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Bike Seoul's
South Side

Saddle up and explore the South Side of Seoul by bike.

Capital City, here you come! All of Korea’s bicycle paths lead to Seoul.

Sites and history fill the cities every square centimeter. So we simplified and split Seoul’s bike roads in two:

This cycling guide follows the South Side Hangang Bicycle Path through Seoul. It starts where the Ara Bicycle Path left off and continues onto the Bike Seoul to Yeoju path.

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North or South?

But which side suits you? North or South?

The bike paths slither down both sides of the Han (한강), the river which divides the city into two worlds.

The north nestles Seoul’s old world. It gives access to the Jongno and Jung Districts, which formed the old capital of the Joseon Dynasty, Seoul’s founding kingdom.

The south shows Seoul’s cash-infused, consumerist accoutrements.

Don’t fear the opportunity cost. If you reconsider, twenty-two bridges along the Han provide quick crossing points.

A picture of the bicycle path in Yanghwa Hangang Park through Seoul in South Korea.
Climb Seonyu Bridge to get the best view of Yanghwa Hangang Park's path and south Seoul's skyline.
Certification

The South Side boasts two crucial advantages, however.

First, the Ara Bike Path, which opens the Cross-Country Route, connects with the South Side. No detour.

Second, the South Side doubles the north’s Certification Centers (red stamp booths).

South Side (2):

North Side (1):

Want to earn the Hangang Bicycle Path certification? The South Side’s two certification centers are all you need. The Gwangnaru stamp automatically counts for the Ttukseom stamp.

If you rode the North Side, you’d need to cross and grab the Yeouido stamp.

Hangang Parks

It’s easy to tumble down a sidestreet for a few hours in the world’s 8th most populated city. So simplifying, we focus on the parks in the Hangang Park System.

The Park System

The Hangang Renaissance Project (한강르네상스 사업) created the Hangang Parks to:

  • Restore the Han River’s ecology, ravaged by years of uncheck industrialization.
  • Construct rec facilities and landmarks to pull folks from their homes.

Eleven Hangang River Parks (한강공원) claim 99% of the Han River’s banks in Seoul.

South Hangang Parks

Listed west to east, here are the Hangang Parks on the Han River’s southern banks in Seoul.

West to east, we present the Hangang Parks on the north side of the river in Seoul.

Han River Bridges

Have biker’s remorse? Want to hop to the other side?

There are thirty-two bridges along the Han River in Seoul and nearby satellite cities.

Not all bridges are created equal, though. Only twenty-two bridges provide pedestrian sidewalks. And a handful have 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.

The First Bit

So you chose the South Side. Let’s start where the Ara Bicycle Path concluded, the Ara Hangang Lock certification center.

Where am I? Atop an embankment, watching the ancient Han’s current (road view).

Climb aboard your alloy steed and glide into the first of seven riverside parks along the South Side: Gangseo Hangang Park.

Gangseo Hangang Park

0 km (Seoul (South Side))
0%
  • Length: 8.5 km (4th of 11)
  • Area: 1,035,463 m² (3rd of 11)
  • Start (West): Jeonho Bridge (전호교)
  • End (East): Gayang Bridge (가양대교)

Gangseo Hangang Park (강서한강공원) is the Hangang Park System’s westernmost park. It begins on the edge of Seoul’s city limits and meanders through an ecological oasis before slimming down to a single waterside path.

Let’s check Gangseo’s backstory before continuing the ride.

Gangseo Park Profile

Gangseo Hangang Park doesn’t have the flashy landmarks of Yeouido Park or the plentiful recreation facilities of Ttukseom. But what the park lacks in glitz, it makes up for in green.

Park designers designated most of the park’s girth for the wild. Protected ecological wetlands and dirt walking paths.

Why?

Han River Re-Un-Transformation

In ye olde times, the Han River was tempestuous. Loose sediment and sandbars filled the waterway’s bed. With frequent floods, this underbelly shifted, redirecting flow. A storm on Tuesday altered Monday’s navigation routes, stranding boats on Wednesday morning.

So after the Korean War, when Korea revolutionized their economy (1960~1997), Seoul sought to stabilize life along the Han by taming the waterway.

Engineers dredged the bottom of the river and installed weirs (water gates).

This fixed the Han’s route and regulated water flow. But it destroyed much of the wetlands, habitats to local and migratory species.

Rapid industrialization and urbanization poisoned the waterway’s ecology. By the 1970s, the city banned swimming in the Han.

Before the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the Han River Restoration Project (1982-1986) banned dumping and regulated development upriver, breathing new life into the Han.

But the plan also implanted concrete embankments along the river’s banks. This made the waterside areas palatable for international TV cameras. But it further destroyed habitats for migratory birds and other river species.

Recent ecological efforts, like the Hangang Renaissance Project (2007~present), seek to reverse the damage by removing concrete and restoring riverside wetlands.

At 370,000㎡, the Gangseo Ecological Park (강서습지생태공원) counts for one piece in this restoration puzzle.

Accounting for a third of Gangseo Park, this eco-park-within-a-park is the Hangang Park system’s largest protected natural area. It drips green on the edge of Seoul and provides home to thousands of wild river flora and fauna.

Gangseo District

Gangseo Hangang Park gets its name from Gangseo District (강서구). Let’s take the name apart.

  • Gang (강) — “river”
  • Seo (서) — “west”

The district ranks second in population, behind Songpa (송파구), and second in size, behind Seocho (서초구).

Much of Gangseo lives in Seoul’s greenbelt, established in the 1970s to restrict development along the outer perimeter of Seoul.

The greenbelt forces Gangseo to leave oversized bits of land for parks and agriculture. It’s the last district still cultivating rice within Seoul.

Gangseo History

During the Joseon Dynasty (대조선국; 1392 ACE ~ 1897 ACE), Gangseo belonged to Yangcheon County (양천군), which sat across the river from Hanseong (한성), the kingdom’s capital.

Under occupation, Japanese administrators merged the Yangcheon with Gimpo (김포시) in 1914. In 1963, Seoul hopped the Han River and snatched parts of Gimpo, which retreated northwest.

The area became Yeongdeungpo District (영등포구). Gangseo broke away in 1977.

Gangseo Air

With all that administrative name shuffling, one peculiarity emerged.

Seoul’s first airport sat on Yeouido Island (여의도) from 1916 until 1971. However, the city outgrew the tiny airstrip and built Gimpo International Airport (김포국제공항).

When the Gimpo Airport first opened in 1958, the name made sense. It lived in Gimpo. But five years after founding, Seoul gobbled its way south and conquered Gimpo’s airstrips.

What did Seoul do? Change name. Nah. Too confusing.

Airfare

Korea coronated Incheon International Airport (인천국제공항) as the nation’s premier airport when it opened in 2001.

But Gimpo International Airport held the crown for many decades before. So Gangseo holds a cluster of air transportation institutions and headquarters, including:

Ride Gangseo Park

Roll down an embankment and into Gangseo Hangang Park. Keep pedaling as the bike path cuts through swaying reeds and babbling aqua murmur.

Haengju Bridge in Seoul's Gangseo Hangang Park.
Haengju Bridge in Gangseo Hangang Park lets riders quickly cross to the bike path on the north side of the Han River.

Gangseo Wetland Ecological Park

Welcome to Gangseo Ecological Park (강서습지생태공원).

One of several eco parks in the Hangang Park System, Gangseo holds the largest natural park within a park.

What is an eco park? A government protected plot of riverside land dedicated to preserving river species and habitats from development-addicted investors.

To aid nature, park goers follow unobtrusive dirt paths into verdant thickets, or float above marsh on raised boardwalks. 

Amongst reeds and pillowy mire, through cutouts in camouflaged shelters, nature-curious folks spot feeding and frolicking herons and mallards.

Haengju Bridge

Glide under a Haengju Bridge (행주대교) a kilometer into Gangseo Park (directions).

Regret your choice? Does the South Side bore? Longing for the North shore? That fork ahead (road view). Now’s your chance to make a change.

  • Turn right to cross the Han along the Haengju Bridge and ride the North Side.
  • Keep left to continue along the South Side.

Banghwa Bridge

3 km (Seoul (South Side))
5.6%

Sticking to the South Side? Keep pedaling through Gangseo’s eco-paradise. Arborous friends bounce viridescent light into spring and summer air.

Stop! Lean your bike against the wall of a 24/7 store (road view). Glance over the river, where the burnt orange trusses of Banghwa Bridge (방화대교; impossible to cross) bound.

Bike and Banghwa Bridge on the Hangang Bike Path.
Banghwa Bridge’s burnt orange trusses resemble an airplane taking flight; a nod to nearby Gimpo Airport.

According to its designers, the bridge’s 540-meter double arches (road view) resemble an airplane lifting off. An ode to the nearby Gimpo Airport.

At night, from Gangseo Park or on the North Side’s Haengjusan Fortress, gawkers marvel at the bridge’s metal lattice bathed in light.

Silver O’Green

Ride under Banghwa Bridge’s deck. The Han River and Olympic Boulevard (올림픽대로) pinch Gangseo Park’s mushy meadows into three strips: walking path, bike road, and a sliver of green between.

Olympic Boulevard

Like Gangbyeon Expressway (강변북로) on the North Side, Olympic Boulevard will accompany you throughout your journey through Seoul.

Road workers laid this 8-lane highway from 1982 until 1986 for the 1988 Summer Olympics. The road improved access to the Songpa District, where most of the games occurred.

River & Highway

A corridor of rushing river and wildflower spotted, grassy embankment flavor the next five kilometers (directions).

Along the way, find five access points that let riders slip into the Gangseo District. Many feature rest and viewing points, like:

Bike riders along the Hangang Bike Path in Seoul.
 Though an eco park dominates the opening of Gangseo Hangang Park, infastructure and overpasses take over for the last half.

Halfway down the “sliver o’green” stretch, overpasses swirl their humming concrete underbellies above.

These flights of infrastructure converge on Gayang Bridge (가양대교impossible to cross) and mark the end of Gangseo Hangang Park.

Say an-nyeong-ha-sā-yō (“hello;” 안녕하세요; 🔈) to Yanghwa Hangang Park.

Yanghwa Hangang Park

6.9 km (Seoul (South Side))
12.9%
  • Length: 5.9 km (8th of 11)
  • Area: 361,628 m² (11th of 11)
  • Start (West): Gayang Bridge (가양대교)
  • End (East): Yeouido Marina (요트 마리나)

Yanghwa Hangang Park (양화한강공원) is the smallest park in the Hangang Park System.

Sandwiched between the natural beauty of Gangseo and the landmark bedecked island of Yeouido, Yanghwa offers a few interesting attractions of its own. 

Let’s get some local context, then keep riding the South Side.

Yanghwa Park Profile

Yanghwa Park sits on the south bank of the Han River in Yeongdeungpo District. The park claims two-thirds of the district’s waterfront. Yeouido Hangang Park occupies the other third.

Near Seonyu Island on the Han River, Yanghwa Port (양화나루), an ancient Joseon Dynasty port and ferry, provided the name for Yanghwa Park.

Among a few recreational fields and courts, the park’s half-kilometer, winding paths cut through high reeds, which grow people-tall come fall. In May, red roses and yellow rudbeckia splash color on the park.

Yeongdeungpo District

Yeongdeungpo District (영등포구) holds two worlds.

  1. Yeouido Island, which perches on the district’s north side. It includes some of Seoul’s tallest skyscrapers and powerful institutions.
  2. Then there’s the mainland.

Let’s keep grounded for now and explore Yeongdeungpo’s mainland. We’ll peruse Yeouido’s opulent features down the road.

Yeongdeungpo History

During the Joseon Dynasty, Yeongdeungpo comprised a few riverside settlements in Siheung County (now Siheung City; 시흥시). Like other villages by the Han, their ports welcomed trade ships, stored goods, and docked ferries for crossing the wide river.

Yeongdeungpo also held naval assets that defended Hanseong (한성), the Joseon capital (now the Jongno and Jung Districts) on the opposite side of the river. 

Railroad’s A Comin’

At the dawn of the 20th century, Korea completed its first national railroads: the Gyeongin (1899) and Gyeongbu (1905) Lines. Centered in Seoul — which still only dwelled above the Han — the rail lines hopped the river and flowed south into the Yeongdeungpo area.

Yeongdeungpo Station (영등포역) became one of the first rail stations built by the rail company. They dropped it near the top of Siheung County by the river.

One problem. Siheung’s government offices and downtown sat in the south.

No problem. Government officials just picked up their head offices and moved north, forming a new political, transportation, and commercial hub around the new train station.

Seoul Symbiosis

In the early 1900s, during their occupation, Japan lassoed a chunk of land south of the Han into Seoul’s orbit. First Yeouido Island in 1916. Then pieces of today’s Yeongdeungpo in 1936.

During Seoul’s Great Expansion of 1963, filled to the brim with people, the capital plowed south across the Han River. It grabbed a vast swath of territory from Gyeonggi Province and created a city boundary which mirror’s the Seoul of today.

Seoul divided this new tract of land of the river in two sections:

  • Seongdong (성동구), a preexisting district north of the river, absorbed the eastern bloc.
  • The western bloc became Yeongdeungpo.

This new territory stayed a boring, boggy backwater for millennia. However, after a decade of investment and an economic miracle (1961~1997), the population south of the Han exploded.

So Seoul sliced the two southern districts into bits. In the west, Yeongdeungpo became:

Industrial Wreckage

The only Seoul district that can’t claim a mountain, Yeongdeungpo’s flat terrain help its manufacturing aspirations.

In the 1960s, companies large to small to mom-and-pop opened factories in Yeongdeungpo. Like the North Side’s Seongsu Neighborhood, they made machinery, TVs, radios, and more.

However, the 1990s brought Korea the 5th 5-Year Plan. The nation shifted from simple goods to advanced manufacturing. Yeongdeungpo’s factories faltered.

Mullae Arts Village

A tale as old as time. A low-rent, down-on-its-luck neighborhood meets a plucky group of artists. Gentrification!

Mullae Neighborhood (문래동), just west of Yeongdeungpo Station, once housed blazing steel foundries. But when Korea off-shored factory jobs and tumbled through the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the area’s economic fortunes nosedived.

Beginning in 2003, artists fled skyrocketing rents and followed word-of-mouth to the decommissioned neighborhood, creating the Mullae Arts Village.

Today you can find hundreds of artisans filling retrofitted factory floors. But instead of churning out alloys, they forge paintings, street performances, and inscrutable art installations.

Ancient Han River Ports

Several riverside neighborhoods and parks in Seoul earn their names from old Han River ports (나루; /narū/) which once ferried passengers and hosted vibrant markets during the Joseon Dynasty.

Why ferries? The Han River is wide, measuring one kilometer in some sections, making bridges impossible before the 1900s.

Here’s a list of the five major ancient ports that once filled Joseon’s coffers.

History lost each of these ports to advanced bridges and modern transportation.

Ride Yanghwa Park

A picture of the bicycle path in Yanghwa Hangang Park through Seoul in South Korea.
Climb Seonyu Bridge to get the best view of Yanghwa Hangang Park's path and south Seoul's skyline.

Yanghwa Hangang Park begins where Gangseo Park left off: Gayang Bridge (가양대교; impossible to cross).

The Han murmurs on your left. A grassy embankment leads to Olympic Boulevard on your right. You squeeze between.

This cramped path doesn’t last long. Anyang Stream (안양천) arrives after a couple of kilometers.

Before you cross the Han River tributary along a low bridge, find a fork in the bike path (road view).

  • Turn left to continue along the Hangang Bicycle Path.
  • Turn right and you’ll slide south 30 kilometers down Anyang Stream, through GwangmyeongAnyang, and Gunpo Cities (directions).

No time for a detour? Turn left.

Eight Canopies and a Cup
Cyclists refuel before the World Cup Bridge at a Yanghwa Hangang Park rest stop before entering the heart of Seoul.
 Cyclists refuel before the World Cup Bridge at a Yanghwa Hangang Park rest stop before entering the heart of Seoul.

Hop Anyang Stream and discover eight white canopies shading riders (road view). 

Join them. Take a rest. Imbibe near the slurping currents and marvel at the World Cup Bridge (월드컵대교difficult or impossible to cross). 

Where does the bridge get its name? On the Han’s north shore, it lands in front of the nation’s premier football (soccer) stadium built for the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea and Japan. Alongside hangs World Cup Park.

The bridge’s pillar driving began in early 2010. After budget cuts and political fumbles, the bridge opened in late 2021, 11½ years later, Korea’s longest ever bridge-in-progress. 

The Narrows Before

Tuck away your water bottle and jump back on your bike. Ride more of the same. Han on the left. Embankment on the right. Path squeezed in the middle.

A few hundred meters past World Cup Bridge, find Seongsan Bridge (성산대교; okay crossing point). Its rust-red arches — an aesthetic flourish — can carry you to Mangwon Hangang Park on the North Side path.

Yanghwa’s Heart

Pass under Seongsan Bridge and spill into the heart of Yanghwa Hangang Park. 

Land shoves the river left and up spring a gaggle of rec fields, including an outdoor stadium for Ssireum (씨름), a 1,600-year-old form of Korean wrestling.

Seonyu Bridge
11.2 km (Seoul (South Side))
20.9%
Seonyu Bridge leads to Seonyudo Island in Yanghwa Hangang Park in Seoul.
Seonyu Bridge connects park goers to Seonyu Island, where they can explore water treatment plant converted into a garden park.

Mid-Yanghwa, Seonyu Bridge (선유교), a pedestrian overpass, approaches. Hairpin ramps lead to its upper deck, which shoots over Olympic Boulevard, Yanghwa Park, and to the Han (road view).

Make your way up to the bridge’s deck. From its height, gaze upon the riverside park’s weaving paths. In fall, high reeds fill in the gaps. Come May, red and flowers dab color.

Now glance down the bridge. Halfway, a sudden arch leaps over the water. Where does it land? Got an hour?

Seonyu Island Park

Seonyu Bridge doesn’t cross the Han. It hops onto an inlet to an island called Seonyu (선유도; Seonyu-do; aerial view).

For a small island, it holds a bit of history:

  • A small peak (선유봉) once sat upon the island. During their occupation (1910~1945), Japan shaved it away to pave roads and dam up the Han.
  • From 1978 to 2000, a water purification plant occupied Seonyu, supplying Seoul with scrubbed sink-juice.

Today if you cross Seonyu Bridge, you’ll discover Seonyu Island Park (선유도공원).

Open from 6 AM to midnight, covering 11,400 square meters (15 soccer fields), and free to all, the island park transformed the old water purification plant into an ecological park.

Glance at a map of the park. Nine unique spaces, each with a theme, attract courting couples and exploring families:

  • The Time Garden — raised gardens made from recycled sediment.
  • Four Circular Spaces — treatment towers converted into cultural spaces.
  • Garden of Green Columns — support pillars wrapped with verdant ivy.
  • Water Purification Garden — a hydroponic flora inhabiting old filtration basins.

Yanghwa Bridge

Enough with the eco tour. Let’s do some bike riding.

Hop on the bike path in Yanghwa. Scoot a couple hundred meters down. Find another bridge.

Yanghwa Bridge (양화대교; an okay crossing point) glances of Seonyu Island before flying commuters across the river to Mangwon Hangang Park.

Spy two elongated rectangles bolted to the bridge’s side, each with a row of porthole windows (aerial view). Welcome to:

These two (of ten) Han River Bridge observatories serve up a bite, coffee, and magnificent views of the Han.

A Decision at Yanghwa's End

Yeouido Island is home or Korea's National Assembly building. It's unmistakable concrete dome welcomes you to this famous island.
Come to a fork in the bike path near the end of Yanghwa Hangang Park. The right path loops onto Yeouido. The left sails along Saetgang Eco Park.

Cross under Yanghwa Bridge. Roll down the bike path. Yanghwa Hangang Park squeezes closed against the Han and Olympic Boulevards.

Hop into high grass and low trees. At the top of the path rests the impressive dome of Korea’s National Assembly Building.

Yanghwa’s twilight brings a fork (road view). A choice:

  • The left path curls under the right path and tracks the Saetgang Stream (샛강) around the bottom of Yeouido Island.
  • The right path jumps over the left path and the Saetgang Stream, and continues into Yeouido Hangang Park.

It doesn’t matter which fork you take. Both paths converge at the end of Yeouido Island. (As of this writing, Yeouido Certification Center arrives after the convergence.)

But it matters. A wetland paradise surrounds Saetgang Stream. But Yeouido presents the crème de la crème of landmarks in the Hangang Park System.

Take the right path.

Saetgang Ecological Park

Saetgang Ecological Park (여의도샛강생태공원) follows the Saetgang Stream (샛강), a name which translates to “river that creates an island.”

Fitting. Saetgang is a stream that forms the backside of Yeouido Island, separating it from the mainland.

The tributary splashes much needed green around the bustling river island. In its surrounding park lives a parade of trees, vegetation that filters flowing water, and walking and biking paths.

The bike route shoots off from the Hangang Bicycle Path and crawls along the bottom of the island for four kilometers. It rejoins its path-daddy just beyond Yeouido Island.

The Saetgang route provides a quieter alternative to the official Hangang Bicycle Path through Yeouido Hangang Park. Fewer crowds equal a quicker ride.

Yeouido Hangang Park

13 km (Seoul (South Side))
24.3%
  • Length: 8.4 km (5th of 11)
  • Area: 1,487,374 m² (2nd of 11)
  • Start (West): Saet Stream (샛강)
  • End (East): Hangang Railway Bridge (한강철교)

Yeouido Hangang Park (여의도한강공원) occupies Yeouido Island, an oval wedge sliced off from the south bank of the Han by a narrow stream.

A wealth of attractions litter both the park and isle.

  • The western edge surrounds the National Assembly Building, Korea’s congressional home.
  • The mid-section features fountains, a marina, and Seoul’s take on giant photogenic letters.
  • Stacked along the park’s edge rises some of the city’s most noteworthy heaven pokers.

Let’s study a bit of Yeouido before riding its paths.

Yeouido Park Profile

Yeouido Hangang Park is the second largest along the Han River. It presents some of the best views of Seoul and leisure facilities in the city, including:

  • swimming pool
  • water stage
  • marina with river cruise
  • waterfall square

Why such lavish accoutrements? Yeouido Island (여의도). The Manhattan of Seoul.

Yeouido Island

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

Glance at Yeouido on a map. Only the couple-meter-wide Saet Stream (샛강) separates the landmass from the mainland. Not much of an island. More like a speed bump on the river bank.

But this knot on the Han contains Korea’s past and present.

History

Before the 20th century, Yeouido was a shrunken, riverside clump of sand.

Settlers avoided the area because of flooding from the big bad Han River. Instead, they tossed cattle on it to graze the grassy expanse.

Air Island

Before 1963, all land south of the Han remained under Gyeonggi Province control. There’s one exception.

In 1914, Japanese Occupied Korea reorganized Seoul’s borders and incorporated Yeouido. Two years later, Japanese engineers constructed Seoul’s first airfield, Yeouido Airport.

Its humble twin runways became the island’s primary occupant for the first half of the 20th century, serving as Seoul’s major air hub.

In December 1922, Ahn Chang-nam (안창남) became the first Korean to fly and land in Korean territory. Over 50,000 Seoulites, a fifth of the population, clustered in frigid wind to witness Ahn Chang-nam’s historic landing at Yeouido Airport.

Seoul opened the Gimpo International Airport (김포국제공항) in Gangseo District in 1958. The larger, modern facility choked much of the traffic from Yeouido’s airfield until it closed in 1971.

Bamseom Go Boom!

Just north of Yeouido, in the middle of the Han River, sits Bamseom Island.

For hundreds of years, in contrast to the dormant Yeouido, Bamseom held a lively community. Hundreds of souls, a tuft of structures, and a port.

However, in 1968, government officials faced two problems:

  1. Someone needed to tame the Han’s tempestuous flooding. So engineers deepened the riverbed and removed obstacles… like large islands in the middle of the river.
  2. On the north side of the river, Seoul had blown past capacity and needed to expand southward.

So, Seoul’s then-mayor saw an opportunity. Blow up Bamseom. Use its rocky remains to expand nearby Yeouido. This created cheap land without voters to oppose development.

What happened to Bamseom?

Under the water’s surface, its bedrock remained. Over decades, river silt rebuilt two islets

Today Bamseom is a protected, Sapiens-less eco park with migratory birds and swaying reeds.

Institution Powerhouse

What did the government do with its pet island? Develop it.

In 1968, Seoul built apartments. Then engineers completed the Mapo (1970; 마포대교) and Wonyo (1981; 원효대교) Bridges, improving access to the once pastoral island.

Soon two elemental forces invaded Yeouido: money and politics.

Political Powerhouse

In 1975, Korea erected a domed National Assembly Building in Yeouido’s western end. This political epicenter attracted the country’s major broadcast networks, including:

The Golden Crown

Adding to the island’s prestige, Hanwha Life Insurance finished Building 63 (63빌딩) in 1983. If we exclude North America, its 63 floors (60 usable) were the world’s tallest.

Taking center stage during the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Building 63’s gold-clad facade represented Korea’s economic emergence.

Now representing status and progress, companies soon invaded Yeouido. Yeouido Neighborhood (여의도동; Yeouido-dong) became the wealthiest in Seoul in the late 80s. 

Today Yeouido ranks second behind Gangnam District. But it still holds some of the nation’s most powerful institutions. 

Money Street

Some refer to Yeouido as Korea’s Wall Street. Why?

Like the NYSE occupies a humble New York brick road, the Korea Exchange (KRX) buys and sells (and credit default swaps) on this humble River island.

At least, until 2007.

To spread the ₩2.6 quadrillion ($2.1 trillion) exchange market outside of capital rich Seoul, regulators split the KRX into two offices.

The Busan offices keep the title of headquarters, handling Korea’s futures trading. Yeouido’s office runs day-to-day stock trading.

Tall, Tall Towers

This once humble cattle grazing field possesses some of Seoul’s tallest buildings, including:

Parks Galore

Though a mix of business and politics shape Yeouido’s social scene, parks dominate most of Yeouido’s physical space. Along with Yeouido Hangang Park, citizens stroll around:

Ride Yeouido Park

From Yanghwa Hangang, take the right fork (road view) and hop over the Saetgang Stream.

Welcome to the island of Yeouido. Korea’s Manhattan and District of Columbia rolled into one.

National Assembly Building

Dead ahead, just over a road, rises the National Assembly Building (국회의사당; road view). Under its green dome lives the nation’s law forging congress.

National Assembly in Seoul.
The National Assembly building on Yeouido Island in Seoul houses Korea's federal congress.

Completed in 1975, the National Assembly is a complex that covers an eighth of Yeouido Island. It includes legislator offices, a memorial hall, library, and more.

Korea added extra space to the assembly chambers in the six-story main building. Why? Hope. They’d need the room if or when Korea’s north and south reunite.

Completed in 1975, the National Assembly is a complex that covers an eighth of Yeouido Island. It includes legislator offices, a memorial hall, library, and more.

Korea added extra space to the assembly chambers in the six-story main building. Why? Hope. They’d need the room if or when Korea’s north and south reunite.

Notice the main hall’s design:

  • Twenty-four octagonal pillars encompass the lower facade. They represent Korea’s lunisolar seasons (절기).
  • The 64 meter wide dome symbolizes the convergence and compromise of democracy.

Originally a matte white, rain and nature flushed it a pastel green. Like the Statue of Liberty, the new look became an idiosyncratic feature.

Yeoui-seo Road

Continue onward into Yeouido. Over an Olympic Boulevard off ramp, buzzes one of a pair of roads that encircle the inside perimeter of Yeouido Island.

Both roads hold a transportation tryptic: lanes for vehicles, bikes, and feet (road view). 

Near the ides of April, Yeoui West & East host the Yeouido Spring Flower Festival. Folks near and far walk the road’s looping path and marvel at 1,600 cherry blossom trees dripping white.

The First Third

Bike riders along the Hangang Bike Path on Yeouido Island. Namsan Tower and Namsan Mountain rise in the background.
From Yeouido Hangang Park on Yeouido Island in Seoul, you can catch a glimpse of Namsan Tower on Namsan Mountain.

Spin your wheels up a bunny slope. Opposite the National Assembly comes the blue and silver swoosh of the Seoul Marina Club & Yacht (마리나클럽앤요트; road view), the destination to moor your yacht or play millionaire pretend and rent one.

Keep pedaling. The road to the marina hops the path on an overpass.

The National Assembly’s nation-sized parking lot spreads on your right. Over the parked metal beasts, catch the best view of the institution’s dome.

Cycle by a floating police station and a 119 rescue center, a water taxi stop on your left. By soccer fields, swimming pools, and a flat skate park on your right.

Seogang Bridge (서강대교; difficult crossing point) caps the first third of Yeouido.

The Middle Third

Shoot out from under Seogang Bridge. Leave the National Assembly in the rear view, and squeeze by a riverfront convenience store.

Find a grassy field unfurling. It’s a campground.

In one of the world’s largest metros?

Yes. Year round, families toss up tents, lounge, munch snacks, and venture out for play.

What happens come nightfall?

Pack that tent up. It gets cold. And you got to charge your phone.

Waterlight Stage

Before families load up their SUVs, they walk to the foot of the campgrounds to goggle Waterlight Stage (물빛무대) on the placid Han waters.

A swiss army knife of performance spaces, it’s geodesic, glass front can retract into the LED bedecked back half, a world first.

When closed, Waterlight Stage holds 200 viewers inside its water drop dome. Opened, it becomes an open air concert hall to 2,200 on the riverbank. 

Flanking the stage left and right hides one of the Hangang Park System’s seven fountains: the Yeouido Floating Stage Water Fountain (물빛무대). 

For forty minutes throughout the year, accompanied by prerecorded music and a light show past sunset, underwater jets put on an H2O-rrific performance.

Waterlight Square Fountain

Wheel your wheels back to the bike path and inch your way just beyond the grassy campground. There rests Waterlight Square Fountain (물빛광장), Yeouido’s second water-centric attraction.

This fountain ain’t no Trevi. It’s a 40 meter by 196 meter concrete basin (road view).

Waterlight Square Fountain in Yeouido Hangang Park
Waterlight Square Fountain in Yeouido Hangang Park fills with knee high water in the summer, letting little ones splash and cool.

In the winter, its blanched slopes and squares sit barren, open for couples to lounge and selfie.

In summer, however, the fountain fulfills its true purpose. The wide dish fills with ankle-deep water, recycled from the subway station below. Punctuated by spritzing, gentle jets, water cascades down steps, around flat and tilted islands of concrete, and towards the river.

Why ankle-high water? Well, on the kiddos, it’s knee high. Safe for them to splash, scream, and scramble about.

Opposite the fountain, find a pair of buildings (road view): Café of Light (빛의카페) and a bike rental shop. Paper cup clutching and tandem bike riding couples mingle about.

Bike Rental & Water Recreation

What does every Hangang Park in Seoul have in common?

From thirteen locations on both sides of the river, from 10 AM to 9 PM, any park goer can rent a bicycle from them. The cost?

  • Basic Bike: ₩3,000 for the first hour. ₩500 every additional 15 minutes.
  • Luxury or Child Bike: ₩5,000 for the first hour. ₩1,000 every additional 15 minutes.
    • Helmets and knee pads come free.
Eight out of eleven Hangang Parks also share a similarity: Excluding Mangwon, Gangseo and Gwangnaru, all other parks host water recreation activities.
  • Nanji (North Side) — water skiing, wakeboarding, wakesurfing, motor boating
  • Ichon (North Side) — water skiing, wakeboarding, water sliding, motor boating
  • Ttukseom (North Side) — duck boating, motor boating, windsurfing
  • Yanghwa (South Side) — motor boating, kayaking, canoeing, water skiing, wakeboarding, banana boating, duck boating
  • Yeouido (South Side) — motor boating, water biking, water skiing, wakeboarding, banana boating, blob jumping
  • Banpo (South Side) — yachting, sailing, jet surfboarding, kayaking, motor boating
  • Jamwon (South Side) — motor boating, water skiing, wakeboarding, wakesurfing, banana boating, fly-fishing, jet skiing, kayaking, paddle boarding, water slide
  • Jamsil (South Side) — motor boating
Rates vary according to the activity and season.

Mapo Bridge

Bike leftwards along the path away from the Waterlight Square Fountain towards Mapo Bridge (마포대교).

Though it holds a dark past, Mapo Bridge keeps a noteworthy treasure and bestows an excellent:

Near where Mapo Bridge touches down, ramps (road view) lead to its deck.

On the other side of the river, Mapo Bridge intersects with Mangwon Hangang Park. Switchback ramps (road view) flow onto the North Side bike path.

Bamseom Island

A couple hundred meters down Mapo Bridge’s span rests Bamseom Ecological Experience Center (밤섬생태체험관), another one of ten Han River bridge observatories in Seoul.

Through platforms and mounted binoculars, the curious can view Bamseom Island (밤섬), a pair of sandy islets in the middle of the Han River.

As we learned before, Bamseom once held a thriving village. Then the government made it go boom and used its rocky remains to expand Yeouido Island.

Over the years, river sediment built Bamseom back up. Now it’s an eco park inhabited by migratory birds, sandy beaches, and swaying reeds. No humans allowed (aerial view).

Late Yeouido

Shoot out from under Mapo Bridge to find two plazas. The first offers another expansive, grassy bed for day-tenters and kite flyers. The second?

A Concrete Center

The second plaza sports a concrete sheet. A wide, two-tiered set of stairs crowns its south end (road view).

These foot-descenders offer park goers streaming from the subterranean Yeouinaru Station (여의나루역; Subway Line 5) their first glimpse of Yeouido Hangang Park.

The Upstairs Skyscrapers

Hungry? Want to do some sightseeing. Head up those two-tiered steps. The lead to Yeouido’s inner sights, including: 

The Downstairs Mega Sign

Not hungry? Dismount your bike and head down Yeouido’s central plaza towards the river. In the distance, tiny letters grow into giants and spell out “I•Seoul•U.”

Whip out your phone. Find a kind pedestrian and ask, “사진 찍어요?” (/sa-jēn jjēk-eo-yō/; 🔈). “Can you take my photo?”

Stand in front. Get into your best biker pose. 1 (하나; /hana/), 2 (둘; /dūl/), 3 (셋; /sāet/). Click! Frame the results.

I•Seoul•U Signs

Dropped throughout Seoul rest seventeen Hollywood-esque signs. Each spell “I•Seoul•U.”

What does? It means Seoul. It means love. It means jelly juice for your social media. 

You’ll encounter two “I•Seoul•U” signs on the Hangang Bicycle Paths. However, if you want to catch them all, check out the list below.

Hangang Art Park

Continue along the bike path in Yeouido. To your left, walkways carve through green lawns.

This expanse holds Part II of Hangang Art Park (한강예술공원). (Part I lives in Ichon Hangang Park on the North Side.)

Thirty-seven outdoor art installations spread throughout these fields (map). Artists from Asia, the Americas, and Europe add their fascinating & puzzling representation flair to the collection.

The Dock of Docks

Just beyond the art adorned lawns, at the bottom of the next square over, bob a pair of docks on the banks of the Han River (road view).

Both sport cafés, restaurants, and E-Land Cruise Ships (이랜드크루즈). 

While Jamsil Hangang Park and the Ara Gimpo Passenger Terminal offer tours of the Han River, Yeouido’s docks send out the most boats and offer the widest selection of experiences. From ₩15,900, thirty-minute daytime cruises to a ₩199,000 Christmas Dinner Cruise.

63 Building
16.4 km (Seoul (South Side))
30.6%

No time for nautical adventures. Keep riding through Yeouido’s landmark swamp.

Keep riding the bike path and spy a towering wall of gold up approach. That’s 63 Building (63빌딩), part of 63 Square (63스퀘어).

Built by Hanwha Life Insurance, 63 Building’s gilded façade represented progress and prosperity when completed in 1983. It dominated B-roll packages for the 1986 Asian Games and 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.

What are some of its design elements? Great question. 

  • Thin sheets of actual gold in 13,516 panes windows create its color.
  • Other than North America, it stood as the world’s tallest building when completed.
  • 63 Building is only 60 stories tall. However, some argue the structure’s three basement floors and its rooftop huts count towards the total. So… “63½ Building.”
  • Notable facilities include 58th & 59th floor restaurants, an aquarium, glass elevators. 63 Art on the top floor claims the title “World’s Highest Art Gallery.”

The 69-story Parc1 (파크원 타워1) snatched Yeouido’s tallest building crown in 2020. But 63 Building remains the island’s jewel. 

Yeouido’s End

Stop gawking at towers and ride under Wonhyo Bridge (원효대교; an okay crossing point).

Wind around the bottom of Yeouido Island, circling 63 Building’s tapered form. A ssireum pit and gateball course — a mashup of croquet and golf — fill the riverside green.

The Yeouido Certification Center in it semi-permanent home just off of Yeoido Island.
The Yeouido Certification Center in it semi-permanent home just off of Yeoido Island.

A vehicle/pedestrian/bike bridge (road view) over Saetgang Stream marks Yeouido Island’s end. But not Yeouido Hangang Park.

Dip down an embankment. From your left, the Saetgang Park bicycle road merges back onto the Hangang Bike Path.

Just in time, too. As of this writing, up ahead, tucked in a horseshoe walking path, find one of our little red friends. A certification center (road view; red booth not present).

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.

Can’t find the Yeouido Certification Center? Well, the above location is its semi-permanent home. Its previous site sat on Yeouido Island, near the marina, here (road view).

Hangang Railroad Bridge

Dry the ink in your bike passport, climb aboard, and ride around a river bend to the Hangang Railway Bridges (한강철교), a tangle of green, gray, and white steel beams (aerial view).

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.

Bridge A (road view), the first of these four bridges, became the first modern bridge to cross the infamously wide Han River in 1900.

At the start of the Korean War (1950~1953), the fleeing South Korean army demolished it. This killed hundreds of citizens still crossing, escaping the northern army’s unimpeded advance.

During Seoul’s post-war Miracle Years, a booming economy rebuilt and surrounded the bridge with three neighbors. Today they carry subway, mugunghwa, and KTX trains to and from Seoul.

As you ride under the quartet of Korean history, you exit Yeouido Hangang Park and start anew in Banpo Hangang Park.

Banpo Hangang Park

17.3 km (Seoul (South Side))
32.3%
  • Length: 7.2 km (7th of 11)
  • Area: 563,015 m² (7th of 11)
  • Start (West): Hangang Railway Bridges (한강철교)
  • End (East): Banpo Bridge (반포대교)

Banpo Hangang Park (반포한강공원), like Ichon Hangang Park on the north side, crosses Han’s bottom bend in the middle of Seoul.

The western and eastern portions of the park offer prime views of Namsan Mountain (남산), Seoul N Tower (남산서울타워), and Itaewon (이태원) in the north

Banpo also hosts some of the Seoul’s most remarkable people-produced attractions, including Banpo Grand Bridge Fountain (반포대교) and Some Sevit (세빛섬).

Let’s get some cliff notes on the region, then hop on the double-wheeled stallion.

Banpo Park Profile

Banpo Hangang Park crosses Dongjak and Seocho District on the Han. The border between these districts divides Seoul into eastern and western halves below the river.

The park receives its name from the Seocho District’s Banpo Neighborhood (반포동), a riverside enclave that houses some of the city’s most expensive apartments.

Let’s inspect the pair of districts Banpo Park crosses.

Dongjak District

Dongjak District (동작구) formed when it broke away from the Gwanak District (관악구) in 1980, which was once a part of the Yeongdeungpo, Seoul’s first district south of the Han.

The district doesn’t claim the same riches as its eastern neighbors, Seocho and Gangnam. But it holds its own unique history.

Dongjak History

Dongjak sits across the Han River from Hanseong (한성), the old capital of the Joseon Dynasty (대조선국; 1392 ACE ~ 1897 ACE).

Its proximity to the nation’s political and spiritual heart birthed two major ports in Dongjak:

Because of the Han River’s width, engineers couldn’t construct permanent bridges until the 20th century. This made Dongjak’s ports and ferries the primary gateways to the old capital.

Besides bountiful chestnut trees, Dongjak in the 1700s grew prosperous merchants.

Loyalty Bridge

What’s the first bridge to cross the Han River’s famous expanse? Everyone knows the Hangang Railroad Bridge performed that feat in 1899.

Not so fast!

During his reign, Joseon King Jeongjo (1752~1800) often brought offerings to his late parents at a royal tomb in Suwon (수원시). The regular pilgrimage required him to travel south across the Han into Dongjak.

Weary of ferries, the king ordered a boat bridge.

River and seafaring vessels from around Korea sailed to the Han River. They linked up and created the first physical connection, joining the northern Yongsan District to Dongjak’s Bon Neighborhood (본동).

Builders erected Yongyangbong Pavilion (용양봉저정) on Dongjak’s riverside for King Jeongjo to take a break before continuing southward on his familial duties.

Loyalty Land

Dongjak grows its loyalty brand by hosting two important cemeteries:

Dongjak Development

Land below the Han remained undeveloped Gyeonggi Province counties until the 1960s. Then Seoul, overpopulated and cramped, hopped the Han and annexed territory.

Dongjak was one of the first areas to receive the hordes flocking south for cheap land. However, these early developments blanketed the area with substandard apartments and buildings.

By the 1970s, Gangnam in the east grew gleaming skyscrapers that made Dongjak look rickety. Until recently, Dongjak’s aged edifices added extra hurdles to redevelopment.

Education Haven

Education courses through Dongjak. Its Noryangjin Neighborhood (노량진동) contains hundreds of hagwons, or private institutes, that prepare high schoolers for the Korea’s college entrance exam (대학수학능력시험; CSAT), a test determines 18-year-olds’ career paths.


In addition, Dongjak claims a couple of celebrated colleges, like Chongshin (총신대학교), Chung-Ang (중앙대학교), Soongsil (숭실대학교), one of Korea’s first modern universities.

Seocho District

The Seocho District (서초구) sits just between the Dongjak and Gangnam Districts on the Han River.

Seocho, Gangnam, and Songpa form a trifecta of wealth and prestige known as the Greater Gangnam Area.

Seocho History

Like Dongjak, Seocho’s meek ports, riverside villages, and paddy fields bounced around Gyeonggi District counties until 1963, when Seoul underwent its “Great Expansion.”

These Three Kings

Why the Great Expansion? Seoul’s rapid postwar growth created severe overcrowding. 

During the Korean War (1950~1953), Seoul’s souls dwindled to 200,000. But after an influx of expats, refugees, and rural folks heading to the big city, the capital’s population exploded to 2.5 million by the 1960s.

So Seoul needed more land. Loosen their belt. Let it breathe. So they turned their gaze south, to the pastoral paddies of Gyeonggi Province across the river, and gobbled.

The city divided their new dominion into halves. The brand new Yeongdeungpo District took the west. Seongdong (성동구), a preexisting northern district, stretched south and took the east.

To spur residents to hop the waterway, the city formed a comprehensive development plan for the eastern expanse; today’s Gangnam, Seocho, and Songpa Districts.

  • They built bridges and roads to improve access.
  • They moved key government offices.
  • And they built modern apartment buildings.

A decade later, people followed.

Together Seocho, Gangnam, and Songpa form the richest trio of regions in Korea. Some speculate they account for a tenth of South Korea’s total land value.

Prince Seocho

While Gangnam is King, in terms of wealth and zip code prestige, Seocho follows not far behind.

Seocho and Gangnam’s borders blur, bisecting Gangnam Subway Station (강남역), a central point from which shopping, office towers, and nightlife haunts radiate.

Adding to the district’s status, you’ll find:

North vs. South

Seocho is a district of extremes. It’s Seoul’s largest, stretching from the banks of the Han River to the southern city limits. And of the three Great Gangnam districts, Seocho holds the least amount of people and greatest wealth disparity.

Why?

In the 1970s, when the southeastern region received the development green-light, many urban planners focused on the areas closest to the river.

Overtime, Han adjacent neighborhoods in the north — Banpo (반포동), Jamwon (잠원동), and Seocho (서초동) — swelled with prospering citizens and high rising apartments.

Seocho’s bottom neighborhoods?

Wander south and you’ll slam into two massive mountains: Umyeon (우면산; 293 m) and Cheonggye (청계산; 616 m). These peaks halt development two-fold:

  1. The rough terrain chokes transportation routes.
  2. Seoul’s greenbelt, a 1970s policy enacted to combat an ever hungry urban sprawl, covers the mountains’ green space. 

While you might not find modernity in Seocho’s hinterlands, you’ll spot a rarity in Seoul: quaint lowrise houses covering mountainside vistas.

Ride Banpo Park

Banpo’s bike road starts where Yeouido stopped: Hangang Railway Bridges. Pass under the four amigos and continue along the banks of the Han. 

Do the Olympic Split

Sail a couple hundred meters down the Han. Just before Hangang Bridge (한강대교) spot a split in the path (road view).

  • The left lane flows under Olympic Boulevard
  • The right lane cruises just beside the boulevard.

Warming! This isn’t a fork. It’s a split. The left path holds oncoming traffic.

Hangang Bridge

Follow the right lane just beside Olympic Boulevard, crawl up a bunny slope, and spot Hangang Bridge’s leaping arches ahead.

Like the railway bridges you just passed, Hangang Bridge was another groundbreaker: the first pedestrian bridge to cross the Han in 1917. And, like its siblings, it died young during the Korean War. In the 50s, engineers reincarnated it as a vehicle bridge.

Today, it’s also an excellent:

Hangang Bridge (한강대교) offers a quick way across the river for bikers and walkers. 

Find an offramp onto the bridge from the eastbound bike path lane only (road view). (You can’t access the ramp from the westbound lane, under Olympic Boulevard.)

On the North Side of the river, elevators and stairs (road view) lead to the bike paths between Mangwon and Ichon Hangang Parks.

Nodeul Island

Hangang Bridge touches down on Nodeul Island (노들섬) halfway across the Han River.

Nodeul once formed the tip of a sandy beach emanating from the river’s northern banks. After river renovations, the beach washed away. Only an island remained.

Today the island’s western half hosts a complex of ultra-chic buildings and courtyards. They formed the backdrop of the Silicon Valley-esque K-Drama Start-Up and K-Pop features.

The Subterranean Stretch

Pedal further along the bike path beside Olympic Boulevard. The next two kilometers navigate under overpasses and partial overhangs (directions).

Just after Hangang Bridge, two halves of the path zip back together (road view).

Bounds through trees and leafy embankment walls.

Benches, public exercise equipment, and basketball hoops live under the boulevard’s belly (road view). Bathrooms and shady awnings (road view) provide some path side relief.

Atop a boulder faced embankments perches Hyosa Pavilion (효사정), whose name translates to “filial piety.” A grieving premier to King Sejong built the isolated memorial for his departed mom.

Near the end, the path splits (road view), dives under the boulevard, then reconvenes in a teardrop knob of green (aerial view) surrounded by river.

Banpo’s Meaty Center

In this green grove beyond gray pillars, blow by trees and awning topped benches.

Cross a low bridge over Banpo Stream (반포천road view). Leave Dongjak and enter the money-soaked Seocho District.

The far (east) side of the stream presents a T-intersection (road view).

  • Turn right (south) and Banpo Stream will carry you two kilometers inland (directions).
  • Keep straight and continue on the Hangang Bike Path.

Keep straight.

Dongjak’s Clouds and Sunset

Up comes another river spanner: Dongjak Bridge (동작대교; an okay crossing point). Fixed to its side, find a tower with zig-zag stairs leading to a transparent tulip head (road view). That’s Sunset Café (동작 노을카페), another Han River Bridge Observatory.

Slip under Dongjak Bridge and peep Cloud Café (동작 구름카페) on the east side.

The towers mirror each other. Same design. Both open from 12 PM to 12 AM. And each offers a 24/7 store, café & lounge, and rooftop deck.

Seoul National Cemetery

These observatories are also the start of another detour. 

Climb Sunset Café to Dongjak Bridge’s deck.

  • Head north (left) to cross the Han and land in Ichon Hangang Park.
  • Head south (right) and you’re on your way to Korea’s largest cemetery (directions).

Seoul National Cemetery (국립서울현충원) was the country’s first for patriots who died for the South Korean flag.

Created in 1955, its 1½ square kilometers hold 165,000 Korean military and resistance fighters that perished during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and independence movements.

Seorae Island

From Dongjak Bridge, cycle along a green stretch.

Just off shore, three walking bridges (road view) span a carp-dwelling mote. They connect to the key-shaped Seorae Island (서래섬; aerial view), which rests in a groove on the south bank of the Han.

Construction workers created this artificial island when they built the Olympic Bridge (올림픽대교) in the 1980s.

This unfurnished isle presents willow trees, geese, and a springtime canola festival filled with yellow flowers and fluttering butterflies.

Warning! Leave your bike ashore. It’s not allowed.

Seorae Village

Smell that? Steaming baguettes. Here that? The sounds of an accordion drifting from inside the city.

Have time to spare? Take a ten minute, 1½ kilometer trip off path (directions) into the Seocho District. Discover a true oddity in Korea’s homogeneous broth: streets filled with expats, cafes, restaurants, and bakeries, all with French roots.

Seorae Village (서래마을) occupies a small hill in the Banpo Neighbrohood (반포동; Banpo-dong). It gained its character after the French School of Seoul (서울프랑스학교; Lycée français de Séoul) opened in 1985, which taught the children of French workers in Seoul.

Today almost half of Korea’s French live on Seorae’s streets. Local businesses cater to the discerning palates of these homesick souls, including:

Banpo’s Big Finale

Beyond Seorae Island, wind through Banpo Park’s waving bike road and arrive at two grassy slopes with stone-backs (road view). 

Drop your bike in a nearby cradle and climb a meter tall mound. From here, view two of the Hangang Park System’s premier attractions.

Let’s start on the left and explore those three metal & glass behemoths floating on the Han River.

Some Sevit

Some Sevit (세빛섬). Interesting name. What does it mean?

  • 섬 /seom/ (🔈) — small island
  • 세 /sāe/ (🔈) — three
  • 빛 /bēt/ (🔈) — light

“Three Islands of Light.”

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 off the banks of the Han River, next to Banpo Park.

Visit Some Sevit during the day. You’ll discover three artificial islands with buildings molded like cubist, steel and glass flowers, tied to the river bed with metal cables. No “light.”

Come at night, however, and watch them bloom. Stroll the concrete walkways from shore and between islands. The buildings’ lights radiate rainbows of color into the Han River.

Opened in 2014, Some Sevit actually includes four structures.

  • Gavit (가빛섬) is the largest island. (Outward tapered walls. On your left.) Four stories tall, it holds a convention center, restaurants, rooftop observatory, and more.
  • Chavit (채빛섬) is the medium sized island. (Rounded top. On your right). A culture complex, buffet, and lounge occupy its three stories.
  • Solvit (솔빛섬) is the smallest and farthest island. Its two stories offer a multi-purpose space for exhibitions. Its dock gives yacht tours and rents smaller crafts.
  • Yevit (예빛섬) is a floating stage (far left) separate from the island group. Fixed to Banpo’s shore, its five LED screens display art when not hosting performances.

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.

Banpo Grand Bridge Fountain
22.3 km (Seoul (South Side))
41.6%
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.

Just right of Some Sevit, Banpo Grand Bridge Fountain (반포대교) traverses the Han.

Grand Fountain Bridge? Sounds like an official royal title. It deserves the prestige. Let’s glance at its resumé of superlatives:

  • It’s the world’s longest fountain bridge.
  • It’s the only double decker bridge along the Han.
Fountain Bridge

What is a fountain bridge?

Intakes suck 190 tons of river water a minute and spew a hundred distinct shapes through 308 jets mounted to the bridge’s top deck in choreographed, music-enhanced, twenty-minute water dance (video).

At night, like Some Sevit, the bridge tosses a colored light show into the package, making this corner of Banpo Hangang Park the most polychromatic spot on the Han.

Here’s the schedule:

  • Weekdays: 12 PM, 2 PM, 4 PM, (6 PM Jul & Aug), 8 PM, 9 PM
  • Weekends: 12 PM, 2 PM, 4 PM, 6 PM, (7 PM Jul & Aug), 8 PM, 9 PM, (10 PM Jul & Aug)

On the south side, sight seekers gather in Banpo’s courtyard. On the North Side, they crowd terraces under Gangbyeon Expressway (강변북로) in Ichon Hangang Park.

Double-Decker Bridge 

Did you say double-decker bridge?

Yes. Opened in 2008, Banpo Grand Fountain Bridge sports an upper and lower deck.

  • The top deck carries cars between the river’s upper banks.
  • The bottom platform provides five traffic lanes: one for pedestrians, two for bikes, and two for vehicles (road view).

Bike lanes? Yes, Banpo Bridge’s bike lanes connect Seoul’s North and South Side bike paths, making it the pinnacle:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Some bridges have ramps and elevators to help riders cross the Han River. But none have Banpo Bridge‘s (반포대교) unobstructed, direct access.

Want to change sides? Take a left onto Banpo Bridge (road view). Seven-hundred meters later, land in Ichon Hangang Park. A straight shot.

Hangang Park Fountains

The Hangang Park System holds seven fountains. Depending on the weather, most run every two hours, starting at noon. At night, light shows and music add spice to the fountains’ flare.

Seoul Express Bus Terminal

Banpo Bridge holds one more feature. Quick access to the Seoul Express Bus Terminal (서울고속버스터미널), which streams intercity buses out of Seoul.

Why is a bus terminal a feature attraction? If you need to get your bike from A to Z, with stops at M, E, and Q along the way, intercity buses are quick and ubiquitous everywhere.

To visit the terminal, ride up the south (bottom) mouth (road view) of Banpo Bridge. A little over a kilometer and you’re there (directions).

The End

Not crossing the Han or taking a bus? Sticking to the South Side? Pedal on.

Wait! We forgot to mention. Banpo Grand Fountain Bridge ends Banpo Hangang Park. Jamwon Hangang Park lies on the other side.

Jamwon Hangang Park

22.3 km (Seoul (South Side))
41.6%
  • Length: 5.4 km (9th of 11)
  • Area: 474,213 m² (9th of 11)
  • Start (West): Banpo Bridge (반포대교)
  • End (East): Yeongdong Bridge (영동대교)

Jamwon Hangang Park (잠원한강공원) is the riverside park closest to Korea’s most famed and affluent district: Gangnam.

The park features fields and courts for sports, and lives near Seoul’s most walkable (not affordable) streets.

Let’s check out Gangnam’s style, then keep those legs churning.

A view of Seongsu Bridge and Namsan Mountain and Tower at sunset near the end of Jamwon Hangang Park in Seoul.
A view of Seongsu Bridge and Namsan Mountain and Tower at sunset near the end of Jamwon Hangang Park in Seoul.

Jamwon Park Profile

Jamwon Hangang Park (잠원한강공원) doesn’t boast home run landmarks like Yeouido or Banpo. Instead, you’ll find… a park. Ideally suited for the permanent class.

Open, grassy lawns for summer picnics. Purple-pink muhly grass in the fall. Soccer fields, swimming pools, and an inline skating rink for recreationists.

Jamwon Park does, however, earns its reputation for its access to a few affluent neighborhoods, including:

Namesake

Jamwon claims its name from the Jamwon Neighborhood (잠원동), which rests on the eastern edge of the Seocho District, bordering Gangnam.

Filled with mulberry tree plantations, during the Joseon Dynasty, picky, fickle worms would dine on leaves then poop out the region’s riches: silk. 

Today, from May to October, you can experience these critters and their cocoons in Jamwon Hangang Park.

Gangnam District

Oppan Gangnam Style!

Jamwon Hangang Park crosses the Gangnam District (강남구; Gangnam-gu), which translates to “South” (남; nam) “River” (강; gang).

While the district once claimed the whole eastern side of Seoul below the Han, Gangnam’s current slimmed down borders represent the height of money and status in Korea. You’ll find Lambo dealerships, upmarket brands, and gazillion won apartments.

Gangnam History

With every district south of the Han in Seoul, Gangnam plodded through much of Korea’s history as paddy fields, waterside villages, and ports.

But Gangnam holds a thimble full of historical landmarks.

Transformation

60s Seoul had a people problem. Too many. Not enough room. So the government stretched its city limits south.

The southwestern became the new Yeongdeungpo District. And preexisting Seongdong District (성동구) ballooned across the Han and took the southeastern bit, where with Gangnam, Seocho, Songpa, and Gangdong Districts sit today.

Few Seoulites wanted to settle in the sinky, stinky marsh south of the river.

So beginning in 1966, to entice citizens south, Seoul built bridges (Hannam Bridge) and thoroughfares (Gyeongbu Expressway), connecting the old north to the new south. 

Then the city threw up new apartments and moved the ministries of commerce and industry within Gangnam’s borders.

After ten years of hesitation, Seoulites spotted the advantages of a blank slate in which to build modern Korea. By the 1970s, Tehran Boulevard (테헤란로) exploded as one of Seoul’s most bustling business areas.

Sliced Gangnam

In 1975, Gangnam District’s population became too much. So Seoul chopped up the southeastern area into bits:

  • 1975: Gangnam District separated from the northern Seongdong District (성동구). It claimed the entire eastern area of Seoul south of the Han.
  • 1979: Gangdong District split from Gangnam to occupy the furthest eastern district.
  • 1988: Seocho District left Gangnam to become its western neighbor.
  • 1988: Songpa District split from Gangdong to become Gangnam’s eastern neighbor.

From west to east, Seocho, Gangnam, and Songpa create the Greater Gangnam Area, the three wealthiest districts in the nation.

The Wealth of the Nation

So Gangnam is rich. How rich? 

In 2021:

  • One square meter of apartment nationwide cost ₩4.1 million ($3,600)
  • One square meter of apartment in Seoul cost ₩8.5 million ($7,500)
  • One square meter of apartment in Gangnam cost ₩23 million ($20,300)

Let’s put it another way. Gangnam apartment costs:

  • Four times Seoul’s average; already the most expensive Korean city.
  • Five-and-a-half times the national average.
  • More than a New York apartment ($15,900 per square meter).
Speculation Nation

How did South Korea’s real estate, the eleventh wealthiest nation, eclipse that of the wealthiest nation (U.S.A.)?

Many middle class Americans drop their extra dimes into the stock market. But in Korea — along with Japan and China — citizens view the markets with suspicion. Instead, family members pool their money to buy property.

They snatch up triple-valued, decades-old apartments, take out a loan against its value, and put a down payment on an unbuilt property. Bubblicious!

Upscale Digs

Gangnam District presents the nation’s flagship department stores, haute couture hoods, and boulevards.

Let’s glance at some highlights:

Apgujeong (압구정동) & Cheongdam (청담동) are adjacent neighborhoods on the northern edge of Gangnam. The Beverly Hills, the 5th Avenue, the Ginza of Seoul, they boast the city’s priciest real estate and ultra-rich focused shopping meccas.

Ride Jamwon Park

Ride under the Grand Fountain Bridge from Banpo Hangang Park. Welcome to Jamwon.

First thing to notice: Banpo’s trimmings. The bridge’s east side presents a courtyard and more twin brick-backed mounds (road view). Park patrons stand atop them and view the bridge’s water and light show.

A hundred meters down the bike road, an underpass near a bike rental station leads to Seoul Express Bus Terminal (road view).

Continue down Jamwon. Pass a playground, 24/7 store, and walking paths with wisp-topped, waving grass fields.

An intersection arrives 1½ kilometers down the path (road view).

  • Turn right and meet an underpass leading to the Seocho District.
  • Turn left to continue along the Hangang Bike Path in Jamwon.

Veer left and roll into Jamwon’s meaty middle.

A Jam-won Filled Center

Here come Jamwon Park’s recreational offerings.

Beyond a 24/7 store and floating coffee shop, a 3,000 capacity swimming pools (잠원수영장) shoves the bike path to the river bank’s edge. 

Fiber Friends

A square of green pops into view after the chlorine wafts away. Among dirt roads, hedges, and trees, hangs a hut with a white worm on top (road view).

Some history.

Before becoming Gangnam’s river park, Jamwon Neighborhood planted clusters of mulberry trees which fed hordes of these little white worms. What did these critters give? Endless spindles of precious silk.

May through October, this nature center (자연학습장) lets young and old observe silkworms spin their silky threads and cocoons up close.

Hannam Bridge

Hop down the bike path to Hannam Bridge (한남대교; okay crossing point).

Cross under, leave the Seocho District, and enter Gangnam. As is tradition, hop off your bike and do a horsey dance.

The K-Pop Experience

K-Pop percolates through Gangnam. But not everyone possesses the time or K-addition to venture inland.

No worries. If you’re mildly curious, hop up the K-POP Experience Center (K-POP 체험관), perched on Hanam Bridge’s east (Gangnam) side (road view).

One of ten Han River Bridge observatories, this glass faced turret hosts a museum with the genre’s history and timeline, album covered walls, and a VR experience.

Not interested? From 3 PM to 9 PM, the tower also offers a café and observatory.

Garosu Street

More sports fields and courts occupy the Jamwon just beyond Hannam Bridge.

Up ahead, a T-intersection squeezed between a 24/7 store and basketball courts (road view) can carry to a famed artist enclave (directions).

In the early 2000s, Garosu Street (가로수길; Garosu-gil) filled with artists and small business fleeing rising rents in pricier parts of Gangnam and Seoul. They settled and opened shops along this 700 meter stretch of ginkgo tree-lined street, which flushes rustic vibrance come fall.

Today, shoppers stroll the Euro-tinged cafés, designer stores, and art studios, shoppers stroll Garosu’s major thoroughfare and eight side streets.

The Narrow Horn of Jamwon

While Banpo Hangang Park blossoms near its end, Jamwon’s flashes then fades.

From near Hannam Bridge, bike east by soccer fields. Glide by a pair of restaurant and café piers tied to the river banks (road view).

Jamwon Park wedges shut just before Dongho Bridge (동호대교; good crossing point).

Follow the bike road for four kilometers as it bends around a horn in the river (directions). Olympic Boulevard’s embankment presses the path against the water’s edge.

The underside of Seongsu Bridge along the bike paths in Jamwon Hangang Park.
Seongsu Bridge in Jamwon Hangang Park lies near the Apgujeong Graffiti Tunnel, an entryway to Gangnam Districts glitziest shopping streets.

Apgujeong Graffiti Tunnel

27.5 km (Seoul (South Side))
51.3%

A few hundred meters after the darkened underbelly of Seongsu Bridge (성수대교; okay crossing point), find and a nondescript underpass (road view)… at least from the outside.

While much of Seoul’s city walls remain untainted by art heathens, the Apgujeong Graffiti Tunnel (압구정나들목) proudly displays its hip tats. Depending on who tagged last, you might spot cubist forms, zig-zag titles, and portraits of De Niro.

Oh, and the tunnel is a tunnel. Ride it and discover the priciest shopping neighborhoods in Korea.

Two Fancy Hoods

Apgujeong (압구정동) and Cheongdam (청담동) Neighborhoods rest side-by-side on Gangnam’s northern horn, poking the banks of the Han River.

This prosperous pair create Korea’s Beverly Hills, 5th Avenue, Champs-Élysées. Money flows in. Money flows out. And gentrifies middle-class and below.

Between Apgujeong and Cheongdam rest a trio of shopping and gawking spots that embody their monied lifestyles.

Apgujeong Rodeo

A cross stitch of intersecting roads shape Apgujeong Rodeo Street (압구정 로데오거리) on the border of Apgujeong and Cheongdam (directions; 1.1 km).

Rodeo? Like Beverly Hills? Yes. It borrows Rodeo Drive’s name and attitude from California’s black platinum prestige credit card shopping district. However, Korea’s Rodeo hosts small shops that cater to customers with big accounts.

Cheongdam Fashion Street

Like Apgujeong Rodeo, Cheongdam Fashion Street (청담패션거리) runs along Apgujeong Road (압구정로) between Apgujeong and Cheongdam (directions; 600 meters).

What’s it known for? Cartier. Prada. Gucci. [Insert name of European luxury brand.]

Twin Galleria Department Stores (EAST & WEST) mark the thoroughfare’s center. Beauty shops, plastic surgery clinics, and more celebrities serving boutiques radiate outwards.

K-Star Road

K-Star Road (K스타로드) occupies the same territory as Cheongdam Fashion Street, on Apgujeong Road (directions; 700 m).

Like the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, K-Star Road presents celebrity paraphernalia placed in public places.

But K-Star doesn’t do gold stars. Instead, discover three-meter tall GangnamDol statues branded with the names of famous K-Pop personas: BTS, AOA, Girl’s Generation.

Yeongdong Bridge

Jamwon’s final bit mirrors previous kilometers: a bike path clinging to ground between a grassy embankment and the Han River.

Just up ahead, Yeongdong Bridge (영동대교) marks the end of Jamwon.

The Ttukseom Stamp

To receive credit for completing the Hangang Bicycle Path, you just need to snag the Yeouido and Gwangnaru Bicycle Park Certification Center stamps on the South Side.

But, are you a completionist? Want to collect every bike passport stamp? You’re going to need to cross the river and grab the Ttukseom Observatory Complex Certification Center stamp.

And Yeongdong Bridge provides a terrific:

Yeongdong Bridge connects Jamwon with Ttukseom Hangang Park on the North Side.

To cross, follow a ramp on the bridge’s east side to its main deck (road view). On the North Side, stairs land on the bike path (road view).

Riders glide down the tail end of Jamwon Hangang Park, just before Yeongdong Bridge. Lotte World Tower ascends in the distance.
Riders glide down the tail end of Jamwon Hangang Park, just before Yeongdong Bridge. Lotte World Tower ascends in the distance.

To get Ttukseom’s inky delight, slide east from Yeongdong Bridge on the North Side until you reach a fork (directions; 1.2 km). Find that glorious red booth at the top of the split (road view).

North Side

North Side

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

After you slap the stamp in your bike passport, you’ve got two options.

What do you recommend? This is the South Side guide. Retrace your wheel divot back over Yeongdong Bridge and continue into Jamsil Hangang Park.

Jamsil Hangang Park

28.7 km (Seoul (South Side))
53.5%
  • Length: 4.8 km (10th of 11)
  • Area: 539,071 m² (8th of 11)
  • Start (West): Yeongdong Bridge (영동대교)
  • End (East): Jamsil Railroad Bridge (잠실철교)

Jamsil Hangang Park (잠실한강공원) wedges between Jamwon and Gwangnaru Hangang Parks along the near the Songpa District in southeastern Seoul.

The riverside park sits near several of the mega-city’s major recreational landmarks:

Let’s peep the region. Then head out on a ride.

A picture of Lotte World Tower at night in Seoul, South Korea.
Lotte World Tower dominates the skyline around Jamsil Hangang Park, day or night.

Jamsil Park Profile

Jamsil Hangang Park is one of the riverside park system’s smaller offerings.

You can find typical park fare, like swimming pools, basketball, volleyball, and badminton courts; and some more interesting notables, like a fish bridge that bypasses a river weir.

Let’s take a peak at the park’s namesake, then explore the district that holds the park.

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Namesake

Jamsil Park gets its name from Jamsil Neighborhood (잠실동).

Like Jamwon a few kilometers to the west, silk-producing worms earned the neighborhood its reputation. In fact, its name translates to silkworm (잠; /jam/) room (실; /shēl/).

Today Jamsil comprises six neighborhoods that rival any bustling enclave in Seoul.

Songpa District

Jamsil Hangang Park plods through both Gangnam and Songpa Districts. We covered the almighty Gangnam above. Let’s look closer at the latter.

Songpa District (송파구) is the third and latest in the trio of districts — Seocho, Gangnam, Songpa — dubbed “Greater Gangnam.”

Like the others, money and status rule Songpa. Unlike the others, Songpa’s past runs deep.

The First of Three Kingdoms

Until the dawn of the Common Era (CE), tribes divided the Korean peninsula into territorial plots.

Legend has it, the northern Kingdom of Goguryeo (고구려; 37 BCE ~ 668 ACE) had three princes: Yuri (유리왕), Biryu (비류), and Onjo (온조왕). Yuri, the oldest, was heir to the throne.

Desiring a kingdom of their own, Biryu and Onjo traveled south and established their domains along the Han River’s path.

Biryu set roots in present-day Incheon, naming his settlement Michuhol (미추홀). Onjo plopped down in the southeastern part of today’s Seoul. He called his capital Wiryeseong (위례성).

Wiryeseong’s soil, enriched by the Han’s frequent flooding, provided bountiful harvests. Near Incheon, the Yellow Sea, which often back washed upriver, poisoned Michuhol’s fields. 

Biryu traveled to Wiryeseong and, tears in his eyes, humble words trembling from his lips, asked for his brother’s help.

Kidding! Biryu demanded his younger brother’s throne. Onjo declined. Biryu declared war.

The battle didn’t last long. Wiryeseong’s food surplus filled Onjo’s troop’s bellies and strengthened their arms. Michuhol empty bowls bred weak morale and “Low-T” energy.

After his army’s defeat, Biryu committed face-saving suicide.

Onju cemented his new kingdoms and dubbed it Baekje (백제) after the one hundred (백;/l /ba̅ek/) royal vassals that followed him to south to Wiryeseong.

Baekje held power over the southwestern third of the Korean peninsula for hundreds of years (18 BCE ~ 660 ACE) and was the first kingdom to control the Han River.

Capital Claims

Few documents remain from this two-thousand year old civilization.

During Korea’s Three Kingdoms period (37 BCE~935 ACE), the Han River changed hands four times. Each war and regime change obscured our lens into the past.

So archaeologists aren’t sure where Wiryeseong sat. Scientists found artifacts on both sides of the Han River, fueling theories that the capital moved locations several times.

Therefore, many districts along bottom half of the Han claim Baekje as a part of their lineage, including:

To win the passive fame claim, Songpa may have the ace-in-the-hole. A pair of aces, actually. Two of the most prominent Baekje ruins:

Archaeologists view them as key military installations for the defense of Wiryeseong. Each contained scores of Baekje artifacts and pottery. Both sit in Songpa.

River Redux

Travel back a hundred years. Songpa would be unrecognizable. Why? The area where Jamsil Neighborhood loiters today used to be an island.

At the neighborhood’s eastern tip, the Han River split in two.

  • Folks called the north path Sincheon River (신천강). It flowed west, matching the Han’s path today.
  • The southern branch, known as the Songpa River (송파강), turned south, flowed deep into Songpa, then veered right and rejoined the Sincheon River.

This southern river formed the main course of the old Han. But today Seokchon Lake (석촌호수), where Lotte World’s Magic Island bobs, is all that remains.

What happened?

A Great Flood & Intervention

In 1925, a typhoon and heavy downpour beset Korea. Like a bee chugging a gallon of milk, the sudden influx of H2O:

  • Killed 647 people.
  • Eradicated thousands of houses and farm fields.
  • And altered the course of the river.

Yes, while past Han floods shifted a couple silty sand bars, this Great Flood (을축년 대홍수) redirected the waterway’s main primary path. Like a railroad switch, it weakened the south Songpa River and strengthened the northern Sincheon River.  

In the 1970s, the Han River and Greater Gangnam Area underwent a major facelift. To make the riverside safe for permanent development, engineers:

  • Dredged the Han’s riverbed to fix its path.
  • Built weirs or water gates to regulate flow.
  • Reclaimed land from the river.

Reclaimed? Like filled it in with dirt? Yes.

Look at a map of Songpa. You’ll find the pinned in Tan Stream (탄천) and Seokchon Lakes (석촌호수). No Songpa River. No Jamsil Island.

Dance for Your Riches

Before evaporating into history, Songpa River hosted Songpa Port (송파나루). It was a strategic node along the Great Yeongnam Road (영남대로), the ancient highway that connected Hanseong (한성; Seoul) to Dongae (동래; Busan).

The port pumped out Mario-loads of gold coins by storing and distributing the kingdom’s goods.

To celebrate its wealth, the nearby town birthed the Songpa Sandaenori (송파산대놀이), a type of talchum (탈춤) or traditional Korean mask dance.

Before the performance, actors slipped on costumes and paraded around the village playing instruments. This cleansed the town of evil spirits and advertised the upcoming show. Then they marched back to the performance area, danced and held communal rituals.

Going for the Gold

Seoul had plans for Songpa long before it became a district in 1988.

In the early 1980s, Korea won bidding wars to hold the 1986 Asian Games and 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics. Seoul designated Songpa the central location for both international events.

This exploded development in the soon-to-be district.

Besides improving transportation to the region by constructing Olympic Bridge (올림픽대교) and Olympic Boulevard (올림픽대로), the capital created two pride-of-a-nation facilities:

Lotte Domination

The Lotte Corporation ranks 5th among Korea’s largest chaebols (재벌), family owned conglomerates that include Samsung and Hyundai.

Visit their headquarters in the Songpa district, however, and you’ll assume they run this town.

While Samsung and Hyundai make their fortunes in hidden factories and faceless office towers, Lotte Corporation generates cash from retail and entertainment.

So Lotte needs visibility. Lotte needs prestige. Visit two oversized square blocks in the heart of Songpa and you’ll find:

  • Lotte Tower (롯데월드타워) opened in 2017. Measuring 555 meter tall (1,821 ft) with 123 floors, the building is Korea’s tallest (fifth highest globally). Inside its bulging facade inspired by Korean ceramics, discover 120+ story observation decks, apartments, a hotel, and businesses.
  • Lotte World (롯데월드) is the world’s largest indoor theme park. Over a skating rink and under a giant dome, kiddie rides buzz. The park extends onto Magic Island (매직아일랜드), an artificial, open-air island on Seokchon Lake.
  • Lotte World Mall (롯데월드몰) is a 244,000 square meter retail space opened in 2014. It’s 11-story main building holds a mall, movie theater, concert hall, and more. A separate 8-story structure hosts designer brands for shoppers unfamiliar with the word “budget.”

Read more here.

Ride Jamsil Park

Jamsil Hangang Park starts where Jamon ended: Yeongdong Bridge (영동대교; excellent crossing point).

Cycle the narrow bike path between embankment and river. Under Cheongdam Bridge (청담대교; impossible to cross), spot two Seoul skyline fixtures (road view):

Lotte World Tower dwarfs twenty story apartment buildings. The Seoul Sports Complex peaks from behind a concrete bridge support.
Lotte World Tower dwarfs twenty story apartment buildings. The Seoul Sports Complex peaks from behind a concrete bridge support.

Fork at the Tan Stream

Ride into a patch of green. Above, the on and off ramps of Olympic Boulevard and Dongbu Expressway (동부간선도로) perform the overpass merging ritual.

Hold your wheels!

A fork in the road (road view) comes just before the Tan Stream (탄천).

Last Call, Gangnam

Have time for a detour? Turn right at the fork (road view). It’s your last chance to thump Gangnam’s bustling heart.

Follow the Tan Stream for 700 meters and ascend stairs to Tehran Boulevard (테헤란로), the neural center of Korea’s business life (directions; 1.3 km).

On this major thoroughfare stands Korea’s major tech headquarters — Samsung, Naver, Kakao SK Hynix. The boulevard’s sightseeing highlights include:

Over the Tan

No time for a detour? Turn right at the fork (road view). Cross the Tan Stream on a low bridge between Olympic Boulevard overpasses. Land in the Songpa District

Turn left and bend around a bend until you rejoin the Han. Cycle past a helipad, sports fields. 

Come upon a floating restaurant and stop! Glance right, down a courtyard.

Jamsil Sports Complex

31 km (Seoul (South Side))
57.8%
A picture of Jamsil Sports Complex (잠실종합운동장) near Jamsil Hangang Park in Seoul.
Seoul Olympic Stadium crowns the Jamsil Sports Complex. It acted as the main stadium for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.

Over an underpass, rises the lumbering frame of Korea’s largest sports venue: Seoul Olympic Stadium. Peep the torch-topped spire beside (road view).

The stadium crowns the Jamsil Sports Complex (잠실종합운동장), which includes eight other buildings clustered near the intersection of the Han River and Tan Stream (aerial view)

Built for the ‘86 Asian and ‘88 Summer Olympics, each venue remains active today. Four host professional sports teams.

That underpass at the bottom of the courtyard dives under Olympic Boulevard and leads to the Olympic Stadium’s toes (road view).

Middle Jamsil

Hop back on the bike path and pedal to Jamsil Hangang Park’s center. 

Beyond parking lots, arrive at a second dock. These double piers host the Jamsil E-Land Cruise (잠실 이랜드크루즈), a smaller operation compared to Yeouido Hangang Park. (Maybe defunct.)

The next five park blocks present an assemblage of Hangang Park staples: dirt field, swimming pools, garden with dirt walkways, and children’s playground.

Beside campgrounds for day-tenters (캠핑장), a concrete slipway curves into the Han River under Jamsil Bridge.

Jamsil Bridge

Pause a bit to scan Jamsil Bridge (잠실대교; a good crossing point).

When the water runs low, near its pillar supports, an embankment rises from the river’s surface (road view). Curving sheets of water cascade over top.

Glance to the far (north) end of Jamsil Bridge. Spot six concrete towers topped with windowed shacks (road view). Five gates dip in the water below.

If you haven’t noticed, this ain’t your typical “Point A to Point B” bridge. In order to calm the Han River’s floods and dry lulls, Seoul City dredged the riverbed and installed weirs (water gates) below two bridges. 

Those six towers on Jamsil’s north end raise and lower their water gates, regulating the amount of wet stuff up and downstream.

Jamsil Fish Way

Wait. Wouldn’t a giant water gate block migrating little fishies?

Ah. That’s why engineers installed the Jamsil Fish Way (잠실 물고기길).

Also known as a fish ladder, this series of low steps stretches 228 meters at the bridge’s south end to help 31 native fish species hop upstream, avoiding the weir’s strong currents and bulky barriers.

Beside Jamsil Fish Way, the city dropped a viewing deck and educational signage (road view). A great learning spot for elementary kiddos.

Songpa Art Floor

Jamsil Bridge holds yet another trick amongst its roadway. The Songpa Art Floor Observatory (송파예술마루) clings to the bridge’s southeast run (road view).

A Han River Bridge Observatory, this glass faced tower presents an art museum, convenience store, and observatory from 9 AM to 5 PM.

The World of Lotte

A picture of the Lotte World Tower in the Songpa District in Seoul.
Seoul’s Lotte World Tower is the tallest in Korea; fifth in the world.

By now, it’s difficult to ignore that 555.7 meter (1,823 ft) sky poker on the horizon.

Got spare time? Another detour, here we come.

Climb a ramp on the southwest edge of Jamsil Bridge (road view) and ride 1.2 kilometers into the city (directions).

Arrive at two blocks and a pair of lakes dominated by one of Korea’s most successful family owned conglomerates, or chaebols (재벌): the Lotte Corporation.

In the west block, find Lotte World (롯데월드), the world’s largest indoor theme park. It buzzes over a skating rink, under a giant dome. Outside, a walking bridge extends to Magic Island (매직아일랜드) on Seokchon Lake (석촌호수).

The ceramic inspired, 123-story façade of Lotte World Tower‘s (롯데월드타워) rises in the eastern Lotte block. Check the building’s registry and you’ll find apartments, businesses, and an observation deck occupying the top six floors.

 

A view of the Han River from the Lotte World Tower Observation deck.
A view of the Han River from the Lotte World Tower Observation deck.

Lotte World Mall (롯데월드몰) squats below Lotte World Tower. Find many branded Korean and international merch in its 11-story retail space.

Before you pedal out, drop by Lotte Department Store or Lotte Mart. Pick up some Lotte chocolate. Scarf a burger at Lotteria. Catch a flick at Lotte Cinema. Or go apartment hunting at Lotte Castle.

Jamsil Railroad Bridge

Get back on the bike path. From Jamsil Bridge, roll past Fish Way and up a gentle embankment. Ride along strolling paths spotted with flowers. 

Down the embankment, once more we arrive at a fork in the bike path (road view).

Besides Banpo Grand Fountain Bridge, Jamsil Railroad Bridge (잠실철교) offers the quickest path across the Han River.

Fly up the ramp, cycle the designated bike lane, and roll into Ttukseom Hangang Park on the North Side.

Jamsil Railroad Bridge transits three and a half vehicle types:

Jamsil Railroad Bridge also leads to Dong Seoul (East Seoul) Bus Terminal (동서울종합터미널) on the North Side. Along with the express terminal near Banpo Park, this terminal is one Korea’s busiest intercity bus hubs, offering cross-nation travel for cyclists.

Jamsil Park’s End

Not switching to the North Side. Take a right at the fork (road view) and dip under Jamsil Railroad Bridge, Jamsil Hangang Park’s end.

Welcome to Gwangnaru Hangang Park, the Hangang Park System’s closing credits.

Gwangnaru Hangang Park

36.2 km (Seoul (South Side))
67.5%
  • Length: 12 km (1st of 11)
  • Area: 1,554,810 m² (1st of 11)
  • Start (West): Jamsil Railroad Bridge (잠실철교)
  • End (East): Gangdong Bridge (강동대교)

Gwangnaru Hangang Park (광나루한강공원) is Seoul’s largest, longest, and easternmost riverside park.

Known for natural beauty and bicycle park, the law protects Gwangnaru’s waters and marshy underbelly from dumping and development, making it a haven for riverside reeds and migratory birds.

Gwangnaru Park Profile

The largest and longest in Seoul’s riverside park system, Gwangnaru Hangang Park spans two districts: Songpa and Gangdong. It features three unique attractions:

  • A pair of eco parks
  • A bicycle park with eccentric rentals
  • It sits near Seoul’s oldest archaeological treasure.

Let’s learn about the park’s namesake, then a bit about the area.

Namesake

Gwangnaru Hangang Park gets its name from Gwang Port (광나루) or Gwang (광) Naru (나루; port), one of Joseon Dynasty era’s five major ports.

Some historians posit that the Kingdom of Baekje used the port to connect its riverside fortresses during the heated Three Kingdom’s period. During the Joseon period, the king appointed a naval officer to protect Gwangnaru’s important ferry crossing.

In 1936, Gwangjin Bridge (광진교) rose and shoved Gwangnaru Port into history’s oblivion.

Gangdong District

Most of Gwangnaru Hangang Park falls inside the Gangdong District (강동구).

Gangdong first came into Seoul’s possession when the northern Seongdong District (성동구) swept across the Han in 1963. Gangnam broke away from Seongdong in 1975. And Gangdong split from Gangnam in 1979.

Gangdong’s name can translate to River (강) East (동). Fitting. The district is Seoul’s easternmost. And it rests on the river. 

Let’s have a quick history lesson.

Gangdong History

Yeah, yeah. Other districts have DeEp HiStOrY.

Gangdong does one better: the Amsa Prehistoric Site (암사선사주거지), the most significant prehistoric settlement discovered on the Korean peninsula.

So how did archeologists discover the site?

A River Wild

As discussed before, the Han was wild. Seasonal changes, rain and snowfall generated extreme changes in the river’s flow. Sudden influxes of water shifted the waterway’s silty underbelly, flooding some areas, drying out others.

In the past, Gangdong lay tied on the river’s railroad tracks. Fast floods often breach its flat riverside regions. Towns washed away. Only farmland suited its soil. 

Until the 1980s, water’s edge neighborhoods like Pungnap (풍납동), some citizens made their commutes on DIY rafts during monsoon season.

The Great Flood

Like living Pompeii, in time this rascally waterway would pull the trigger.

As we learned above, in 1925 a convergence of a typhoon and downpours filled the Han River to capacity. This led two to massive floods that swiped almost every riverside structure in Seoul.

The flood killed hundreds and reshaped the river’s path. But it also revealed bits of ancient pottery in Gangdong’s Amsa Neighborhood.

Fays after, a few scientists poked around the site in Amsa. They guesstimated the pottery held untold history in its clay engravings.

However, Korea lacked the resources to perform a proper excavation. It still had to pass through Japanese Occupation, WWII, and the Korean War’s total devastation.

Amsa Prehistoric Site

Archaeologists finally got their chisels and brushes on the Amsa site in 1957. Subsequent excavations in the decades after yielded extraordinary findings.

The site contained three layers of history:

  • On top sat jars, tombs, and axes from the Kingdom of Baekje (백제; 18 BCE ~ 660 ACE), one of the first kingdoms that settled the Han River basin.
  • One layer below, scientists found earthenware, arrowheads, and weaving tools (가락바퀴) from the Bronze Age (3300 BCE ~ 1200 BCE).
  • The bottom layer held 6,000 year-old comb pattern pottery.

Six thousand years old? Yep. The Neolithic Period (Stone Age). Older than the Pyramids of Giza (2600 BCE).

Further excavations found the outlines of one of the first permanent human settlements along the Han River. The complex included:

  • A network of thirty pits dug into the soil where thatch huts once stood.
  • A rock furnace in the middle of the settlement with traces of burnt charcoal.
  • Earthenware pottery, grinding stones, spears, stone axes, and arrowheads.

Today, these pit houses and artifacts sit inside the Amsa Prehistoric Site’s first exhibition hall. The second hall holds multimedia exhibits. And outside you’ll find a recreated Neolithic village, thatch huts and all.

Eco City

Gangdong doesn’t hold the abundant affluence of the western Great Gangnam Districts. However, it plays its hand well.

Over the past couple decades, Gangdong rebranded itself as an eco-city. It created a portfolio of projects and edicts that increased green space and decreased sprawl.

  • Most apartments in the province feature an adjacent garden and park. 
  • The government cleared paths for greenways along major roads, adding natural choruses of frogs and other wild creatures.
  • The district removed concrete embankments from Godeok Stream (고덕천) and allowed wetland habitats to retake the space.

In 2012, Seoul passed an ordinance that promoted urban agriculture. Gangdong took the resources and seeded seven city-bound gardens that produce fresh produce for its citizens.

Check out this English-language map of Gangdong for the district’s highlights.

Ride Gwangnaru Park

Welcome to the final Hangang Park in Seoul. Starting from Jamsil Railroad Bridge, cross over the Seongnae Stream (성내천) and roll a hundred yards down path.

Here lies another fork (road view).

Olympic Park

Sun still in the sky? Time for another itinerary-shredding detour!

Steer right and rumble down Seongnae Stream for two kilometers (directions). Find at a footbridge (road view) that leads to Olympic Park (올림픽공원).

This 1.4 square kilometer park — Korea’s second largest in a city — contains more than a few walking paths and benches. Like the Jamsil Sports Complex down the way, it held venues for the ’88 Summer Olympics in Seoul.

Because Olympic Park covers such a massive plot, designers clustered its key features into west, middle, and east regions (map).

East Olympic Park

In the park’s east, Seoul built six buildings to host various Olympic events, including:

Today, sports events take place in half of these buildings. The city converted the others into venues for E-sports championships, concerts, and operas.

West Olympic Park

Arts and culture facilities fill the western regions of Olympic Park. Find history and art museums, and an outdoor sculpture park. 

Central Olympic Park

The middle part of the park cuddles next to Mongchon Lake (몽촌호). Known for expansive lawns and flower gardens, the region’s highlight, Mongchon Fortress (몽촌토성), hides under walking paths and Sunday strollers.

The fortress’s 2.7 kilometer earthen remains defended Wiryeseong (위례성), the ancient Baekje (백제) capital, one of Korea’s foundation kingdoms, a millennium and a half ago.

Before the Olympics, archeologists excavated artifacts from Mongchon and preserved them in a pair of nearby museums:

Olympic Bridge

Back to the fork in Gwangnaru (road view). Take a left.

Ride by wetlands with a tree and hanging branch detour. Seven hundred meters further, Olympic Bridge (올림픽대교) approaches.

Pause. Admire the bridge’s 24 cables radiating from fou pyramid aligned pillars (road view).

Civil engineers planned for the bridge to connect north Seoul to Olympic Park and Jamsil Sports Complex for the ’88 Summer Olympics. It would have sped spectators to and from competition venues.

However, Olympic Bridge was Korea’s first attempt at a cable-stayed bridge.

Cable-stay bridges require less time and money. But, they’re complex. In Korea and the wide world, the cable-stay design became popular only with advanced computer modeling and construction techniques.

And though the 80s had some pretty sweet synth pop, the device in your hand possesses more 1101011 crunch power than any mega-machine back then.

A series of setbacks and a partial bridge collapse delayed the Olympic Bridge’s opening until November… 1989.

Today, come nightfall, golden lights flare silvery flames in the bridge’s crowning caldron, reminding Seoulites of their rise from post-war destitution to Olympic host nation in a few remarkable decades.

Gwangjin Bridge

Let’s continue our ride upriver, deeper into Gwangnaru Park.

On your left, walking paths and trees accompany the Han River. A gentle green slope pushes noisy Olympic Boulevard away from the cycle and walking roads.

A kilometer later, find an underpass hiding between two embankments (road view). It leads (directions) to another historic Baekje site: Pungnapto Fortress (풍납토성).

Bridge Buddies

In Gwangnaru, spin under trees dripping with stringy green and pass sports fields. Arrive at a pair of bridges lying 200 meters apart (aerial view).

Cheonho, the first bridge, boasts a wide deck and provides a good crossing point. But the older Gwangjin Bridge offers an awesome:

Riverview 8th Avenue 

Hop down the Gwangjin Bridge’s west side. Midway, spot a wide arch topped with solar panels (road view). Step under it, walk down a flight of stairs, and discover the last Han River Bridge Observatory.

The three leveled Riverview 8th Avenue (광진교 8번가) clings to the Gwangjin Bridge’s underbelly (road view), suspended over the rushing Han River.

Inside lives a small concert space, mandatory café, and viewing platform

Gwangnaru Bike Park

36.5 km (Seoul (South Side))
67.5%

In the eastern shadow of Gangjin Bridge swarms Gwangnaru Bicycle Park and it’s Mos Eisley cantina of bikes.

What’s a “bicycle park?”

While every other Hangang Park loans out your boring old two-wheels-and-a-seat, Gwanganru’s rental center (자전거대여소) loans 36 different pedal powered contraptions:

  • sideways moving
  • wind powered
  • couple facing tandems
  • toilet attached
  • tired, old normies

Where can you ride these beautiful monstrosities? A few unique riding areas:

  • BMX arena (BMX경기장) with 370 meters of concrete waves and sweet jumps.
  • Scaled down training course for kids and tots.
  • Twin courtyards for riders to spin about.

The fun doesn’t stop there, however. Folded into this bikers paradise, find:

What’s the most important part of Gwangnaru Bike Park? A little red phone booth that sits path side beneath a shady tree (road view).

Want to cross to the north side? Take the off ramp on the east side of Gwangjin Bridge (road view). Climb a ramp to the east, bike-only lane.

(The western ramp (road view) leads to a pedestrian only path.

On the north side, spiral down another ramp into the end of Ttukseom Hangang Park (road view).

Gwangnaru Bike Park

In the eastern shadow of Gangjin Bridge swarms Gwangnaru Bicycle Park and it’s Mos Eisley cantina of bikes.

What’s a “bicycle park?”

While every other Hangang Park loans out your boring old two-wheels-and-a-seat, Gwanganru’s rental center (자전거대여소) loans 36 different pedal powered contraptions:

  • sideways moving
  • wind powered
  • couple facing tandems
  • toilet attached
  • tired, old normies

Where can you ride these beautiful monstrosities? A few unique riding areas:

  • BMX arena (BMX경기장) with 370 meters of concrete waves and sweet jumps.
  • Scaled down training course for kids and tots.
  • Twin courtyards for riders to spin about.

The fun doesn’t stop there, however. Folded into this bikers paradise, find:

What’s the most important part of Gwangnaru Bike Park? A little red phone booth that sits path side beneath a shady tree (road view).

광나루자전거공원
인증센터
38 km (23.5 mi) from start
Google Maps Logo
Google
Link button to Kakao Maps directions.
Kakao
Gwangnaru Bicycle Park​ certification center checkpoint stamp for Korea's Bicycle Certification system.
Lady of Domi of the Han

Amongst the riverside, hanging green rests a boat with a copper-colored wire frame. It depicts “The Story of the Lady of Domi” (도미 부인 설화).

According to legend, during the Three Kingdoms, to his palace a Baekje king invited Lady Domi, the wife of Dommi, a commoner. He heard stories of her beauty and loyalty. He wanted to abuse his power test her fidelity.

Lady Domi escaped the king’s coercions and fled to the Han River. A boat appeared and carried her back to her husband.

Where did this tale happen? On the banks of Gwangnaru Hangang Park.

Amsa Prehistoric Site

A parking lot marks the end of Gwangnaru Bike Path. Along its far border, a T-intersection (road view) leads into the city.

Got time? Must detour!

Mozy a kilometer into the Gangdong District (directions). You’ll unearth the Amsa Prehistoric Site (암사선사주거지) on the other side of Olympic Boulevard.

In 1925, a great flood hit the Han River and washed away thousands of years of topsoil, revealing an ancient village.

After the Korean War (1950~1953) and an economic recovery, archeologists took to the site with chisels and brushes. They discovered three eras of Korean civilization:

A full-scale model of this Neolithic village occupies the park’s outdoors. It recreates the circular design of the settlement, with thatched huts radiating from a central, communal furnace. 

Curators built a museum around the shallow pits where the real huts once stood. Exhibits preserve and present pottery, tools, and arrowheads found alongside.

Double the Eco Parks, Double the Fun

Back in Gwangnaru Hangang Park, past all the recreational trimmings lay a pair of ecological parks.

These twin sets of protected wetlands gain their names from the neighborhoods in which they reside: Amsa (암사동) and Godeok (고덕동).

They also hold the final six kilometers of Hangang Bicycle Path in Seoul (directions), ending at Hanam City’s border.

Amsa Eco Park

Past the parking lot, north of the certification center, Amsa Eco Park begins.

An access road spits you onto Seoul’s most rural stretch. On your left flash the uncontrolled reeds and wild flowers. Olympic Boulevard rides an embankment on your right.

As the river bends to the right, the minimal, middle arch of Guri Amsa Bridge (구리암사대교; good crossing point) leaps over the tall grass and into view.

Dip below its swirling on and off ramps (road view).

Amsa Pass

Under the Guri Amsa Bridge’s curling overpass, your pedals morph into lead. It’s not your imagination.

The last forty kilometers of bike path maintained a comfortable 0° incline… Until now.

Welcome to the Amsa Pass (암사고개; aerial view), the steepest incline on Seoul’s South Side bike path.

The next 1.3 kilometers (directions) cross an unavoidable hill along the Han River, taking the riders from 11 to 51 meters above water level.

Amsa Pass mirrors the North Side’s Mieumnaru Pass in almost every category. Same height. Same section of the river. And the same reputation.

Experienced riders approach the Amsa stretch with caution. Why? The riders. Not the hill.

Seoul’s biking roads teem with cyclists of all ages and skills. Carbon grinders. Jacket flapping commuters. Two-lane hogging daters.

Combine pedal-cranking up-hillers weavers with brake-hating down-hillers. They’re gonna have a bad time.

Stay vigilant. Keep your lane uphill. Feather your brakes downhill. And keep a suspicious eye on oncoming riders. They just fleeced your grandma with a triple reverse mortgage and MLM swag.

Godeok Eco Park

Descend from the Amsa Pass into Godeok Restored Eco Park (고덕수변생태공원).

On your left, this stretch of riverside once held detritus and debris from unchecked industrialization.

Since the Hangang Renaissance Project cleaned and revitalized the park, locals visit its reeds, rare species, and sandy shorelines. In May, a festival celebrates native blooming white flowers.

Ride onwards through this riverside grove and flanking green mountains.

After a leftward bend (road view), hop a stream and shoot onto a raised embankment. View the Han on your left, greenhouse sprawl on your right.

A couple hundred meters past Gangdong Bridge (강동대교; impossible to cross), standing in a tunnel of tree branches, stands a simple log gateway (road view).

Painted atop in bold white letters: “Welcome to Hanam City.” And “살고 싶은 도시 하남.” (“Hanam, the city I want to live in.”)

Indeed. Welcome to Hanam City. Bye, bye Seoul.

Hanam City

43.4 km (Seoul (South Side))
81%

As Gwangnaru falls, so falls Seoul. Exit into Hanam City (하남시; Hanam-si), one of the mega-capital’s satellite cities.

Though the Hangang Park System ends at the border, Hanam carries on the tradition and ushers the bike road along with verdant green parks. 

Let’s inspect some interesting Hanam City info before continuing our ride.

Hanam City Profile

Hanam City (하남시) arose later than most of Seoul’s “bed towns” or commuter cities.

First established in 1989, the city latches onto the capital’s soft underbelly sharing a subway (Line 5; 5호선) and commuter train (Gyeongui–Jungang Line; 경의·중앙선).

The Namesake

Like Seoul’s, Songpa, Gangnam, and Gangdong Districts, Hanam holds remnants of Wiryeseong (위례성), the capital of the Kingdom of Baekje (백제; 18 BCE ~ 660 ACE).

For over six centuries, Baekje ruled a southwestern chunk of the Korean peninsula. They became the first of the Three Kingdoms to dominate the Han River.

Hanam borrows its name from Hanam Wiryeseong (하남위례성). Let’s unpack the name.

  • “Han” (한) refers to the River.
  • “Nam” (남) translates to south.
  • “Wirye” (위례) might refer to the Han River or an old name for “Baekje.”
  • “Seong” (성) means fortress or castle.

Battlegrounds

Wiryeseong (하남위례성)? Seong (성)? Like a castle? Yes.

The old Baekje capital built several fortifications near present-day Hanam and eastern Seoul. 

Why? … “Whoever controls the Han River, controls Korea.”

The river provided access to the interior of the peninsula and to the largest trading partner in the region: China. For centuries, all three kingdoms conquered and took turns ruling the waterway.

First, the Goguryeo (고구려; 37 BCE ~ 668 ACE) drove south and conquered Baekje’s capital in 475. Then, in 660, the Kingdom of Silla (신라; 57 BCE ~ 935 ACE) allied with Baekje to resist.

Baekje and Silla pushed Goguryeo back north. And Baekje reclaimed some of its old territory.

However, three years later, Silla and China’s Tang Dynasty combined forces and wiped out both Baekje and Goguryeo’s territory.

The last kingdom standing, Silla united the peninsula. They shifted the peninsula’s power to their capital — present day Gyeongju (경주) — and ruled for three more centuries.

Along the Han River basin, settlements persisted. But people and time abandoned Baekje’s old capital, Wiryeseong.

Economy

From the 1960s to the 2000s, Seoul’s economic fortunes accelerated. Industries grew. Towers rose. A middle class amassed.

However, Seoul swelled to capacity. And by the 1990s, land and apartments became unaffordable. Residents leaked into Gyeonggi Province’s satellite cities, like Goyang (고양시) and Suwon (수원시) ballooned.

In 2010, Hanam held around 100,000 citizens. Seeing fleeing Seoulites, the city developed apartments and commercial areas. By 2020, its population tripled to almost 300,000.

Mountain Mania

The “city” part of Hanam takes up only 23% of its total territory. Most of its citizens, buildings, and infrastructure nestle in the northern tip, along the Han River.

What about the other 77%? Mighty peaks dominate.

  • Namhan Mountain (남한산, Namhan-san) climbs 522 meters (1,509 feet) south of downtown Hanam. It is home to Namhan Mountain Fortress (남한산성), one of Korea’s oldest and best preserved.
  • Geumam (금암산, Geumam-san; 321 m) and Gaek (객산; Gaeksan; 292 m) Mountains hang between Namhan and downtown Hanam.
  • Geomdan Mountain (검단산; Geomdansan) is the tallest peak in Hanam. It elevates to 658 meters (2,159 feet).

Most of these mountains rest untouched in Seoul’s greenbelt. Find temples, fortresses, and cultural treasures amongst their foliage and rocky faces.

Ride Hanam City

You thought this guide stopped when Seoul ended? Our finish line is Paldang Bridge (팔당대교), twelve kilometers down the line (directions).

Cross under the simple log gateway (road view) and into Hanam City. Continue down the raised, tree lined embankment.

The bike road whips left into Seoryong Park (서룡공원). Its generous bike lanes pass between sports fields and green river islands.

As you approach the park’s end, say goodbye to an old friend.

Olympic Boulevard, our cycling companion since entering Seoul, hops onto Misa Bridge (미사대교; impossible to cross), flies over the Han, and transforms into Expressway 60, which ends in Yangyang County (양양군) along the East Coast (Gangwon) Bike Path.

The High/Low Split

Past Misa Bridge, the bike road traces a rightward bend in the river, then splits in two (road view).

  • The left (oncoming) lane slinks down and rolls along the riverbanks.
  • The right lane climbs an embankment and sails above.

The next four kilometers (directions) continue with the bisected path, converging once more at Deokpung Bridge (덕풍교) near Deokpung Stream (덕풍천).

Be careful! When warm, this section can swell with cyclists. From sunshine daters and velocity chasers.

While you might think the one-way path doesn’t provide enough room to pass, aggressive cyclists may disagree, shouting, ringing their noisemakers.

Don’t give way. Let them ring and shout! Passing isn’t safe.

Alternative Paths

Two kilometers down the high/low split, a riverside park wedges the bike lanes apart (map).

  • The right lane (your lane) veers away from the river, towards downtown Hanam.
  • The left lane sticks to the riverside.

Further complicating the situation (road view):

  • The right (lower) lane gains an extra lane and becomes bidirectional.
  • And a separate, two-lane bike path emerges below your one-way bike path.

Complicated? Don’t fret. Keep cruising.

Feel a bit cramped? Are the cursing cyclists behind too much? Tumble down a set of steps onto the bike paths below. All lead to the same spot two kilometers down (map).

Misa Boat Race Park

Stick to the one-way lane and plow on. Creep inland toward the growing apartments in the distance (road view).

Glance at a map of your current location. Notice a perfect rectangle over the tall embankment on your right. 

Misa Boat Race Park (미사경정공원), a people-produced lake, measures 2.2 kilometers long, 140 meters wide, and 3 meters deep. It hosted rowing and canoeing competitions for both the ‘86 Asian and ‘88 Summer Olympic Games.

Misa Gyeongjeong Park (미사경정공원) surrounds the retired lake today. Bike rental stations rent two-wheelers for riders to sputter about. Leisure craft emerge in summer.

Not visible from the bike path, ascend a set of steps to peep the old Olympic venue (road view).

Into the City

Has the strain of Seoul’s landmark infest bike roads given your pedals cement shoes?

Cycle down to Deokpung Stream (덕풍천), the point where all bike paths converge — high, low, and in between (road view).

On the near (west) side of Deokpung Bridge, a ramp that ascends onto Hanam City streets (road view).

Climb it and pedal a kilometer to Hanam City Hall (directions). Around here, find a bed and some leg rebuilding grub.

Not stopping? But you have time to detour? Okay.

Climb the Deokpung Bridge ramp into Hanam (road view). Scoot closer to that mighty, blue-faced tower on the horizon.

Hanam Union Tower

Hanam Union Tower welcomes you to the city of Hanam and the rest of Korea.
Hanam Union Tower welcomes you to the city of Hanam and the rest of Korea.

Seoul’s North and South bike roads often mirror each other.

Completed in 2015, Hanam Union Tower’s (유니온타워) crowns an almost 80,000 square meter complex.

Take the stairs below ground. Like Guri Tower in Guri City, you’ll find waste incinerating, sewage treating, and recycling screening facilities. Each day they:

  • Incinerate 48 tons of garbage.
  • Compress 60 tons of trash.
  • Recycle 50 tons of detritus.
  • Recover 80 tons of food waste.
  • Treat 32,000 tons of sewage.

Above the complex sits a neighborhood park (유니온파크), with a grass field, pond, playground, and sports fields.

What about the tower? On frigid days, spot white clouds puff from its top (aerial view). Hanam Union Tower is a 105 meter tall exhaust vent… And a multi-level, 360° observatory.

Paldang Bridge

53 km (Seoul (South Side))
99%
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.

Glide back on the bike path. Let’s conquer those homestretch kilometers.

Slide over the Deokpung Stream (덕풍천) and curl back to towards the Han River. Pass the green tree fields of Dang Garden (당정뜰; aerial view).

Along the horizon, a cluster of peaks rise. Yebong Mountain (예봉산; 679 m) claims the north side of the river. Geomdan Mountain (검단산; 658 m) dominates the south (road view).

Just before the end, loop over Sangok Stream (산곡천; road view) and approach Paldang Bridge (팔당대교). This final flyover isn’t just an excellent crossing point, it’s a required:

Paldang Bridge is a part of the Hangang Bicycle Path.

A bicycle-friendly lane runs along the bridge’s east side. It connects Seoul’s North and South Side bike paths.

Ready to let go? To move on? To continue your journey with the Seoul to Yeoju portion of the Hangang Bike Path?

From Sangok Stream (산곡천), bike under Paldang Bridge and up and embankment (road view). Take a hairpin turn (road view) and ride onto Paldang Bridge.