Without a doubt, the Hangang (River) is Seoul’s most iconic symbol. The vast river – nearly two kilometers wide in places – winds its way through the city. In recent years, Seoul has invested millions of dollars as part of the Hangang Renaissance Project. The purposes are three-fold: 1) to restore the river ecosystem, 2) to improve access to the riverside parks, and 3) to create a wealth of recreational facilities.
Thanks to these efforts, the Hangang has become a major destination for Seoulites for recreation and relaxation. On this tour, we’ll take advantage of the extensive bicycle paths and see all that the river has to offer from the seat of a bicycle!
Are you ready? Then let’s hop on a bike and pedal along the beautiful Hangang.
Bicycle lane signNote: Should you wish to shorten this course, simply refer to the detailed maps for information on the various bicycle rental areas and which bridges you can cross.
We’ll start our riverside course at the bicycle rental kiosk at Banpo Hangang Park. We’ll cross the bicycle-friendly Jamsudaegyo (Bridge) and then head eastward to Seoul Forest. From there, we’ll peek into the Old Waterworks Museum before taking a break at Ttukseom Hangang Park, where we’ll explore the futuristic J-Bug complex and the river’s best rock climbing and windsurfing spots. Next, we’ll check out a charming bicycle-themed café before we enjoy the outstanding views from the Gwangnaru Pedestrian Bridge’s Riverview 8th Avenue Observatory.
From there we’ll switch directions and head westward along the river’s southern bank, passing over the Tancheon (Stream) before visiting one of the new bridge cafés. Afterwards, it’s onward through Ichon Hangang Park and a lunch break on Yeouido. From there, we’ll ride through the Mangwon and Nanji Hangang parks before a well-deserved, one-hour leisure river cruise! Afterwards, we’ll explore the unique Seonyudo Park before a quick run through Yeouido Saetgang Park. Then, it’s time to return our bicycle at Banpo Hangang Park.
As you can tell, it’s an ambitious (and beautiful) course, so… don’t forget to stretch, and then… Let’s Get Started!
A Much-Loved River
Banpo Hangang ParkUnlike many other cities built along a river, Seoul’s riverbanks are largely for parks. Twelve beautiful riverside parks connect to make the Han River Park system, and some 60 million people visit them every year! To improve pedestrian access, Seoul city has invested heavily to install new bus stops, subway exits, elevators and pedestrian-friendly bridges as part of an ambitious, 25-year Hangang Renaissance Project.
Thanks to free and low-cost bicycle rental stations conveniently located throughout the parks, it’s easy to borrow a bicycle for an hour (or a full day) to enjoy the river and get some exercise! Let’s pick up our bike at the Banpo Hangang Park’s rental kiosk. For 3,000 won for a single bicycle and 6,000 for a tandem bike, you simply provide your I.D. in exchange for a wheeled companion. It’s that simple! (Daily rates run about 10,000 won.)
(Line 5, Exits 1,2)
Walk 1.9 km
|Mapo-gu Office Station
(Line 6, Exit 7)
Walk 1.3 km
(Lines 2,6, Exit 1)
Walk 2 km
(Lines 4, Jungang, Exit 4)
Walk 500 m
|Ttukseom Resort Station
(Line 7, Exits 2,3)
Walk 20 m
(Lines 5,8, Exit 1)
Walk 500 m
A. Oksu Station
|B. Eungbong St.
|C. Gangbyeon Station
|D. Jamsil Station
(Line 9, Exit 1)
Walk 350 m
(Line 9, Exit 1)
Walk 350 m
(Lines 5,9, Exits 2,3)
(Line 9, Exits 3,4)
(Lines 3,7,9, Exit 8-1)
Walk 700 m
(Line 3, Exit 5)
Walk 1 km
Sports Complex Station
(Line 2, Exits 6,7)
Walk 750 m
1. There are two types of bicycle rental facilities.
: At 10 rental locations inside the Hangang Park system (Banpo, Gangseo,Ichon, Jamsil, Jamwon, Mangwon, Nanji,Ttukseom, Yanghwa, Yeouido).
: 09:00~sunset (until 20:00 in the summer)
: Singles are 3,000 won/hour; Tandems are 6,000 won/hour; Full-day single rentals for 15,000 won.
: At five locations, typically near subway stations. (Jamsil Station: 02-3431-3480, Pungnap-dong: 02-475-4380, Eungbong Station: 02-2293-8111,Oksu Station: 02-2293-8003, Gangbyeon Station : 02-475-4380)
: 08:00~19:00 March-October; 09:00~17:00 November-February; Closed on major holidays.
: Free, but available only up to 2 or 3 hours during the week and 1 to 2 hours on the weekends.
2. Specify the type of bike (single or tandem) and for approximately how many hours. Pre-pay.
3. Provide your I.D. (A foreign driver’s license or passport is OK) or keys as a deposit.
4. Keep your receipt or bicycle tag in order to exchange for your deposit upon return.
5. Consider a bike with a basket to hold your bag, beverage or other personal items.
We’ve got quite a journey ahead of us, so after exploring the Banpo Hangang Park's biking trails, let’s make our first river crossing via the double-decker Banpodaegyo/Jamsudaegyo bridges. While the upper-level Banpodaegyo is primarily reserved for vehicle traffic, two lanes of the lower-level Jamsudaegyo (Bridge) were converted into pedestrian and bicycle lanes, creating a safe and enjoyable way to cruise across the river. Riding safely with a cool breeze on your face, don’t you think it creates a very refreshing bicycling experience?
After cresting the small bump on the bridge, veer right towards the Hannamdaegyo (Bridge). This stretch of park isn’t the most picturesque - it extends mostly underneath an expressway. But consider trying out some of the outdoor exercise equipment! Once you approach the spot where the Jungnancheon (Stream) flows into the Hangang, veer right and look for signs saying “Seoul Forest” or “서울숲” in Korean.
1. After crossing the Jungnancheon (Stream), follow the path as it wraps around the riverbank.
2. Consider taking a break at one of the benches along the way for a great view!
3. As you pass underneath the red Seongsudaegyo (Bridge), on the right there’s a bright blue sign
that says, “Gate 13.” Take a sharp right turn and ride through the tunnel into Seoul Forest.
4. Once you emerge from the tunnel, turn right at the four-way intersection.
After another tunnel, the Visitor Center will appear on your left.
Seoul’s Green Oasis
Seoul Forest is one of the city’s biggest green spaces, but it wasn’t always an attractive oasis. After going from a royal hunting ground to an industrial site in the 1950s, it was transformed into a park in 2005. Today, the mature trees belie the park’s youth, though honestly it still feels more like a park than a forest.
While cruising around the park on two wheels, it’s obvious that Seoul Forest is a great place for kids. Playgrounds, a splash fountain and the eco-themed Children’s Library are all great for kids. But the best part has got to be the Eco-Forest, which boasts a herd of sika deer!
There’s also a lot of great art in Seoul Forest some of which hints at the site’s history. For example, the statues of galloping horses are a reminder that the park used to be a racecourse. Each weekend guests are treated to live music performances on the park’s several outdoor stages. You can get more info on these events or a historical snapshot of Seoul Forest at the Visitor Center.
As you leave the Forest and head eastward, be sure to check out the old Seoul Waterworks Museum. The brick and granite pump house, which dates to 1907, was the city’s first water treatment plant. Renovated in 2008, the exhibits describe how the growing city’s water needs have been met over the decades. You can also go underground to see the slow sand filtration system that once purified the city’s water supply. There isn’t much in the way of English signage, but it’s free and definitely worth a look.
At least half a dozen streams drain the Seoul city area and flow into the Han River. In recent years,these important waterways have also been rehabil-itated as part of the city’s efforts to protect critical wildlife habitat and create attractive areas for recreation. Most of these streams are also lined with bicycle paths, should you wish to extend your bicycle journey into Seoul’s many neighborhoods.
1. To visit the Seoul Waterworks Museum, from the Visitor Center, keep going straight until turning
right at the four-way intersection.
2. After passing the parking lot entrance, follow the path that veers right from the main road.
3. After viewing the museum, follow the signs back to the riverside park paths.
From there, it’s a short bicycle ride to Ttukseom Hangang Park.
Fun on a So-Called Island
There are two common words that Koreans use to say “island.” The word “do” has Chinese origins while “seom” is a truly Korean word. While both words mean “island,” you may sometimes ask yourself, where is the island? That’s because, like many sandy spits that once existed along the Hangang, areas like Ttukseom are now attached to the river’s north and south banks.
Ttukseom is one such place. Like Seoul Forest, theTtukseom area has undergone quite a physical overhaul. Ttukseom Hangang Park, for example, features attractive lawns and gardens and a large rock climbing wall. There’s also J-Bug, an eye-catching building that looks half-worm and half-spaceship. The “bug” wraps itself around the freeway and bridge pilings! If you dare go inside, there are cafés and a restaurant if you need to recharge your body, and child-friendly art exhibitions on topics like Korean comics and a video about the Hangang made especially for kids.
Returning to the bicycle trails, the stretch of bike trail between the Cheongdamdaegyo and Jamsildaegyo bridges boasts a great view of the low-slung, 1988 Olympic Stadium across the water. And as the path rounds the corner, you’ll also notice a curious row of single-story beach huts where some 60 clubs rent windsurfing, kite surfing and banana boating equipment.
When you’re done watching (or riding!), how about a smoothie break?
1. After the Jamsildaegyo (bridge), construction will briefly detour the path to street level. After passing the Olympicdaegyo (bridge) and exercise equipment, turn left.
2. Pass the brick schoolhouse and ride until you reach the main street.
3. To the left is a row of a few dozen meta sequoia trees. Check them out before going to the right. Be careful as you ride along the busy sidewalk.
4. Eventually you’ll come to a crosswalk with a KEB bank on the other side. Cross and turn right.
5. Go straight about three blocks, past exit 2 of Gwangnaru Station. When you see the signs for "Gwangjingyo (Br.)", turn right towards the white I-Park apartments One block later the Velomano Café will be on your left.
Located between the Cheongdamdaegyo and Jamsildaegyo bridges are about 60 clubs, like the Hiwind and Zooty windsurfing clubs, where folks can rent windsurfing, kite surfing and banana boating equipment, as well as take lessons from the seasoned water sports enthusiasts. Or, just sit back and watch the pros bounce off the waves and sail into the air!
Between two Bicycle Cafés
ust a block or two north of the Gwangnarudaegyo (Bridge) is a cheerful café called Velomano. The bicycle-themed spot is a great place to grab a delicious smoothie or a cup of coffee. Covered in bicycle paraphernalia and customer scribbles on bright post-it notes, bring your helmet inside for a 500 won discount! It’s a great, bike-friendly rest stop.
Let’s say you’ve spent millions of dollars to improve bicycle and pedestrian access to dozens of the bridges that span the Hangang. What next? Why not make the bridges destinations themselves? To date, Seoul city has installed eight bridge cafés on five bridges, along with two other mid-span facilities on the Mapodaegyo and Gwangnaru Pedestrian bridges, not to mention the bridge fountain on the Banpodae-gyo. These attractive spots afford great views and remind citizens and visitors of the city’s greatest
natural asset – the Hangang.
If the Jamsudaegyo (Bridge) is the most bicycle-friendly way to cross the Hangang, the Gwangnaru Pedestrian Bridge is the best for walkers. The easternmost bridge on our course, the spot looks out over Achasan (Mt.) and the Amsa Ecological Park. Reflected in the wide river bend at sunset, it’s one of Seoul’s most beautiful settings.
Thanks to a citizen’s suggestion, two of the bridge’s vehicle lanes were converted into over 2,000 square meters of landscaped walkways and bicycle lanes. Before leaving the bridge, don’t miss the River View 8th Avenue Observatory, an art gallery and performance space located below deck on the bridge’s eighth pillar (hence the name).
Once you’ve crossed the bridge, take the long ramp back down to the riverside park to start our westward journey.
After passing the torch-topped bridge commemorating Seoul’s hosting of the 1988 Olympic Summer Games, Namsan (Mt.) and N Seoul Tower will soon come into view. From this vantage point, the center of the city seems almost in the middle of the river. Doesn’t Seoul feel huge?
After crossing the Tancheon (Stream) and rounding the river’s bend, you’ll arrive at the Hannamdaegyo (Bridge). The Rainbow Café on the bridge’s southern end is another bicycle-themed spot along the river. It’s a great place to take a quick breather and enjoy the view before crossing the bridge and heading west along the Ichon Hangang Park. This stretch is among the most beautiful and wild with great views of the golden 63 Building and Yeouido, which just happens to be our next destination.
1. From the Hannamdaegyo (Bridge), ride westward.
2. Just past the Mapodaegyo (Bridge) is a bright blue bicycle ramp. Use the ramp to cross the bridge.
3. Check out the attractive new mid-span observation decks.
4. Upon reaching Yeouido, cross into Yeouido Park and follow the path to the park’s southwestern end.
5. Just prior to KBS’s headquarters (the building with the large red transmission antenna) is a gray,
13-story building that says “The # Island Park.” There are several great restaurants located around the building.
An Island Picnic
Yeouido is the biggest island in the Hangang, separated by a narrow waterway on its southern flank. The island itself was basically abandoned for centuries because it, like much of the riverfront, was prone to flooding. But in the 1970s, a new bridge was constructed and much of the nearby Bamseom (Islet) was dredged to build up its banks. As a result, Yeouido has become the center of Seoul’s political, financial and broadcasting sectors.
With all these important people walking about, there are also a number of great restaurants on the island. Adjacent to the headquarters of KBS (Korean Broadcasting System) is a block that features some of the island’s best dining options, and I think you’ve earned it!
Some neighborhood highlights
This Korean restaurant
specializes in healthy,
cold, knife-cut noodle
dishes that taste great
in the hot weather.
Delicious beef, chicken
teriyaki and other burger
options, as well as crispy
potato wedges. Typical
appetites should opt for
the “deluxe” size.
A cheap favorite for
many Korean standards,
including rolls of kimbap
Harumi specializes in
including sushi, breaded
pork cutlet and udon
The charming neighbor-
hood bakery bakes
pastries and bread loaves
daily, as well as offering
a 2,000-won Americano.
serving some of Seoul’s
best Italian cuisine in a
very attractive setting.
This popular spot serves a
variety of spicy seafood or
pork mixed with vegetables
for two or more customers.
A great place for Korean
barbecue, spicy beef stew
and popular soups. Open
until 2:00 am.
1. From Yeouido Park, bike northward (away from KBS) until the western path meets a short tunnel.
2. Follow the tunnel into Yeouido Hangang Park and go westward (left).
Within Seoul’s city limits, 25 bridges span the Han River, with three more under construction. The oldest among them is the distinguished Hangangcheolgyo (Railroad Bridge), which was constructed back in 1900. In recent years, many of the bridges have been made more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, thanks to new elevators and on-ramps. To help guide your future bicycle tours, here’s an overview of the bridges, their features and accessibility. (Note: "Bicycle Access" doesn't necessarily mean bicycle-friendly ;)
"Useless" No More!
Although the word “Yeouido” translates loosely to “useless island,” as you can see from the skyscrapers and the giant, green-domed National Assembly building, it’s useless no more. Yeouido Hangang Park is conveniently connected to Yeouido Park by an attractive tunnel featuring some old photographs of the island’s days as the site of Korea’s first airport.
Yeouido ParkThe riverside park features a floating amphitheater, athletic fields, a public water park, and even a new “Color Park.” The latter is tucked underneath the Mapodaegyo (Bridge) and explains Seoul’s official color palette via display and sculpture. But the most distinctive feature is an artificial stream that runs through the park toward a wide, shallow stream that’s punctuated by huge slabs of granite. It’s a very popular spot among park goers, whose squeals seem at odds with the serene sculpture of a red man fishing with pole in hand.
While that lunch gets settled, why not dip your toes into the cool water before we tackle the course’s last stretch?
There are seven outdoor swimming pools located in the Hangang parks (Gwangnaru, Jamsil, Jamwon, Mangwon, Nanji, Ttukseom and Yeouido). These parks are very popular in the summer months (late June to late August). Open from 9:00 to 20:00, the riverside pools feature child wading areas, tanning chairs, parasols, bathing and locker facilities as well as food vendors. Tickets are 5,000 won/adults, 4,000 for youth and 3,000 for children.
1. Follow the path westward as it departs the island.
2. Take the elevator located on the western end of Yanghwadaegyo (Bridge).
3. Cross the bridge and take the stairs down to the park level.
4. Ride westward to Nanji Hangang Park.
Yachting on the Hangang
Recreational yachting is beginning to take hold on the Hangang, thanks to the non-profit Seoul City Yacht Association. You can rent a small sailing dinghy for two hours for 100,000 won ($85) or a 12-seat motoring or sailing yacht for 350,000 won for 90 minutes. Rentals are available until 10 pm in case you and your friends want to take a sunset cruise!
We’re back on the river’s northern bank on our way to Nanji Hangang Park, an area that should be called the jewel of the Hangang Park system. Nanji Hangang Park is just one of four large parks set around the 2002 World Cup Stadium. It’s also one of Seoul’s best environmental success stories. The area was Korea’s largest landfill until 1994, when city planners covered the mounds of trash in a meter of soil and watched as nature reclaimed the land. Today, the parks are critical habitat for 16 rare and endangered species, including the small round frog, the great spotted woodpecker and Korean terrapin.
Nanji Hangang Park 2To really get a feel for nature, pedal past the Gayangdaegyo (Bridge) for some of the river’s wildest stretches. Or, view the park from the river itself. In addition to an “extreme” bicycling and roller blade park, Nanji Hangang Park includes a children’s riverside water park, campgrounds, and the new 700 Yacht Club. Recreational yachting is beginning to take hold on the Han, thanks to the non-profit Seoul City Yacht Association. You can rent a small sailing dinghy for two hours for 100,000 won ($85) or a 12-seat motoring or sailing yacht for 350,000 won for 90 minutes. Rentals are available until 10 pm in case you and your friends want to take a sunset cruise!
1. Take the Gayangdaegyo (Bridge) elevator and cross over.
2. Take the long ramp to street level.
3. The park entrance is on the other side of the bridge. To get there, you must cross three separate crosswalks.
4. Follow the path as it curves into a residential neighborhood. Eventually you’ll reach a white-tiled passageway that leads back to the Hangang Park.
5. Ride until you come to the Yanghwa Hangang Park and the Yanghwa Cruise Pier.
Enjoy a River Cruise
Sometimes the most “touristy” things can be the most fun. For example, the Hangang pleasure boat cruises take passengers on a number of one-way and round-trip journeys from four different riverside piers. Operated by C& Hangang Land since 1986, seeing Seoul while motoring along the river is a relaxing way to see the city day or night. Why not park the bicycle for a little bit and take a short cruise? One-hour round-trip cruises depart from the Yanghwa dock sails four times daily.
If you take an evening cruise, you’ll see the result of the city’s bridge illumination project. The project has created bright and beautiful pieces of light art that paint the bridges and surrounding river in a beautiful glow.
When you return to land, we’ve got one more stop before we wrap up this itinerary!
Just east of the Yanghwa Cruise Pier is Seonyudo Island. Once upon a time, Seonyudo had a small peak and picturesque, jagged cliffs that inspired scholars to paint and compose poetry. But in a dramatic shift of fortune, this small island became a sewage treatment plant in the late 1970s. In 2003, however, the plant was shut down, and Seonyudo was transformed into a gorgeous, eco-consciousness park.
The 110,000-square-meter Seonyudo is described by the Seoul Metropolitan Government as a “postmodern space” that combines the organic with the industrial by preserving the former treatment plant’s structures and integrating them into a series of gardens. Walking around the island (bicycles aren’t allowed), it’s obvious that water is the island’s principle theme. For example, old settling basins for water treatment chemicals are now home to small fish and many species of aquatic plants that naturally purify water!
Besides the gardens, a maze-like series of paths and bridges connect to the park’s other facilities, like the Hangang History Museum, a 200-seat amphitheater, a greenhouse and Cafeteria Naru, which offers snacks and a great view of the river below. Most visitors reach the island via an elegant 468-meter footbridge, nicknamed the Rainbow Bridge that was a gift from France to Korea in 2000. At night, vivid colors illuminate the bridge from below.
1. From Seonyudo, cross the footbridge to the riverside path.
2. As you approach Yeouido, veer right towards the Yeouido Saetgang Park.
3. Follow the bicycle lanes eastward until you arrive at Banpo Hangang Park.
The Home Stretch
If you were to climb to the top of one of Yeouido’s many skyscrapers, you’d be forgiven if you wondered aloud, “This is an island?” That’s because Yeouido fits snugly against the Han River’s southern bank; in fact, only a narrow stream separates the island from the mainland. But these wetlands, known as Yeouido Saetgang Park, are an important buffer. Renovated in 2009, the wetlands feature large willow trees and reeds that camouflage fish, fowl and even rabbits. Footbridges make it easy for pedestrians to view the plants and animals underfoot. Also under construction is an ultra-modern, 354-meter footbridge that will cross the marsh sometime in 2012.
As the Yeouido Saetgang (Tributary) joins the Hangang, the bicycle path veers right. Through the mature brush is one of the best views along the river – the green trusses of the old Hangangcheolgyo (Railroad Bridge), first built in 1900! Afterwards, there are just a few kilometers before we return our bikes at the Banpo Hangang Park rental kiosk. Before we do, there’s one more stop (if you’ve got the energy!). It’s a small island called Seoraeseom. Reached via three short walking bridges (but off limits to bicycles), it’s quite beautiful when the fields of flowers are in full bloom.
As you pedal back into the Banpo Hangang Park, let’s hope your arrival coincides with one of the light and water shows that shoot from the Banpodaegyo’s Moonlight Rainbow Fountain. As one of the newest features along the Hangang, it’s a fitting (and beautiful) end to our ambitious riverside ride!As the Yeouido Saetgang (Tributary) joins the Hangang, the bicycle path veers right. Through the mature brush is one of the best views along the river – the green trusses of the old Hangangcheolgyo (Railroad Bridge), first built in 1900! Afterwards, there are just a few kilometers before we return our bikes at the Banpo Hangang Park rental kiosk. Before we do, there’s one more stop (if you’ve got the energy!). It’s a small island called Seoraeseom. Reached via three short walking bridges (but off limits to bicycles), it’s quite beautiful when the fields of flowers are in full bloom.
As you pedal back into the Banpo Hangang Park, let’s hope your arrival coincides with one of the light and water shows that shoot from the Banpodaegyo’s Moonlight Rainbow Fountain. As one of the newest features along the Hangang, it’s a fitting (and beautiful) end to our ambitious riverside ride!
Thanks to the installation of impressive bridge illumination systems and the Moonlight Rainbow Fountain (certified as the world’s longest bridge fountain by the Guinness Book of World Records), evenings are also a great time to visit the Hangang parks. Bring your picnic blanket and basket, or simply order fried chicken or pork bossam delivered to your patch of lawn via motorbike. Enjoy your food, company and the colorful light and water show projected from the Banpodaegyo (Bridge)
Well, that wraps up our bicycle tour of the Hangang. I hope you’re not too sore!
I hope you enjoyed witnessing the river’s impressive number of recreational activities up close. Thanks for coming along, and don’t forget to visit again for future tours!