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Highlights

Hangang Bike Path

The Hangang Bike Path not only covers Seoul, Korea’s most highlighted plagued cities, it extends down the South Han River, past architecturally spiced weirs, river islands, and marshy parks. 

While the below list picks out a few notable sights, many more landmarks and natural wonders populate the path.

Let’s take the Hangang Bike Path tour.

Yeouido (여의도), or Yeoui (여의) Island (도; /dō/ “small island”), is an 8.4 square kilometer (3.2 sq mi) patch on the southern banks of the Han River in Seoul.

Until Seoul exploded nearby Bamseom Island in 1968, Yeouido didn’t hold prestige. Cattle grazed in ancient times. And an airport dominated the island until the late twentieth century.

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On Yeouido, you’ll find three elementral forces in the post-industrialized world.

Skyscrapers Building 63 (63빌딩; 60 floors), Parc1 (파크원 타워1; 69 floors), Three IFC (3 IFC; 55 floors) are some of the Seoul’s tallest and most famed.

The River Parks of Seoul

The Hangang Bike Path through Seoul runs through eleven riverside parks on both the north and south banks of the Han River. So I created two guides: a North and South Side Guide. I then further broke up the guide into sections detailing each park passed along the way.

Banpo Grand Fountain Bridge (반포대교), right next to Some Sevit leaps the Han River in the middle of Seoul.

The bridge wields two special features that distinguishes it from any other river spanner.

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First, like its title indicates, it’s a fountain bridge. Daily, between four and eight times, intakes tucked below the Han’s surface, suck 190 tons of water a minute and shoot it through 308 jets fixed to the bridge’s top deck with musical accompaniment. At night, luminous colors join the party (video).

Banpo’s second distinguishing attribute? No other bridge in Seoul boasts two decks. Its top deck carries cars between Seocho and Yongsan Districts. Its bottom deck hosts two car lanes, one foot lanes, and two bike lanes, affording cyclists the quickest switch between the North and South Hangang Bike Paths through Seoul.

Some Sevit (세빛섬), meaning “three” (세; /sāe/) “light” (빛; /bēt/) “island” (섬; /seom/), consists of three floating islands moored to the south banks of the Han River in the heart of Seoul.

Visitors can stroll between a walkway between these glass and steel islands and drop by:

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Some Sevit’s unique design and position on the Han made it a popular filming location, appearing in Korean dramas and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

At night, each structure springs to life with LED color.

Seoul held the 1986 Asian and 1988 Summer Olympics. For these international events, the capital needed venues. So, to throw jetful on the development fire in the embryonic districts south of the Han River, planners developed two complexes:

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While Olympic Park rests two kilometers south of the Hangang Bike Path in Seoul, the Jamsil Sports Complex looms large over the cycling route.

How will I notice it? Easy. Look for Seoul Olympic Stadium (올림픽주경기장; 69,950 seats), a 70,000 seat open-air stadium crowned by an Olympic Torch Spire wedged in a corner beside the Tan Stream (탄천) and Han River (aerial view).

This site contains an abundance of sports venues, including Jamsil Baseball Stadium, Jamsil Arena, and Jamsil Gymnasium. Each either hosts professional Korean sports teams, like Seoul’s football (soccer), baseball, and basketball teams, or facilities open to the public.

Tied to the banks of Seoul’s North Side bike path bobs a 102-meter long Ulsan Class frigate with 76mm, 30mm, and 40mm cannons (road view).

No. This is not a drill. It’s a museum.

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Seoul Battleship Park (서울함 공원), first opened in 2017, is a naval museum in Mangwon Hangang Park. Including a main museum building, it boasts three vessels decommissioned from the Korean Navy.

  • Frigate (Battleship) Seoul (1900-ton, 102-meter), once serving in ROK’s navy, now docks floats riverside, letting passengers aboard for daily tours
  • Patrol Killer Medium, a 37-meter long coast guard vessel, sits ashore and also opens for expeditious visitors each day.
  • A 25-meter long, 190-ton dolphin-class submarine, sticks halfway out of the museum building’s glass wall. Temporary passengers can mill around in this once surveillance sub’s belly.

Like bugs? No? How about a bug building?

Tucked below a bridge in Ttukseom Hangang Park in Seoul curls the J-Bug Cultural Complex (뚝섬자벌레).

J-Bug. Interesting name. Moth larvae inspired the form and color.

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What about the “J”? Check out the satellite view of the complex (map). It’s shaped like a “J,” with the bottom bend facing the Han River and the top stem connecting with Ttukseom Resort Station (뚝섬유원지역) on Seoul Subway Line 7.

What’s inside? Three floors. The first floor presents the most space and includes an observatory, performance space, and exhibition and video halls. The second floor offers a children’s library. And the top floor holds offices and meeting rooms. 

When sunny and mild, a flea market and gaggles of picnickers and hand-holding couples stroll below.

Views of the Namhangang

Outside of Korea’s capital, the bike path hops onto the Namhangang, or South Han River Bicycle Path, and sails into the middle of Korea.

Local tourist boards compiled a list of Eight Scenic Views along this portion of the Hangang Bike Path. They reflect the natural and people-made sights along the South Han River.

Just east of Seoul along the Hangang Bike Path spans the tan and rust tinged trusses of the Bukhangang Railroad Bridge (북한강철교).

The bridge carried the old tracks for the Gyeongui-Jungang Line, which flows from Seoul to Yangpyeong County and beyond.

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When Seoul and the railroad corporation installed new tracks in the aughts, they retired the old bridge and beside it built a concrete reinforced behemoth with overhead electric gates.

Engineers saw life in the old bridge. Instead of blowing up the old overpass, they removed the train tracks and layed down wood slats for cyclists and strollers. Now the site garners attention from daytrippers, and K-pop music videos.

Yangpyeong Dumulmeori (양평두물머리), the 1st View of the South Han River, is a complicated name for a simple geological feature. Let’s break it down.

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  • Yangpyeong — the county where it resides.
  • Du — “two”
  • Mul — “water”
  • Meori — “head”

Simply: the spot where two waters meet. Specifically: where the North and South Han Rivers converge.

At this intersection, you’ll find a river island holding Yangsu Town (양수리) with photozones, cafés, and food trucks hawking green lotus hot dogs, inspired by the lotus gardens of nearby Semiwon (세미원).

The southern tip of the river island holds a panoramic view of the colliding rivers (road view).

In Yangpyeong County just east of Seoul, the Hangang Bike Path follows the rail bed of the old Gyeongui-Jungang Line. (The new line weaves the mountains and hillsides just north.)

Builders tore up the old tracks and laid down wheel-friendly pavement. So not only does the bike path follow the gentle curves of the old rail route, it shoots through a series of eight tunnels between Yangsu (양수역) and Asin (아신역) Station.

The tunnels lie in the middle plow between 115 to 280 meters through the hillsides, creating a chilled stretch in summer and natural shelter in the winter.

Yongdam (용담아트터널; 441 m) and Gigok (기곡아트터널; 565 m) Art Tunnels start and end the stretch. While past bids proposed transforming these long underground stretches into elongated bike museums and art spaces, engineers settled for colorful light installations, some of which quickly succumbed to the moist underground atmosphere.

Ipo Weir (이포보), or Ipo-bo (“bo” means “weir”) marks the first Four Rivers Restoration Project watergate on the South Han River and Cross-Country Route.

Like the other Four Rivers weirs, Ipo’s unique design comprises seven orbs plopped atop the structure (road view). They depict the eggs on an egret, one of the many migratory birds that stop along the river in Yeoju City, where it lives.

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The weir stretches 591 meters. Hoists conceived inside those seven orbs lift and lower 295 meters of watergates which regulate the flow of water.

The top of the weir also hosts a ship-shaped observatory, convenience store, Ipo-bo Certification Center, and paths that connect cyclists and walkers with either side of the river.

Yeoju Weir (여주보), or Yeoju-bo, is the second Four Rivers Project weir on the South Han River. Its design reflects the legacy of King Sejong the Great, Korea’s most important ruler. His tomb rests two kilometers down-path on the edge of downtown Yeoju City.

Two famed inventions created under King Sejong’s rule inspired the features on the weir’s 525-meter span:

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Those twelve pillar pairs aren’t just decoration. They lift and lower the weirs’ twelve flood gates, regulating the South Han River’s flow. Three hydroelectric generators on the west end create 4950 kWh of energy (1,650 kWh each).

On the west side of the watergate, find hydroelectric generators pumping out 4950 kWh of power, Yeoju-bo Certification Center, and Yeoju Weir Cultural Center, which presents local exhibitions of pottery, a convenience store, and a panoramic tower.

Gangcheon Weir (강천보), the last on the South Han River, sits just south of downtown Yeoju.

The weir’s three swooped, skeletal struts on its top deck (road view) resemble the mast of a Hwangpo sailboat. These Joseon Dynasty’s transportation workhorses once sailed rice from Yeoju’s bountiful fields downriver to Seoul.

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Gangcheon Weir measures 440 meters long. Its seven movable gates stop floods and ease droughts by trapping river water for thirsty crops.  In its west end, three generators pump out 4995 kWh of juice. And a 100-meter-long fish ladder on the weir’s east bank helps watery critters swim up and downstream.

While Ipo and Yeoju Weirs sport cultural facilities, Gangcheon wields a boss level structure: the Hangang [Han River] Cultural Center. Sitting in the shade of two swooping roof sections with a 39-meter tall tower poking between, it’s inside offers a abundance of features, including:

  • A 1st floor exhibition hall with permanent exhibitions, local histories, and more.
  • Cafe with open air patio on the third floor.
  • An elevator leading ten-stories up to the tower’s observation deck.
  • A place to buy and certify your Bike Passport.

But wait. There’s more! Scattered around the culture center are outdoor sculptures, a wall engraved with Four Rivers Project builders, a wading pool, and chair-enabled patios.

South Han River Islands

Near the bottom of the Hangang Bike Path lie three notable islands in the South Han River: Gangcheon, Binae, and Neungam Village Islands.

While hundreds of islands populate the South Han, these three are the most scenic, hosting walking trails, silver-haired grass, and migratory bird sanctuaries.

Let’s explore each. 

Gangcheon Island

Gangcheon Island (강천섬), formed by thousands of years of sediment build-up, holds fast in the South Han’s waters at the bottom of Yeoju City.

This 571,000-square-meter land mass lived under the river’s surface until Gangcheon Weir, five kilometers upriver, lowered the water level on this section of the South Han, revealing the Gangcheon Island to the world.

Today, amateur outdoors-folk from Seoul saunter or cycle over Gangcheon Bridge, stroll the paths lined with ginkgo trees and view the endangered wormwood flowers sprinkled throughout.

In the past, daytrippers, families, and /ja-kāem-jōk/ (자캠족), or bikepackers, pitched tents on Gangcheon’s shores. However, a few littering, fire-setting, drunk-fighting scalawags forced Yeoju City to ban camping, fishing, and grilling.

Binae Island

Binae Island (비내섬) or Binaeseom (“seom” means “small island”), lives on a rural section of the South Han River in northern Chungju City.

Pampas grass reeds, which bloom wind-swaying silver tufted tops in fall, fill the 990,000-square-meter island. Other than dirt trails, Binae remains unadorned by human decor.

Korean TV and movies have used Binae Island as a pastoral backdrop. Before you cross onto the island, find rows of posters plastered around the parking lot. And as you hike the walking trails, discover props left behind when production wrapped.

Binae Island is one stop along the Binae Road (비내길; Binae-gil), which passes Angseong Hot Springs, a migratory bird observatory, an ancient ferry site, and more.

Binaeseom Certification Center (비내섬 인증센터) sits on the mainland across from Binae Island.

Neungam Village Island

Neungam Village Island (능암리섬; Neungam-ri-seom), the 7th of the South Han’s 8 Views, lays 24 kilometers north of downtown Chungju on the South Han River.

Less known than Binae and Gangcheon, Neungam Village Island (능암리섬; Neungam-ri-seom), keeps its 200-meter-long span free from human infrastructure. In fact, only a stepping stone bridge allows bipedal disposable-cup-clutchers access to the river island (road view).

Bird watchers and photographers visit Neungam Village Island for its migratory birds, which include mandarin ducks, whooper swans, buzzards, and long-billed plovers.

Jungangtap Park (중앙탑공원; Central Tower Park) holds the tallest Silla-era pagoda in Korea: the Seven-story Stone Pagoda in Tappyeong-ri, a.k.a. Jungangtap (중앙탑).

Why the name “central tower?” The Kingdom of Silla (신라; 57 BCE ~ 935 ACE), which first unified the Korean peninsula, erected the fourteen-meter-tall stone tower in the 500s. It marked the exact center of their territory.

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The park also includes a recreated Silla-era village, Chungju Museum (충주박물관), and Liquorium (리쿼리움), a museum dedicated to Asian spirits.

The Rainbow Bridge (무지개다리) bobs along the edge of the park on a section of the South Han River called Tangeum Lake (탄금호). Colorfilled LEDs light the pontoon bridge come sundown.

North of the park stands the Tangeum Lake International Rowing Regatta (탄금호 국제조정경기장). It’s one of the few facilities in Korea certified to hold rowing competitions. It hosted several international rowing competitions.