Until now, it still boggles my mind that a place like Haneul Park exists in Seoul. It’s not about the park itself- though of course it is incredibly picturesque- but what it represents: Renewal. Regeneration. Rebirth.
Haneul Park is just one part of the giant main park that is called the World Cup Park, located at Seongsan-dong in Mapo-gu. The general area of the World Cup Park used to be a dumping site for the waste generated by the rapidly modernizing metropolitan of Seoul. Imagine, for 15 years this was a landfill that ended up managing 92 million tons of garbage.
The South Korean government eventually decided to initiate a Landfill Recovery Project. Although it took 6 years to figure out what to do with the garbage, plus an extra year to build the actual park and stadium, they eventually accomplished the feat. In 2002, the World Cup Park became the site for the FIFA World Cup Games held in Korea and Japan that year. These days, this entire area is known as an eco-friendly site. The old garbage now buried under the ground releases non-hazardous gases intermittently, but most of this becomes methane gas that fuels the World Cup Stadium plus the nearby neighborhoods.
Just the though of this stunning place like a phoenix rising from ashes made me want to pay a visit.
I failed to imagine how ginormous this area actually is while doing research for the itinerary. It seemed impractical to explore the entire World Cup Park in one day, so we decided to pick just one of its five parks. Haneul Park is its most popular park, so naturally we decided to head over there during our first visit. The other four parks are Pyeonghwa Park (Peace Park), Noeul Park, Nanjicheon Park, and Hangang Riverside Park. Rest assured we will be visiting at least one of these next time.
To arrive at Haneul Park, you can either walk or pay to take a shuttle. Haneul Park is located at the World Cup Park’s highest point, but to me, it wasn’t a very long walk uphill. You can either take the same path the trams take, or walk 291 steps up the stairs on the hillside to get to the top.
Once you get to the Haneul Park proper, the best thing to do is to explore to your heart’s content and take A LOT of photos with the reeds or the silver grass. The silver grass are at their peak during October. It is certainly a different color scheme from the typical orange and red hues you get during the autumn season, although there is some of that here too in the form of the broom cypress. The silver grass are plenty stunning though.
We went crazy with the selfies whilst here, but this is my favorite I think:
There is a popular annual event held here at Haneul Park, called the Silver Grass Festival. Park management normally does not allow visitors to stay at the park in the evenings but during the Silver Grass Festival, visitors get to stay late and view the evening lights flash across the silver grass field. This festival draws about 600,000 people on average, so unsurprisingly it got cancelled last year due to COVID-19.
We headed toward the bowl-shaped observation deck hoping to get a decent 360-degree view of Haneul Park. The deck seems a bit low from the distance, but when I climbed to the top, the view was much better than I expected!
From up here, you can get a better view of the giant pampas grass field Haneul Park is known for. It’s nice at eye level but much more impressive from a higher vantage point. Such a calming sight.
There is another wooden deck here at Haneul Park that offers up a completely different view– one that features downtown Seoul. Standing here gives you the power to view two worlds: Look over your shoulder and you see nothing but the endless field of silver grass, but look in front and you can see the unmistakable figures of the skyscrapers of the Seoul metropolitan area. Perhaps the only common element from both views are the mountains at the very back.
One of my favorite Kdramas called ‘Another Miss Oh’ shot a really nice evening scene from this same wooden deck (photo above) overlooking Seoul. The main male character is a sound director for films, and he came up here to record evening city background noise accompanied by the main female character. That was just the beginning of their relationship, and watching the two of them isolated from the rest of humanity up there, I was struck by the feeling of how sometimes it can take just one person to make you feel less lonely in a vast world. The city lights made the scene even more stunning.
I’m looking forward to returning to the World Cup Park in the future, but I’m targeting either Nanjicheon Park or Pyeonghwa Park (preferably both) on my next trip. The World Cup Park system may not be the most convenient to visit if you’re living in the city center, but I think it’s worth the trip. Here’s a really great guide on the World Cup Park system you may want to check out to help you decide which park to visit first!
Also, remember the 291 steps I mentioned before? We went down those stairs when we exited Haneul Park. It’s quite a scenic trip, I must say.
HOW TO GET HERE: From SEOUL STATION, take AREX Line (Incheon Airport-bound) to DIGITAL MEDIA CITY. Switch platforms to LINE 6, then ride Bonghwasan-bound train to WORLD CUP STADIUM. Alight at WORLD CUP STADIUM. Take Exit 1. Turn right from top of escalators and go around the stadium. Follow the big road and turn left to cross the street at the 4-way intersection. You’ll see the Haneul Park signage in Korean [하늘공원] at the parking lot.
To see what else we were up to in Seoul in October 2019, check out this video:
Other posts in the SEOUL AUTUMN 2019 SERIES:
- Bukchon Hanok Village, Gyeongbokgung, & Cheonggyecheon
- Halloween at EVERLAND South Korea
- Stunning Seoraksan (Part I)
- Stunning Seoraksan (Part II) & Hongcheon Gingko Forest
- Gwangjang Market & Mangwon Market
- 7 Places To Visit To Enjoy Fall in Seoul
- 8 Food experiences I loved during Autumn in Seoul 2019
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