One of the administrative centers of the Baekje Kingdom, Gwangju is now South Korea's sixth-largest city. It used to be the provincial capital until the office was moved to the southern village of Namak in 2005. Although it looks like any other South Korean city, its citizens have an independent spirit, exemplified by Gwangju's importance in the country's civic and human rights movements. The latest rebellion was May 18, 1980, and echoes can still be felt in the city.
Known as the economic and educational center for the region, it is famous for its Art Biennale, held every other year in the fall. If you happen to be in the city in October, don't miss the Kimchi Festival, a wonderful introduction to Korea's famed pickled dish.
Surrounded by the great agricultural plains of the region, the city nestles up against Mt. Mudeung. The old section of town follows the path of a stream, stretching northwest and including the main business and entertainment areas of the city. The best pedestrian street is Jungjang-no, where you'll find shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, and theaters. Major businesses have their offices in Geumnan-no, which has an arcade of shops underneath the serious businesses. East of Geumnan-no (toward Jungjang-no) is an area called "Art Street" where you'll find galleries, traditional teahouses, and art-supply stores.