My first trip to Europe was as a sixteen year old when I lived in Portugal as an exchange student. Europe holds a special place in my heart. So when I heard about a little village in Korea called Petite France I was really excited to go see it. I would later learn that there are several themed villages in Korea and as of last weekend I think that I’ve seen them all. 🙂
Petite France is a small village, I’ve also seen it called a theme park, in Gapyeong. It is a little bit remote and best reached with a car or as a stop on a sight seeing trip. The buildings are very cute and definitely have a European feel to them. When we first arrived I felt happy and just a little bit nostalgic but sadly there isn’t much to do there and we all felt a bit let down in the end. There are a couple of small shops and a couple of little stores to buy snacks but nothing that feels authentic or interesting. The village is also known as The Little Prince Theme Park as it has a strong Little Prince theme and a memorial hall dedicated to Saint-Exupery the french author that wrote The Little Prince. I read the book to my children ahead of our visit, so searching for the characters gave them something to do, but all were bored pretty quickly. There was also a marionette show which was cute and the most entertaining part of our visit. Unfortunately, this place feels a bit like a missed opportunity. If there were an authentic French bakery or restaurant I feel like that would make all the difference. I wouldn’t make the trip to go to Petite France by itself but if you combine it with a trip to Nami Island or Garden of the Morning Calm then it makes for a cute stop and not the worst way to spend an hour or two.
1063, Hoban-ro, Cheongpyeong-myeon, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do
The second themed village I went to was Blue Crystal Village, which is meant to invoke a Santorini vibe. While people do live there, when you visit you don’t feel like you are in a village, but more so a really cute outdoor shopping mall. Do not let the shopping mall feel deter you from visiting, the buildings are beautiful and look very Mediterranean. The bakeries and restaurants are tasty and the shops are cute. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon. I wrote a whole piece about it which you can read here.
55-7, Tangjeongmyeon-ro 8beon-gil, Tangjeong-myeon, Asan-si, Chungcheongnam-do
This past weekend we headed to Namhae Island for a family vacation where we were able to see the German Village and the American Village. We actually stayed in the German Village at Namhae Neuhaus. The German Village is without a doubt my favorite themed village. I like it because it is in a great location, you can easily explore Namhae from there, and it feels like a neighborhood that people actually live in. The German Village was built for Korean nurses and miners that were sent to live in Germany during the 1960’s and 70’s in exchange for aid from Germany. The homes were built from materials that were actually imported from Germany. There are a couple of trendy restaurants with a great view, Germanish food, and German beer! The German beer was definitely my husband’s favorite part. There is also an Octoberfest held every fall which I hope we will be able to attend before we leave Korea.
64-7, Dogil-ro, Samdong-myeon, Namhae-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do
Finally, the American Village. When we told Thomas, the hotel owner where we were staying, that we were heading to the American Village he told us that it wasn’t good and we needn’t bother. I’d seen all the other themed villages and we are American afterall so there was no way that we weren’t going to at least stop by. The Village is on the tourist map and easily found but man oh man was Thomas right! The American Village was built as “the last settling place for Korean-Americans who have dreamt of returning to and retiring in their homeland.” While the homes are pretty and the setting lovely, I’m not sure how this place ended up as a tourist spot. The homes don’t look particularly American and there isn’t really anything to do. I would say skip it completely but you drive through it to get to Yongmunsa Temple which is absolutely beautiful and worth checking out. So if you decide to visit the temple then you might as well hop out and snap a picture of the Statue of Liberty on your way through the American Village.
947-1 Yongso-ri, Idong-myeon, Namhae-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do, South Korea