Peaceful Places in Seoul
Seoul can be an intense place. Every once in a while, when you’re crammed into a rush-hour subway car, trying to make your way through a heaving shopping district, or in yet another cab where the driver is cursing the traffic, you’ll be reminded of just how colossal and crowded it is.
Instead of letting the stress get to you, do what the locals do—head for one of the many enclaves that allow you to forget, just for a while, that you’re in a metropolis of 13-odd million. Here are a few suggestions:
- • Teahouses: The lovely traditional teahouses of Insa-dong , with their hushed, rustic interiors, are purpose-built for contemplation, and many of the teas they serve are said to have calming or therapeutic effects.
- • Tombs: Perhaps due to lingering local superstitions, ancient tomb sites like Samneung Park in the Gangnam area never seem to receive as many visitors as regular parks, even on holidays and the weekends—despite the fact they’ve often got more walking paths and green space.
- • Temples: Even when they’re full of the faithful, inner-city temples like Jogyesa , Hwagyesa , and Bongeunsa exude an air of tranquility. It’s even possible to check into one overnight by prior arrangement if serenity is proving particularly hard to reach.
- • Bathhouses: Bathhouses like the Dragon Hill Spa in Yongsan are where Koreans traditionally go to take a load off—with plenty of hot pools to soak in, napping chambers, and massages on offer, it’s pretty hard not to.
- • Mountains: Peaks like those in Bukhansan National Park , with their dense forests, clear streams, and isolated hermitages, couldn’t feel farther from the city. There’s a catch though—trails are only peaceful during the week. Visit a mountain on a weekend in the autumn and you’ll frequently find yourself sandwiched between people and waiting your turn to do things, just like you would be in central Seoul.