Seoul’s Best Walking Streets


When it comes to rating Seoul’s four seasons, spring may come in a close second, but it’s in autumn when the trees are in full leaf and begin to turn while we enjoy gorgeous, cool weather with many hours of daylight. With this in mind, on this week’s Seoul Scene I’m offering suggestions for Seoul’s four best walking streets- attractive roads that make for great destinations all by themselves.

Let’s begin our Seoul stroll in the northern hamlet of Samcheong-dong. We’ve visited the area many times before, thanks to its wonderful mix of traditional hanok buildings, which remain as homes, or have been converted into cafés, restaurants or tiny galleries. This mix of uses is matched by an equally diverse mix of architecture. While I maintain that more needs to be done to protect the area’s unique flavor, for now at least, there’s a nice assemblage of architecturally interesting buildings from a variety of eras. What’s more, autumn is when the road’s ginkgo and zelkova trees truly make Samcheong-dong one of Seoul’s most beautiful places.

Without a doubt, Seoul’s most popular walking street is Insa-dong-gil, which takes a leisurely bend through the relentlessly popular district. Lined with restaurants, cafés, galleries and shops, it’s an attractive road that invites about equal numbers of locals and tourists. On that point, Insa-dong-gil can get quite crowded, but thankfully the city has enforced vehicle bans throughout most of the day, so visitors can proceed with ease. Although Insa-dong’s main drag is where you’ll find most of the action, I always counsel visitors to take time and explore some of the side alleys. There’s always something more to explore when you’re in Seoul’s historic Jongno-gu district.

Among my list of Seoul’s best walking streets, Jeong-dong-gil is probably the least well-known. Starting just south of Deoksugung Palace, it winds its way through one of the city’s most historic and tranquil neighborhoods. Jeong-dong-gil is beloved for its beautiful cobblestone pavers, the majestic palace walls, and the mature tree cover that will turn various shades of yellow, orange and red in just a couple of weeks. Jeong-dong-gil is also a great destination because it connects several of old Seoul’s most historic buildings and attractions, including the Seoul Museum of Art, the Chungdong Methodist Church and the old Pai Chai School. One word of caution, however – according to Seoul legend, a couple which walks the full length of the road together will break up, so maybe you should take this stroll alone.

And finally, although Garosu-gil has lost some of its charm now that it’s one of Seoul’s most popular streets, it’s still a fun place to walk around, shop and people watch. This is especially true in the Fall, when the lines of ginkgo biloba trees that line both sides of the street turn a solid gold, nicely framing the photogenic street in Seoul’s pricey Sinsa-dong neighborhood. Among the streets I’ve profiled here, Garosu-gil is also probably your best bet to do some serious apparel or accessory shopping. The trendy boutiques aren’t cheap, but they’re still dramatically cheaper than what you’ll find in Seoul’s department stores.

There you go, with autumn fully underway here in Seoul, four choice walking streets to enjoy the season.

Samcheong-gil can be reached via Anguk Station on Line 3, (exit #1).
Insa-dong-gil can be reached via Anguk Station on Line 3, (exit #6).
Jeong-dong-gil can be reached via City Hall Station on Lines 1 & 2, (exit #1).
Garosu-gil can be reached via Sinsa Station on Line 3, (exit #8).

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