Peaceful nightscapes in city parksSome refer to this park by the stale nickname of “Seoul’s Montmartre.” Perhaps the phenomenal success of the Korean soap opera “Lovers in Paris” has something to do with that.
The drama, a modern Cinderella story of romance between a wealthy son of a conglomerate head and his maid, featured date scenes shot in this beautiful park showing the couple chatting over a sports drink on a bench overlooking a fortress wall. But that’s all many people know of Naksan, the mountain that holds the park.
For others, the place is not known at all.
In fact, that’s one great thing about the park. It’s calm and peaceful, far from swarming hikers or the traffic noise of the city.
At night, the place becomes a serene sanctuary for neighbors around the vicinity of Changsin-dong, a cozy working class neighborhood near Dongdaemun, which turns into a bed of flickering lights by early evening seen from the top of the mountain.
City experts say the night view from the park is better than can be found in Hong Kong.
It’s true. On a clear day, you get an entire view of the city.
You can see almost every architectural landmark of the city, including COEX to the left, Jongno Tower and Kyobo Bookstore in Gwanghwamun and the glittering neon of major shopping malls near Dongdaemun to your right. It’s a rare view of Seoul at a single stroke.
The park’s walkway, which leads from the entrance to the peak of the mountain along fortress walls for about 1.2 kilometers (0.75 miles), may seem long at first. But it doesn’t feel it while walking.
The lawns surrounding the road are so pleasantly manicured that you just want to keep walking. At night, lights subtly installed under the brick walls lead the walker on.
There are a few runners but, generally, the park is peaceful at night.
Once in a while, a group of students from a nearby university will sit along the fortress walls, drinking beer. But even that becomes part of the playful scenery for modern Seoulites mingling with the remnants of the city’s tradition.
Indeed Naksan, which was shortened from the old name “nakta san” ― meaning “a camel mountain” as the hills resemble the hump of a camel ― has long been one of the four major mountains in Seoul next to Namsan, Mt. Inwang and Mt. Bukak.
It’s located in the northeastern part of Seoul, which was compared to “a blue dragon” in the old map of the city.
Much of its historical value was damaged, however, when modern redevelopment swept away its natural surroundings and replaced them with tall apartments. It was restored to its present condition four years ago as part of the city’s green belt.
Legend has it that Empress Jeongsun, the wife of Danjong from the Joseon Dynasty, ended her life here after years of staring at the sky waiting for her husband, who had been usurped of his throne by an uncle and exiled to Youngwol in Gangwon Province.
The pagoda, where many scholars and writers are said to have recited poems, is still there on the edge of the mountain. If you are lucky, musicians will be practicing tunes on a Korean zither in the pagoda in the evenings.
After all, who needs a poem if you have the entire view of Seoul before you and a classic zither melody behind?
by Park Soo-mee
To get to Naksan, get off at Dongdaemun Station (line No. 3) and take village bus number 3. Get off at the last terminal, which drops you right in front of the park’s entrance. Another option is to drive up to the peak of the mountain keeping the fortress wall to your left.
Little-known parks in Seoul with great night views
Seonyudo Park ― Seonyudo is one of the first “eco-parks” in Seoul and is within sight of the Olympic and North Gangbyeon expressways. It has a number of themed attractions ― the Garden of Green Columns, the Aquatic Botanical Garden and the Garden of Transition.
During the Goryeo Dynasty, Chinese envoys praised its beauty until the island was scarred under Japanese rule. The island’s sunken gardens draw special attraction. Evening concerts are held here during the summer.
To get there, get off at Dangsan Station, line No. 2, exit 4. The walk to the island takes about 10 minutes.
Samcheong Park ― Anyone who’s been to this tasteful shopping-and-dining neighborhood would find it a surprise to find a park in the vicinity. But Samcheong Park, which is a few minutes walk from the Board of Audit and Inspection, provides the atmosphere of a city park surrounded by forest and the sound of running water from a creek. Recommended spots include the paths leading to the creek. For an acupressure therapy experience, there are differently textured paths, where visitors can walk barefoot for a massage.
To get there, get off at Gyeongbok Station and walk toward Samcheong-dong. You can also take a village bus to Samcheong-dong from in front of the Sejong Center for Performing Arts and get off at the last stop.
Dosan Park ― Dosan Park is underestimated by most Seoulites, maybe because it’s located in the midst of the city’s most upscale shopping district. But pine trees along the walking trails make it a pleasant strolling experience, especially at night, when it’s quieter.
The park was built in 1973 to pay tribute to Ahh Chang-ho, an independence activist under the colonial regime. The tombs of Ahn and his wife were later moved here. The park contains a flower garden, some sports facilities and benches alongside the trails.
To get there: Take exit 2 from Apgujeong Station (line No. 3) and walk about 20 minutes. Another option is to take bus 4212, get off at the Cine City Theater and walk. Paid parking is available nearby.
Boramae Park ― Boramae Park, which is in Sindaebang-dong, is the former site of the National Air Force Academy.
It has a spacious playground, a swimming pool, a small zoo and a pond, which is surrounded by willow trees. A walking trail climbs alongside the park’s waterfall.
To get there: take exit 2 from Boraemae Station (line No. 7) and walk for 500 meters or about 10 minutes.