Chasing Fall in Seoul

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I never thought a parking lot would look so gorgeous!

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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

Getting There: 

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

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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.

43 responses to “Chasing Fall in Seoul

  1. Wow, I never knew much about Seoul before reading your blog but honestly, you make me want to go there. And if I did, I’d head straight back to your blog for the best places to visit before hand. So appealing. Love this Cheryl and as always Basil’s photos are exquisite. xo

    • Haha! Miriam, you give me way too much credit! There are so many amazing (better than me)bloggers writing about stunning walking/hiking trails and cycling paths in Korea. I’m trying hard to keep up. I was surprised by the number of bloggers based in Seoul. And a lot of the city is very well documented. I was wondering if I’m adding anything new. So, I add my perspective, and hope it’s different from the rest. I’m so glad it worked and I truly appreciate your generous praise. In a way, I feel indebted to Seoul for the change it has brought in us. I remember, my gloomy post in June, announcing our move here and that we may not travel as much. And I thought, everyone is going to get bored. 🙂 Thanks so much for still following us and encouraging us through every high and low. And if you’re here, and I’m still here, I’d love to show you around. Have a super weekend! xo

  2. Lovely colors! I especially liked the crimson color leaves. They are so unique. I have experienced fall colors in Chail during October many years ago in India. But except for the places like J&K and elsewhere in Himalayas, fall phenomenon is unheard of in India.
    I don’t know why but I guess this year fall colors seem to find lot of liking from fellow bloggers.
    Were these pictures clicked with a smartphone?

    • I love reds too, Arvind. It’s blazing and not always easy to capture. These pics are captured on my phone and Basil’s camera (he’s changed it) — whatever we had at that moment. 🙂 I think the northern mountainous region running to the northeast have a fantastic four season climate unlike the rest of the country. We saw spring blooms in Meghalaya in March. I would love to visit Kashmir someday. It’s on our list. We visited Ladakh, and beautiful as it has been, it’s different from the other half of the state. I think fall is really beautiful anywhere you see it! I remember the first time I saw fall leaves in Japan in 2012.

    • Thanks a bunch! 🙂 I’m torn between fall and spring, Divya. Both look beautiful. I wish I could show you more and how beautiful it gets outside the city. Next time, perhaps! Hugs!

  3. Autumn this year was particularly long and beautiful…lasted much longer than it has in previous years. You got lucky!! 🙂 and seems like you did a great job of seeing of much of it as you possibly could in the time you were in Seoul. But brrr, it got damn cold yesterday didn’t it? 😦

    • I know, we got so lucky! I really thought we’re going to miss it! It would have been stupid. haha! I wish we could have covered at least one of the mountains popular for fall. Guess you can’t have it all! 🙂 It’s got super cold and winter hasn’t even started? lol! I’m slowly getting my body acclimatised to negative digits. 🙂 Yesterday, I nearly froze waiting for my friends at the subway! I’m learning to do the slow winter dance. I’m so happy the sun has decided to show up! 🙂

  4. It seems like your fall weather in Seoul has mirrored that in the northeast U.S. A long, warmer than usual fall to start, then a big plunge in the last few days! Ouch! Your leaves are beautiful – glad you made it back from Jeju to enjoy (and photograph!) them.

    • We were super lucky, Lex! Temperatures sharply dipped (and gradually rose again) before our trip to Jeju! When I saw trees bare towards the top, on Mt. Hallasan (in Jeju), I was pretty sure we’d have missed it back in Seoul. As you rightly pointed, the window was pretty narrow. I think, the changing climatic patterns (like the heat wave in Asia) has made it difficult to predict natural spectacles like these. We’re gearing for a really cold winter. I’ve been forewarned. Brrr!

  5. felice giorno Cheryl e Basilio
    gli alberi sono il nostro respiro vitale, l’autunno che li dipinge di colori la nostra tavolozza di pittori, le città che si circondano di grandi parchi molto curati hanno tutto il mio amore ed apprezzamento
    i tuoi post m’insegnano la conoscenza e l’amore per questa vostra straordinaria città!
    amo le descrizioni, molto, le immagini altrttanto
    un giorno lieto per voi, nella bellezza Annalisa

    • Grazie mille, Annalisa! Lo dobbiamo a Seoul per respirare una raffica fresco di vita nella nostra vita. I colori sono sbiaditi e le temperature si sono immersi. Ma la natura sembra ancora così bella. Avere un bel week-end troppo, il mio amico! abbracci Cheryl

      • I always look forward to reading your blogs, Cheryl. I am good but don’t have the time to post so often. I try to publish one at least once a month but am running out of ideas as I haven’t been travelling a lot. Just two or three more posts for this year and I’m done. Hopefully next year will be better! 🙂 Enjoy the coming weekend!

      • Thanks so much, Helen! 🙂 We haven’t travelled much either. This year was a dry spell. Hoping next year would be better. Have a great week ahead! 🙂

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