Namsan and its Surroundings: The Face of Seoul

See & Do Tours

[개별자유여행-FIT]서울의 역사와 자연을 품은 남산
Located in what was-prior to the expansion of the capital to regions south of the Hangang
River in the second half of the 20th century, that is-the southern extremity of old Seoul,
Mt. Namsan has long been lauded for its lovely scenery, which was so beautiful that it was said mythical blue cranes would seek respite in its forests. In the Joseon Dynasty
(1392-1910), a fortress wall was built along its ridges to protect the royal capital from
attack, and on the summit a signal fire station was erected to relay messages sent from
the provinces.

The area around Mt. Namsan was designated Namsan Park in 1989, when authorities began a program to rejuvenate and
protect the mountain and its environment.
The fortress walls, which had fallen into
ruin despite centuries of service, were
rebuilt and nearby historical relics restored. With its thick pine forests and beds of wild
flowers, Mt. Namsan is a favored strolling
place for Seoul residents. The mountain is
crisscrossed by footpaths that allow walkers to stroll amidst history and nature. Running
along the mountain is Sowon-gil Road, one of Seoul's most scenic driving courses thanks
to its views of the Hangang River. Crowning the summit of Mt. Namsan is the iconic
Namsan Seoul Tower, which offers some of the finest views of the city. On the cultural
side, Namsangol Hanok Village, a collection of historic Korean homes nestled in a valley
on the north side of the mountain, is a great place to experience the rustic charm of
Korean traditional architecture.

You'd be hard pressed to find a city elsewhere with a big, beautiful mountain in its very
heart like Seoul. Mt. Namsan is both the face of Seoul and a major landmark. It's a face
that changes with the seasons. In spring it's awash in pink azaleas and yellow forsythia.
In summer its dense green forests provide welcome shade. In autumn its walking paths
lined by golden ginkgo leaves give us a place to walk and reflect. In winter, the mountain
offers refreshing views of the Hangang River through the denuded branches of its trees.
During the Joseon Dynasty, Mt. Namsan was one of the mountains that guarded the royal
capital of Seoul. When Joseon Dynasty founder King Taejo moved the royal capital from
Kaesong (in today's North Korea) to Seoul, he erected on Mt. Namsan a shrine, the
Gugsadang, at which to offer prayers to the mountain god.

Namsan Park currently covers Mt. Namsan and its environs. Visitors can hike the trails
through the mountain's forests all the way to Namsan Seoul Tower. In addition to the natural environment, the mountain is also home to monuments and memorials such as the
Ahn Jung-geun Memorial Hall in honor of the educator and Korean independence
fighter, Baekbeom Plaza in honor of politician and independence activist Kim Koo,
statues of Joseon Dynasty scholars Jeong Yag-yong and Yi Hwang and Global Village Folk Museum, all of which allow visitors to ponder the wisdom of past sages and the sacrifices of previous generations.

The Namsan Oreumi is Korea's first funicular, taking passengers comfortably and safely
from the entrance of Namsan Tunnel No. 3 in the heart of the city to the terminal of the
Namsan cable car on the lower slopes of the mountain. Operating daily from 9am to
midnight, it's completely free.

A signal fire station, or as it is called in Korean, a bongsudae, was an important means of
communication during the Joseon Dynasty. The first thing you notice when you arrive at
the peak of Mt. Namsan-well, after the imposing Namsan Seoul Tower-is the Namsan
Signal Fire Station. The stations were built on mountain tops all over the country and
used to convey news quickly between the capital and the provinces. There were also times when, on rainy or foggy days, messages were conveyed either by cannon shot or by the
soldiers who manned the signal fire stations themselves-the soldiers would run
to the next station, the soldiers there to the next, and so on. In the later part of the Joseon Dynasty, this system was eventually abandoned in favor of more accurate horseback
messengers. Because of the imposing appearance of the signal fire station and its special
function, it tends to draw a great deal of tourist attention. A daily signal fire lighting
ceremony is held in front of the station. The ceremony begins at noon, when the bell that hangs in Bosingak Belfy (in downtown Seoul) is struck 12 times. The ceremony consists of
three parts: a patrol ceremony, a changing of the guard ceremony, and the actual lighting of the signal fire itself. The ceremony has proven popular with overseas tourists-you'll find plenty international visitors in hanbok (Korean traditional dress) getting their photo taken with the guards after the ceremony has been completed. There is no ceremony on
Mondays, however.


Namsan Seoul Tower was originally a
broadcast transmission tower. Originally
called Seoul Tower, its name has changed
over the years following a change of
ownership. It's now one of the most
popular tourist destinations in Seoul. The
fenced observatory below the tower
provides wonderful views of the city. The 
Roof Terrace is popular with couples who
hang locks on the fence as a symbol of their love. The locks-with their colorful attached messages of love-have become just as
popular a tourist destination as the
incredible views of the Hangang River.

Take the elevator to Namsan Seoul Tower's observatory deck, and you'll find the Digital Observatory, an exhibit dedicated to Seoul's
six centuries of history. After taking in the
exhibit, it's time to check out the 360-degree views of the city. At the very top of the observatory is a rotating restaurant, the N Grill, with great food and even better views. It's a very romantic place and a great place to enjoy the sunset over the river and night
views over Seoul.




Address :
105 Namsan Gongwon-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Telephone : T. +82-2-3455-9277
Business Hours : 10am to 11pm (open to midnight on Friday and Saturday).
Admission (Namsan Seoul Tower observatory) : Adults: KRW 9,000, Children: KRW 7,000
Homepage :

Namsan Arboretum is a forest that was planted in the former location of Namsan
Foreigners' Apartments, which were demolished in 1997. The arboretum's floral inhabitants are arranged by theme: one area has pines trees from throughout Korea, another has wild flowers, another is an ecological wetland, and so on. It's a good place to do some light walking or exercise and/or check out Mt. Namsan's rich variety of indigenous flora all in one spot. In the arboretum located just across from the Grand Hyatt Hotel you'll find a spot where pines representing each province of Korea have been planted along the walking path. Around the pond next to the pine forest grow dozens of species of flowering plants, a truly spectacular site when they blossom in spring. You can walk all the way to the peak of Mt. Namsan from the arboretum. Along the way you'll hear the call of birds like kestrels, chickadees and warblers. Mt. Namsan is a special place where you can commune with nature even in the heart of the city. The Namsan Park Use Project offers opportunities to learn about the park, its natural treasures and many facilities throughout the year.



Getting There :
From Exit 1 of Hangangjin Station (Line 6), head straight until you get to Namsan Mansion
Apartments. Cross the street and follow Sowol-ro, heading in the direction of Namsan
Arboretum. To reach the park entrance, just cross the foot bridge in front of the entrance of the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
Address : 231 Samildae-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
Telephone : T. 02-3783-5997
Website : (Korean)


Just in front of Namsan Public Library---itself a local landmark and a wonderful piece of 1960's Korean architecture---are a statue of Korean independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun and the Ahn Jung-geun Memorial Hall. As you enter the memorial, your eyes are drawn to Ahn's patriotic writings, engraved on the walls flanking the entrance. You'll also see Ahn's most famous piece of calligraphy---the word Daehangugin ("Korean") along with a print of his left hand, easily recognized by the missing joint of the ring finger. When you enter the exhibition hall in the first floor basement, you'll find a statue of Ahn wearing a gray Korean overcoat. Behind the statue is a Korean flag with the word "Daehan Dongnip"("Korean Independence") written in the trigrams. It's an impressive expression of Ahn's steely determination to set his nation free.
On the first floor exhibition hall you'll find letters Ahn sent to his mother from prison, his final testament and portraits of figures who influenced his thinking, mostly Korean modernizers of the early 20th century. It makes you think about the sacrifices made by countless patriots during Korea's struggle for freedom in the early 20th century. As you exit the memorial hall, you'll see the statue of another Korean independence fighter, Kim Koo. You can also see Seoul's old fortress walls-restored after being demolished during the Japanese colonial era-stretching towards the summit of Mt. Namsan. If only Ahn were alive to see this sight today.
To the left of the Ahn Jung-geun Memorial Hall is the distinctive white tower of the Seoul
Education Research and Information Institute. On the second and third floor of the tower is the Global Village Folk Museum, where you'll find exhibits of folk crafts from all over the world. To the left of the museum are the Sam-sun Steps, so called because they appeared in the hit 2005 drama "My Name is Kim Sam-sun." This drama proved popular overseas as well; accordingly, the steps are frequently visited by international tourists.

Getting There :
Take bus No. 405 from exit 2 of Hangangjin Station (Line 6) and get off at the entrance of
Namsan Public Library. Likewise, you could take bus No. 402 or 405 from Exit 5 of
Hoehyeon Station (Line 6) and get off at the entrance of Namsan Public Library. The Ahn Jung-geun
Memorial Hall is just behind the library.
Address : 91 Sowol-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
Telephone : T. 02-3789-1026
Operating Hours : 10am to 6pm (March--Oct), 10am to 5pm (Nov--Feb). Admission ends one hour to closing. Closed Mondays, Jan 1, and the long holidays of Lunar New Year and Chuseok.
Website :

Namsangol Hanok Village is where we go to rediscover the charm of Korean traditional
architecture. It is especially popular with international visitors wishing to experience a bit of old Korea. Namsangol Hanok Village is nestled in the Namsangol Valley on the north side of Mt. Namsan, hidden behind Seoul's modern skyline. During the Joseon Dynasty, the valley was noted for its scenic beauty and was said to be home to many villas and viewing pavilions. It was especially popular in summer, when Seoul's residents would flock there to escape the heat. The valley was sometimes called Cheonhak-dong ("Valley of the Blue Crane"), because it was said mythical blue cranes would fly here to enjoy the cool shade of its forests.
As you enter the village, there's a Joseon Dynasty artisan in white clothes making common
tools using straw. At the entrance there a pond, a recreation of a pond that existed during the Joseon Dynasty; overlooking the pond is a viewing pavilion, the Cheonugak. It's a good place to stop for a minute to familiarize yourself with the village and take in the various performances underway throughout. There are five hanok (Korean traditional homes) in the village. These homes are the result of a 1989 project to restore the Namsangol Valley to its original splendor-aristocratic and commoner homes were moved or rebuilt here in order to give visitors an opportunity to experience how people lived during the Joseon Dynasty. After checking out the historic Ogin-dong Yun House, Samcheong-dong Kim Chun-yeong House, Gwanhun-dong Min House and Jegi-dong Yun Taeg-yeong House, be sure to examine the home of Lee Seung-eop, a master carpenter/architect who was entrusted with the
reconstruction of Gyeongbokgung Palace in the mid-19th century. A good example of Joseon-era housing and architectural techniques, the home also contains the kind of furniture and tools you'd expect to find in the home of a builder like Lee.
After seeing the homes, stroll about the village's forested walking paths and Korean traditional garden. You'll also come across Time Capsule Plaza, built to mark Seoul's 600th anniversary as a city. In it is buried a time capsule shaped like the famous Bosingak Bell, inside of which are 600 items that represent Seoul's culture and way of life. It is to be opened on Nov 29, 2394. If you track back towards the entrance of Namsangol, you'll find Namsan Gugakdang, a performance hall where you can watch performances of Korean traditional music of a wide range of genres. The village hosts a variety of programs and classes on Korean traditional culture, including classes on Korean traditional etiquette. On major Korean holidays like Chuseok and Lunar New Years, it hosts folk performance and games like pungmul (rural percussion music and dance), ganggangsullae (a Korean circular dance), madanggeuk (Korean circus performances), yutnori (a board game popular at Lunar New Year's) and neolttwigi (Korean seesaw).

Getting There :
From Exit 3 or 4 of Chungmuro Station (Line 3 or 4), enter the alley near the GS25 shop. Walk past the entrance of the Maeil Gyeongje
newspaper and you'll reach Namsangol
Hanok Village.
Address : 28 Toegye-ro 36-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Telephone : T. +82-2-2264-4412~3
Business Hours : 9am to 9pm (Apr--Oct), 9am to 8pm (Nov--March). Closed Tuesdays.
Website : (Korean)

If you enjoyed the atmosphere of Namsangol Hanok Village, pay a visit to Korea House to
experience Korean palace cuisine in a hanok setting. Modeled on one of the halls of
Gyeongbokgung Palace, Korea House not only serves great Korean good, but it also has a
theater where you can take in performances of Korean music and dance. Best of all, it's
located just next to Namsangol Hanok Village.

Getting There : It's a 1-minute walk from Exit 3 of Chungmuro Station (Line 3 or 4).
Address : 10 36 Toegye-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
Telephone : T. +82-2-2266-9101~3
Business Hours : Lunch: noon to 2pm.
Dinner: 5:00pm to 6:30pm, 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Website :