I’m thrilled to be participating in The Seoul Subway Challenge, an idea by Tom from Waegook Tom. This project requires nine Korea-based bloggers to document unique, off-the-beaten-path places on at least five stops of one specific subway line. I was assigned LINE 4, the light blue line running from Northeastern Seoul all the way to Oido in Gyeonggi province. I photographed places on eight different stops, accompanied with a short paragraph of text and directions. I hope this post inspires you to venture to some new places in Seoul! Check out the other bloggers’ posts at the bottom of the page.
I will start in the northeast and work my way down south.
1. Nowon 노원
Nowon nightlife: Nowon is packed with bars, barbecue restaurants, shops, and surprisingly lots of hair salons. (I barely ever cut my hair, but when I saw those colorful heart-shaped mirrors in Mix Hair, I fell in love.) There’s a vibrant party scene filled with young people, but then again, Nowon attracts the ajusshi crowd with an array of hofs and meat restaurants. I’m tempted to return to Nowon to shop at the “Oprah” store.
Directions: Any exit–stroll around and choose a bar that catches your eye.
2. Suyu 수유
Hwagyesa Buddhist Templestay 화계사: In June 2011, I participated in a Buddhist Templestay located a short bus ride away from Suyu Station. (Read about it here.) Hwagyesa is a great place to glimpse Korean Buddhism for a couple days, and the remote feeling of the temple’s grounds makes you feel like you’re farther from central Seoul than you actually are.
Directions: At Suyu Station, go out through exit No. 3. Then transfer to the local bus No. 2, and it will take about 15 minutes to get to Hwagyesa.
Price: 40,000 won. You must reserve your space ahead of time. View more info about Hwagyesa on their website.
3. Mia Samgeori 미아 삼거리
The Dream Forest 북서울꿈의숲: This newly developed park is a short bus ride away from Mia Samgeori station. It’s a great place to relax, grab a coffee, or mingle with friends. There’s a small cluster of Hanok houses, a pond, an observatory, some restaurants and coffee shops, an art museum, expansive areas of grass, walking paths, short hiking paths and outdoor exercise equipment. The park is especially beautiful in the fall with the changing of the leaves.
Directions: From exit 1, take the local bus #9 or #11 (10min ride) and get out at the Dream Forest Stop, pronounced “buk seoul kum ae sup.”
4. Hyehwa 혜화
Saju Readings: Hyehwa is a trendy area dominated by young Seoulites–I even heard Nas blasting from a shop while I was walking around. In Hyehwa, you can see a variety of dance, music, and theater performances, eat in quaint, creatively-designed restaurants, or grab a cocktail in a bag from a street vendor. There are Saju (Chinese numerology), palm, face, and Tarot card readers who work in booths on the street and inside some of Hyehwa’s buildings. These readings cost between 3,000 to 10,000 won. For a Saju reading, all you need to bring is your exact birth date (including the time). These readings are fun and can be more accurate than you would suspect. If your language skills aren’t up to par, bring a Korean or linguistically-gifted friend along. (Read a narrative about my Saju reading here.)
Directions: Any exit.
5. Myeongdong 명동
Cat Cafe, “Cat Playground” 거양이 놀이터: When your feet tire from shopping and pushing your way through mobs of Japanese tourists, find solace in this surprisingly clean cat cafe. I’m quite the cat lover, and I’ve visited a number of cat cafes in Seoul, but this one is my favorite. The accessories are hysterical, like the tie and collar combo above. The employees may even give you some tuna to make you feel popular among the cats.
Directions: From exit 6 of Myeongdong Station, walk straight and turn right when you see the man dressed in a cat costume. You’ll see a sign.
Time: It closes at 11 PM.
Price: 8,000 won for entrance and a drink.
6. Seoul Racecourse Park 경마 공원
Horse Racing: Gambling is illegal in Korea–with horse racing being an exception (along with a new casino in Gangwon-do, I believe.) The stadium is filled with anxious spectators, mainly ajusshi, screaming their horses’ names, usually consisting of Konglish words like 모닝 파레임 (Morning Flame). You can make bets from 100 won to 100,000 won. I chose to make two 500 won bets, but I lost both times, because I suck at choosing horses. (Dammit.) Alcohol is illegal in the stadium, but there is a Chinese restaurant, some Korean snack stands, a Cafe Bene, and some mini horses to obsess over.
Directions: From exit 3, walk straight to the stadium.
Time: Saturday-Sunday, 11-13 races are held from 11AM to 5:30 PM. There are night races in the summer.
Price: 1,000 won entrance fee, payable with T-Money. For more info, visit their website.
7. Seoul Grand Park 대공원
The National Museum of Contemporary Art Korea: This museum features conceptual, contemporary art in its galleries and sculpture park. There was a great photography exhibition depicting shots from modern-day Korean households when I visited a week ago. I was also drawn to the featured shrine-like installation consisting of hundreds of TVs and the textile art along the main hallways.
By Shuttle Bus: A free shuttle bus to the museum is available every 20-30 minutes at exit 4.
By Tram: A tram that runs a circular route around the park is available at exit 2. (Fare: Adults 800 Won)
By Foot: Walk from exit 2 in the direction of Seoul Grand Park. The museum is approximately 20 minutes from the subway station.
Price: Free, 5,000 won for special exhibitions.
Time: Mon-Fri 10 AM to 6 PM, Sat-Sun 10 AM to 9 PM. For more info, visit their website.
8. Surisan 수리산
View the remaining lines by these awesome Korea-based bloggers:
- Line 1 – Rachel from World Flavor
- Line 2- Sam & Audrey from Backpacker Travel Blog
- Line 3 – Andrea from World Walkabout
- Line 5 – Amanda from Farsickness
- Line 6 – Loren from Chincha Mag
- Line 7 – Tom from Waegook Tom
- Line 8 - Sheryll from Wanderlust Project
- Line 9 – Devan from My Korea Quest