Yeouido

This is a large island located in the Han River on the Gangnam side of Seoul. The name of the island means 'useless'. There is still evidence of marshy fields once you move away from the new skyscrapers. However, Yeouido is a decent place to visit, containing a number of pleasant attractions, although it has a certain emptiness about it. The new IFC Mall for example, an excellent shopping destination with a distinct upscale western feel - was devoid of people - perhaps it hasn't hit the tourist circle yet.

IFC Mall, Yeouido

Photo: IFC Mall

One of the most pleasant things to do in Yeouido is to stroll or hire a bike and ride around the Yeouido Park. This is a lovely green space to take a walk, see families and spot cute rabbits hiding amongst the bushes.

 Yeouido park

Pre-schoolers at Yeouido

Photos above: Yeouido Park and cute preschoolers enjoying the open space whilst at the park

Apparently in Spring, the trees are covered in cherry blossoms here. Another place to take a photo stop is at the National Assembly Building. Reservations are required to visit the inside of the building in advance. Otherwise tourists are allowed to walk around the grounds and take photos.

National Assembly Building

Photo: National Assembly Building

A short walk towards the river from the National Assembly Building is the Yeouido Pier, where it is possible to take a ferry cruise along the Han River. Cinema fans of the movie 'The Host' can take a look at the Wonhydaego Bridge whilst visiting the Hangang River park in Yeouido.

Yeouido Pier

Photo: Yeouido Pier at the Hangang River Park

Next, visitors can visit Yeouido's main tourist landmark - the 63 Building which commands excellent views of the city. The building features an aquarium, the Skyart Gallery Observation, an IMAX cinema, lovely restaurants and a wax museum.

63 building view

Photo: View from the 63 Building

Subway: Yeouido Stn (Line 5) or Yeouinaru (Line 5)


Samseong-Dong/COEX

Another distinct Gangnam neighbourhood, the area around Samseong Station features some classy hotel accommodation (mainly for business people), the Korea World Trade Center, the Seonjeongmeung Tomb, Bongeun Temple, the Pulmuone Kimchi Muesum and COEX mall (shop all day and get lost in the labyrinth whilst doing so).

Tips: Traditional Korean music featuring instruments such as the daegeum (bamboo flute), haegeum (two stringed bowed instrument), and the various zither instruments maybe purchased from the extensive range from Evan Records in the COEX Mall. The area also has the City Airport (CALT), where it is possible to check-in your luggage 3 hours before flight departure and arrange limousine transfer to Gimpo or Incheon airports. This is handy for those staying on the Gangnam side of Seoul.

COEX

Photo: An entrance to COEX, which is linked to the Hyundai Dept. Store which has a fantastic food court in the basement


Gangnamyeok

Formerly Kring

Photo above: Formerly, known as Kring

The area around Gangnam Station is not particularly recommended unless you’re a particular enthusiast of sculpture, modern architecture, martial arts (Kukkiwon is located in the area) or observing office workers taking a smoking break!


Apgujeong/Cheongdam/Sinsa/Garogsil

Dosan park

Photo above: Dosan Park

Apart from COEX, this neighbourhood is a concentrated commercial district and features the gingko tree-lined street known as Garogsil, which is possibly the highlight. The Horim Art Center is also an interesting study in architecture. The area around Dosan Park has a number of lovely restaurants.

Photo (below): Horim Art Center features in the background

A Commercial District

Directions: Start from Sinsa Station and walk to Garogsil. From there it is suggested to explore first then take a taxi to the Galleria Department Store (photo below). There seems to be a new subway exit being established right outside this store at the time of the visit (Oct. 2012)

Galleria


Daehangno

Close to Dongdaemun is this charming neighbourhood – Daehangno - a place well worth an extra effort to visit. It’s best to take a taxi to Naksan Park first and then begin the downhill exploration by foot.

Fortress Wall at Naksan

Photo: Great vista of the fortress wall at Naksan Park

The area is known as Seoul’s theatre district and is surrounded by lots of nice cafes, bars and restaurants. This is a nice quiet area during the daytime and has an artistic, bohemian feel. There is abundant street art on the hillside between Naksan Park and the theatre area. Maronnier Park seemed to be closed for renovation upon this visit (Oct.2012)

Street Art 

Photo: An example of the 11 Alley Walking Course leading down the hill from Naksan Park. Its worth taking a look.

Theatre district

Photo above: Daehangno Theatre district - definitely a hidden gem

Tips: The Seoul Fortress runs 18.2 km in length, from Mt Bugaksan through Mt. Naksan and Mt. Namsan to Mt. Inwangsan. There are excellent views of the fortress and the city from Naksan Park and you can virtually have the place to yourself during the day. Complete the rest of the day by visiting to Dongdaemun Market. Daehagno is also noted for its nightlife. Unfortunately, the contributor only visited during daylight hours. Seoul has simply too many things to offer!


Mt Bugaksan to Seonbukdong

View from Bukak

Photo: View from the Bukak Pavilion

The security is noticeable on Mt Bugaksan, a very popular place to hike. Located behind Cheong Wa Dae, the location offers delightful trails, historical sites such as the old fortress walls and two gates to the city. If you don’t wish to walk up, the easiest way is to catch a taxi to the Bukak Octagonal Pavilion.

Bukak Pavilion

Photo above: Bukak Pavilion

From this pavilion to Seonbukdong, turn left on your way down and take Trail no. 2 (the red trail). The walk to Samcheonggak, where a snack break was taken on the balcony; took about an hour and involved some steep stairs.

Samcheonggak

Photo: Samcheonggak is visible from the trail

Along the trail, the old fortress wall is clearly visible. Walking further downhill leads to Seonbukdong - an upscale residential area in parts (see photo below)

Seonbukdong.

This neighbourhood offers a number of historical and cultural attractions, including the Gilsangsa Temple (offers temple-stay programs), the Suyeon Sanbang Teahouse (so popular no tables were available) and Choi Sunu’s Residence (now a type of museum).

Suyeon Teahouse

Photo: Suyeon Sanbang Tea House

The Gilsangsa Temple has an interesting history. It was once the site of a famous gisaeng house. Gisaeng were female artists trained in the fine arts and were engaged for entertainment by wealthy men. These days the temple gardens are a respite from Seoul and visitors are welcome to sit and relax.

Gilsangsa Temple

Photo (above): Gilsangsa Temple

Another nice place to enjoy the tranquility is the former house of Choi Sunu, who was a historian of Korean fine arts.

Choi Sunu's House

Photo (above): Choi Sunu's former residence

If continue further then you will eventually reach Daehangno.

Note: Seongnagwon Garden was closed for maintenance


Bukchon and Samcheong-dong

Bukchon

Photo: A lovely hanok home.

The quaint neighbourhood of Bukchon is located between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace. Various venues located in the hanok village of Bukchon offer the opportunity for visitors to experience traditional culture by attending a specialised museum or workshop. 'Winter Sonata' drama fans may also wish to check out the Choong Ang School whist roaming the area by foot.

Winter Sonata Film Site

Photo: 'Winter Sonata' drama site

The Dong-lim Knot Museum is especially recommended for its traditional decorative knots, which are all hand-made from silk. Albeit expensive, they are the real-deal as they are made by true masters of this ancient craft.

6th view of Bukchon

Photo: Recommended photo stop - the famed '6th View of Bukchon'

A stone stair alley from the '8th View of Bukchon' leads down to Samcheongdong-gil, a 2 kilometre road which runs mainly parallel along the eastern wall of the Gyeongbokgung Palace. In Samcheongdong, it is possible to still see very old hanok homes mixed with modern architecture.

Samcheongdong

This area features art galleries, wine bars and restaurants and coffee shops, of course!