Skating the winter blues awayThere’s something especially nostalgic ― even romantic ― about ice skating in the wintertime. And it’s ice skating that has completely changed the mood of City Hall Plaza this winter.
Since opening last month, the plaza’s new ice rink has been festive and full most days, right up to its 10 p.m. closing time. Skating in the middle of a concrete forest offers a special kind of excitement; passers-by stop to watch skaters, adults and children alike, gliding on the ice, with historically rich City Hall behind them.
But there are other memorable places in the city to take to the ice, with backdrops including children’s theme parks and romantic night views of the city.
There’s night skating on the Grand Hyatt hotel’s swimming pool on Mount Namsan, with the lights of Seoul spread out below. Those less interested in the view than in honing their skills can try the spacious indoor rinks in Mokdong and at Korea University. And for an outing with the kids, there’s Lotte World in southeastern Seoul.
If you’re looking for some Korean-style nostalgia, wait for a very cold day and head for the country (or at least the outskirts of the city). A few weekend farms, such as Gangdong Skating Rink in eastern Seoul, take advantage of the season by turning their frozen fields into outdoor skating rinks.
Nighttime romance, on ice: The Grand Hyatt
The Grand Hyatt hotel on Mount Namsan has a reputation as being the most romantic place in Seoul to skate, especially after sundown.
For 18,700 won ($18), or 13,200 won for children (VAT is included in those prices), skaters can spend up to two hours on the 910-square-meter rink, with its lights, music and spectacular view of the city. There’s a snack bar serving hot chocolate, pizza, french fries and other snacks. Skate rental is 13,200 won.
The rink is open from noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends and holidays. There’s a special rate for couples on Mondays, and free skate rental from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays.
On Wednesdays, couples on dates get a free Polaroid picture and a rose.
The rink will be open until sometimes in March, depending on weather conditions. For inquires, call (02) 799-8112.
New spot in town: City Hall Plaza
If there’s one ice rink in the capital that’s been having a busy time, it’s the one at City Hall Plaza in central Seoul. It seems as though half the city has been there since it opened last month.
Unlike some of the city’s other outdoor rinks, such as the ones along the Han River, the City Hall rink is open to the elements, not shielded by canopies or walls. Not surprisingly, it offers a terrific view at night, with lights all around and buildings looming up on all sides.
The rink is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m, but daytime skating, until 5 p.m, is reserved for children under age 15, who are currently on winter break from school.
The experience comes at an affordable price: an hour’s admission is free, and skate rental is 1,000 won ($1). Free helmets are available for children. It’s 300 won to rent a pair of gloves, and 500 won for a locker.
The rink only allows 300 skaters at one time; you can expect a long wait. (We’re told the average wait is an hour on weekdays, and longer on weekends.)
The rink will be open until Feb. 11. For inquiries, call (02) 3707-9405.
Where ice meets total entertainment: Lotte World
Any ice skaters in the capital must visit the Lotte World rink at some point.
This indoor rink, which measures over 2,000 square meters, is one of the largest rinks in Korea. The glass dome overhead lets in natural light during the daytime.
Skaters can plan a whole day around it, since the ice rink is surrounded by restaurants and an entertainment complex featuring a game arcade, shooting gallery and bowling alley, as well as department stores, shopping malls and Lotte Adventure, Korea’s largest indoor theme park.
One of the rink’s new features, added last June, is colorful light shows, presented during breaks and in the evening hours.
The rink is open year-round. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on weekends.
Admission is 7,000 won for adults and 6,000 won for children. Skate rental is 4,000 won. Month-long skating lessons are available for all age groups at 100,000 won.
To get there, use Jamsil station, line No. 2, exit 3. For inquiries, call (02) 411-4592~5.
Collegiate skating: Korea University and Mokdong rinks
The ice rinks at Korea University and Mokdong are good casual date spots for couples.
Established by the Korea Skating Union and the Korea Ice Hockey Association in 1989, the Mokdong rink was built to train professional skaters and to host international competitions. It can seat 5,000 spectators and has 10 changing rooms equipped with showers.
Entrance is 4,000 won; skate rental is 3,000 won for two hours and 1,000 won for each additional hour. The rink is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Skating lessons are available. To get there, use Omokgyo station, line No. 5, exit 3; for inquiries, call (02) 2649-8454 or visit the Web site www.mdicerink.co.kr (Korean only).
Overlooking the Seongbuk district from Mount Gaeam is Korea University’s indoor rink. Originally built for Korea University’s hockey team, it’s not as crowded as some of the other well-known rinks in Seoul.
Entrance is 4,000 won, skate rental 3,000 won; lessons are available. Hours are 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 6 p.m. on weekends. A free shuttle bus runs every 5 to 10 minutes from the main gate of Korea University and from exit 2 at Anam station, line No. 6.
For inquiries, call (02) 3290-4243~5.
Outdoors, but no view: Yeouido, Jamsil and Ichon
On the banks of the Han River are three outdoor skating rinks, at Jamsil, Yeouido and Ichon.
You might assume that these would offer nice views of the city. Unfortunately, the rinks are under canopies and closed in by walls and windbreakers, giving them the feel of indoor rinks.
They’re equipped with small snack corners and cafeterias, serving inexpensive, Korean-style snacks, and the atmosphere is not unlike that of street tents.
Yeouido, which is the cleanest, offers sledding for children at no extra charge. If you’re looking for someplace to practice or take lessons, we recommend Jamsil and Yeouido.
Admission for each rink is 4,000 won, and skate rental is 3,000 won. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until the end of February. Monthly fees for group lessons start from 150,000 won.
To get to the Jamsil rink, use Sincheon station, line No. 2, exit 7. For more information, call (02) 421-2574.
For Ichon, get off at Ichon station, line No. 1 or 4, exit 4. Call (02) 790-2809 for more information.
For Yeouido, get off at Yeouido station, line No. 5, exit 2; the number is (02) 785-1093.
For more about the riverside parks, visit the Web site http://hangang.seoul.go.kr (Korean only).
In the country: Gangdong Farm and Sanjeong Lake
In the old days, ice skating meant heading out to a lake, river or frozen rice paddy on a very cold day. If you’re old enough to be nostalgic for those times, there are some places that still offer their familiar charms.
Gangdong Skating Rink, located in eastern Seoul, is open for skating every winter. The field is normally used as a “weekend farm,” where membership families grow vegetables in the warm months, but in the winter, the owner turns it into a natural ice rink.
To get there, take subway line No. 2 to Gangbyeon station, transfer to bus No. 113, 13 or 573-1 and get off at Jumong Jaehwalwon (Jumong Rehabilitation Center).
Admission is 3,000 won; skate or sled rentals are 2,000 won. For more information, call (02) 441-4723.
Sanjeong Lake, about an hour’s drive north of Seoul, is an artificial lake, located near temples and some other attractions.
All-day skating or sledding on the frozen lake costs a mere 1,000 won for adults, and 400 won for children.
Buses to the lake depart from various locations in Seoul.
For more information, visit the Web site www.sanjunghosu.com (Korean only).
by Ines Cho, Stella Kim
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