Beot-ggot nori is a devil of a word to translate. Literally, it translates to “cherry blossom enjoying,” and roughly, it means “flower viewing.” But English somehow doesn’t do justice to the lightness felt between the sternum and backbone while walking beneath the pink and white blooms. A week or so after the first blossoms appear, petals float through the air and pile up like snowdrifts.
Here in Seoul, Yeouido is well-known for its annual cherry blossom festival. Yeouido being Seoul’s main destination for beot-ggot nori also means that your pale-pink reveries will come elbow-to-elbow with many other camera-toting, stroller-pushing, couple-entwined festivalgoers. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of alternative cherry blossom destinations. While not all have quite the grandeur of Yeouido’s cherry trees, each neighborhood has something special of its own to share.
Geumcheon Cherry Blossom Mile Street (벚꽃십리길): The Geumchon Harmony Cherry Blossom Festival is being celebrated now through April 19th along a 3.1 km walking trail in western Seoul. The path, which runs alongside the train tracks, stretches from Geumcheon-gu Office Station (line 1) to Gasan Digital Complex Station (lines 1 & 7) and is lined with 639 cherry trees. Reward yourself with some outlet mall shopping at the end of the path, or else some chicken kalguksu (knife-cut noodles) at Gongdan Bunshik, near exit 6. Getting there: Geumcheon-gu Office Station exit 1, turn left (with the station to your back) and walk north.
[EDIT: The 2014 festival will be held from April 5th to 19th, with “experience booths” planned on the 5th and 6th.]
Hapjeong café alley: This side street near Hongdae is perfect for getting your fill of cafés, boutiques and small restaurants under the as-yet-young cherry trees. From exit 5 at Hapjeong station (lines 2 and 6) take an immediate right after the Giant bike shop and keep left. Café Neighborhood has a great people-watching terrace if you can snag one of the umbrella-shaded tables (the menu and pricetag don’t quite merit settling for an indoor seat, though). A Seoulist favorite, Bori-eul, serves up healthful and savory bowls of bori-bap (barley bibimbap) just across the street for 6,000 won.
Dangin-dong power plant: Just southeast of Hapjeong is a towering renewable energy plant. Surprisingly, the grounds of the plant are covered in cherry trees—it actually opens up to the public for two days in spring (which, unfortunately, was this past weekend). Nonetheless, the cherry trees surrounding the plant are still quite pretty if you’re in the area. Stop in at Anthracite, a shoe-factory-turned-coffee-shop, and take in the sun on the rooftop patio after enjoying your walk. Getting there: From Hapjeong Station take exit 7 and walk east about 400m, turning right at the small Emart. Take this cherry-blossom-lined road to the rotary and turn either left or right, up to you. Anthracite is 100m northeast of the rotary, here.
[EDIT: The plant will be open from April 1st through 7th in 2014.]
Yeonnam-dong and Yeonhui-dong: These gracefully aging neighborhoods sit at a peaceful distance from their vibrant neighbor to the south, Hongdae. Large-scale redevelopment has not quite yet overtaken their quiet golmok alleys, several of which are full of pink cherry blossoms. After touring the area, stop by Coffee Libre for some of Seoul’s most highly regarded caffeinated brew. Getting there: One of Yeonnam-dong’s prettiest cherry blossom alleys starts at this location (map), an 8 minute walk from Hongik University Station exit 3. Yeonhui-dong is just north-east towards Yonsei University, and worth a wander as well.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, we hear that a long walk up behind Yonsei University to Ansan Park yields beautiful blossoms and views of the city.
[EDIT: The 2014 Ansan cherry blossom festival is April 4–8.]
Jeongdok Library: Located in the heart of Samcheong-dong, another popular walking neighborhood chock-full of appealing cafés and restaurants, Jeongdok Public Library has a park-like entrance complete with benches and (of course) cherry trees. Getting there: Anguk Station (line 3). Map & directions here. Photo by Youkyung Lee.
Samcheong Park cherry blossom path: If you’re up for some more walking, head north from Jeongdok Library to the Samcheong Park entrance for a respite from the city air (map). The park sits along the edge of Bugaksan, and after having your fill of cherry blossoms, you can go for a full-on trek up the mountain.
Namsan: Take the scenic route up “South Mountain” by hopping on a cable car (from Myeongdong Station, exit 3) to the top for views of the city and flora alike. As of the publication of this article, the trees are just beginning to bloom, and this weekend looks promising. (And naturally, there’s a lot to do once you get to the top.) When you’re ready to take your leave, take the pedestrian path down the mountain for a leisurely stroll among the trees, keeping to the main road, and you’ll end up at the Banyan Tree Hotel. Otherwise, yellow bus #3 will take you to Seoul Station, Itaewon Station and Yaksu Station. For a detailed walking tour, try National Geographic’s guide here.
Seoul National Cemetery: The National Cemetery admits that its trees are not quite as impressive as Yeouido’s, but the site itself is an historical destination and somber contrast to the frolicking crowds elsewhere. As if to reinforce the association, the particular species of cherry tree at the National Cemetery is the suyang beot-ggot, or weeping cherry tree, so named for its long, draping, willow-like branches. The suyang cherry tree was planted in great quantities by King Hyojong, who wished to make bows and arrows from the wood and avenge the Manchurian Invasion of 1636. The Cemetery also hosts a cherry blossom festival from April 15th to 21st, with live music from military bands and bow-making activities for children. Getting there: Dongjak Station (line 4 and 9), exit 8.
[EDIT: The 2014 festival will take place from April 5th to 11th.]
Jamsil 5-danji: Pronounced Jamshil oh-danji, this large apartment complex just across the road from Lotte World is criss-crossed with roads lined with cherry trees, a unique urban take on the bbeot-ggot nori. (The complex itself is a good example of “mega-danji” design after the modernist urbanism of Le Corbusier.) The white flowers set against the lofty white buildings are strikingly beautiful and almost surreal. After taking a tour of Jamsil 5-danji, head across the street to the other side of Lotte World to add Seokchon Lake’s cherry trees to your itinerary. Jamsil Station (line 2) exit 6. Take your first left into the complex. Photo by Jiyon Ha.
Seokchon Lake: This man-made lake sits along the southern edge of Lotte World amusement park and is divided into two basins. The walking path around the lake is bordered by thick white blooms. Enjoy the view from pan-Euro/nouvelle cuisine restaurant The Dining Hosoo (tip: make reservations; it’s crowded this time of year). Alternatively, while you’re in the area, why not pair your petal picnicking with a detour to Lotte World’s roller coasters? Getting there: Jamsil Station (line 2) exit 3. Walk around to the south side of Lotte Hotel World to the lake path entrance. Photo by Hye-Sook Sohn.
[EDIT: The 2014 Seokchon Lake cherry blossom festival will be held April 4–6.]
Children’s Grand Park: More of an open area and less of a distinct touring route, the Children’s Grand Park offers wide, grassy spaces that are perfect for picnicking. As the name suggests, it’s also a good destination to bring children, complete with a petting zoo and marine animal house. More information and directions here.
[EDIT: In 2014, the spring flowers festival will be held from April 5th through May 6th.]
The Sheraton Walkerhill: The grounds of this high-end hotel complex on the slopes of Achasan are well known for their cherry blossoms. One of their paths is called the “cloud road” for all the fluffy white petals that float overhead. Stop by this weekend to enjoy the blooms and the spring beer fair on the 20th and 21st, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. A 15,000 won ticket gets you tastings of over 50 brews, discounts on over 100 different beers from Asia and Europe, and a drawing + prizes. Tip: Use this coupon to get 5,000 won off. Directions here.
Yangjaecheon (Yangjae Stream): A tributary of the Han River, Yangjaecheon in Gangnam is lined with cherry trees that lean over the 3.5 km walking path. A bike path runs parallel to the more flora-filled pedestrian way. Yangjae Stream is easily accessible by subway via any stops between Dogok Station and Daecheong Station, (both line 3 and the Bundang line). More information and directions here.
Tancheon (Tan Stream): Cherry blossoms abound along this tributary as well. Expect to see bikers: Tan Stream links Yangjae Stream with the Han River, all of which are popular routes for local cycling enthusiasts. Getting there: It’s easier to access Tan Stream by walking north along Yangjae Stream, or else from Cheongdam station (line7) exit 14, walk east through the underpass to the north end of Tan Stream. Photo by Kelly Potratz.
College campuses: Several friends who are alums or employees of the following universities recommended their campuses as good places for spring flower viewing: Kyunghee University, Sogang University, Yonsei University, Dongkuk University and Seoul National University (cherry trees at SNU apparently bloom 2–4 weeks later than the rest of Seoul due its location on the north side of Gwanak Mountain).
Got any more tips? Leave them in the comments!