River of Light
See & Do Tours
While New York gets credit as the city that never sleeps, to really experience a town that operates on a 24-hour basis, you’ve got to come to Seoul. The Korean capital is plenty exciting during the daylight hours, of course, but it really comes alive after sunset, when its streets and alleyways pulsate with an infectious energy. When night falls, Seoul is a place of endless possibilities.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Seoul is blessed with a fine nighttime cityscape, which can be enjoyed from a number of easily reached vantage points. Some of the best views of the city at night can be had from along or even on the Hangang River, Seoul’s landmark waterway. This tour will take us to some of the best nighttime viewpoints in the city, both from above and from ground level.
Hangang Park & Mulbit Squareà Conrad Hotel Yeouidoà IFC Mallà 63 Cityà
Hangang Cruiseà Banpo Bridge & Moonlight Rainbow Fountainà Jamsil Seokchon Lake & Lotte Worldà Park Hyatt Seoulà Bongeunsa
Yeouido is often called Seoul’s Manhattan, and the comparison is not without some basis; this long island in the Hangang River is both home to the city’s tallest buildings and the financial and political heart of Korea. With its views of the river and pleasant pools and fountains, Yeouido Hangang Park and its Mulbit Square is a fine place to stroll about relaxingly in the early evening.
The Conrad Seoul Hotel, featured in the 2013 drama “That Winter: The Wind Blows,” is not only one of Seoul’s newest luxury hotels, but is also blessed with dramatic views over the Hangang River from its highly recommended restaurants and bars. The hotel is part of the larger International Finance Center Seoul, or IFC, a massive mixed-use development crowned by the 55-story Three IFC Building, one of Korea’s tallest buildings. Hidden beneath the skyscrapers is the IFC Mall, a trendy shopping center that, during the daylight hours, is lit by natural light that pours in through its 17m high glass pavilions. Both the Conrad and the IFC Mall are good places to eat, too.
At the eastern tip of the island is 63 City, perhaps Seoul’s best recognized architecture landmark. Completed in 1985, the golden tower---yes, it really is covered in a thin layer of 24-carat gold---was briefly the tallest building outside of North America when it opened. The top floor hosts an art gallery (the world’s highest!) and an observation deck which offers dramatic sunsets over the Hangang River and the rest of the city. It’s a view you’ve got to experience at least once during your visit. If you’d prefer a more private view of the sunset, just below the observation deck is the plush eatery Above the Clouds, one of the most romantic date spots in the country. In the lower floors of the tower is a shopping mall and a very large aquarium, one of Korea’s best.
View from 63 City
Cruising the Hangang
Not far from 63 City is Yeouido Pier, where you can catch a cruise boat on the Hangang River. The ultimate in evening relaxation, the cruise lets you take in the city’s inspiring nighttime scenery from water level and enjoy the refreshing summer breeze while you’re at it. Several cruise options are available, with the longest ones going to Jamsil in the eastern part of the city.
Among the scenic highlights you’ll pass is the Banpo Bridge and its spectacular Moonlight Rainbow Fountain, the world’s longest bridge fountain with its 380 multicolored water jets. Next to the Banpo Bridge is the so-called Floating Islands, an architecturally inspired set of artificial islands that are lit up at night. Several of the river’s landmark bridges, including the historic Hangang Bridge, are lit up at night as well.
Moonlight Rainbow Fountain
The cruise boat will dock at Jamsil Pier, the gateway to Seoul’s southeastern Jamsil district, home to Olympic Stadium, Jamsil Baseball Stadium and the sprawling Olympic Park.
One of Seoul’s most popular tourist destinations, Lotte World is a massive entertainment and leisure complex that is home to the world’s largest indoor amusement park. At night however, the real gem is the outdoor amusement park, the eye-caching Magic Island, with its Disney-esque castle which is lit up at night. True to its name, the park is located on an island in the middle of Seokchon Lake, a section of the Hangang River that was transformed into an artificial lake due to land reclamation in the 1970s. The lake, a popular recreation area, is lined by walking and jugging paths. You’ll find plenty of restaurants and pubs around at night, too.
A short subway ride from Jamsil will bring you to the bustling Samseong-dong district, home to the COEX Mall, one of the largest shopping centers in the world, currently in renovation. Overlooking the mall is the Park Hyatt Seoul, where you can enjoy stunning panoramic views of Seoul at night from the hotel’s unique top-floor lobby. The top floor is also home to The Lounge, a wonderful coffee shop that shares the same panoramic views as the lobby.
Also near COEX is the historic Buddhist temple of Bongeunsa. An oasis of peace and tranquility in the heart of the city, the temple is well worth a visit on its own merit, but for one of the most inspiring night views of the city, climb the hill behind the temple’s grand statue of the Buddha. The view of the Buddha against the backdrop of Seoul’s glass and steel skyscrapers is not only beautiful, but also a microcosm of the coexistence of traditional and modern that epitomizes the Korean capital.