Known as the industrial capital of Korea, Ulsan houses Hyundai Motors factory, Hyundai Heavy Industries and more. Even though many might believe Ulsan is just full of factories, once you find the real charm of Ulsan, previous assumptions are bound to go away.
From amazing whale stories, and a breathtaking bamboo forest, to tasty hanu (Korean beef) bulgogi, here’s a trip you won’t forget.
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Tip) Find the right route with Ulsan City Tour Bus
Ulsan City Tour Bus offers a combination of culture and tourism on both a loop course and themed courses. For detailed information about the courses, check the official website (www.ulsancitytour.co.kr / Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese).
Ulsan Station is the sixth busiest KTX station on the Gyeongbu Line behind Seoul, Busan, Dong Daegu, Daejeon, and Gwangmyeong. When you arrive at Ulsan Station, a whale sculpture, a symbol of the city, can be seen. Even though the station is on the outskirts of the city, getting to downtown and major attractions is possible using public transportation including limousine buses, city buses and taxis.
Designated as a National Garden in July 2019, Taehwagang National Garden is the second national garden following Suncheonman Bay National Garden. The garden offers various attractions such as the bamboo grove walking path, bamboo ecology institute, a small stream, flower garden and more. Chosen by the Ministry of Environment as one of the 26 must-visit ecology attractions, Taehwagang National Garden was also chosen by Korea Tourism Organization as one of the 100 must-go places in Korea. Located in the western section of the garden, Simni Bamboo Grove, a 4.3 kilometer stretch of bamboo forest is definitely worth a look. Also, if you go across Taehwagang River to Taehwagang Observatory, you can see an amazing panoramic view of the garden and the bamboo grove.
Located in the western part of Ulsan, Boksoondoga Brewery offers visitors a taste of traditional homemade makgeolli (rice wine). Various traditional alcohols including makgeolli, takju (raw rice wine) and more can be purchased. For those who are more hands-on, an experience program where you can make your own makgeolli is also available. Using only local rice, their makgeolli is made in a traditional way using a large old pot and yeast. Strong carbonation, a signature of Boksoondoga’s makgeolli, makes it feel like you are drinking a soda, but the flavor is more similar to that of champagne. Be sure to open the bottle slowly in order to let some air out so that the drink doesn’t spray everywhere.
Tip) How to make the perfect makgeolli
* Ingredients: 1,000g non-glutinous rice, 1,500ml water, 100g yeast, 5L pot
1. Cook rice with less water than normal to make the rice hard. After cooling to a lukewarm temperature, mix the rice and yeast thoroughly.
2. Add water and mix it well before placing in the pot for fermentation. The temperature during fermentation should be 20-23 degrees Celsius.
3. For the first 3 days, mix the drink from top to bottom once or twice a day to make sure it is getting fermented properly. From day 4 to 10, leave the drink to ferment on its own. The pot should remain unsealed throughout this process
4. After 2 weeks of fermentation, check the taste of the alcohol. If the taste is pleasing, then strain the liquid.
5. Store the strained liquid in the refrigerator for 2-3 days for carbonation to form. After enough carbonation has formed, enjoy your homemade makgeolli.
Daewangam Park, one of 12 must-go attractions of Ulsan, greets visitors with more than 15,000 pine trees that are over 100 years old. The pine forest path to Daewangam offers a mythical-like atmosphere surrounded by pine trees, while the coastal path to Seuldo Island offers a stunning view of the ocean and weathered rocks carved into interesting shapes. The path that leads to Ulgi Lighthouse is also worth a walk.
Jangsaengpo Whale Culture Zone offers visitors a cultural area to understand more about whales, a symbol of Ulsan. The culture zone offers various attractions such as Jangsaengpo Whale Museum, Jangsaengpo Whale Experience Hall, Jangsaengpo Whale Culture Village, Jangsaengpo Whale Watching Cruise, Ulsan Battleship, 5D theater, JSP Whally Kids Land and more. For those who would like to tour around the culture zone with ease, Jangsaengpo Monorail offers a full view of the surrounding area, including the culture village, Ulsan Bridge, Ulsan industrial zone and more. With a height of 3-5 meters off the ground, the 1.3 kilometer long monorail track starts from the Whale Museum and goes around the Jangsaengpo Whale Culture Village and 5D theater, before coming back around to the museum.
Whale Experience Hall and Whale Museum are must-visit places within the Jangsaengpo Whale Culture Zone. Situated next to each other, visitors can see and touch full size whale models at the only whale-specialized museum in the country. The museum holds whale related artifacts and materials that are hard to find after whaling was banned in 1986. At Whale Experience Hall, visitors can walk through the first dolphin aquarium in the country as well as enjoy watching active and fun dolphins.
At the Whale Culture Village, time is held still between the 1970s and 1980s when the whaling community was flourishing. From alleys to the houses, the village gives visitors a time travel back to the Jangsaengpo Village in the past. To make the trip more memorable, a 5D theater, old school uniform rental shops, candies from the past and experience programs are available.
The areas of Eonyang and Bonggye, categorized as the only Hanu Bulgogi Special Zone in Korea, use top grade hanu beef from cows aged 3-4 years. The area has always been known for its livestock industry due to having the ideal environment to raise animals. A very light marinade is used to bring out the soft and chewy traditional taste of hanu, making hanu bulgogi in this region unbeatable.
Tip) Best way to eat Eonyang hanu bulgogi!
Even though eating hanu bulgogi plain is good, the taste can be improved with some tips. First, don’t cut the meat until you are ready to eat it as the juice and freshness decrease if the meat is cut too early. Second, fat is the key to flavor. If bulgogi only has meat, it might become very dry after cooking, so just the right amount of fat will add to the flavor. Last, don’t flip the meat too often. If you flip the meat too much, the juice will drip away leaving the meat dry, Only flip once when you see the juice come up to the surface and serve when it is finished cooking.
Lotte Dream Land, a small amusement park, is hidden in the heart of the city. Located on the roof of Lotte Department Store, visitors can enjoy rides as well as shopping, watching movies, and eating food. The most popular ride is the Lotte Wheel, a large Ferris wheel where you can see a panoramic view of the city high up in the car. It is even better when night falls and the lights spread throughout the city. For those with small children, rides such as the merry-go-round and Mini Viking are recommended.
A perfect way to end a trip to Ulsan is to see Ulsan’s nightscape at Ulsandaegyo Observatory. Visitors can see a view of Ulsan’s three major industry facilities related to petrochemical engineering, automobile, and shipbuilding as well as the whole city. The most noticeable view from the observatory, Ulsandaegyo Bridge, is a 1,800-meter long suspension bridge that opened on June 1, 2015.
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* This column was last updated in September 2019, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details before visiting.