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Seoul (North Side)

Seoul City icon

Seoul (North Side)

Saddle up and explore Seoul, Korea's epicenter, by bike.

All roads, tracks, and cycling paths in Korea lead here: Seoul! Korea’s super metropolis.

There’s too much history to explore. Too many sights to see. So we split the bike route through Seoul in two:

This breakdown follows the North Side of the Han River in Seoul along the Hangang Bicycle Path, one of Korea’s twelve certification bike routes.

A view of the Yongsan District across the Han River in Seoul.
Namsan Tower sits atop Nam Mountain north of the Han River along the Hangang Bicycle Path in Seoul.
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Highlights

North or South?

North or South? The cycling roads follow the banks of both the North and South Han River (한강, which cleaves Seoul into two equal halves two.

Seoul’s old roots burrow into the north side’s soil. Riding the upper banks gives quick access to the Jongno and Jung Districts, the heart of the Joseon Dynasty‘s old capital.

The glitter and glam pollute the south side neighborhoods. Ride the bottom of the river and find exorbitant, boundary pushing neighborhoods. 

So which side? While we just claimed “North = historic; South = modern,” you’ll taste a bit of both on either bank.

Certification

What about your bike passport? Certification stamp seekers often ride the south side of the Han River. Why?

First, the Ara Bike Path connects with the south side bike path. No detours. (Both the north and south paths merge at Paldang Bridge).

Second, the south path holds more Certification Centers (stamp checkpoints) than the north.

South side (2):

North side (1):

If you catch the Ttukseom stamp on the north side, the southern Gwangnaru stamp automatically registers.

Hangang Parks

One more preamble. Both the north and south paths may not be long. But they’re bushels of landmarks. To simplify the routes, we’ll focus on the Hangang Park system.

The Park System

In 2007, Seoul embarked on the Hangang Renaissance Project. What was the project’s goal?

  • Clean up and restore the Han River’s ecology.
  • Build infrastructure and landmarks to lure folks out of their homes.
  • Establish eleven (11) parks along the waterway.

Eleven (11) parks? Yes, eleven Hangang River Parks (한강공원) cover almost every riverside inch along the Han in Seoul.

North Han Parks

West to east, we present Seoul’s north side Hangang Parks.

Here are the parks on the Han River’s south side in Seoul, from west to east.

Safe in Seoul

When warm, bundles of Seoul’s 10 million souls beset the cool riverside parks. While some distinguish between bike and leg lanes, many don’t. They weave across lines like your grandma’s stretch stitch.

So keep these safety tips in mind when biking in Seoul:

  • Slow down when approaching a crowded area.
  • Be a defensive rider. Watch out for distracted bikers and walkers.
  • Kids are unpredictable. When you spot one, slow down!

Because of past accidents, Seoul continues enhancing safety in its Hangang Parks by:

  • Creating medians between bike and pedestrian lanes.
  • Adding speed limits (20 km/h) for bicyclists, e-bikers, and electric scooters.
  • Installing roundabouts at intersections.
  • Paving separate lanes for leisurely bikers and high-speed commuters.
  • Placing warning lights to slow riders entering high pedestrian areas.

The First Bit

Let’s get riding!

Did you just complete the Ara Bicycle Path? Yes. Then you’ll find yourself atop an embankment (road view) overlooking the south banks of the Han River. Just near sits the Ara Hangang Lock stamp booth.

I know. I know. You’re dead set on riding the north side? Well, you’ll need to tolerate a bit of the south path until we reach the first crossing point.

Follow the path east and flow downward into Gangseo Hangang Park (강서한강공원). Wind through tall grass, past dirt trails and wetland, until you pass under Haengju Bridge (행주대교) a kilometer down the road (directions).

Haengju Bridge

Now it’s time for the choice.

  • Head across Haengju Bridge and tackle the North Side.
  • Or continue left along the current path to complete the South Side.
Bike and Banghwa Bridge on the Hangang Bike Path.
Which side of the Han River do you want to ride? North or South? Don't worry! Seoul's 22 bridges give you plenty of chances to change your mind.

Han River Bridges

Have biker’s remorse? Want to switch sides? There are thirty-two bridges along the Han in Seoul and nearby ‘burbs.

However, not all bridges are created equal. Only twenty-two (22) include pedestrian sidewalks. And fewer add protected bike lanes.

Which bridges are crossable? Check out our list below.

  • Normal font listings include long detours.
  • Bold listings offer quicker access, but a few obstacles.
  • Highlighted listings provide the best crossing points for bikes.
External Links on Korea By Bike
  • English words link to articles. (e.g. “Seoul” goes to an article about Seoul.) 
  • Hangul (한글) places link to a web map. (e.g. 서울시 arrives at Seoul on Naver Maps.)
  • Hangul (한글) concepts go to Korean-language articles. (e.g. 대조선국 links to an article about the Joseon Dynasty in Korean.)

Goyang City

3.1 km (Seoul (North Side))
6%

Welcome to Gangbuk, or North (북; buk) River (강; gang).

From Gangseo Hangang Park, peddle up the ramp (road view) onto Haengju Bridge. (Stick to the bridge’s east side. It lands straight on the path.)

Goodbye, Seoul! You exit the capital’s borders halfway down the bridge.

Goyang City Profile

Where are you? Goyang City (고양시).

This humble satellite town is more than just a ‘burb. It holds over one (1) million folks and covers 267 square kilometers (103 sq mi) just west of Seoul.

One of Seoul’s larger bed towns, Goyang sports newborn highrises that catch Seoul’s spillover people. Landmarks include:

Haengju Mountain Fortress

Glance east as you cross Haengju Bridge. Notice a mound of green rising (road view) from the flat banks of the Han. This is Haengju Mountain Fortress (행주산성; Haengju-san-seong).

This military fortification atop the hill hosted one of many battles during Japan’s invasions of Korea (1592~1598). Today, the historic fort gives splendid sights of the Han River (road view).

City Jambalaya

The opening stages of the bike path through Goyang bring a challenge. The hill where Haengju Mountain Fortress rests discombobulates the route into a maze of street detours.

Don’t fret! Bike shops hanging near the path can point you the right way.

Or, these directions:

  • Stay straight (road view) and follow white dotted lines as Haengju Bridge ends.
  • The bike path curves and follows (road view) an overpass
  • Turn left at the stream (road view), then take your first right (road view).
  • Cross the road (road view) and turn right.
  • The sidewalk transforms into a bike path.

After flowing under swirling on- and off-ramps, the bike path crosses a bridge and hits a T-intersection.

So turn right (road view). Slide between a maze of floating infrastructure until you spill into the aromatic green of Goyang Daedeok Ecological Park.

Goyang Daedeok Ecological Park

Goyang Daedeok Ecological Park (고양대덕생태공원) marks your first riverside park along the northern banks of the Han.

This thin strip of green unfurls between the river bank and a Jayu Road (자유로), which feeds into the Gangbyeon Expressway (강변북로), a parallel companion to the north side bike path.

Like the Hangang Parks in Seoul, Goyang’s eco park protects flora and fauna, restores the waterway’s ecosystem to preindustrial glory, and entertains Homo sapiens visitors. 

While other waterfront paths run as-the-crow-flies, Goyang Eco Park’s bike roads wind (aerial view) through silver-hair reeds and drooping trees for four kilometers (directions).

After soccer and baseball fields, arrive at a pedestrian bridge (road view) over Nanji Stream (난지천).

Hop over. Welcome back to Seoul and say hello to Nanji Hangang Park!

Nanji Hangang Park

9.5 km (Seoul (North Side))
17%
  • Length: 3.1 km (11th of 11)
  • Area: 770,000 m² (6th of 11)
  • Start (West): Nanji Stream Bridge (난지천교)
  • End (East): Hongjae Stream Bridge (홍제천교)

Nanji Hangang Park marks the first northern Han River Park in Seoul.

Along with its sporty neighbor park, mountains of refuse once filled Nanji Park. However, the park recovered and now flaunts its natural beauty.

Let’s get the backstory first, then continue our ride.

Nanji Park Profile

Nanji Hangang Park (난지한강공원) stretches across the Mapo District (마포구) on the northern banks of the Han River. 

Seoulites often group Nanji together with World Cup Park. Why?

First, they’re neighbors. Under and overpasses (road view) allow park goers to flow under and over the bisecting expressway. 

Second, the World Cup built both parks.

Nanji Renewal

Both the Nanji Hangang and World Cup parks inhabit Nanji Island. During the Joseon Dynasty, its fertile soil grew crops aplenty.

But the Miracle on the Han boom years following the Korean War transformed the island.

Like gleaming skyscrapers and top-shelf roadways? No. It gave a home to 92 million metric tons of trash. By the 1970s, Nanji stunk up Seoul’s western outskirts. Until…

FIFA selected both Korea and Japan to host the 17th FIFA World Cup.

Like the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, this spurred Seoul to tidy up its unsavory regions. They didn’t want to look lesser when compared to Japan, their former occupiers.

So Seoul spent billions to contain and bury Nanji’s putrid refuse. Overtop they built Seoul World Cup Stadium (월드컵경기장), Korea’s main World Cup venue, and a network of parks beside.

Residents first used Nanji Hangang Park as a campground. However, in 2009, the Hangang Renaissance Project seized the land and added it to the Hangang Park System.

Ride Nanji Park

Enough with the backstory. Let’s keep riding!

Nanji Ecological Wetland

The natural scenery doesn’t stop when Goyang’s eco park ends. Nanji Ecological Wetland (난지생태습지원), a protected area that covers the western portion of the park, awaits after crossing the footbridge (road view) into Seoul.

Pass under Gayang Bridge (가양대교; a good crossing point) and glance to your right. Dirt paths and raised walkways carry leaf lovers around marshy ponds and river inlets.

Now glance to your left. Notice a pair of gentle, green slopes rising over the expressway. What are they?

World Cup Park

11.3 km (Seoul (North Side))
20%

Twin, flat top pyramids (aerial view). 

Known as Noeul (노을공원; Sunset) and Haneul (하늘공원; Sky) Parks, they’re two of the World Cup Park’s (월드컵공원) four parks.

Why do Haneul and Noeul Parks have a pyramid shape? Simple. Buried below each churns 92 million metric tons of ancient landfill detritus.Don’t worry! Sanitation experts sealed the landfill tight. Between the high-rise parks, they dropped an incineration plant (aerial view) that uses methane bubbling from below to burn up Seoul’s never ending trash flow.

Nanji’s Middle

Keep those legs churning. Swoop under a pair of baseball fields and Nanji Campground, whose 194 stalls are the only that allow grilling on the Han in Seoul.

Youth Plaza (젊음의광장) marks the midpoint of Nanji Hangang Park. Its wide green expanse (road view) often holds concerts and other pop-up festivals in the sunshine.

On the far side of the plaza, the Central Connection Bridge (중앙연결 브릿지; aerial view) carries pedestrians over the expressway to World Cup Park. (Peep the smokestack from the World Cup Park’s incinerator rising in the distance.

Nanji’s End

Continue onward. The path weaves under a BMX dirt course, and skate and child bike parks.

Riverside, a shallow pool (road view) brings out swimmers of all ages. In summer, a fountain (물놀이장분수) jets installed in the pool’s retaining wall sprays water over bathers.

Continue past a second sweeping lawn, alongside a whirling on ramp, and by one of the Han’s many riverside docks (road view), cluttered with speed and leisure vessels.

Nanji Mirror Fountain (거울분수) signals the end of Nanji Hangang Park.

In the winter, the fountain’s circular bed idles dry. But come spring, water turns the bed into a reflecting pool. Legend tells, a few times a day, the fountain erupts into a 20 minute scored aquatic dance and light show.

Just up ahead Hongjae Stream Bridge (홍제천교) crosses Hongjae Stream (홍제천).

What’s on the other side? The second Hangang Park: Mangwon.

Mangwon Hangang Park

13 km (Seoul (North Side))
23%
  • Length: 7.4 km (6th of 11)
  • Area: 422,347 m² (10th of 11)
  • Start (West)Hongjae Stream Bridge (홍제천교)
  • End (East): Wonhyo Bridge (원효대교)
Mangwon Battleship Park hosts three retired worships on the banks of the Han River in Mangwon Hangang Park.
Mangwon Battleship Park hosts three retired worships on the banks of the Han River in Mangwon Hangang Park.

Mangwon park covers the eastern regions of Seoul’s Mapo District along the Han River.

One of the smaller Hangang Parks, Mangwon contains a few interesting nautical treasures, access to trendy neighborhoods, and a dark past.

Let’s skim the park’s cliff notes before going for a ride.

Mangwon Park Profile

Mangwon Hangang Park, beside Nanji in the Mapo District, is the second smallest riverside park in Seoul.

Seated near a few notable neighborhoods west of the old Joseon capital  — Jongno and Jung Districts — the Mangwon park keeps a tragic secret.

Martyrs

Western powers wrapped their imperial knucks on the doors of east Asia’s kingdoms at the dawn of the 19th century.

In 1831, the Roman Catholic Church sent several French missionary priests to Korea’s shores. For the first few decades, the priests set up churches, preached, and converted thousands.

Daewongun (대원군), a regent for the infant King Gojong (고종), saw benefits in allying with western powers. Maybe Napoleon could chuck a few armies their way and beat back the Russians.

However, Britain and France’s conquering appetite grew. They started not one, but two drug-assisted wars with China’s Qing Dynasty.

Korea’s elite grew suspicious. Western people and ideas turned bitter on their tongues.

And Joseon paid tribute to the Qing Dynasty. Regent Daewongun couldn’t let thieving Frenchies remain unsanctioned in his borders and look the mighty Chinese emperor in the eye.

So, in 1866, he ordered Joseon soldiers to round up the French Priests and some 8,000 Korean converts.

Known as the Byeongin Persecution (병인박해), soldiers brought many believers to Jeoldu Mountain (절두산; Jeoldusan) on the banks of the Han River and decapitated them.

In 1956, the Catholic church bought the land, known as “beheading mountain,” and erected the Jeoldusan Martyrs’ Shrine (절두산 순교성지), dedicated to all of Korea’s martyrs.

Overlooking western Mangwon Park, the shrine’s visitors included Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa.

Trendy Treads

Have an extra half-a-day. Slip under the expressway to explore a triptych of trendsetting spots.

Hongdae

Ride ten minutes north (directions) from Mangwon Park and discover Hongdae (홍대동). Its main street (홍대거리) is the third most traveled in Seoul, behind only Gangnam and Myeongdong.

Hongdae isn’t an official neighborhood, however. It describes the buildings and streets winding from Hongdae Subway Station (홍대입구역) to Hongik University (홍익대학교).

The title itself is the truncated name of a local prestigious arts and design university:

  • Hongik (홍익) Dae-hak-gyo (대학교; University)

As Seoul’s fortunes multiplied, nightclubs, pricey eateries, and designer stores conquered the streets of Hongdae. Waves of wallet-weighted sightseers followed.

Sinchon Neighborhood

Seated next to Hongdae, 12 minutes off-path (directions), the Sinchon Neighborhood (신촌동; Sinchon-dong) buzzes.

Locals often group Sinchon and Hondgae together. Why?

Sinchon too claims a few important universities, like Ewha Womans University (이화여자대학교) and Yonsei University (연세대학교), the “Y” in the Korea’s top three SKY Universities acronym.

And like Hongdae, the fountain of youths generates a buzzing retail and nightlife, from noraebangs (karaoke rooms) to PC bangs to sunrise-greeting clubs.

Mangwon Neighborhood

The Mangwon Neighborhoods (망원1동; 망원2동; Mangwon-dong) lie two minutes (directions) from Mangwon Park, just across the expressway.


Quieter than Hongdae or Sinchon, Mangwon Neighborhood’s Mangridan Road (망리단길) gained a reputation for its illustrated storefronts and laid back lunches.

Ride Mangwon Park

As you cross over Hongjae Stream Bridge (홍제천교), flow around the river bend holding swimming pools (망원수영장).

Cross under Seongsan Bridge (성산대교; okay crossing point), whose burnt red, half-moon arches add an aesthetic flourish, but no structural integrity.

Just down the path, find parked boats and jet skis and a little blue building (road view) bobbing on the water. Like Ttukseom Hangang Park, Mangwon hosts water warriors, from windsurfers to yachters.

Pedal further down and spot the… Okay. Okay. Very funny, guys. Who left their frigate parked on the Han?

Seoul Battleship Park

13.9 km (Seoul (North Side))
25%

That 102-meter long, 1900-ton Ulsan Class frigate docked (road view) on the river bank is Seoul Battleship Park’s (서울함 공원) flagship… flagship.

First opened in 2017, the naval museum includes three decommissioned Korean naval vessels.

  • Frigate (Battleship) Seoul (1900-ton, 102-meter) is the museum’s largest. Korea built the vessel in 1985. It served in the ROK’s navy for 30 years.
  • Mounted on land beside the museum, you’ll find the Patrol Killer Medium, a 37-meter long coast guide ship first deployed in 1978.
  • The last vessel, a 25-meter long, 190-ton dolphin-class submarine, wedges halfway into the glass wall of the museum. Deployed from 1991 to 2016, the sub patrolled and surveilled from behind enemy lines. Inside the museum, curators bisected the sub and exposed its innards to the paying public.

But why build a naval museum in Mangwon Park?

  1. From the birth of kingdoms to the Korean War, armies and navies wrestled for control over the Han River. Whomever controlled the waterway ruled the peninsula. 
  2. And the Joseon Dynasty’s navy once used this section of river to practice with their warships.

How much is a museum ticket? For ₩3,000, you can tour all the vessels and the museum.

  • Summer: Weekdays – 10 AM to 7 PM, Weekends – 10 AM to 8 PM
  • Winter: Weekdays – 10 AM to 5 PM, Weekends – 10 AM to 6 PM
  • Closed every Monday.

Finished with your nautical excursions? Mount up and hit the cycling path!

The river gleams on your right. On your left, tennis and basketball courts fade into a set of jagged concrete steps (road view).

Hungry? An underpass (road view) offers the best route to Hongdae and Sinchon.

Mangwon Pavilion

Not hungry? How about some history? Take the same underpass (road view) near the concrete steps.

Shoved against the expressway and flanked by apartments (road view) in a nondescript neighborhood sits Mangwon Park’s namesake, the 600-year-old Mangwon Pavilion (망원정터; Mangwon-jeong).

Built for his brother in 1424, King Sejong the Great (조선세종) and other royals would frequent the pavilion, grab a bit of lunch, and watch the naval exercises in the Han River.

One fateful day, amidst a drought, the skies opened up a visit from King Sejong. Locals then referred to the structure as Hweeujeong (희우정), or “happy rain pavilion.”

While time and war destroyed the Han River’s many pavilions, Seoul restored and designated Mangwon a cultural heritage site in 1989.

Mid Mangwon

With bellies and heads topped off, hop back on Mangwon Park’s bike path.

Cut through flora and find Yanghwa Bridge (양화대교; good crossing point). It connects with Seonyu Island Park, an old water treatment plant converted into a sculpture park, and Yanghwa Hangang Park.

After Yanghwa Bridge, Gangbyeon Expressway’s eastbound lanes, hitherto crawling along an inland embankment, rise on concrete pylons and swerve over the Han’s waters.

Jeoldusan Martyrs’ Shrine

Glance up (road view) once the expressway weaves overhead. On your left. It’s “beheading hill,” or Jeoldu Mountain (절두산).

Here, thousands of Korean Catholics suffered martyrdom in the 1860s. Today Jeoldusan Martyrs’ Shrine stands to commemorate their sacrifice.

Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery

Just northwest of the shrine lies Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery (양화진외국인선교사).

Established in 1890 to accommodate a growing foreigner community, prominent Protestants, like Korea’s first Methodist and Presbyterian missionaries, reside in the cemetery. 

Shelling from the Korean War blew holes in some headstones. Caretakers left the damage as a reminder of the war’s devastation.

Mangwon’s End

Mangwon Hangang Park collapses between the encroaching city and river, but continues on, filling any slice of land with trees, benches, and outdoor gyms.

Both east and westbound expressway lanes lift on concrete pylons and flank the bike path, shading park goers from the summer sun.

Slide down a narrow concrete bridge (road view), then peek under the overpass and across the Han. The red arches of Seogang Bridge (서강대교; an okay crossing point) hop first to Bamseom Island (밤섬), then to Yeouido on the river’s south bank.

Keep pedaling. You’ll spot underpasses, one on either side of Seogang Bridge. The first grants (road view) good access to hoppin’ Sinchon Neighborhood.

The park regains girth as we enter Mangwon’s end. Bushels of green droop over concrete retaining walls. A jokgu (족구; hand & foot volley) court sneaks into (road view) the narrow park.

Mapo Bridge

A few hundred meters down from Seogang Bridge, swirling on and off ramps merge onto Mapo Bridge (마포대교). On both sides of the bridge, notice layers of sloping ramp (road view).

Bolted onto the side of Mapo Bridge you’ll find the Bamseom Ecological Experience Center (밤섬생태체험관), one of ten bridge observatories in Seoul. This platform offers the best view of the uninhabited Bamseom Island (밤섬).

The last kilometer of Mangwon Hangang Park opens onto green slopes and crosses into the Yongsan District.

Up ahead, arriving at the heart of old Seoul, the simple V-shaped pylons of Wonhyo Bridge (원효대교) mark Ichon Hangang Park’s start line.

Yes, those switchback ramps (road view) lead to the Mapo Bridge’s main deck, providing an excellent point to cross the south side of the Han. 

After crossing, a ramp on the south side (road view) leads to Yeouido Hangang Park’s bike paths.

Yeouido Certification Center

Are you a stamp seeker? Seoul’s north side bike path contains a fatal flaw. It doesn’t stop by every certification center.

Yes. The south side hits two thirds of Seoul’s red booths. But the Ttukseom and Gwangnaru certification centers are interchangeable.

Yeouido Certification Center isn’t. You’ll need to cross. If you’re in a hurry, we recommend crossing at Mapo Bridge. Ride the last half of Yeouido Island, grab Yeouido’s stamp (map), then shoot back to the north side on Hangang Bridge (directions).

(You will miss the first cluster of installations in Ichon’s Hangang Art Park.)

South Side

South Side

여의도
인증센터
16 km (10 mi) from start
Google Maps Logo
Google
The logo for Naver Maps.
Naver
Yeouido certification center checkpoint stamp for Korea's Bicycle Certification system.

Ichon Hangang Park

19.8 km (Seoul (North Side))
36%
  • Length: 10.2 km (3rd of 11)
  • Area: 922,185 m² (4th of 11)
  • Start (West): Wonhyo Bridge (원효대교)
  • End (East): Jungnang Stream Bridge (중랑천교)

Ichon Hangang Park (이촌한강공원) spans the middle of Seoul along the north side of the Han River.

While the park’s eastern bits hang under Gangbyeon Expressway, green fields and rec facilities highlight the western front near Nodeul Island (노들섬)

Most of Ichon Park lies in Yongsan, a historic district just outside the ancient Joseon capital’s fortress walls.

Let’s view a snapshot of the area’s history, then roll some pavement.

Ichon Park Profile

Ichon Hangang Park gets its name from Ichon Neighborhood (이촌동; Ichon-dong), where the park’s facilities sit.

In the past, the river banks here held a wide sandy beach. Countless generations of Seoulites bathed in the blazing summer sun.

However, 1960s’ boom brought development. Now high-rise real estate and high-income mortals haunt the grounds north of Gangbyeon Expressway.

Let’s dig a little more into Yongsan’s history.

The Past

Modern Seoul sprang from the Joseon Dynasty’s (대조선국; 1392 ACE ~ 1897 ACE) old capital, called Hanseong (한성), which translates to: Han (한; Han River) Fortress (성; seong).

Joseon’s founding king wanted to build a defensive city near Korea’s most important waterway (the Han River). So he and his military advisers chose a site surrounded by four mountains:

To enhance the natural fortifications, engineers threw up walls and gates around the capital.

Inside the walls (사대문안) sat the kingdom’s inner sanctum, including royal palaces and government offices. Outside (한성부), commoners, farmers and traders dwelled.

Yongsan

Where does Yongsan District (용산구; Yongsan-gu) steal its name? One or two sources:

  1. Yong Mountain (용산; Yong-san), which sits in the middle of the district. Its name means Dragon (용; Yong) Mountain (산; san).
  2. A fable from the Baekje Dynasty, the Han River’s first kingdom, described two dragons (용; Yong) that appeared over the river near Yongsan District.

Before Seoul vacuumed up it up in 1946, the district was a part of Old Outer Seoul (성저십리).

However, while Joseon’s rulers dominated development around the capital, Yongsan brimmed with commerce and trade days of old. Why?

Yongsan Port (용산항). Though one of many along the Han, it sat closest to the inner sanctum. Trading posts and storage houses rose to receive vessels brimming with fine goods, enriching and enticing savvy merchants.

Some believe Yongsan birthed capitalism in Korea.

Tip! Neighborhood Names

The neighborhood of Seobinggo (서빙고동; Seobinggo-dong), which Ichon Park passes, got is name from its Joseon-era trade: west (서; seo) ice house (빙고; bingo).

Joseon era workers chopped blocks of the cold stuff from upriver mountaintops, sailed it down to Yongsan, and kept it in cold storage until royals desired a cool glass of something.

Foreign Town

Yongsan Port’s ships and easy money brought something else: foreigners. French, Chinese, Japanese merchants and ideologs soon settled the area.

In 1884, after a few battles and purges, the Joseon government designated Yongsan an “open district.” This gave foreigners freedom to settle and/or spread their religion.

Military Town

Japan made a few deep cosmetic changes to Seoul when they occupied Korea (1910~1945):

  1. They tore down the old capital’s walls and expanded the city.
  2. They razed many royal palaces and sacred shrines.
  3. And they set up Yongsan Garrison (용산수비대) near Yongsan Mountain.

The military base served as the Imperial Army’s headquarters in Korea until their defeat following WWII.

During the Korean War (1950~1953), the United States Army headquartered their command in Yongsan Garrison, which comprised a few old outposts surrounded by dirt roads and forest.

The post-war economic boom grew Seoul’s appetite. By the 1960s, the city surrounded the military base. Skyscrapers rose around single-story ranch houses and Burger Kings.

(Glance at a map of Seoul today. Notice an oversized green patch (satellite view) of land? That’s not a park. Map makers painted those pristine trees over top.)

In 2018, U.S. military moved to Camp Humphreys south of Seoul and handed most of the prime real estate back to Seoul.

Foreign Towns 2.0

Yongsan Garrison supercharged the foreign community in Yongsan. Years ago, bars and eateries near the base swelled with cash gorged soldiers.

Though most of the military folks hightailed it south, Yongsan’s foreigner neighborhoods kept their international flavor, including:

  • Itaewon Neighborhood (이태원동; Itaewon-dong), Seoul’s most famed foreigner neighborhood. Just down the road from the old Yongsan Garrison, it holds an eclectic mix of restaurants, nightclubs, and religious institutions.
  • Haebangchon (해방촌; a.k.a. HBC) folds between old Yongsan Garrison and Namsan Mountain. This quieter area hosts expats, bars, and cafés.
  • Little Tokyo (리틀 도쿄) is an unofficial area in the Ichon Neighborhood. A pocket of Japanese restaurants, shops, and expatriates live here.

Ride Ichon Park

Enough with the history. Let’s ride!

From Mangwon Hangang Park, sail under Wonhyo Bridge (원효대교) and into Ichon Hangang Park.

Glance across the river as you curl under the expressway. You’ll see the 24 karat gold sheen of Building 63 (63빌딩; 60 floors; 250 m) on Yeouido Island.

Hangang Art Park

A hundred meters down the path, Ichon Park opens into a wide green field (road view). In springtime, trees droop nets of leaves over picnickers.

This dollop of land, with dirt paths and a pinch of a pond, holds part of the Hangang Art Park (한강예술공원).

A park within a park? Yes and no. Thirty-seven (37) outdoor sculptures and art installations inhabiting both Ichon and Yeouido Parks (map) make up Hangang Art Park.

Artists from Korea to America to Germany to Chile contributed artworks, which range from intriguing to enigmatic. Here’s a brief list in Ichon Park:

Keep those legs churning through Ichon and you’ll discover plenty more gawk-able pieces.

Hangang Railway Bridges

Walking and bike path along the Han River in Seoul. The Hangang Railroad Bridge spans the river in the background.
Completed in 1900, the green Hangang Railway Bridge (한강철교) was the first modern bridge to span the Han RIver. It was destroyed during the Korean War, but rebuilt a few decades later.

A cluster of four railroad bridges (aerial view) meets you midway through Ichon Park’s first expanse. Though built at different times, each claims the name Hangang Railway Bridge (한강철교).

Today they carry both rail and subway lines. However, those pillars hold the country’s history. 

Peep Bridge A: the inside single-track bridge with smaller green trestles. This bridge with an unremarkable name bears a remarkable past.

The Wide Han

The Han River is no ordinary river. Its width in Seoul reaches a kilometer (1,000 m; 3,280 ft) between banks.

How wide is that? The Thames and Seine in London and Paris measure 450 (1,476 ft) and 200 meters (656 ft) at their widest.

When Bridge A opened in 1900, it became the first to cross the Han’s legendary expanse.

Hangang Bridge

Continue down the bike path, pass a restored rice paddy teeming with wetland insects and plants. Less than a half a kilometer later rests Hangang Bridge (한강대교).

Engineers originally erected a footbridge in 1917. Like its railroad neighbors, it allowed pedestrians to cross the river on foot for the first time.

Hangang Bridge (한강대교) offers an easy crossing point for bikers and pedestrians. From the north, an elevator (road view) and stairs will snatch you off the bike path. Ramps (road view) on the south side lead to Banpo Hangang Park.

Detonation of the Hangang Bridges

At the start of the Korean War in 1950, North Korean troops surged across the 38th Parallel.They were tracking mud on Seoul’s doormat within a few days.

A panicked colonel in the ROK (South Korean military) ordered the detonation of all bridges across the Han. That included Hangang Railway Bridges A, B, and C, and the Hangang footbridge.

However, 4,000 souls were still fleeing across. Eight hundred perished.

Seoul’s economic explosion post-war rebuilt the Hangang Bridge as a vehicle and pedestrian bridge in (1958), and restored Railway Bridges A and B (1969), and C (1957).

Hangang Bridge Observatories

Before pedaling onwards, notice two boomerang shaped boxes bolted to the side of the Hangang Bridge’s deck.

Modeled after modernist lighthouses, they’re two of ten bridge observatories on Seoul’s bridges.

Bridge Observatories

Atop Seoul’s Han River bridges sit ten observatories. Some hold cafés. Others offer observation decks to view natural and cityscape sights.

Nodeul Island

Now follow the wavy steel trestles down the length of Hangang Bridge. Midway, cuddling against the Han River’s currents, nestles Nodeul Island (노들섬).

Nature didn’t create this drop of green in the Han. Until builders erected the Hangang Bridge in 1917, it was the tip of a sandy beach stretching from the Yongsan District’s banks.

When engineers built the first Hangang Bridge (1917), they drove the bridge’s center pillar into bedrock and laid stone and earthen reinforcements on the sandy beach around it.

Over the years, dredging and changes to the Han’s flow swept away the golden beach, leaving Nodeul Island’s teardrop shape.

Future Island

Until the early 2000s, Nodeul hosted communal farms and beekeepers. Then in 2018, developers seized the western half of the island and shoved it into the future.

Today you’ll find slender plazas connecting lucid-chic buildings. Amongst its facilities, you’ll find a culture complex, performance hall, bookstore, offices, and more.The island’s modern amenities and unique placement attracted the K-Pop music videos and the Silicon-Valley-inspired K-Drama Start-Up.

Mid Ichon

Get your gears out of molasses and roll on! Up ahead comes the meat of Ichon’s facilities.

Fly by dry docked boats, slipways descending to the river, and X-Games Skate Park.

Hangang Crossing

Stop. Peep the dock (road view) shaped like a futuristic Korean turtle boat. Among its full menu of water activities, Hangang Crossing Program (한강도하체험장) is the most popular. It tasks a group of eight to paddle across the river to Banpo Hangang Park before rounding back to Ichon.

Continuing onward, the bike path veers from the waters edge. More unique Hangang Art Park installations perch between an inline skating rink and Nature Learning Center.

Up comes Dongjak Bridge (동작대교; a good crossing point). Holding two observatories on the south end, at night the Art Park’s Night Rainbow (밤 무지개) lights up the bridge’s underbelly.

Banpo Bridge

24.5 km (Seoul (North Side))
44%
A picture of the lower deck of Banpo Grand Fountain Bridge in Seoul, South Korea.
Banpo Grand Fountain Bridge's lower deck allows cyclists the quickest crossing point along the Han River in Seoul.

Keep churning passed tennis courts and a color-splashed playground. Soon Han River’s superstar bridge comes into view: the Banpo Grand Bridge Fountain (반포대교).

What makes it special? Two things:

  1. It’s a double decker. The top deck allows vehicles. The bottom platform, which connects with the bike path, lets folks, bikes, and cars cross the river from ground level.
  2. It’s the largest fountain bridge in the world.

Fountain? Yes. At points in the day and night, 380 water jets popoff from Banpo’s top deck. At night, the LEDs spread intricate color patterns.

Banpo Bridge (반포대교) provides the quickest path for cyclists and pedestrians across the Han. No elevators, ramps, or stairs. Just a straight shot across the river.

The path forks just before (road view) Banpo Bridge.

  • Ride the right fork and cross the bridge’s lower deck, which holds vehicle and bike roads.
  • Follow the left fork up a slope and hop the intersection — the express route.
    • (Both paths merge again a hundred meters down the way.)

Take the right fork. It’s more scenic.

Just before you cross under the bridge, dart your eyes across the river. Spy three artificial islands (road view) on the banks of Banpo Hangang Park.

Called Some Sevit, these glass structures adorn many Korean and Hollywood films, and countless b-roll footage of Seoul.

A picture of Some Sevit (세빛섬) on the Han River in Seoul.
Some Sevit (세빛섬) is a collections of three artificial floating island and performance stage mored just beside Banpo Grand Fountain Bridge on the south side Hangang Bicycle Path.

National Museum & Old Town

Now it’s decision time!

  • Choice A: Continue onward along the Hangang Bike Path.
  • Choice B: Detour two kilometers into town (directionsand visit one of Asia’s largest museums.
National Museum

Choice B! Okay.

Turn left and head up the tunnel (road view) that feeds Banpo Bridge. Once you pop up into the city, follow the bottom of the old Yongsan Garrison until you stumble upon (road view) a metal clad building with a hole in it (road view). 

Korea’s premier exhibition spaces, The National Museum of Korea (국립중앙박물관) claims 39,000 artifacts, six halls, and 50 rooms full of permanent and visiting exhibitions.

Yongsan Family Park (용산가족공원) surrounds the museum. Once a golf course for US military officers, the park offers a pond, trails, and one of Seoul’s 18 I•Seoul•U signs.

Old Town

Have a half a day? An entire week? Don’t stop the detour.

Continue northward, away from the Han River. Cross into Jongno and Jung, two districts that formed Hanseong, Joseon Dynasty’s old capital.

Along this ten-plus kilometer detour (directions), discover some of Seoul’s top highlights:

Gyeongbok Palace was the Joseon Dynasty's first palace. Today it's the most photographed and visited in Seoul.
Gyeongbok Palace was the Joseon Dynasty's first palace. Today it's the most photographed and visited in Seoul.

End of Ichon

Not enough time? Carry on with the Hangang Bike Path? Choice A it is.

Jump across Banpo Bridge’s intersection and slide under the expressway. Dotted with V-shaped pillars, a riverside patio offers the best vantage point to watch the fountain bridge’s show.

Infrastructure Nether Regions

What do you prefer? Rolling hills? Green pastures? Or the man-made maze of steel-reinforced concrete assemblages that underpin today’s modern cities?

The latter? Well, you’re in for a treat. Ending Ichon Park, the next four kilometers (directions) wiggles through the underbelly of the Gangbyeon Expressway.

It’s not all gray brutalism, however.

Ichon turns concrete lemons into recreational lemonade. Tucked behind columns or laid between embankments, find outdoor gyms, bench bedecked patios, and rows of sports courts.

In summer, you’ll also find troops of park goers escaping the sun. The combo of overhead shade and river breeze relieves folks sans air conditioning.

Itaewon
Han River at sunset in Seoul.
A view of Itaewon Neighborhood climbing a hillside north side of the Han River in Seoul.

A kilometer after Banpo Bridge, find a ramp veering off path (road view), one of several points of exit into the city.

Want to visit Itaewon (이태원), Seoul’s premier foreigner neighborhood? This first exit provides the shortest route. Follow it to street level and scoot 1.5 kilometers (directions) until Itaewon Station (이태원역), the neighborhood’s nexus.

Itaewon inhabits a hillside climbing to Nam Mountain (남산) and N Seoul Tower (남산서울타워). A splash of diversity in homogenous Korea, the neighborhood gained a reputation for:

Infrastructure Jenga

Let’s keep slithering below the expressway’s girdle. 

Find fields and another exit point (road view) before Hannam Bridge (한남대교; okay crossing point; south side observatory).

After Hannam Bridge, Ichon Park squeezes to only two bike lanes before unfurling into a grid of courts and gyms (road view) sprinkled with rectangle pillars.

Slip down a kilometer of green and arrive at infrastructure Jenga (road view).

Ipsokpo

Past Dongho Bridge, the overpass splits and veers into the river (road view), away from the bike path.

Zoom into hanging green trees. Yongbi Bridge (용비교) slips overhead as you slide around a curve and meet Jungnang Stream (중랑천).

Jungnang Stream Bridge (중랑천교) marks the end of Ichon Hangang Park. Pause midway down the bridge (and move to the side).

Called Ipsokpo (입석포), during the Joseon Dynasty these waters drew fishermen to standing stones along the tributary’s banks. Today, fish still leap from the shimmering plane in come fall.

Now, let’s cross into Ttukseom Hangang Park.

Ttukseom Hangang Park

29.2 km (Seoul (North Side))
52%
  • Length: 11.5 km (2nd of 11)
  • Area: 825,000 m² (5th of 11)
  • Start (West): Jungnang Stream Bridge (중랑천교)
  • End (East): Gwangjin Bridge (광진교)
J-Bug Cultural Complex is a community art space and unique, riverside landmark.
The J-Bug Cultural Complex in Ttukseon Hangang Park is a community art space and unique, riverside landmark.

Ttukseom Hangang Park (뚝섬한강공원) is the easternmost park on the Han’s north side. Known as a Seoul getaway in the 50s and 60s, city dwellers still visit the park for fun and flair.

Let’s skim a history book, then go for a ride.

Ttukseom Park Profile

Though outside the fortified walls of the ancient Joseon capital, Ttukseom’s reputation for sun and sport lived in Seoulites’ hearts and minds for hundreds of years.

Before a Hangang Park:

  • Joseon kings hunted here.
  • Joseon ports traded here.
  • And Seoulites bathed on its sandy beaches in the 50s and 60s.  

Ttukseom Island

Ttukseom Hangang Park borrows its name from Ttukseom Island (뚝섬), an island that never was.

In ye olde days, downpours swelled the river, forcing water into flood plains around Ttukseom, earning the patch of land “island” (섬; seom) status.

Today, since developers tamed land and river, Ttukseom forever remains connected.

Old Ttukseom

Early Joseon Dynasty’s history says King Taejo (1335~1408), the kingdom’s first ruler, hunted on Ttukseom’s grounds over 151 times.

Whenever he ventured onto the island, royal guards unfurled a flag bearing ox and pheasant tails named dokdo (독도), or poison. Overtime the word shifted to Ttuk (뚝). 

Ttukseom Port

Hanseong, Joseon’s old capital, attracted trading ports up and down Han River’s banks. Each port erected granaries to store crops that flowed from upstream farms.

Ttukseom’s port specialized in timber and firewood from Gangwon Province (강원도). Revenue service officials often visited the lucrative port to collect the king’s due.

Ttukseom Ferry

Because of its infamous width, ferries were the only way across the Han River until Korea built the Hangang Railroad Bridge (1900).

For hundreds of years, Ttukseom’s ferry (뚝섬 나루터), a 12-by-5 meter wood raft, paddled produce up from Gangnam’s (강남구) rural farms to Dongdaemun Market (동대문시장), and brought Buddhist worshippers south to Bongeunsa Temple (봉은사).

So when did Ttukseom’s ferry service stop? 1970.

1970?! That’s a little late. Weren’t there bridges by then? Yes. But they didn’t extend to this still pastoral part of Seoul.

Until builders completed Yeongdong Bridge (영동대교), you’d find Ttukseom’s creaky plank boat ferrying cars, motorbikes, and up to 500 folks a day across the Han. 

Ttukseom Getaway

Ask many older Seoulites about the area and they’ll tell you about days long gone, of sunny days, clear waters, and hundreds of bathers cooling off on Ttukseom.

In 1940, Japan built an amusement park on Ttukseom, minus the rollercoasters and Tilt-A-Whirls.

From the 50s to 70s, Seoulites fled the crowded capital for Ttukseom. With boats, rafts, and old tire tubes, they splashed on sandbar beaches and lounged under shady cottonwood trees.

Throwing some vice in the pot, in 1950 Seoul built the country’s first horse racing track where the Seoul Forest (서울숲) stands today. A few years later, US officers filled the track’s inside green with a seven-hole golf course, a not too uncommon practice.

Ttukseom Factories

Ttukseom’s bucolic beauty vanished in the 70s.

First, the city dredged the Han River, hoping the deepened bed would reduce flooding. The side effect? Bye bye beaches. Bye bye shallow sandbars.

Second, factories churning out steel, textiles, and shoes invaded the nearby neighborhood of Seongsu (성수동1가, 성수동2가). Runoff from them and other upstream industries forced the government to ban swimming. (Today, it’s fine to swim in certain areas if you fill out a waiver.)

Ttukseom Hangang Renovation

The 1988 Seoul Olympics spurred Seoul to clean up the Han River. They banned dumping and tried to restore the waterway’s wetlands.

The Hangang Park System absorbed and renovated Ttukseom in the 80s, flipping its switch from polluted backwater back to recreational getaway.

Ride Ttukseom Park

At the end of Jungnang Stream Bridge (중랑천교) the bike path splits (road view).

Turn right.

Seoul Forest

Ride towards the intersection of Jungnang Stream (중랑천) flows into the Han River.

Notice an abundance of green branching over the bike path, silver-topped reeds beside. They make up the outer fringes of Seoul Forest (서울숲). 

The forest park occupies the western edge of Ttukseom Island. Before it opened in 2005, the area hosted:

  • Hunting grounds and military training fields for Joseon kings (1392~1897).
  • Seoul’s first water treatment facility (수도박물관; 1908). 
  • Seoul’s first horse racetrack (1954~1989), which included a small golf course in the infield. (Racehorse statues stand on the park’s entrance plaza.)

Planners divided Seoul Forest’s 595,000 square meters into five mini-parks, each with unique characteristics:  

  • Culture & Arts Park — plaza, visitors center, and sculptures.
  • Experience Learning Center — old water treatment plant, insect and flower gardens.
  • Eco Forest — plentiful trees, walking paths, and a small zoo.
  • Wetland Ecology Garden — bird observatory and wetlands gardens.
  • Hangang Riverside Park — riverside area with bike paths and marina.
Seoul Forest Access

Want to get into Seoul Forest? The parallel expressway poses a challenge. However, a series of over and underpasses can carry you into this coniferous enclave.

Ride around the bike path’s hairpin turn (road view) and rejoin the Han River. Ride a couple hundred meters and meet your first jump:

1. A sharp turn (road view) near the marina leads to an epic overpass (서울숲12번입구; aerial view). It’ll shoot you over the expressway and deep into Seoul Forest.

Further up the path, on ramps overhead swoop and merge onto Seongsu Bridge (성수대교; okay crossing point).

2. Just past the bridge’s main deck, a 180-degree turn (road view) leads to a tunnel (서울숲13번입구) that pops out just inside the park.

Stay on the bike path for one more entrance. Just down the river you’ll spot:

3. Seongsu Cloud Bridge’s (성수구름다리; road view) spiral staircase and elevator will lift you over the expressway and set you down near the Waterworks Museum (수도박물관).

Seongsu Neighborhood

Continue past Seoul Forest. The narrow walking and bike paths cling to land between the water and concrete embankments.

Every few hundred kilometers, white banister staircases crown dark tunnel pedestrian underpasses (road view).

Where do these caves lead? The Brooklyn of Seoul. Seongsu Neighborhood (성수동1가, 성수동2가; Seongsu-dong), a hip, retrofitted industrial paradise.

History of Seongsu

After the Korean War, Korea’s economic ascension arrived in tiers.

  1. First, the country built infrastructure and improved agriculture.
  2. Next, Korea manufactured raw materials, like steel and petrochemicals.
  3. Then, the economy pivoted to making things.

In the 1970s, factories overwhelmed Seongsu and pumped out uncomplicated goods, like textiles, books, radios, and shoes, earning the neighborhood the title “Seoul’s Factory District.”

By the 1990s, however, the nation shifted on to manufacturing semiconductors and smartphones. And the average Korean moved from the factory floor to the office cubicle.

Seongsu’s factories belly-flopped into the 21st century. Many closed. Only bespoke shoe and clothing shops remained.

Seongsu Rebirth

What do you call it when privileged, educated folks on a budget invade a cheap, down-and-out neighborhood? The beginnings of gentrification!

In the 2000s, entrepreneurs snatched up desolated brick buildings. They flayed and gutted them, tattooed their weathered exteriors with murals, then stuffed their innards with artisan cafés, shabby-chic eateries, and exhibition halls. 

Seongsu Hot-Spots

Want to visit this hipster enclave? After Seoul Forest, take the third underpass (road view). Ride up the road half-a-kilometer (directions). Bam! You’ve reached the heart.

What can you do there?

Want a taste of the old neighborhood? Handmade Shoe Street (수제화거리) offers rows of footwear craftspeople, which accounts for about 70% of domestic shoe manufacturing. 

Mid Ttukseom Park

Get your analog doting, hair bang framed glasses, caffeine infused bones back on the Hangang Bike Path and keep chugging.

Yeongdong Bridge’s (영동대교) blue-streaked deck leaps into view. Glance right as you ride under the bridge’s deck. Spot exercise equipment and:

Yeongdong Bridge offers an easy crossing point.

Under the bridge’s north side, stairs (road view) lead to the bridge’s deck. On the south side, a ramp (road view) flows into Jamsil Hangang Park’s bike path.

Sail under Yeongdong Bridge and enter the Ttukseom’s bulky tummy.

As the park widens between the Han and expressway, spot a fork in the bike path (road view).

Stop! Look. The top of the fork (road view). Notice something? Yes. A little red booth.

뚝섬전망콤플렉스
인증센터
33 km (20.5 mi) from start
Google Maps Logo
Google
Link button to Kakao Maps directions.
Kakao
Tteukseom Observation Complex certification center checkpoint stamp for Korea's Bicycle Certification system.

Ttukseom Observatory Complex is the first and only certification center on the north side.

Ttukseom’s stamp counts towards the Gwangnaru Bicycle Park stamp. You don’t need to hop the river and visit the little red booth in Gwangnaru Hangang Park to receive the Hangang Bicycle Path certification. (You need to cross and collect the Yeouido stamp, though.)

Your ink dry? Good. Stick to the right fork and keep it rolling along the river’s edge.

Just down the way you’ll pass 911 Water Rescue Station and E-Land Han River Cruise (이랜드크루즈) marinas.

<small>(Han River cruises from Ttukseom operate for groups of thirty or more. The marina’s in Yeouido and Jamsil Hangang Parks sail for everyone.)</small>

J-Bug Cultural Complex
33.3 km (Seoul (North Side))
60%

Ahead a halo on ramp spirals onto Cheongdam Bridge (청담대교; impossible to cross).

Below… below… What is that (road view)? A powder sugar donut spaceship? A modernist matte white caterpillar that wiggled from the mind of a daft architect?

Coincidentally, yes. The second one.

Drafters modeled J-Bug Cultural Complex (뚝섬자벌레) after the larva of a moth. But why “J?” Check the satellite (map). It’s shaped like a J.

Excellent! What is it? It’s a community complex three-stories:

  • 1st floor — The J’s tail connects with Ttukseom Resort Station (뚝섬유원지역; Line 7; exit 3). The building’s neck holds exhibition spaces, a video hall, and library. An observatory facing the Han River and a performance space occupy J’s bottom swoop.
  • 2nd floor — A library for children and meeting spaces.
  • 3rd floor — meeting rooms and offices

J-Bug acts as Ttukseom Park’s focal point. On sunny days, in the shade of the white beast, picnickers devour gimbap, rollerbladers weave, lovers hold hands. And every Saturday (12~4 PM), a flea market hums under J’s pale belly.

Facility Aplenty

Stop your gawking. Push on into Ttukseom’s multitudes. 

Beyond Cheongdam Bridge, over an embankment, rests a swimming pool (road view) that doubles as a snow sledding slope in the winter months.

What’s moored to the riverbanks up ahead (road view)? A colonial tall ship? Sort of. 

Absent a captain and sails, a restaurant fills the bowels of the Arirang House (아리랑하우스). Its deck offers a glittering view of Lotte World Tower come sunset. 

Push forward and stumble upon Ttukseom Waterside Square, a huge concrete gathering space capped by two fountains.

Past Ttukseom Square, after a field filled with day-camping families, you’ll reach Ttukseom’s side-by-side nature zones.

  1. A rose garden with a fountain, flower beds, and red, yellow, pink rose tunnels.
  2. A Nature Learning Center with a twisting network of wooded walking paths.

Bungalows (road view) and pontoon docks (road view) flank riders further down the bike path, displaying Ttukseom’s hidden talent: watersports.

Over 50 sports clubs, ranging from kayaking, to jet skiing, to paddle boarding, call the park home. The Ttukseom Windsurfing Resort (뚝섬 윈드서핑장) attracts the most aqua athletes.

Ttukseom’s End

The river and expressway pinch Ttukseom until all but bike and pedestrian lanes remain.

Jamsil Bridge

Pedal until Jamsil Bridge (잠실대교; a good crossing point; observatory) arrives.

Stop and inspect the bridge’s design. Notice five thick concrete supports (road view) topped with double-windowed shacks on its north end. What are those?

Along with Gimpo Bridge (김포대교) downriver, engineers installed a weir, or water gate under Jamsil Bridge. Why?

Before extensive dredging and water flow management, the Han River had a mercurial nature. Sometimes flooding. Often running dry.

Those double-windowed shakes atop are control rooms that raise and lower an underwater gate, regulating how much wet stuff passes.

But doesn’t that hurt the river’s ecosystem? Yes. So engineers installed a fish bridge on the south side of the River in Jamsil Hangang Park.

Just before you reach Jamsil Bridge’s main deck, the flat path spices up its bland stew and chucks in a chunk of hill. The incline snakes 13-meters upwards and settles under the expressway.

Jamsil Railroad Bridge

Pop out from under the expressway and roll along a ridge flanked by gated water management facilities.

Near the last building, find a fork in the path (road view).

  • The right fork follows the blue-lined path down to the riverside.
  • The left fork climbs a red painted ramp to Jamsil Railroad Bridge.

Other than Banpo Bridge, Jamsil Railroad Bridge offers one of the easiest crossing points along the Han, landing at the intersection of Jamsil and Gwangnaru Hangang Parks.

Jamsil Railroad Bridge (잠실철교) holds three lanes:

  • A one-way, northbound road for vehicles occupies the east lane.
  • The middle lane holds tracks for Seoul Subway Line 2.
  • Bicycle and walking paths run along the west side of the bridge.

Up the ramp onto Jamsil Railroad Bridge, discover two more options:

Dong Seoul Bus Terminal
A picture of the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal (동서울종합버스터미널) in Seoul, South Korea.
The Dong Seoul (동서울종합버스터미널), located near Jamsil Railroad Bridge, is one of Korea's busiest bus terminals.

Discover one of the nation’s busiest bus terminals: Dong Seoul Bus Terminal (동서울종합터미널; East Seoul Bus Terminal).

What’s so landmark-y about a bus terminal?

Intercity buses are the best way to travel with your bike in Korea. And along with Seoul Express Bus Terminal on the south side, Dong Seoul Terminal daily carries thousands of passengers (and bicycles) to outer provinces, cities, and towns.

Olympic Bridge

Take the right fork before Jamsil Railroad Bridge. Bike down to the Han River.

Through trees weeping green, look for a bridge (road view) with 24 cables tied to four towers holding a cauldron with twisting, silvery flames. That’s Olympic Bridge (올림픽대교).

Planners “proposed” that the bridge connect north Seoul with Olympic Park (올림픽공원) across the river in the Songpa District (송파구), which held much of the 1988 Summer Olympics.

Why “proposed?” Olympic Bridge was Korea’s first to employ cable-stayed architecture. Limited technology and miscalculations led to the bridge’s partial collapse and delayed completion.

Gwangjin Bridge

Churn on under the Olympic Bridge. More drooping branches, outdoor gyms flow down the contracted path.

A kilometer later, swoop below Gangbyeon Expressway as it sneaks under a pair of bridges lying 200 meters apart:

Gwangjin Bridge marks the end of Ttukseom, the last of Seoul’s Hangang Park. It also tucks a secret under its tummy.

Bolted to the bottom of the bridge’s deck (road view), Riverview 8th Avenue (광진교 8번가) is a three-story observatory hanging above the Han’s currents. Inside, find a performance space, café, and viewing platform.

(To access the observatory by bike, dismount and walk down the western walking path.)

A ramp (road view) carries you to the top of Gwangjin Bridge. Hop the road (road view) to access the eastern bike lane. (The west side’s walking path forbids bikes.) The bridge lands in the heart of Gwangnaru Hangang Park.

Gwangnaru Bicycle Park Certification Center

If you’re a completionist, Gwangjin Bridge (광진교) provides the best crossing point to collect the Gwangnaru Bicycle Park (광나루자전거공원인증센터) stamp.

Remember that Ttukseom and Gwangnaru certification centers are interchangeable. You can complete the Hangang Bicycle Path certification with just one.

South Side

South Side

광나루자전거공원
인증센터
38 km (23.5 mi) from start
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Link button to Kakao Maps directions.
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Gwangnaru Bicycle Park​ certification center checkpoint stamp for Korea's Bicycle Certification system.
Namesakes and a Concrete Box

So that’s it? We’re out of Seoul? Not quite. Ride on. 

The expressway jumps in the river, creating a valley of concrete pillars and apartment faces.

Down the road, a courtyard opens (road view) below a hill topped with the Grand Walkerhill Seoul (그랜드 워커힐 서울; blt. 1963), whose hotels bear the names of US Generals. Each served during the Korean War, including Douglas MacArthur, Walton Walker, and James Van Fleet.

A skip down the bike path Seoul’s last northern highlight: a big concrete box (road view).

Once a water intake station, the SFAC (Seoul Foundation for the Arts and Culture) hollowed out the building’s inside and installed the Seoul Street Arts Creation Center (거리예술창작센터), a venue dedicated to street and contemporary circus arts.

Guri & Namyangju Cities

39.7 km (Seoul (North Side))
71%

Just beyond the concrete box, ten colored, L-shaped pillars (road view) mark the end of Seoul. When the path flips from gray to red, Guri City (구리시) you tread.

This last section of the Hangang Bicycle Path in Seoul covers 16 kilometers (directions) and traverses two of Seoul’s eastern satellite cities: Guri and Namyangju.

Guri and Namyang: Twin Satellites

Guri City (구리시) and Namyangju City (남양주시) lie side-by-side on the Han River just east of Seoul.

In 1980, Namyangju broke away from the northern Yangju County (양주시). (Namyangju translates to South (남; nam) Yangju.) Then, Guri split from Namyangju in 1986.

Since their separation, they’ve pondered rekindling their romance and merging. They share the same regional history, commuter train, and even a downtown.

Size & People

Guri claims less land and people (33 sq km; 193,954 folks) than Namyangju (458 sq km; 725,031 folks). However, Guri is dense (5,846 per sq km), tripling Namyangju (1,576 per sq km).

Why is Namyangju spread thin?

Greenbelt

In the 1970s, Seoul enacted a greenbelt. It forbade apartments and industry to spread into designated spaces around the city’s perimeter. Just farms and nature.

Both Guri and Namyangju sit in the greenbelt, limiting their growth.

Guri petitioned the government and won back bits of territory for development. 

Namyangju? Not so successful. The greenbelt still grips the city’s mountainous heart, forcing its populace into patches: in narrow valleys, along streams and the Han River.

Entertainment

Because the rural rules Namyangju, the city lives without a downtown.

Where do Namyangju-ites buy a new fridge or browse the latest trends?

Guri. The city clusters on a wedge between the Han River and Wangsuk Stream (왕숙천). Downtown, department stores, movie theaters, and restaurants emanate from an ancient stone bridge (road view).

Industry

The tale of two cities continues in their industrial profiles. 

While the greenbelt halts Namyangu’s industrial aspirations, it doesn’t limit agriculture. So Namyanjgu got to farming and built a reputation for organic produce.

Like most post-industrial countries, service jobs dominate Guri. The city’s office dwelling folk earn more and enjoy greater stability than their neighbor. 

Cultural Relics

For hundreds of years, the territory where Guri and Namyangju cuddled against Hanseong (한성), Joseon Dynasty’s capital.

When kings died, their successors built their gravesites in the surrounding areas. Today you can find several UNESCO designated Joseon-era tombs and more relics.

Ride Guri City

Welcome to Guri City (구리시). The Gangbyeon Expressway hops from the Han back overhead for a short stretch.

Mount Acha

Pop out from under the expressway underworld and find Mount Acha (아차산) rising on your left (aerial view). Near its 200-meter peak rests the low wall remain of Acha Fortress (아차산성).

At the start of Korea’s Three Kingdoms era, the Kingdom of Baekje (백제; 18 BCE ~ 660 ACE) built the fortress to defend its claim over the Han River, the most strategically important waterway on the peninsula.

​​Guri Han River Park

Pedal along as the green space beside the path unfolds into Guri Han River Park (구리한강시민공원), the first Han River park outside of Seoul. 

Passed Guri Amsa Bridge (구리암사대교; good crossing point) spreads one of Guri’s nine scenic spots: flower gardens (road view). In May, they bloom blazing yellow rapeseed. In September, pink petaled cosmos open.

Wangsuk Stream

Beyond Guri Han River Park, dip under Gangdong Bridge (강동대교; impossible to cross) and meet the head of Wangsuk Stream (왕숙천), which separates Guri from Namyangju City.

The path pivots left and creeps up the stream’s western banks.

Stop at the first bridge (road view). Notice the blue bicycle signs. Where do they point? Right! So turn right to continue along Hangang Bicycle Path.

Missed the turn? Prepare for a 30-plus kilometer detour up Wangsuk Stream Bike Path (왕숙천자전거길) deep into Namyangju.

Guri Tower

45.3 km (Seoul (North Side))
81%

Don’t cross Wangsuk Stream just yet. Glance upstream at Guri Tower (구리타워).

This ain’t your normal 100 meter tall spire. View the gray puffing (road view) from the top. Yep, it’s a colossal exhaust pipe.

Guri Tower the exhales scrubbed smoke from 140-tons of daily garbage processed at the adjacent waste incineration plant.

What’s that cone wrapped around the tower’s top? An observation deck and restaurant. And below Guri-ites recreate in an indoor swimming pool, soccer fields, and sauna.

Ride Namyangju City

Now, cross the bridge (road view) over Wangsuk Stream and enter Namyangju.

Take a right back towards the Han River, whip around a hairpin turn, and find a tiny riverside sports park.

Thirsty? Hungry? You’re in luck. The park dead-ends into a hill topped with cafés and joints serving multicourse fare (한정식; table d’hote; map).

Refuel. Why? Just beyond, the bike road switches to two lanes and a whole lotta hill.

Mieumnaru Pass

Most of the Hangang Bicycle Path in Seoul rolls along a flat riverside basin. Until now. 

The notorious Mieumnaru Pass (미음나루고개; aerial view) marks your first (and only) physical hurdle. It snakes 50 meters upwards along a rocky, riverside ridge line (directions).

Like the Amsa Pass across the river, this hump will wake your lungs. But it’s a pussycat compared to the vertical climbs along the Saejae and Gyeongbuk Bike Paths.

So, why notorious?

The crowds! We may not be in Seoul anymore, but the bike roads still crawl with bikers of all stripes: day trippers. Road warriors. Canoodling couples.

The mixture of inexperienced and need-for-speed riders, narrow paths, and steep inclines often leads to accidents. So keep your lane and feather your brakes on the way down.

Namyangju Han River Park

Mieumnaru Pass spits you onto Namyangju Han River Park (남양주한강공원).

Past baseball and soccer fields, curving walking paths link three vast circle patios (road view; map). When warm, water springs from the embedded jets to cool off the young ones.

Continue under Misa Bridge (미사대교; impossible to cross) and head towards a wall of riverside apartments.

Sampae District

The bike path pivots left and aligns with the underbelly of Gyeonggang Road, which carries cars across to Gangneung City (강릉시) on the East Coast.

Power past the pillars and stairs (road view), which lead into Namyangju’s Sampae District (삼패지구), filled with highrise apartments.

Slingshot from under the overpass and find Geomdan Mountain (검단산; 658 m) in the distance (road view). It and northern Yebong Mountain (예봉산; Yebongsan) create high valley walls along this bit of river.

Green Coffee Row

Roll over babbling brooks and into “green café row” (unofficial KbB name), the final stretch (directions).

Why “green café row?” Look at a map. They litter this green shackled riverside. Every few meters, on ridgeways (road view) or across fields (road view), a caffeine dispensary lurches into view.

While chains dominate Korea’s cities, mommas and pappas own these shops. They bank on Seoulites hopping the Gyeongui-Jungang Line and sailing upriver for a quick and verdant vacay. 

Hangang Museum

Hanging amongst the cafés, Hangang Museum (한강뮤지엄) — a private establishment — triples as a coffee shop, art space, and photozone.

Buy a ticket, pick up your complimentary cup-of-joe, and explore the temporary and permanent exhibits, take photos with famous recreations, and gaze upon the glorious Han from the rooftop.

Paldang Bridge

55.7 km (Seoul (North Side))
100%
A picture of the bike path on Paldang Bridge connecting Hanam and Namyangju cities just outside of Seoul, South Korea.
Paldang Bridge, connecting Hanam and Namyangju cities, marks the end of the Hangang Bicycle Path in Seoul. Cross it to continue onwards to Yeoju.

Half a kilometer down the bike road sits Paldang Bridge (팔당대교), the end of your journey.

Paldang Bridge isn’t just an excellent crossing point. It’s a part of the Hangang Bicycle Path.

If you rode the South Side bike path though Seoul, you must-cross the bridge. If you traveled the North Side, crossing the bridge would take you backwards along the Hangang Bike Path.

Just before crossing under Paldang Bridge, the path branches (road view), presenting two choices:

1. Take a left and cross the bridge into Hanam City. This sends you backwards into the South Side route, away from the next portion of the Hangang Bike Path.

Why do that? Well, if the sun is setting, Hanam holds plenty of beds, chicken joints, and a cool tower.

2. Take a right and continue the Hangang Bicycle Path along the Seoul ⟷ Yeoju route.