Hangang River is one of the biggest landmarks in Seoul, if not the biggest, and as such occupies a special place in every Seoulite’s heart. It’s not uncommon for workers and students alike to withdraw to the tranquil banks of the river after work to destress with a mini picnic of chimaek, or for families to bond while spending a sunny day of rest in the parks, complete with any furry members of the family. Hangang Park is somewhere you think of when you grow anxious or worried, a place that promises peace among nature. Among my group of international friends, not many of us hail from cities with a haven of nature so conveniently close by – and therefore, we love Hangang River even more. All winter, we were longing to go visit the park again, though the cold kept us out for months. With the arrival of the spring breeze in Seoul, we finally returned to the banks of the river. Hangang River divides the city of Seoul in half, running through the length of the state; as such, there are many parks near the river, allowing visitors relatively easy access to the river no matter which part of the city they reside in. Though the most well-known park is arguably Yeouido Hangang River Park, my friend and I made the spontaneous decision to visit the river over brunch at Apgujeong-dong; so we ended up visiting the nearest park, Jamwon Hangang River Park.
We simply took a bus ride, which lasted a little over ten minutes, to the park – if you take care to arrive at the bus stop nearest to the park, the walk in is short and easy to navigate. Before entering, there are a smattering of convenience stores too, allowing visitors to buy anything they might need to enjoy their trip, be it food or other items. This is pretty much commonplace at all Hangang Parks, and is something I’ve come to appreciate. I’d never heard of Jamwon Park before, always having visited Yeouido, but this specific location has been gaining a name for itself as of late, due to the opening of the floating Starbucks. Known for being one of the prettiest Starbucks outlets in the whole city, the seats are often full – come early to get one, and you’ll be amazed by the view. The outlet is made up of floor-to-ceiling glass walls, allowing for a perfect glimpse of the river and the fragmentations of light that catch on the water. It’s known to be a good photo spot, and a better experience in person.
The building that houses Starbucks – the Seoul Wave Art Center – is home to many contemporary art pieces. We didn’t visit on that day, but we plan to soon, for art centers are a good way to heal and get one’s mind off things. Nonetheless, the addition of a this cultural visit would make any day out perfect. Though we didn’t manage to visit Starbucks due to being all caffeinated up for the day, Jamwon Park was perfect, especially for my photographer friend. Having arrived just in time for the sunset, my friend managed to take many satisfactory pictures – in her opinion, some of the best she’s ever taken around Seoul, and she’s known to carry her camera with her everywhere she goes. Though I don’t know as much about photography, I’d wager that any avid photographer would have a good time here, as my friend was not the only one there – many of the other park visitors had cameras with them too, some extremely professional-looking.
Spring is the perfect time to visit the river, as the park is in full bloom; we unfortunately missed cherry blossom season, but were just in time to catch the brightly-coloured tulips. The light, cool breeze characteristic of spring also makes the experience pleasant, though as the sun sets, it can turn frigid if you’re not wearing enough layers (speaking from experience, here). Though I’m not as good or as serious a photographer as my friend is, I found my camera roll on my phone full of pictures from the riverbanks, as everything is picturesque in full bloom.
There were many cyclists and joggers at the park – I daresay anyone who has ever been to any Hangang Park knows about the great bike-renting facilities available at each park, and anyone familiar with Seoul City will know that it’s just as easy to rent a bike or an electric scooter anywhere else. Some people ride in on the rented city bikes, though some models like the tandem bikes are exclusive to Hangang Park’s facility only. The park is wide and big enough to cycle to your heart’s desire and forget all your worries. On our stroll through the park, we also noticed that a huge swimming facility seems to be in the works; though we don’t know when it will be completed and when we’ll be able to set foot in a public swimming pool again, it’s nice to see a new facility being built for park visitor’s convenience in the future. Though I really wanted to stay for a picnic dinner, I clearly wasn’t dressed for the occasion – and so we departed early in the night for dinner elsewhere. I’ll be back for it this summer, though – appropriately dressed and with a camera ready.