What is Saturdays in Korea?

Tired of doing the same old thing every weekend? Saturdays in Korea is activity club for those who want to break their normal weekend routine and do something different. For Koreans, it's a good chance to practice English. For ex-pats, it's a good chance to practice Korean. For everybody, it's a great chance to meet new people and have fun.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Olympic Park (올림픽공원)

Our original plan for this weekend was to go out to Namiseom Island (남이섬) to the east of Seoul. Luckily, I found out early that week that there was a giant three day music festival being held on Namiseom Island over the weekend. It's always good to have a plan B and for this weekend, we ended up meeting at the Seoul Olympic Park.


Meeting Location

South Korea hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. For this event, the Korean government constructed many stadiums and a large Olympic Park in the Songpa District (송파구) in southwestern part of Seoul. The biggest reason that this park is so amazing is the fact that the majority of it consists of rolling hills, grassy meadows, trees and flower gardens all within an urban environment. Compared to other Olympic Parks that are mostly paved plazas, the Seoul Olympic Park is a wonderful place to visit.

There are two subway stations that are connected to Olympic Park: Mongchontoseong Station (몽촌토성역) and Olympic Park Station (올림픽공원역). Of the two, Mongchontoseong Station will probably be easier for most people to get to, though not easier to pronounce for most people whose first language isn't Korean. Mongchontoseong Station is on Line #8 and is only one stop away from Jamsil Station (잠실역) which is a transfer station for Line #2. From Jamsil, Line #2 runs through Gangnam, southern Seoul, parts of eastern Seoul and even goes through downtown Seoul. Additionally, Line #8 connects to the Bundang Line (분당선) to the southern suburb of Bundang.

View Olympic Park Picnic (올림픽공원) in a larger map

When you arrive at Mongchontoseong Station, go out Exit #1 and you will be in the western corner of Olympic Park. You will know you are in the correct spot when you see the distinctive Peace Gate (평화문) directly in front of you as you come out of the subways station.

From Olympic Park (올림픽공원)

Biking in Olympic Park

Olympic Park is full of plazas, avenues and hiking paths for people to enjoy a stroll. For those who enjoy biking, Olympic Park does have a few paths and areas that are biker friendly. Not all areas permit biking, but for the most part the paths that circumnavigate the entire park are biker friendly. You will know when you've gone down the wrong path on your bike when an elderly Korean man in a blue park uniform will start chasing you and tell you to turn around.

For those of you who have their own bike, you can bring it to Olympic Park. One method is to transport it there by subway. Technically, bikes are only allowed on the subway on Sundays, but they are pretty lax about the rule on Saturdays. I will keep my opinions about this rule to myself. If you are going to bring your bike on the subway, the end cars are for those with bicycles, but beware if you try to get on a car that is next to a major transfer point.

Another way to bring your bike to Olympic Park is to bike there. The Han River and almost all of its tributaries have bike paths along the banks. In the northwestern corner of the park is the Seongnae Stream (성내천) which connects directly to the Han River. If you live near the Han River or a stream that connects to the Han River, biking there is definitely an option.

View Places of Olympic Park in a larger map

If you don't have a bike or it is too burdensome to bring, you can rent a bike at the park. Near Mongchongtoseong Station, there is a bike rental store right next to the northern part of Peace Gate (평화문). Here, you can rent bikes that have 2 or 4 wheels and seat 2 to 6 people.

From Olympic Park (올림픽공원)

One thing to note is that bikes which seat 3 and 6 people are better suited for 2 and 4 people respectively. While you can fit the full amount in there, the extra weight and lack of leg room for pedaling may cause more difficulties going up hill. The 4 wheeled might not handle the best, but they do add a flare of fun and excitement in the communal experience.

From Olympic Park (올림픽공원)

The cost to rent the bikes depend on three variables: Time, Day and Size. You can refer to the chart below to see how much it would cost your group to go biking in Olympic Park. This same chart can also be found at the Bicycle Rental Kiosk.

자전거 이용요금 안내
Bicycle Rental Information
주말 - 공휴일
Weekend & Holiday
4륜 자전거
4 Wheeled Bicycle
3 Seater
30분 - 10,000원
30 Minutes - 10,000 Won
30분 - 7,000원
30 Minutes - 7,000 Won
60분 - 15,000원
60 Minutes - 15,000 Won
60분 - 10,000원
60 Minutes - 10,000 Won
6 Seater
30분 - 15,000원
30 Minutes - 15,000 Won
30분 - 10,000원
30 Minutes - 10,000 Won
60분 - 25,000원
60 Minutes - 25,000 Won
60분 - 15,000원
60 Minutes - 15,000 Won
2륜 자전거(2인승)
2 Wheeled Bicycle (2 Seater)
30분 - 4,000원
30 Minutes - 4,000 Won
30분 - 3,000원
30 Minutes - 3,000 Won
60분 - 8,000원
60 Minutes - 8,000 Won
60분 - 5,000원
60 Minutes - 5,000 Won

If you are quite familiar with the layout of Olympic Park and can easily navigate through its winding paths, a quick 30 minute trip would suffice. If you aren't that familiar with Olympic Park, the 60 minute trip will probably be better so you can enjoy yourselves and not worry about feeling rushed to get back on time. If you do get turned around, you can always ask someone for directions back to Peace Gate. 평화문이 어디예요? (Where is Peace Gate?)

Flower Garden

One of the most peaceful and scenic places inside of Olympic Park would have to be the Wild Flower Area (야생화단지). This garden is located near the center of Olympic Park off of the southern main path. This part of the park is marked by the yellow thumbtack on the map in the section above.

In this area, gardeners have cultivated flower beds with different types of flora that bloom throughout the year. This quaint part of the park is a good place to get away from some of the more crowded parts of the park and enjoy the tranquil ambiance.

From Olympic Park (올림픽공원)

From Olympic Park (올림픽공원)

From Olympic Park (올림픽공원)

From Olympic Park (올림픽공원)

Places to Eat

There isn't really a place to eat that stands out in Olympic Park. Despite that, there are quite a few options for food here.

If you are looking for a sit down meal, there are a few restaurants and coffee shops near both subway entrances, but their prices are a little bit steep. If you are willing to walk a bit farther, you can find quite a few restaurants in the side streets to the southeast of Mongchontoseong Station (몽촌토성역).

Another option is to have a picnic in the many open grassy areas in Olympic Park. There are convenience stores all throughout the park that have a selection of snacks and beverages. Again, due to their prime real estate, the prices are going to be higher. You are of course welcome to bring food and beverages inside the park. Before entering the park, you can find nearby convenience stores, grocery stores and restaurants. We were able to find a nice Kimbab (김밥) restaurant and stocked up on food before going into the park.

If you are ever looking for a place to go that offers the (relative) great outdoors that still easy to get to, Olympic Park is always a great choice. It's one of the best places to have a picnic in Seoul and has plenty of open spaces for outdoor activities. For those of you who need a last minute meeting place on a fair day, you can't go wrong with Olympic Park.

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