After a long sweltering summer, I couldn’t have been happier to welcome October. And as I waited patiently for the temperatures to fall, leaves to turn, and magic to descend on the city, I’ve been calling home — for half a year; Basil got a few days off. The timing couldn’t have been more wrong. While everyone else headed towards to the mountains, to enjoy fall foliage; we set out, in the opposite direction, to explore a stunning island formed from ancient volcanic eruptions. And as much as I enjoyed walking and discovering scenic Jeju, without tourists crowding around, I was worried we’d miss fall in Seoul. Fortunately, when we did make it back in November, colour hadn’t left Seoul yet. And the news anchor on Arirang was right, if you’re in Seoul, and want to enjoy fall (or spring), all you have to do is head out for a walk.
1. World Cup Park
World Cup Park is a sprawling stretch of green, dotted with trees, performance arenas, hills, and excellent walking and cycling trails. It’s hard to imagine this park as a dump yard (before 1996). The copious lawns of the park are a collection of five parks namely: Pyeonghwa Park, Nanjicheon Park, Nanji Hangang Park, Hangul Park, and Noel Park. We could explore a very small section of the park — after camping for over two hours. It’s a good idea to rent a bike — if you want to cover more ground.
In October, roughly in the second week, the Seoul Eulalia Festival celebrates the blooms of silver grass. The performance areas tend to get crowded, but the trails, lined by towering reeds of grass, are relatively empty towards evening.
Getting There: [Subway] World Cup Stadium Station (Seoul Subway Line 6), Exit 1.
2. Yeouido Hangang Park
Perhaps, our favourite place in Seoul, we’re partial towards any park along the Han. Yeouido Hangang Park is the most popular hangout for couples and families — on the weekend. On a weekday, the walkways are empty and make for excellent walks along the river. In early October, the leaves had slowly started to turn and magpies occupied trees painted in orange. In the far distance, across the river, the grey skyline never looked more alluring.
Getting There: [Subway] Yeouinaru Station (Seoul Subway Line 5), Exit 2 or 3.
3. Deoksugung Palace
Unlike it’s famous neighbour (Gyeongbokgung Palace), Deoksugung doesn’t stand out in plain sight. It’s hidden under a canopy of towering trees and a long stony wall. For a long time, I never knew what it was, mistaking it for a museum. It took me many bus trips (from Hanji class), to realise why tourists queued outside.
By mid-November, the trees burst into flames of yellow, making it hard to resist a visit inside. It was nearing 5 pm when I entered the gates. With daylight quickly fading, I didn’t have much time to look around and I had to make a tough choice. I chose the trees over the different sections of the palace. In the background, cameras clicked away, teeth glistened, and tripods sneakily entered my frame. And after a while, I stopped clicking and just walked around. The spotlights slowly came on and the leaves still looked gorgeous.
Getting There: [Subway] City Hall Station (Seoul Subway Line 1, 2), Exit 2.
4. Gyeongui Line Forest Park
Who would have ever thought an old abandoned railway line would turn into a fantastic walking stretch. Running between Hyochang Park Station and Sogang Station (the only stretch we’ve explored so far) and further; this path is an excellent place to collect your thoughts, take in a breath of fresh air and test those feet. We saw this park change through three seasons and it’s hard to pick the best of three. You don’t see tourists here and that’s the best part of exploring this park.
5. Seoul Forest
Seoul Forest isn’t a forest in the real sense of the word. Don’t expect thick dense woods and you won’t be disappointed. And when the colours turn, it’s a fantastic place to be in. Nature beautifully ruins those manicured hedges and litters the paths with fallen leaves. It’s the time when this sprawling park begins to resemble a forest — at least some parts of it.
Nami Island is the one of the most popular fall viewing spots near Seoul. And if you can’t get there, like us, the woods of Seoul Forest will give you a taste of what you might have missed. Ginkgo trees surround a small section of the woods and perfect to test your skills of nature photography — whilst trying to avoid the selfie frenzy around you.
Getting There: [Subway]
1) Seoul Forest Station (Subway Bundang Line), Exit 3.
2) Ttukseom Station (Seoul Subway Line 2), Exit 8.
6. Namsan Mountain
There are many trails leading up to N Seoul Tower in Namsan Park. It’s hard to keep a track of the trails. I wanted to show Basil a new trail, I had explored with a friend. After spending 10 minutes trying to figure the trail, I found another pathway leading up. At 5 pm, we didn’t have much time to view the colours from the top. Strangely, although it was mid-November, there was a lot of green.
Towards the top, the reds got brighter and sadly, we had lost daylight. Looking at the bright side, the city below, lit up and the view was stunning.
1. Hoehyeon Area: Hoehyeon Station on Seoul Subway Line 4, Exit 4.
2. Hannam Area: Hangangjin Station on Seoul Subway Line 6, Exit 2.
3. Palgakjeong (Seoul Tower) Area: Myeong-dong Station on Seoul Subway Line 4, Exit 2 or 3.
7. Bukchon Hanok Village & Samcheong-dong
Bukchon Hanok Village and Samcheong-dong are perfect for taking a trip back in time and tapping the soul of Seoul. Art galleries, quaint coffee shops, and tiled roof tops look good in any season. Add a few leaves of red and it will be hard going back to the grey skyline of Seoul.
Getting There: [Subway] Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 2.