Bukhansan National Park#3 in Best Things To Do in Seoul
Located in northern Seoul – but still quite accessible via public transportation – Bukhansan National Park is a mountainous oasis in a bustling metropolis. The park, which covers more than 30 square miles, is home to towering granite peaks, forest-laden valleys and miles of hiking trails in between, as well as about 100 historic Buddhist temples and monks' cells. The historical must-see, though, is Bukhansanseong Fortress, a Joseon stronghold. You also won't want to skip the 5-mile mountain wall that runs along the park's rocky terrain. The fortress was built in 1711 and served as a place of refuge for kings in times of emergency (rebuilt on the foundations of the original, which dates back to A.D. 132). Bukhansan's proximity to Seoul, its natural setting and its historical significance combine to make it the park with the most visitors per square foot, according to the Guinness World Records. That means it can get extremely crowded, especially on weekends.
If it's panoramic vistas you're after, try trekking up Baegundae peak via the Bukhansanseong trail, one of the most popular hikes in the park. From the top, you're in for a great view of Seoul and lands beyond – unless the city is shrouded in smog, which does happen occasionally. Recent visitors do warn that this hike is not for the faint-hearted; the rocky path requires strength, endurance, very sturdy hiking shoes and patience (the trek is estimated to be a 3.5-hour round-trip hike). If the Baegundae hike sounds too strenuous, you might want to consider another one of Bukhansan's trails (don't worry – there are plenty that are equally rewarding).
The best way to get to Bukhansan National Park (without a car) is to take the subway to Gireum Station on Line 4, and from there ride the No. 110B or No. 143 bus to the end of the line. The park stays open year-round from sunrise to sunset. If you're taking public transportation, the park is free to visit. However, if you're traveling by car and need to park, there is a fee. For more information, visit the Bukhansan page on the Korea National Park Service's official website.
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#1 Namsan Park and N Seoul Tower
Home to five warning beacons and a protective city wall during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Mount Namsan now hosts a park and a smattering of tourism sites like an aquarium, a library and a bevy of beautiful walking trails.
But most people visit Namsan Park for its panoramic views of Seoul. To scope it out for free, visit Palgakjeong, an octagon-shaped viewing pavilion that boasts alluring vistas of the city. For an even more breathtaking sight, shell out a few won to get to the observation platform atop N Seoul Tower, Namsan Park's real showstopper. Recent visitors said that on clear days, the view from 1,574 feet up is spectacular. Out on the sky deck, you can't miss the thousands of padlocks attached to the fence; couples lock them there as symbols of everlasting love (bring your own lock if you're feeling romantic). For an extra-special experience, reserve a table for dinner in the rotating French restaurant, n.GRILL, on the tower's top floor.
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