Summer break in the cityIt’s not easy to survive the humid, scorching summer in Seoul. But the precious few large beaches around the country are already jam packed with people, and traveling anywhere at this time of year entails frustrating traffic and more heat.
So why bother? There are plenty of places to cool off in the city or within an hour’s car ride.
First, seven Han River Parks have public pools open to residents of Seoul: Ttukseom, Mangwon, Ichon, Jamsil, Jamwon, Yeouido, and Gwangnaru. Entrance fee is 4,000 won ($4) for adults and 2,000 won for children. These parks includes spacious grassy areas to relax, as well as bicycling paths, playgrounds and sports facilities.
If you want something less active, take a boat ride down the Han River, where the breeze will help you take your mind off the heat. Han River Cruise Ships dock at six public parks in the city: Yeouido, Ttukseom, Nanji, Seoul Forest, Jamsil and Yangwha. An hour on the ship costs 9,000 won for adults and 4,500 won for children.
A dip in the pool during the day and later a cruise along the river at night is a sure way to chill out in the city.
Amuse yourself all day
Seoul Grand Park, Lotte World
If the kids are driving you crazy now that they’re out of school, the city’s amusement parks can provide them with a daylong diversion. But because many parents take their children by the carload on weekends, it’s best to visit on a weekday.
Seoul Grand Park has the usual amusement park features, but it also has a pool with waterslides that is open at 10 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. The entrance fee for the park is 3,000 won.
Lotte World in Jamsil is celebrating the “Rio Carnival” this summer. Open from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Lotte offers diverse music performances in the evening such as folk songs, fusion instrumental and rock.
For those who don’t mind a little heat in exchange for some sun, Magic Island is the place to be. You can walk around outside and then cool off by strolling indoors to enjoy other rides.
Discounts are available for those who purchase tickets on the Internet, at www.lotteworld.com.
Culture, camping at parks
Whether you want to have a picnic, rest under a shady tree, play in the pond or attend a concert, the city’s public parks have it all.
At Gwanak Mountain Park in southern Seoul, people pitch tents near a river that runs through the mountains. The small ponds nearby are open to the public for swimming or canoeing.
The new Seoul Forest serves as backdrop to cultural events. It is host to summer jazz concerts, folk music performances and puppet shows. For more active pursuits, there’s a group hike that is available on the weekends.
The World Cup Park has movie screenings and classical music concerts this month.
Cheonggye mountain park’s “Nature Camp” program for people of all ages lets visitors rent camping equipment for overnight stays.
The Children’s Grand Park offers midsummer night movie screenings, as well as singing contests.
Dip into COEX’s big tanks
COEX Mall & Aquarium
At the COEX Mall, you can spend the whole day enjoying air-conditioned entertainment without feeling the need to step outside at all.
The mall is sprawling and fairly intimidating for first timers ― not just because it’s so big, but also because of the sheer numbers of young people, who seem to travel in packs.
If the innumerable shops and eateries don’t interest you, Megabox Cineplex has 16 screens showing the latest foreign and domestic blockbusters, so there’s bound to be something that you’ll want to watch.
The COEX Aquarium’s Aqua gallery opened last month, which displays underwater species and art exhibits. A diving show is held every day at 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4:30 p.m. until Aug. 15.
The aquarium is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. A family package is 33,000 won for three, 42,000 won for four.
For more information, call (02) 6002-6200 or visit www.coexaqua.co.kr (English available).
Walkerhill pool offers fine view
Walkerhill Hotel Pool
The Sheraton Grande Walkerhill Hotel’s pool, River Park, is the most sought out pool during the summer, when it is open to the public.
Surrounded by the Acha Mountains and overlooking the Han River, the pool provides a spectacular panoramic view. There are four pools: the main pool, water pool, kiddies pool and slider pool.
Walkerhill recently renovated the 10,000-square-meter area around the pool. Now it has more of a retro feel, harkening back to the days when suntans were considered healthy. For those who are willing to do anything for a bronze glow, the River Park has 250 deck chairs.
The public can use the pool until Aug. 28. The day fee is 55,000 won for adults and 35,000 won for children. Summer Fiesta packages, starting at 210,000 won, include a one-night stay at the hotel, use of the pool and meals. For more information, call (02) 455-5000.
Don’t call them love motels
Gone are the days when motels were only for sleazy, one-night-stands and sordid affairs.
Nowadays, upgraded motels, also known as boutiqutels ― combination of the word “motel” and “boutique” ― have become a haven for urban couples wanting to spend an afternoon relaxing in front of a large plasma screen watching the latest DVDs, soaking in a bubble bath, playing pool or just unwinding in a cozy environment.
These motels, mostly located in the trendy Gangnam area in southern Seoul, try to offer their customers something different, like rooms designed according to themes and customized services.
The rooms can be as plush as the ones found at five-star hotels but are much smaller.
Well-known boutiqutels include Nineth and Castleron in Seocho-dong, Jelly near Gangnam station and Mul in Yeoksam-dong.
The cost of staying at a boutiquetel for up to five hours during the daytime is about half the price of staying overnight, which ranges from 70,000 won to 200,000 won.
by Choi Jie-ho