Posted by: Matt Kelley | 18 May 2009

Namsan Park and N Seoul Tower


In a city as huge as Seoul, finding your bearings can be a challenge. But on this week’s show we’ll take a look at a Seoul icon that helps city residents secure their sense of place. When King Taejo (태조왕) moved Korea’s capital to present-day Seoul in 1394, he protected it with 18 kilometers of fortress walls that connected four mountaintops. Namsan (남산), which means “South Mountain,” formed the city’s southern border.

20090505_azaleasFlowering cherry trees and pink azaleas brighten up Namsan Park, with N Seoul Tower in the background.

Of course, long ago Seoul spilled beyond those original walls. So what was the city’s southern limit is now its heart. And from various points throughout the city, N Seoul Tower can be seen rising atop Nam Mountain.

20090505_towerThe most popular attraction at Namsan Park is N Seoul Tower.

In 1984, Namsan Park (남산공원) was established. At nearly three million square meters, the park is one of Seoul City’s largest green spaces. And despite being smack dab in the center of one of the world’s biggest cities, the park is home to over 600 plant and animal species.

20090505_namsangolhanokNamsangol Hanok Village is often a site for traditional performances.

Each year, 8.4 million people visit the park, which translates to some 30,000 a day in the high season. In addition to enjoying well-maintained jogging paths, the park includes a library, a botanical garden and a swimming pool. At the park’s northeast side there’s the Namsangol Hanok Village (남산골한옥마을). Built to resemble a Korean folk village, free traditional wedding ceremonies and cultural performances can be enjoyed there in the summer and fall.

20090505_namsancablecarThe Namsan Cable Car whisks passengers to the mountain top and is Korea’s first.

No doubt, the park’s most popular attraction is N Seoul Tower. Built in 1969 and opened to the public 11 years later, the communication tower is about 237 meters tall, and tops out at a half-kilometer above sea level. To reach the tower, South Korea’s first cable car whisks people from the outskirts of the Myeongdong retail district to the mountaintop.

20090505_locksThousands of padlocks are attached with love notes to the lower level fence.

And from there, visitors can enjoy a spacious plaza and viewing platforms. But take a look at the safety fence: its covered in thousands of padlocks, symbols of love fastened there by young couples. Inside Seoul Tower is a café and three restaurants, including the revolving n.Grill. There’s also a Teddy Bear Museum. But I think the highlight is the fantastic Sky Restrooms on the observation level.

20090505_namsanviewOne section of the massive city as seen from N Seoul Tower’s observation deck (click here for larger).

Of course, the tower’s four observation platforms are the big draw. Helpful window displays indicate Seoul landmarks and world capitals. This main area holds 11-hundred people, and at 350 meters above sea level, it affords outstanding views of the city, day or night.

20090505_lightshowIn the evenings, a brilliant light show takes place on N Seoul Tower’s shaft.

The observatory is open until 11 most days, and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. If you’re there after dusk, you’ll see the tower transformed into a piece of digital art. Until midnight, colorful flames and other images are projected on the tower’s torso every hour.

20090505_renaissanceThe City government has pledged 232 billion won to remove buildings, plant trees and improve park facilities.

Finally, since the 1990s, Seoul city officials have worked to restore the park. In March 2009, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon unveiled his Namsan Renaissance master plan. The project will remove buildings, restore the old fortress walls and extend jogging paths to 7.5 kilometers. At a cost of 232 billion won ($183 million), the project will be completed in 2015.

No doubt these efforts will make Namsan Park an even more attractive destination in the heart of Seoul.

Getting There:
map_namsan→ Namsan Park can be reached from a number of entry points. To take the cable car, ride subway line 4 to Myeongdong Station (exit #3). The cable car is located about 300 meters past the Pacific Hotel. A one-way ticket for adults is 4,800 won and 6,300 for a round-trip.

→ Tickets to the observation deck are 7,000 for adults, 5,000 for youth and 3,000 for children.

→ To visit Namsangol Hanok Village, take subway line 3 or 4 to Chungmuro Station (exit #4).

(A version of this text aired on KBS World Radio on April 29, 2009.)



  1. I love namsan tower. it was one of my fav. places I visited when I went to korea last sept. can’t wait to go back, don’t know when that is though…

  2. I love this place…I’ve been there to Seoul N Tower and namsan hanok village…they are wonderful…I just knew from u the meaning of namsan woow…the sad thing is that I missed going on the caple-car and the locker place…I might see it one day ^^

  3. Hi Stella,
    Thanks for posting your comment. In my opinion, spring and autumn are the best times to visit Korea.

    Kholoud- thanks to you, too. I can’t believe you missed the pad locks- They’re everywhere! Anyway, next time be on the lookout… they’re on the main plaza level before you enter the tower.

    Best, Matt

  4. Oh, and one more thing… I’ll be uploading a Video blog about Namsan shortly.

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