Once the capital of the Shilla Kingdom, today Gyeongju is the historical center of South Korea. The Shilla Kingdom came into power around A.D. 57 and conquered the Baekje and Goguryeo kingdoms in 660 and 668, respectively, ruling as the Unified Shilla Kingdom until 935, when the Goryeo Dynasty took power. A large number of sites from that time remain in the city today.

Located in the southeasternmost corner of the Gyeongsangbuk-do, Gyeongju is a medium-size city by South Korean standards. The city benefits from tourism and the proximity to its industrial neighbor Ulsan to the south. The entire city's historic areas were designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2000. Three major sites make up the Gyeongju Historic Areas: the Namsan belt, which includes the ruins of 122 temples, 53 stone statues, and 64 pagodas; the Wolseong Belt, which includes the palace ruins of Wolseong and the Gyerim woodland; and the Tumuli Park Belt, which includes the three groups of royal tombs. The UNESCO designation also covers nearby Hywangnyeongsa (Hywangnyeong Temple) and Sanseong Fortress.