Yeouido is a no-nonsense place. This area of ostensibly sensible skyscrapers is where investment bankers come to investment bank, broadcasters come to broadcast and politicians come to politicize. In winter, the biting winds that race along the Hangang River can make the wide boulevards of the almond-shaped island feel bleak.
The northwestern tip of Yeouido, however, is fringed with cherry trees that burst into life every spring, an occasion celebrated by the holding of Hangang Yeouido Spring Flower Festival. From April 13—17, traffic is restricted along the cherry-tree lined road that curves around behind the National Assembly. Light of various colors is shone onto the cherry blossoms, while a wide range of street performances and art exhibitions takes place.
Seoul has yet to develop a big cycling culture, but the wide banks of the Hangang River and the long series of parks that line it are an exception. These are part of the ongoing Hangang Renaissance Project, which has been boosting the natural and cultural environment along the river, as well improving access for pedestrians and cyclists, since 2007. Yeouido’s central location makes it a good place to start a bike ride upstream or downstream, or just to make a leisurely lap of the island. If you’re after still more spring exuberance, you could cross the river to the northern bank and head west to the huge World Cup Park complex, or east to Seoul Forest in Ttukseom. Bikes can be hired for 3,000 won per hour from rental stations at the southern termini of both Mapo Bridge and Wonhyo Bridge, on the northern shore of Yeouido.
Parks and skyscrapers
Crossing Yeouido at its center like a belt, Yeouido Park is worth going through if you’re walking or cycling round the island. At the southeastern end of Yeouido, meanwhile, is Saetgang Ecological Park. Though Yeouido is an island, the narrow channel that separates it from the southern bank of the Hangang River is more like a strip of marshland than a river branch. This is a great place to explore for wildlife, birdlife and tranquility, as well as the elegant Saetgang Bridge that carries pedestrians on an undulating path over the park and adjacent expressway below. Its raised walkways, reed beds and willow trees are an unexpected oasis; a sort of natural equivalent to the quiet old neighborhoods that those exploring Seoul on foot occasionally stumble across without warning.
If you’ve had your fill of park life, you might as well head from Saetgang Ecological Park to nearby 63 City, the colossus of 1980s bling that was once the highest building outside North America. Inside, wonders awaiting the visitor include the 63 Sea World aquarium, 63 Sky Deck for those that want to know what Seoul looks like from 264 meters above sea level, 63 IMAX theater and more.
Boating has long been touted as a potential growth industry in Korea, given its people’s love of the outdoors, increasing leisure time and growing expenditure on hobbies. The wide Hangang River, too, has very little traffic for a waterway of its size in the heart of one of the world’s busiest cities. But Seoul Marina, which opened a couple of years ago on the northern tip of Yeouido, aims to promote a yachting culture on the river through a combination of yachting lessons and very reasonably-priced yacht hire. It also runs a bike ferry service across the Hangang, and boasts a center complete with a European-style brasserie, a convention hall and a French-Japanese fusion bar.
Boat cruises are another way to explore the Hangang and experience the city from a different angle altogether. Departing from Yeouido Dock, return cruises are available to Yanghwa and back, and one-way trips to Jamsil and Ttukseom. Options available include regular, magic show, live concert and dinner buffet cruises.
One prominent Seoul food critic used the above epithet to describe Yeouido. Tips obtained by SEOUL included an establishment doing galbi mandu (“rib dumplings”) next to 7-Eleven by Exit 3 of Yeouido Station (Lines 5 and 9), as well as the cafeterias in certain large commercial buildings (use your discretion). Otherwise, fish lovers are advised to head for nearby Noryangjin Wholesale Fisheries Market for an excellent selection of fresh aquatic fare. Zenkimchi International’s Joe McPherson, whose office is located on the island, recommends a quick dive under the river on Seoul Metro Line 5 to Mapo Station, to find good eateries in the side-streets near exits 1 and 2, or behind Seoul Garden Hotel (Exit 3).
Hangang Yeouido Spring Flower Festival runs from April 13—17 this year.
Seoul Marina | http://en.seoul-marina.com | (02) 3780-8400
Hangang River ferry cruises | english.visitkorea.or.kr
T. (02) 120
Shuttle bus services are available to and from Dangsan, Yeouido, and Yeouinaru stations.
Yeouido has a number
of subway stations:
Saetgang Station, Line 9 (Exit 3 for Saetgang Ecological Park)
Yeouinaru Station, Line 5 (Exit 2 or 3 for riverside park and bike rental)
National Assembly Station, Line 9 (Exit 6 for the National Assembly building and the flower festival)
Yeouido Station, Lines 5 and 9 (for central Yeouido)