This is the 8th in a series of articles highlighting tourism spots in Seoul. The useful guide for planning weekend trips in the capital city will help readers rediscover Seoul. - Ed.
The new year has come. A stroll through downtown Seoul as the Year of the Ox begins will leave a lasting impression. Quiet Jeong-dong, near Deoksugung, and Daehangno with its youthful spirit, passion and uniqueness, are two of the most popular places for a daytime walk in Seoul.
The peaceful streets of Jeong-dong
Jeong-dong Street is a roughly 800 meter-long stretch from "Stone Wall Street" near Deoksugung to Jeong-dong crossroads via Chongdong Theater and Chungdong First Church. The street is loved by Seoulites as it is readily accessible from downtown Seoul and one can enjoy a quiet and peaceful walk while appreciating works of art. Make plans or resolutions for the new year while taking a stroll through Jeong-dong.
Chungdong First Church: A symbol of early modern Korea
Take a walk some halfway down the street and you will be greeted by a picturesque red-brick building with white windows. The beautiful building is Chungdong First Church, Korea's first Methodist church designated as Historic Site No. 256. Founded by the American missionary Henry Gerhard Appenzeller, who offered his first service with three Koreans in a small room, Chungdong First Church testifies to the more than 100-year history of Christianity in Korea. The church and its bell tower are small, but its interior, adorned with a large pipe organ, is elegant. Rest for a moment on the pews below the white arched windows and take a walk around the courtyard. For more information, call 02-753-0001~3.
Travel Photo Gallery: A unique space
Waw Travel Agency near Chungdong First Church is a small but unique place. The building was used as the kitchen of the Shinhwa Newspaper, but how houses Waw Travel Agency and Photo Gallery. The Travel Writer Jeong Bo-Sang's Encore Photo Exhibit opened there yesterday, featuring photos of Ankor Wat, Cambodia, and the day-to-day lives of people there. The agency provides travel-related consulting as well as flight and hotel booking services. It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 02-753-0866 or visit www.wawtravel.com
"Wall Flowers": A work of art in steel
Jeong-dong Street is full of eye-catching sights. The beautiful wall painting titled "Wall Flowers" at Ewha Girls' High School is one of those. Painted by a team of Kaywon School of Art and Design students and their professor Kim Dae-Seong with the participation the high school's students and citizens, the colorful wall painting in subtle pastel tones not only pleases passersby but brightens the atmosphere.
On the wall of Ye-won School across from Chungdong First Church is a 70m-long electronic LED display panel that features various pictures of Jeong-dong street along with short descriptions in English, Chinese and Japanese. Titled the "New World Language", the work captures the meeting of science, art and literature. In addition, 19 benches in various shapes, including dolmens and "go" board game counters stand as fun works of art when not occupied.
A taste of Provence
Those who find themselves a little peckish during their walk should visit the restaurant "Small Provence" for a taste of elegant European interior design. The ivy around the windows and small decorative touches will give you a taste of a small city of Provence, France. Various dishes including salad, pasta, cutlet, pizza and fondue are served. For more information, call 02-757-7723
The Seoul Museum of Art
Seated on the hill of Jeong-dong Street, the Seoul Museum of Art is housed in the former Supreme Court building built in the style of the 1920s. The building went through a complete transformation - except the facade - into a museum when Korea's Supreme Court moved to Gangnam. With its arched entrance and pretty windows, the museum also has a well-adorned garden. The museum will feature the "2008 Centre Georges Pompidou Exhibition 'Heaven for Artists'" Exhibit until March 22. It offers visitors a rare opportunity to appreciate works by modern artists ranging from the 20th-century masters including Picasso, Matisse, Chagall and Miro to contemporary artists including Gary Hill and Yves Klein. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Admission is 12,000 won for adults, 9,000 won for students and 7,000 won for children. For more information, call 02-2124-8800 or visit Open the link
Changing of the guard at Deoksugung
In the Joseon period, the royal palaces were defended by an army in charge of opening and closing the palace door, guarding and patrolling the palaces everyday. As part of Seoul City's effort to revive Korean traditional royal court events, the ceremony takes place three times a day (11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 3: 30 p.m.) and takes roughly 30 minutes. Visitors are welcome to play the drum used to signal the beginning and the end of the ceremony, try on the guard costumes, and pose with the guards for a photo.
Daehangno: Full of life
Daehangno is a 1 kilometer strip stretching from Ihwa-dong crossroads to Hyehwa-dong Rotary. It was the intellectual heart of Seoul, with the College of Science and Literature and the College of Law of Seoul National University as well as the foremost educational institute Seonggyunggwan, where Korea's finest students attended in Joseon times. When Seoul National University moved near to the Gwanaksan in 1975, small theaters, cafes and other facilities for the youth moved in, turning Daehangno into the theatrical heart of Seoul.
Marronnier Park: A busker's haven
Marronnier Park was created on the site of Seoul National University when it moved to the Gwanasksan area. The name "Marronnier Park" comes from the Marronnier tree planted here in 1929 when Gyeongseong University was not yet SNU.
The outdoor stage at the park often features amateur singers and dancers who showcase their talent in front of a supportive audience. Visit the park and you may be lucky enough to see some dazzling performances for free. You could also have your portrait painted by one of the street artists here and have your fortune read.
Small theaters with passion for art
When you visit Daehangno, be sure to see at least one play. The walls are coated in flyers advertising upcoming plays everywhere in the area and free tickets are often piled on tables on the sidewalk. There are some 100 theaters in Daehangno, ranging from large ones like Arko Arts Theater and Dongsoong Art Center that can seat more than 500 people, to small ones with less than 30 seats. They feature a wide selection of plays from 3 to 4 hour-long masterpieces to racy comedies.
Among the theaters, Hakchon Theater (02-747-8460-2) is one of the oldest. Kim Kwang-seok
, a popular K-pop singer in the 1990's, performed here more than 1,000 times. A photo taken with the memorial statue of him singing with his guitar that stands at the entrance of the theater would be a great souvenir. One of the most popular plays is "Dandelions Blowing in the Wind", the last in a series of works performed during the Play Fair 2, which is being staged at Dongsoong Art Center now. Other works on stage include the stage comedy "Educating Rita" and "Affinity".
Ticket prices for plays performed in Daehangno are reasonable compared to those in other areas and range from 4,000 won to 10,000 won at Ticket Box or Sarang Ticket (www.sati.or.kr) on the left of Marronnier Park near exit 2 of Hyehwa Station (subway line 4).
Street Art: A boat, some poop and a robot
The main street of Daehangno is adorned with some unusual works of art. For instance, a tree that looks like the mast of a sailing ship with a boat-shaped board attached and a poop sculpture decorated with tiles in various colors will bring a smile to your face. In addition, there is a robot riding a horse, a green ring and other humorous street artwork will add fun to your visit.
The restaurant "Mindeulle Yeongto" on Daehangno looks like an ordinary cafe or restaurant. But it does have something extraordinary called "Munhwa Maeul". Literally meaning "culture village", "Munhwa Maeul" refers to tables where one can have unlimited refills of 21 kinds of drinks and snacks, including ricecakes, bread, ramen and cookies, for 5,500 won for three hours. Of course one can order individual dishes as well. For more information, call 02)745-5234 or www.minto.co.kr.
Book Cafe Taschen, a unique space
The modern art book cafe Taschen provides a space where visitors can read various art books published by Taschen Books while enjoying sandwiches, wine and coffee in a comfortable atmosphere. The cafe is filled with books about art, architecture, design, film and advertising, which can be read or bought at a discount a rate. The cafe also boasts some 100 wines from around the world. It is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. For more information, call 02-3673~4115.
By Annabelle Lee/Travel Writer