheomseongdae’ means “stargazing platform” in the Korean language.

Sources say that it is modeled on Baekje’s Jeomseongdae which no longer exist except in historical records.

According to Wikipedia, Cheomseongdae could have influenced the construction of a Japanese observatory built in 675. Also, Duke Zhou’s Observatory that was later on built in China in 723.

cheomseongdae-observatorySpacious park surrounding Cheomseongdae platform

what to do & see

Fundamentally, it would be best if you spent some time relishing the structure. Try to imagine how this over 1,300-year-old structure was built with crude materials.

Yes, photography is very much allowed. BUT you are never allowed to get inside or cross over the low fence surrounding Cheomseongdae.

gyeongju-cheomseongdae-observatoryBenches around the Cheomseongdae astronomical observatory

(Most visitors I saw were students, young lovers, and solo travelers like myself. Since I really want a photo with Cheomseongdae in the background, I asked a younger guy to take one for me. He immediately asked his other friend (a group of five students, I remember!) whom he said an expert on photography. I was delighted and thankful. HOWEVER, when I got home, I noticed that his shots were not focused! Guess he’s only a cellphone expert!).

cheomseongdae-observatoryBack view of Cheomseongdae Observatory. Notice the tombs visible in a distance.

Anyways, you can stroll around this spacious area. Besides, Cheomseongdae is not the only old structure in this place.

The other sights and sites you ‘must’ explore are the ancient tombs, a king’s tomb, a heritage house, old forest area, and the ancient structures relics. (More on this below.)

gyeongju-ancient-tombAn ancient mound tomb belonging to a family whose descendants still living beside it in a traditional Korean house called 'hanok'. This is located right next to Cheomseongdae.

More Interesting Sites Nearby

Many other sights worth exploring are either within where Cheomseongdae Observatory is located or just a walking distance. Such are the below...

  • Gyerim Forest (an old forest area with ancient trees)
  • King Naemul’s Tomb (mound)
  • Gyeongjuhyanggyo (Confucian School)
  • Gyochon Hanok Traditional Village
  • Woljeonggyo Bridge
  • Ancient Tombs
gyeongju-silla-bellThe Great Bell of Silla in Gyeongju City, Gyeongsangbuk-do

facilities

There aren’t many facilities on this site except for the historic features that you can explore and enjoy with.

But you make use of the simple facilities around the observatory…

  • Photos Center – digital photoshoots
  • Washrooms
  • Space and hiking areas
  • Restaurants (nearby or just across the park where Cheomseongdae is located)

travelling to cheomseongdae observatory

If you are already in Gyeongju City, then you only need to walk around 15 minutes to get to Cheomseongdae’s site.

If you are not (yet) in Gyeongju City (or somewhere in the nearby cities, such as Busan, Ulsan, or Taegu), then you need to either take a bus or train to get there.

From Seoul by Train
Take a train from Seoul Station to Shingyeongju Station. Then take a bus with any of the numbers: 60, 61, 700 then get off at Wolseong-dong Community Center Bus Stop.

Alternately, take a train from Seoul Station to Gyeongju Station. Then choose any of the buses with numbers: 10, 11, 60, 600, or 700 then get off at Wolseong-dong Community Center Bus Station.

From Seoul by Bus
Take a bus from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal’s Intercity Bus for Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal. From that terminal, you can take any of the buses with number 10, 11, 60, 600, or 700 then get off at Wolseong-dong Community Center Bus Stop.

If you want to, you can hike from the intercity bus terminal or Gyeongju Terminal to Cheomseongdae. It should take less than 30 minutes to get there.

staying in Gyeongju City

You can stay at any nearby Gyeongju City Center hotel, motel, or hanok guesthouse (traditional Korean house) in the city.

If you arrive in the evening, you can also enjoy the lights that brighten the sights that evoke a different feeling when compared during daylight.

Hotels in Gyeongju City: Gyeongju City is home to a variety of hotels, ranging from budget-friendly to luxury accommodations.

For the budget-conscious traveler, there are several options in the city center including Hotel Gyeongju, Best Western Gyeongju Hotel, and Hotel Novotel Gyeongju.

Those seeking more luxurious accommodations can stay at the five-star Paradise Hotel & Spa Gyeongju or the four-star Grand Park Gyeongju. Just outside of town, visitors will find the Sheraton Gyeongju, an upscale resort in a beautiful natural setting.

Popular hotels in the area include the Hotel Riviera Gyeongju, the Haeundae Grand Hotel, the Minsu Resort Hotel Gyeongju, the The K Hotel Gyeongju, the Hyoeunjae Tourist Hotel, and the Royal Suite Gyeongju.

Each of these hotels feature modern amenities like on-site restaurants and bars, pools and fitness centers, spa treatments, and more. Additionally, many of these hotels offer convenient access to popular attractions such as Bomun Lake and Bulguksa Temple.

Resources:
www.guide.gyeongju.go.kr
www.cha.go.kr
Location: 140-25, Cheomseong-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do

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Thanks and have a pleasant journey!

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