Best Autumn Walks in Seoul
With golden ginkgos and scarlet maples lighting up the city horizons, autumn in Seoul is truly spectacular. You don’t even have to travel very far to enjoy the changing colors since whimsical pathways lined by yellow and crimson trees are right here in the capital city, just waiting to be discovered. But better grab those walking boots quickly—peak season (mid-October to mid-November) passes in a New York minute. Here are our picks for the best autumn walks in Seoul.
Changdeokgung Secret Garden
Gorgeous fall foliage fit for royals
Once the exclusive provenance of Joseon kings, Changdeokgung Secret Garden is renowned for its tranquil beauty amidst the swirl of urban life. There are four main palaces in Seoul where you can find secluded beauty all year long, but Changdoekgung should be your priority during the fall. Already stunning for its natural landscaping, the Secret Garden is especially breathtaking when the yellow, orange, and red foliage accentuates the harmony between the gardens and the asymmetrical mountains surrounding Changdeokgung.
Visit in the thick of autumn to experience the seasonal highlight: the reflection of the Hanok-style pavilion and surrounding trees in Buyongji, the lotus pond. The pavilion was used by kings of the past for lounging and other recreational activities. If you gaze into the lotus waters long enough, not only will you slip into a trance watching layers of fall leaves caper on the pond water, you might also see an ancient king composing poetry or fishing for an autumn snack. For modern Seoulites, we suggest selfie sticks rather than fishing rods at this historic gem.
If you’re looking to walk the paths of Joseon royalty, access to the Secret Garden is only available as part of a guided tour, and reservations are a must. English tours operate February to November from Tuesday to Sunday, at 10:30am, 11:30am, 14:30pm and 15:30pm.
Best Autumn Walks in Seoul
Autumnal beauty in the city’s old alleyways
Deoksugung Doldam-gil hums with amorous couples year round. It’s autumn, however, when these romantic walkways really come alive under canopies of bright yellow ginkgo trees. While most people hurry inside the palace walls to get their Instagram shots, your priority should be the picturesque walkways surrounding Deoksugung. The golden leaves, crisp autumn air, and palace contours are straight out of a Korean fairytale.
The best way to see the fall colors at Deoksugung is to walk the pathway between Chungdong First Methodist Church and Jungmyeongjeon Hall, the first Western-style building in Korea as well as the site of haunting events in Korean history, such the moment Korea was subjected by treaty in 1905 to Imperial Japanese rule. The lawn along this path is covered in a sweep of saffron ginkgo leaves and makes for an incredible backdrop to your photos. Continue past Ehwa Girls High school and you’ll soon be greeted by a charming path decorated in even brighter colors. Double back toward the church until you reach the tree-lined path bending toward the British Embassy. Head down and you’ll soon happen upon a vista of Gothic buildings. The Anglican Cathedral should be there, signaling the end of your autumn stroll.
Enjoyed walking around Deoksugung? How about following your stroll with a bird’s eye view of the trees you just took at least a hundred pictures of? The 13th floor observatory in nearby City Hall – also called the Seosomun Building – offers jaw-dropping views of the same fabulous fall foliage you just frolicked through. If the brisk autumn breeze has you feeling a bit nippy then hot drinks are available in the observatory café.
Quintessential autumn activities in a natural park setting
Seoul Forest is one of the city’s largest green spaces. An oasis of nature in a city dominated by towering skyscrapers, Seoul Forest is a wonderful escape no matter the time of year. Wait for autumn, however, and you’ll find the forest ablaze with fiery reds and incandescent yellows. If you’re searching for your chance to jump into a pile of leaves, the over 300 ginkgos along the main 1.5 km trail might be what you’re looking for.
There’re tons of things to enjoy in Seoul Forest. Venture through the swarm of ginkgo trees and you’ll find a glittering lake. And it’s perfect for picnicking in the autumn sunshine. If you forgot your picnic basket, then there are numerous convenience stores where you can pick up supplies for an impromptu version. Take a stroll afterward toward the children’s playgrounds, either through the park’s wide fields or the pedestrian and cycling paths. There’s even a deer park with Formosan deer! When the late afternoon chill begins to get the better of you then escape to one of the new cafes and restaurants cropping up outside the park gates. The area is growing in popularity, so you’re bound to find something trendy.
Namsan Walking Trails (Namsan Dulle-gil)
Autumn mountain hikes in the heart of Seoul
Sure, selfies at Namsan Seoul Tower are a lot of fun, but we’ve found a better reason to throw your sneakers on and head up the trails to Namsan this fall. The mountains here glow in a dazzling array of autumn colors once the summer heat fades. If you’re late planning your fall colors tour, you’re in luck. The foliage here hangs on longer than the city-dwelling trees below.
The two walking trails off Namsan Dulle-gil are the best way to take in the mountain foliage. The relaxed northern walking trail (3.4 km) is for hikers, while the southern trail (3.1 km) is open to both pedestrians and cars. The gentler northern route spans the entire mountain, with cherry blossom trees and maples on either side of the trail reaching across to each other to form a natural tunnel. If you want to mix exercise with your arboreal sightseeing, give the southern trail a go. It’s a bit steeper and will take you directly to the top of Namsan to Seoul Tower. It’s a tough climb, but if you can make it about 10 minutes past the parking lot you’ll be rewarded with a powerful view of the tower silhouetted against a blood crimson backdrop.
Dramatic fall colors contrasted with deep hues of the evergreen
Painted in warm red and yellow fall hues, Olympic Park is absolutely picture perfect during the autumn months. If you’re looking to escape the crowds to commune with nature, Mongchon Fortress offers a gorgeous view of a lake lined with beautiful maple foliage. The spectrum of red runs from carmine to vermillion, and the yellows span mustard to Tuscan sun. And though the park opened in 1988, Mongchon Fortress itself is 2000 years old and today functions as a stunning juxtaposition between past and present. If you’re looking to up your selfie game, then head over to the aptly-named Lonely Tree. This tree standing alone in an expanse of grass is a favorite of Instagrammers. After snapping that selfie of 1000 likes, dendrophiles should make their exit via South Gate 1 or 2 to catch another of Seoul’s autumnal jewels: Wiryeseong-gil. Lined by 1,300 ginkgo trees and blanketed in golden-yellow leaves, this tranquil path is the perfect place to get your crunch on.
If the leaves have yet to turn and you’re growing impatient for beautiful colors, Olympic Park still has your fix in the form of purple cosmos and pink Muhly grasses. Music lovers will further appreciate the Grand Mint Festival held each year in mid-October. Don’t forget to visit in the spring for even more colors when the roses and cherry blossoms bloom.