Let me just cut to the chase: There is a stamp trail program in Daegu, and it features 50+ interesting places to visit in the city and surrounding area. Foreigners are invited to visit 10 locations – just 10! – and collect unique stamps in a special tourism guide book in order to become honorary tourism PR members. (Koreans must collect 30; dorks like me are compelled to get all of them.) There’s no fantastic treasure at the end of the stamp trail. The real reward is seeing what Daegu has to offer and getting to know the city much better. Though they do give you this snappy letter of appointment as an “honorary PR member”:
Now, this year’s stamp trail program wraps up at the end of October. You’ve still got time to finish! By all means get as many stamps as you possibly can. You’ll go to the farthest reaches of Daegu and see some great stuff.
But if you feel like you need to fast-track your minimum 10 stamps and have a few weekends to spare, let me help you out with some quick one-day trips. I’m going to post four articles, and each will give you a trio of stamp locations within walking distance of one another, tell you some info about the area and some other tips about getting around, and end with a recommendation for dinner in the area.
First, some resources. Use these to get around, get help or just get in touch with Daegu a little better.
“Where is Daegu?”Google Map : I’ve made this map to highlight the locations of Daegu Stamp Trail sites current and former, as well as other great places to visit in the city. You can find some of my favorite restaurants, too.
“Where is Daegu?” Facebook group : A Facebook group for people dedicated to completing the Daegu Stamp Trail each year. Some, like me, are on their sixth year or more. Need some quick, English-friendly Daegu tourism information? This is your group.
So first things first: Go to a Daegu Tourism office and pick up the 2016 Daegu Tour Stamp Trail book you see in the photo above. It only costs 1,000 won, but it’s well-designed, full-color and cool as all get out. One issue, though – it’s all in Korean. But most stamp sites have English information available, so you’re not going to miss much in the long run. The easiest offices for most foreigners to locate will be outside Daegu Station and outside Debec Department Store (opposite Uniqlo), both of which are downtown.
LET’S START. I’m going to tell you about the first group of stamp trail sites you should visit if you’re just getting started with the whole thing. They’re all around Dongseongno where you probably already go every weekend anyway. It’s a trio of history museums, and if that makes you yawn – hold on! They happen to be three of the best museums I’ve seen in all of Korea so far. Like, they’re just FUN to see. No dusty old junk in glass cases.
To find these places, refer to the map link above. I suggest going to Daegu Station first, getting a stamp trail book, and heading out from there. If you start around 10am or so you’ll have more than enough time to get done by 5pm (when most stamp trail locations close; refer to the guide book for particular schedules).
Here are the stamps. From left to right they are Hyangchon Cultural Center, Gyeongsang-gamyeong Park/Daegu Modern History Museum, and Gukchae-bosang Memorial Hall.
Stamp #1: Hyangchon Cultural Center. Near Jungangno Station exit 4, but also five minutes south of Daegu Station. A wonderful recreation of the neighborhood’s rough-and-tumble post-war streets when Daegu was a boom town. So many selfie opportunities! The top floors house a literature museum and library. The gift shop on the first floor has some great Daegu-themed items, too, and they’re cheap.
TIP: Hyangchon’s basement has a listening room that plays opera, classic Korean pop music and more. The seats are plush and the lights turned down low, so you might see a few older gentlemen taking a snooze. But that just adds to the atmosphere!
Stamp #2: Gyeongsang-gamyeong Park/Daegu Modern History Museum. Just a few minutes west of Hyangchon Cultural Center is a park featuring recreations of Joseon Dynasty-era governmental offices in the classical Joseon style. Volunteers dress up in period attire most Saturdays and put on a short military parade. It’s quite a colorful sight! Otherwise it’s a quiet park full of trees and old men playing board games while their wives gossip. The Daegu Modern History Museum, housed in an old colonial Japanese brick bank, tells the story of Daegu from the Japanese occupation until today. There’s a CGI recreation of Daegu’s streets at the turn of the 20th century you just have to see!
TIP: The streets and alleys around Hyangchon and Gyeongsang-gamyeong Park are full of buildings from the mid-20th century. This area was once the bustling commercial center of the city, but prosperity has long since left it for other parts of Daegu. Still, be sure to have a look around. You’ll see a glimmer of history in the old shop fronts, eateries and dance clubs!
Stamp #3: Gukchae-bosang Memorial Hall. Head east, cutting across Dongseongno. This museum is dwarfed by the park around it, almost to the point of being an afterthought, but it’s not! Gukchae-bosang Memorial Hall tells the story of the National Debt Repayment Movement, an effort to pay back Korea’s debt to Japan in the early 20th century. It ultimately failed, but in the museum you’ll see how instead it stirred Korea’s earliest sense of national identity and gave strength to later independence movements. Take a walk around the park, too – it’s so green! Don’t miss the Dalgubeol Grand Bell, a mass of metal that rings in each New Year with quite a boom.
TIP: If you’ve got some time before dinner and want to rest your feet, go just a block or two west to Dongseongno Café Alley. Recharge your batteries in any of several stylish, cozy cafes. There are some good places to eat, too, but if you’re really hungry…
DINNER: 20/30 Samgyeopsal Alley. (Refer to the Google Map again. Giving directions downtown is tricky!) This alley, named for its popularity with 20- and 30-somethings, is packed from one end to the other with MEAT, MEAT, MEAT, especially samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly). It’s full of energy and hungry diners, particularly at night when the soju starts flowing. Pick a place that smells good to you and enjoy some wildly carnivorous dining.
And that’s it! Three stamps down, nine more in the coming weeks. I hope you can make good use of your free time and the summer weather to get out and see more of Daegu!