Our next destination, after spending almost three hours at Namsamgol Hanok Village was Namsan Seoul Tower or N Seoul Tower. Since it’s opening to the public in 1980, it recently got a name upgrade in 2005. With the new upgrade came a new name —Namsam was changed to N, which stands for ‘new’, after having received many renovations. An iconic of Seoul, the N Seoul Tower stands 479.7m above Namsan hill and offers breathtaking views across Seoul and beyond. This tower was built in 1969 as Korea’s first integrated transmission tower to transmit television and radio broadcasts across the capital. Although it is still being used to broadcast signals for big Korean networks like KBS, MBC, and SBS, many people frequent it for many other reasons.
Today, it is the most recognisable landmarks of Seoul, South Korea, and is frequented by both locals and foreigners alike. And recently, due to the Korean wave, popularising the ‘love locks’ in many popular Korean dramas, and romantic comedy, it has become an integral part of the Korean popular culture. To many people, and especially couples, this is an attraction that cannot be missed. Recently, after the huge success of ‘My Love From The Stars’, a hilarious romantic comedy that shouldn’t be missed, its popularity is raised once again.
Seoul Travel Guide:
Namsangol Hanok Village to N Seoul Tower
From Namsangol Hanok Village, we walked towards the main road to find a bus, specifically yellow bus number 2 for Seoul Tower. Once we got off the bus, we were somehow sidetracked by some cute stores and ended up near Pacific Hotel. Lucky for us, there was signage everywhere directing us to Seoul Tower. We made an upward trek towards the tower, stopping by cute cafes and unique street art along the way. My sister and I spent more than 30 minutes walking leisurely, enjoying the moment and capturing pictures to commemorate our very first ‘date’ towards the romantic Seoul Tower.
Seoul Travel Guide: Taking the Namsan Oreumi Elevator
FYI, There are two available options to reach the tower: walk as we did above, or shortcut. And by shortcut, I mean using the Namsan Oreumi Elevator. It is located at the entrance of Namsan Tunnel #3, near the Hoehyeong 119 Safety Center. The Namsan Oreumi elevator is an ‘elevator‘ that is able to bring you to, and from the base of the hill up towards Nansam Cable Car and vice versa. The cable car is absolutely free. You just have to cram yourself, along with your friends or lover into the small elevator along with many other foreigners and locals alike. Depending on the hour, and the day, it does get crowded. It’s quite a neat concept. One that hasn’t been established anywhere here in Canada. The elevator goes up/down an elevated track, much like a railroad, except upward. Although the ride was short, 3 minutes, the wait to get onto the elevator can be relatively long as only one elevator is in operation.
However, if you want to explore the full Namsan mountain with all of its nooks and crannies, there’s a trail you can take which leads you directly to the tower. Being super fit, and completely refreshed even after walking the whole of Namsangol Hanok Village and more, we took this path. Okay. I lied. We got sidetracked, lost, and was only finally able to find our path after somehow ended up near Pacific Hotel. So we weren’t able to take the Cable car. It was around 4:00 pm and the sun wasn’t going to set anytime soon. So even though we somehow missed the Namsan Oreumi, we received the opportunity to explore Namsan mountain more fully.
I heard Koreans love to walk, especially the elderly. And as we made our way up a flight of stair to get to the walking trail, we realise this stereotype was somewhat true. We passed by a lot of older Korean men and women as we strolled up, but we didn’t encounter many people our age. We did, however, pass by this awesome restaurant called Mokmyeoksanbang –a traditional Korean restaurant, tucked away in Namsan Mountain.
Seoul Travel Guide: Mokmyeoksanbang Restaurant
One of the most scenic spots to dine in Seoul, the Mokmyeoksanban’s main attraction beside authentic Korean cuisine is its tranquil natural surroundings. The restaurant operates under these strict principles: high-quality food, no artificial seasoning, home-cooked Korean heritage food, serve with love and care. The name of the restaurant came from Namsan Mountain’s old name ‘Mokmyeoksan‘, and in my opinion serves up the best bibimbap in Seoul. With aromatic Nurungji (tea) served on the side, it was a dish that will stay in my memory for a very long time. Tucked away in Namsan mountain surrounded by tranquil nature, dining in a traditional hanok house setting, this is a great restaurant to start your date even before reaching Namsan mountain. I love my sister to death, but it’s moments like this that makes me yearn for my boyfriend while travelling.
The great thing about taking a leisurely hike up Namsan mountain instead of riding the cable car is the fact that every time you come upon a beautiful view of the city, you can stop for a moment and enjoy it. To take in all the sight, scent and sound this mountain has to offer. As you climb further and further up Namsan mountain, the forest will start to clear, and soon enough without realising how far you’ve climbed, you will notice N Seoul Tower as it stands majestically above the canopy. I love hiking, especially at high elevation, so when exploring a city, I always try to reach the highest point of each city I travel through. As I got nearer to the actual tower, my heart started beating a quicker rhythm. I couldn’t wait to see the urban sprawl of Seoul from the observation deck above.
Seoul Travel Guide: Love Locks at Seoul Tower
Before going up the observatory, we first absolutely HAD to visit the famous love locks popularised in many Korean dramas. As we walked up to the wooden observation deck overlooking Seoul, we saw thousands and thousands of locks attached to branches, trees, railings, fences and just about anything you can attach a lock to. Much like Paris’ love locks at Pont des Arts, here in Seoul, amorous couples have also decided to declare their undying love to each other by attaching love locks to this observation deck overlooking the scenic urban sprawl of Seoul. This tradition, popularised in many Korean dramas, and inspired by a Japanese tourist, believes that by locking the two lovers names together, their love will be secured forever. To double the magic, lovers can also strengthen their bond more by making a wish at the Wishing Pond atop N Seoul tower.
If you rummage through the lock to take a closer look, you will see that most of the locks are decorated with drawings and stickers. The lock varies in shape, sizes and type, while some cannot even be called locks. Some used chain locks for bikes, shaped as hearts as well as pink and red heart-shaped ribbons on their locks. Travelling with my sister, we both felt like lonely little birds as we watched couples take romantic vows, and locking their love. Surprisingly, there were also many older couples (40+) taking the vow. It was very adorable, but a little uncomfortable as I (who knows for whatever reason) imagined my parents doing the same.
If you’re interested in purchasing a lock, to shout your love atop Namsan mountain, you can purchase them at the souvenir shop. Each set costs 10,000 won and comes with a permanent marker to write your love message. We didn’t make any lock purchase. Looking back now, I think we should have. Family love is just as strong, or even more so than romantic love, and is something that will last forever.
Seoul Travel Guide: N Seoul Tower Observatory
After our senseless photo taking spree, and much-needed break at the love bench, we went up the observatory to catch a 360o panoramic view of the city during sunset. Admission fee for this attraction is 15,000 won (with Alive Museum), but due to our T-Money Card discount, we only paid 13,500 won.
The best way to save on transportation within Seoul is by using T-Money. It is a reloadable transportation card that you can use when riding the bus, subway, taxi, and can be used as a form of payment in numerous convenience stores. It can be bought at convenience stores and vending machines in subway stations. Discounts come in free transfers when you ride the subway and the bus consecutively. And depending on the colour of the bus, free transfer is allowed from bus to bus. The balance is refundable. When leaving Seoul and you still have some money on the card, you can get a refund for the remaining balance after a 500 won ($0.44) service fee. For more information, visit their official site.
We waited in line for what seems like an eternity due to the crowd of tourists and locals interested in going up the tower to continue their sightseeing or date. Finally, we were able to go pass the entrance and rode the elevator to level 3F. Inside the elevator, you will be shown a short, but neat 3D presentation that will sure to keep you occupied while waiting to reach the third floor.
As you step out the elevator and enter the third floor you will notice that the room is surprisingly tiny. However, there’s more than enough space to move around amongst all the other sightseers. On this floor, there are two souvenir shops, a small cafe and many seats for you to enjoy the view. The panoramic views from here, at this height, were absolutely stunning. Being able to walk all around the deck and have these unobstructed views of Seoul during sunset was an unforgettable experience.
With the sun slowly setting, and beautiful shades of pink, red and purple hues washing the blue sky, it was very tempting to pay the extra fee to go up to the french restaurant above. We didn’t. But, if I were here with my special someone, I would have paid the extra fee. Bring a “love lock” to add to the giant collection atop, and maybe after some romantic yet pointless photo shoot, we would have spent some more dough to have a candlelit dinner at n.GRILL, a revolving restaurant at the very top of N.Seoul Tower, past the observatory. For the romance seeker, I believe, there’s no better way to catch the night views of Seoul than staring out the glass windows of this restaurant sipping fine wine, and dining on delicious french cuisine.
However, as I’m with my sister, and french cuisine is aplenty in Canada, we opted to enjoy the view where we were at, among the busy cafe, Weeny Beeny candy store, Ba:ng souvenir shop and love letter station. Yes. You heard that right. Another love station to shout out your love from the top of N Seoul Tower. This time, in the form of a letter. My sister and I didn’t write any love letters, but I think if I have the opportunity to come here again with Jose, I would write. He would write. And it’ll be amazing to receive those letters months later and see what we wrote to each other.
These guys writing love letters to their girlfriend, lover, or a family member are just too adorable. Oddly enough, I didn’t see any girls picking up a pen to write one too.
Seoul Travel Guide: Alive Museum at N Seoul Tower
After enjoying the beautiful view of Seoul at sunset, our next ‘date‘ itinerary for the evening was the Alive Museum —an attraction we bought along with N Seoul Tower. Alive Museum or Trick Eye Museum is a special art gallery with numerous paintings created using ‘trompe l’oeil’ technique that gives each 2D art piece the illusion of being 3D. Surprisingly, unlike N Seoul Tower where you’re surrounded by tourists and locals alike, at Alive Museum, it seemed like we were the only one there. Which is awesome! More opportunity for us to take a TON of senseless photos to make more work for myself when I have to go through them at home. Hmmm…I think I need to give my trigger-happy finger a break once in awhile.
By the time we left Alive Museum, the sun had completely set, and the sky was now pitch black. Street lamps and other lights had illuminated the streets as we made our way back to the Namsan Cable car. While we leisurely stroll toward our exit, we took a couple of moments to enjoy N Seoul Tower and its surroundings. The tower stood majestically bright against the pitch black sky. It was beautiful.
Seoul City Guide: How to get to Seoul Tower
Seoul Tower Admission
Adult 9,000 won | Children 7,000 won
With Alive Museum: Adult 15,000 won | Children 11,000 won
Seoul Tower Shuttle Bus
Option 1: Take the subway and get off at Chungmuro Station (Line 3 and 4). Once you go out of Exit 1 at Chungmuro Station, you should see the Daehan Cinema. Look for the bus stop which should be straight ahead, and wait for Bus #5. It should take you straight to Namsan Park.
Option 2: From Myeongdong station, take exit 2 or 3, and walk straight. When you see Pacific Hotel, turn right (there will be signs here and along the way to guide you). Continue trekking uphill towards N Seoul Tower.