A little slice of nature in the middle of Seoul, Namsan is a popular destination for both locals and foreign tourists. The mountain is well-known for its beautiful hiking trails which allow visitors to experience the local wildlife and to enjoy the view over the city. When autumn comes, Namsan is blanketed with vivid golden and red leaves, turning it into the city’s most scenic location.
Lying south of Myeongdong, Namsan (남산), meaning “South Mountain”, is one of the four major mountains in Seoul. Together with Bugaksan in the North, Inwangsan in the East, and Naksan in the West, it is believed to form a protective circle surrounding the historic core of Seoul. For this reason, Namsan was considered a sacred shamanistic site during the Joseon dynasty.
As ordered by King Taejo, the first king of Joseon, a massive fortress wall was built along the range of these mountains to protect the city from invasions. And the wall that ran through Namsan marked the southern boundary. Some sections of this wall still exist to this day, including five beacons at the mountain peak.
Although Namsan (262m) is the lowest of the four mountains, its popularity far surpasses the other three. Each day, the mountain welcomes around 20,000 visitors. Most people come here to enjoy nature, go for a hike, or to catch a view of Seoul downtown. Others traveled here to seal their love forever. A collection of “love locks” hanging on a wall close to the peak is the evidence for their (wishful) endless love.
N Seoul Tower
At the peak of Namsan, I found myself standing in front of another landmark, the N Seoul Tower (also known as Namsan Tower or Seoul Tower). Soaring 236 meters to the sky, this tower was first constructed in 1969 as a broadcast tower to send out TV and radio signals. Eleven years later, it was opened to the public as the first tower-type tourism spot in South Korea. After extensive remodeling in the 2000s, N Seoul Tower has become an inseparable part of Seoul’s skyline and one of the city’s most symbolic buildings.
Tips for visiting Namsan
- Fall is an ideal time to visit Namsan as the weather is pleasant. The whole area is also transformed into a carpet of golden and red autumnal leaves.
- Namsan peak is easily accessible by three Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus routes. The bus departs from Chungmuro station (No. 02), from Seoul station (No. 03) and from Myeongdong station (No. 05). Payable by Korea Tour Card.
- Alternatively, you can take the cable car which runs from the base of the mountain. The cable car station is 15-minutes walking from Myeongdong station. A one-way ticket costs ₩7,000, while a round-trip costs ₩9,500.
- I would recommend taking the bus or cable car to the peak, then walk back to the town. In this way, you can experience the park and enjoy the spectacular view of Seoul without the crowd. It’s a fairly simple walk and the trail is very well-maintained.