Andong City Guide

Andong

A town sat in the heart of one of the quaintest rural areas of Korea, Andong is known for its history, and has kept a great deal of the character of old Korea, a fact that makes it all the more interesting for those with a cultural bent. The Andong folk village is at the heart of everything (culturally at least), and is home to a whole host of crumbling but beautiful old-style houses that have simply been reconstructed, after being shifted from a valley that’s now underwater after a new dam was built in the 70s. Aside from the newfound lake, though, and a spattering of neon advertizing in the heart of the city, little has changed in Andong over the years, especially next to the bustling heart of Korea’s bigger cities.

Another striking aspect of Andong’s history is the city’s masks. Originally designed to scare off spirits back in the early 14th century, an annual wooden mask festival still takes place at the same sight, a bend in the river not far from the city itself. Held in October and marking itself out as easily one of the most interesting cultural events Korea has to offer, the mask festival makes Andong the must see spot on an Autumn visit. The rest of the year, a trip to Hahoe village still brings your to a town fixated with its old stories and spooky, must-have masks that you’ll find hung on your wall for the next decade.

Another cultural draw in the city sits well with drinkers: Andong is arguably the home of Soju, and has its own heady brand and a museum to back it up. While the Soju commonly served in Seoul already messes with the mind at 20-odd%, Andong’s is typically nearer the 45% mark. Ask nicely and you might get a quick tour of the brewery, if not the museum explaining how the wicked liquor is knocked together is entertaining, too.

The final great attraction of Andong is the ‘Jebiwon’, a robed Buddha statue that’ll also have culture vultures chirping. All in, though, Andong is a small and fairly insignificant city that just happens to kick well above its weight culturally. Which all means that while you might find the nights a bit slow (try a few drinks of that lethal Soju), the days will be gems that may well end up being the highlight of your entire Korean experience.