Seoul Botanic Park: Pleasant stroll through the new green heart of Seoul

Photo courtesy of Seoul botanic park
Photo courtesy of Seoul botanic park

Seoul Botanic Park: Pleasant stroll through the new green heart of Seoul

by ChiHon Kim
Stripes Korea

In Korea, just because there’s inclement weather or a bad air quality day, it doesn’t mean your plans for fun day out have to be canceled.

Seoul Botanical Park (SBP) is just one of the many great places to consider when the weather’s crummy or when you want to escape into the wonders of nature without leaving the city.

Touted as Seoul’s first urban style botanical garden, the park has been open for less than a year and is about a 15-minute drive from Gimpo Airport.

Here, visitors can see over 3,000 different plants and flowers including rare orchids and trees from all over the world in the sprawling garden that roughly covers the size of about 70 soccer fields. Inside, the greenhouse integrates the forest field, a pond and wetland allowing for an amazing leisurely walk.

I started my visit with a breezy stroll along the wetlands. To get here I took a bus to the Mogok Leports Center bus stop. As I circled the pond, there were plenty of birds chirping and a lot of green to see. I took the glass elevator to the observatory deck from which I was given a beautiful panoramic view of the Han River.

Magok Cultural Hall
On my way to the expansive greenhouse, I first stopped at the Magok Cultural Hall, a repurposed building dating to 1928. This black Japanese-style wooden structure was once a drainage pump station to water the adjacent grassy field. Today, it has been transformed into a unique exhibition room where you can see the history of the area as well as unique art displays.

On the day I visited, I was able to browse the gallery’s digital artwork made by prominent media artists. To enter, pull on the heavy sliding door outside the hall. It might look closed but try the door first.

Seed Library
Before you go down to the first basement that leads to the entrance of the main greenhouse, check out the Seed Library where you’ll find various seeds native to the Korean peninsula on display. During weekdays, you can also borrow plant seeds at the helpdesk. I opted for sunflower seeds, which will be planted behind my house.

And, though, returning replacement seeds from the ones you sowed is not required, if you have a good circulation record, the library allows you to take more seeds and from a wider variety.

Green House
The botanical park’s giant greenhouse is divided into two sections–tropical and Mediterranean zones. Both have different temperatures and different atmospheres. When you enter the tropical zone, artificial rocks and a waterfall greet visitors. The view of staghorn ferns native to Australia grow upside down in this section’s artificial cave. Don’t miss this picturesque section for its innumerable florals and orchid varieties in breathtaking colors.

Another must-see in this zone is the Bodhi tree, which is exactly like the Tree of Awakening, known for being the type of tree Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher and founder of Buddhism, was sitting under when he achieved spiritual enlightenment. The Bodhi tree gives way to a cluster of edible fruit trees like guava, mangosteen, and banana. Here’s also where you’ll find a big Baobab tree a central point in “Le Petit Prince,” a popular French children’s book.

I soon entered the Mediterranean zone via an automatic door at the end of the path. Once inside, I realized both zones have a unique scent on top of an already distinct appearance. In here, I saw different types of cactus and other plants native to the Mediterranean and desert areas in States. At the end of the path I saw Lithops, a type of succulent also known as “living stone plants,” because they don’t look like plants at all.

From here, I took the stairs to another highlight of the greenhouse— the Skywalk across the tropical zone. This vantage point gave me a sweeping view of the immense tropical forest.

From tiny beautiful flowers to tropical trees, there is something great around every corner in this botanical garden. The park also has a goal to grow their number of plant species to 8,000 by 2028. So, make your escape from the concrete jungle and head into the botanical garden for some fresh air, greenery and wonders from around the world all in one place.

kim.chihon@stripes.com


Photo courtesy of Seoul botanic park

  • Phone: 82-2-120
  • Address: 161 Magokdong-ro, Gangseo-gu, Seoul, Korea  [서울식물원 ] 서울 강서구 마곡동로 161,
  • NAVER MAP: http://naver.me/F4x0vFVr
  • Hours: Mar - Oct 09:30 a.m. to 18:00 (Last admissoin: 5:00 p.m.), Nov - Feb 09:30 a.m. to 17:00 p.m. (Last admission 4:00 p.m.) Closed every Monday

Open Forest, Lake Zone, Marsh Zone: Open all year round.
Fee: 5,000 won for Adult (Ages 19 - 65) / 3,000 won for Youth (Ages 13 - 18) / 2,000 won for Children (Ages 6 - 12)
* 30 percent discount ticket fee available for groups of over 30 people.
* Free admission for infants under 6 and seniors over 65 years old.

  • Website: botanicpark.seoul.go.kr
  • Note: There are lockers for luggage available on site next to the greenhouse main gate.

How to get there
Subway

  • Seoul station (Airport railroad) → Magongnaru Stn (Exit No. 3)
  • Line 9, Airport railroad → Magongnaru Stn (Exit No. 3), Line 9 → Yangcheon Hyanggyo Stn (Exit No. 8)
  • Note: If you’re departing from Seoul station, take the airport railroad which is the quickest way to get to the park.
  • Bus Get off at Magongnaru Stop (Bus# 6642, 6645, 6648), or Gyeomjae Jeongseon Art Museum Stop (Bus# 672, 6632,6642,6712)
  • Parking Second basement level, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., 200won per 10 minutes.

* Since limited parking space, many prefer to use public transportation or park their cars at the parking lot of subway stations near the park.

Greenhouse near Humphreys full of beauty

You don’t have to travel far from Camp Humphreys for some amazing flora. The Pyeongtaek Natural Theme Botanical Garden is a mid-sized greenhouse which is hots to over 171 different plant species. Better yet, you can visit this garden year-round for free!

It may not be as fancy as the Seoul Botanical Park, but the garden has a vast range of greenery from subtropical to wild plants to browse and photograph.  At its center, the greenhouse also has a beautiful animal topiary and rare plants around every nook and cranny.

When I visited, the greenhouse was filled with the scent of flowers and herbs. The area with cactus and succulents was a highlight which also makes for a great photo-op. It took me about 20 minutes to walk through the entire greenhouse, and outside there is a park where annual the flower festival is held. During this occasion, this field is covered in flowers drawing in plenty of visitors. Don’t forget to mark your calendars and plan a visit to the garden for the Flower Festival running Apr. 18 to 26.

– ChiHon Kim, Stripes Korea

HOURS: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Closed on Monday)
CONTACT INFO: 031-8024-4524
ADDRESS: 33-58, Cheongo-ro, Oseong-myeon, Pyeongtaek-si [평택시자연테마식물원] 경기 평택시 오성면 청오로 33-58
NAVER MAP: http://naver.me/GksHTenf

Son-yeosa restaurant serves up tasty Korean bibimbap

If you’re looking for a quick bite or need a break for lunch while visiting the Seoul Botanical Park, check out the café and food court on the 4th floor of the main greenhouse. This is a great, convenient option for families with small children who don’t want to travel far for a good meal.

However, if you have the time and the energy, I recommend heading to the surrounding neighborhood and taking a walk to Son-yeosa about a 10-minute walk from the Park.

You’ll find the restaurant serving up Korean homestyle dishes on the 3rd floor of the Doosan Land Tower B. The menu items are made with fresh ingredients harvested from a farm near Mt. Jirisan, famous for its unspoiled nature.

The restaurant closes from 4 to 5:30 p.m. to turn over and prep for the dinner crowd. I arrived at 4:30 and the kind owner allowed me, their unexpected, and very early guest, in without hesitation. I had walked up quite an appetite, so I was grateful he did.

I ordered avocado pollack roe bibimbap for 12,000 won (or about $10.07), which by the photo looked like the most delicious meal on the menu. In Korea, salted pollack roe is considered a gourmet side dish to go along with steamed rice, but its salty and distinct flavor definitely makes this an acquired taste.

When my bibimbap arrived, it was love at first bite. The slightly salted flavor of the roe and the creamy avocado were complementary. I could not get enough!

And while I chose with my eyes, this dish convinced me I will have to return soon and try other items on Son-yeosa’s vast menu.

– ChiHon Kim, Stripes Korea

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