The cherry blossoms in bloom at popular Yeouido Park in Seoul © John_T / Shutterstock
Even in one of the world’s most famously bustling cities, travelers can find sprawling and delightful parks to enjoy.
In between exploring the busy, dense Seoul neighborhoods of Gangnam, Insadong and Hongdae, make time to unwind in green spaces throughout the city, many of which incorporate the capital’s industrial heritage and repurposed spaces downtown.
Whether you’re looking fabulous views, sports facilities, flowering fields or a hidden oasis, here are our picks for the best parks in Seoul.
Visit Yeouido Park for cherry blossoms and picnics
If you going to visit only one park in South Korea’s capital, Yeouido Park is the one to choose.
Once you arrive, you’ll walk through a grove of 1400 cherry trees that burst into bloom every spring, gloriously announcing the warmer weather ahead. Indeed, the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the most popular spring events in South Korea, attracting thousands of visitors each year.
The park offers also sports facilities, bikes for rent and convenience stores that are easy to find. Many enjoy picnicking here – and in summer, the lawns tend to me almost entirely covered with mats.
This urban gem is easy to reach by public transport, with the subway delivering you directly to this riverside park. Yeouido Park is also home to the E-Land Cruise Terminal, at which you can board a ferry to take in city views from the Han River.
In Naksan Park, the path leads along a portion of the old Seoul Fortress Wall to a hilltop lookout with fabulous views of the modern metropolis © Simon Richmond / Lonely Planet
The city views dazzle at Naksan Park
Conveniently located in downtown Seoul near the popular shopping district of Dongdaemun, Naksan Park occupies the side of a mountain and offers stunning views out over the city. While a visit here requires a walk uphill, the spectacular views of the city at the top make every step worth it. As you follow along a portion of the old Seoul Fortress Wall on the way up, you’ll contemplate the city’s history while looking out onto the modern metropolis beyond. The park also has beautiful gardens with flowers in bloom every spring and summer.
From the Hyehwa subway station, most park visitors stop to rest and enjoy the views in the park en route to the nearby Ihwa Mural Village. This photogenic place was lovingly decorated with murals by 70 artists in 2006 in an effort to revitalize the neighborhood; today, it’s a marvelous neighborhood filled with cute cafes.
Look forward to some romance in Seoul Forest
Inspired by New York’s Central Park, Seoul Forest offers a plethora of things to do. The Ecological Forest is a protected natural habitat that’s home to animals including deer, chipmunks and ducks. At the Nature Study Field, previously a water-treatment facility, you’ll find beautiful wildflower plantings and a botanical garden.
The centerpiece of the forest, the Culture and Art Park offers decorative flower beds and performances on an outdoor stage. With greenhouses filled with butterflies, deer to feed, bikes to rent and grassy fields that are surrounded by cherry blossoms in the spring and vibrant foliage in fall, Seoul Forest offers endless options for a romantic afternoon.
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Hanseul Park, part of World Cup Park, abounds with photogenic grasses and blossoms © raker / Shutterstock
Run around with the kids at World Cup Park
World Cup Park encompasses five different parks, of which Haneul Park the best known. On the top of a hillside, Haneul Park has beautiful eulalia grass that is lush and green throughout summer and turns golden in the fall, when crowds descend on the area to look out at the amazing views out over the city as the grass waves in the wind in the foreground.
Don’t miss out on the other four parks: Nanji Stream Park, Nanji Han River Park, Sunset Park and Peace Park have an amazing array of plants, including metasequoia trees, cherry trees, pink muhly, cosmos flowers and more.
Sunset Park has campgrounds and a nine-hole golf course while Peace Park features artistic installations left over from gardening expos. Nanji Stream Park and Nanji Han River Park have sports fields, a skate park and bike rental facilities. World Cup Park is a lovely place to spend a day – or several days.
Contemplate nature at Seoul Botanic Park
Opened in 2019, Seoul Botanic Park is one of the newest parks in the city. Slightly outside of the city yet easily accessible by subway, this green space is quiet most of the time, making it an off-the-beaten-track gem. The park has a giant lake you can walk around, a wetland area where the park meets the Han River and playgrounds with spraying water to cool the kids off every summer.
The highlight of the park is the Seoul Botanic Garden and its giant greenhouse (tickets cost ₩5000, about US$5.) Inside, plants are separated into various sections such as the Windy Garden, with saw grass and purple reed-grass, and the Healing Garden, with plants that are used for medicinal purposes. Pathways lead visitors through the plants, then up to a walkway that hovers over the plants. The hot and humid environment is great to visit in the winter when you’re cold to the bones – just be prepared to take off some layers.
One Tree Hill in Olympic Park is one of Seoul’s most Instagrammed sights © Sanga Park / Shutterstock
The options abound at Olympic Park
Adjacent to Jamsil district and Lotte World Tower (South Korea’s tallest building), this 1.4-sq-km (345-acre) park features large open spaces, an abundance of sculptures, rose gardens and cosmos flower fields, which become must-see spots in Seoul when they bloom. The park is also home to the Lone Tree on the sloped field known as One Tree Hill, one of the most photographed locations in Seoul.
Stopping here provides something for the history buff, the nature lover and the sports enthusiast. A fascinating feature of this park is Mongchontoseong, an ancient earthen rampart that dates back to the Baekje Kingdom (18 BCE – 660 CE), and the park also has some of the most popular venues for sporting events and music concerts in the capital. Wandering in this massive park can take hours, so stop into the information center at World Peace Gate to pick up a map.
Seonyudo Park delivers a dose of much-needed tranquility
This award-wining park sits on Seonyudo Island in the middle of the Han River. Only accessible by public transport or bus, the island in western Seoul previously hosted a water treatment plant before its conversion into a green oasis. Today, the park has a greenhouse, floating gardens and ivy-covered cement walls. Expect an urban playground for kids and adults.
Visit in spring to find blossoming cherry trees without crowds, or in the summer to have a picnic surrounded by the green vines that overtake the industrial infrastructure that remains. Once on the island, as the sounds of cars and people fade away, it’s hard to remember you’re in a city of 10 million.