Leisure standard: Seoul: closer than you think, more to see than you know
January 7, 2013
How do you spend your weekends? Sitting in your room and playing computer games? If you're looking for something a little more exciting, but don't know how to take that first step, read on. Seoul is closer than you think -- and there's plenty to do.
These opportunities are all within the greater Seoul metropolitan area.
Yeouido Hangang Park. Making it here is easy if you take a train. Many festivals, like the cherry blossom and international fireworks festivals, take place here. Nature is preserved well, so it's a great place for an outing. You can ride on a bike lane, swim and go inline skating. And, on weekend evenings, there are often film screenings and live music.
TRAIN INFORMATION: The park is near Yeouinaru station or Yeouido station, both on line number 5 (purple line).
COST: $3 for a one-hour bike rental, then 25 cents for each additional 15-minute segment. You'll need an identification card to secure the bicycle, but don't use your military ID! Keep it on you at all times. A driver's license will work.
WEBSITE: No website in English. For Hangul, check http://hangang.seoul.go.kr/park_yoido/index.html.
HOURS: 8 a.m. -- 9 p.m.; the park often closes early at 8 p.m. during winter.
Bukchon Hanok Village. Bukchon means North Village, and a Hanok is a traditional Korean-style house. Bukchon is a traditional residential area where aristocrats lived during Chosun dynasty. There are a lot of historical sites and cultural assets. Also, there are many galleries, interesting food for sale, and characteristic cafes. If you want to look deeper, you can stop by the Bukchon Culture Center during your trip (see train information, below). The culture center provides traditional culture courses on subjects like folk painting, traditional crafts and Korean classical music. You can also find various events and programs, including film screenings, concerts, and exhibitions.
TRAIN INFORMATION: The cultural center is near exit 3, Anguk station, on train line 3 (orange line).
WEBSITE: http://bukchon.seoul.go.kr/index.jsp (select the "ENG" button at top right for English).
HOURS: Programs run from 9:30 a.m. -- 9:30 p.m. at varying times.
Insa-dong. This market is easy to find, and it is a great place to experience Korean food and culture because the roads are full of shops selling drawings, pottery, rice cakes and refreshments.
TRAIN INFORMATION: Insa-dong is near Jongno 3(sam)-ga station, exit 1; or Jonggak station, exit 3; both stations are on train line 1 (dark blue line).
HOURS: Vary by vendor and establishment.
Namsan. This is in the city center. You can see historical places like Seoul castle, beacon mounds, bronze statues and monuments. If you want to see the whole of Seoul, you can visit the N Seoul Tower and enjoy the panoramic view from the top. Namsan is where you can enjoy the modernized benefits of the city -- like the great restaurants.
TRAIN INFORMATION: The best stop for Namsan is Chungmuro station, a transfer station on both lines 3 (orange line) and 4 (sky blue line).
COST: For the observatory, $8 for adults, $6.50 for the elderly and teenagers, and $4.50 for children.
WEBSITE: http://www.nseoultower.com/index.asp (select the English button at top right).
HOURS: For the observatory, 10 a.m. -- 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Sundays; 10 a.m. -- midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Coex Mall. Coex is the largest underground shopping mall in Asia. There are many exhibitions, conventions and performances going on here. You can enjoy a movie at the 16-screen multiplex and see the aquatic life at the Coex Aquarium. There are a lot of stores, so you can buy everything from clothes to electronics to gifts. Also, you can visit the Kimchi Field Museum to get to know more about that ubiquitous Korean dish.
TRAIN INFORMATION: Coex is located at exit number 5 or 6, Samseong station, line number 2 (green line).
WEBSITE: http://www.coex.co.kr/ (select the English button at top right).
HOURS: Vary by shop, but most are open 10:30 a.m. -- 10 p.m.
And, it's all a short train ride away.