Header image courtesy of Cy Yambao
While South Korea (한국) is unquestionably a favourite travel destination throughout the four seasons, autumn is perhaps the most anticipated time of the year, especially for tourists who reside in tropical countries. After all, this is when the skies begin to clear, temperatures gradually drop, days become relatively shorter, and leaves slowly transition into dazzling shades of red, orange, yellow, and brown.
It is ideal to plan your visit anytime between the months of September and November. However, the autumn foliage typically peaks by mid-October. Forecasts may not always be accurate, but one thing’s for sure—the entirety of Seoul (서울시) is enveloped in golden landscapes during the fall. We’re putting the spotlight on six outdoor locations—one of which is worth travelling outside the city for—where you can bask in the colours of autumn before the trees shed in preparation for winter.
Haneul Park (하늘공원), whose name literally translates to ‘sky,’ sits at the highest part of the World Cup Park (월드컵공원), built to commemorate the 17th FIFA World Cup. Formerly a landfill, the park is now an ecological sanctuary, where silver grass thrives and reaches full bloom just in time for the annual Seoul Silver Grass Festival every autumn. It’s not every day that you get to stroll through a glistening field of silver and pink muhly grass, so take this chance to hold a full-on portrait session. To arrive at the park, you can take an electric tram or climb 291 steps up a wooden staircase—either way, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic vistas of the city and its surrounding mountains from a vantage point.
Haneul Park, 95, Haneulgongwon-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Despite being the smallest of the five grand palaces in Seoul, Deoksugung Palace (덕수궁) has played an essential role in history, having served as the final residence of the last king of the Joseon dynasty (대조선국). It is known as the only palace to incorporate Western-style neoclassical buildings in its grounds, which turn into a colourful display of yellow ginkgo and red maple trees in the fall. With its location at the corner of the city’s busiest intersection, the palace is also famed for its stonewall walkway that stretches 1,100 metres along rows of trees bearing thick autumn foliage. If you are looking to escape the crowds at the neighbouring palaces and prefer to feel like a local, exploring the traditional complex of Deoksugung might be worth your while.
Deoksugung Palace, 99, Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Located on the northern foot of Namsan Mountain (남산), Namsangol Hanok Village (남산골한옥마을) is a sight to behold, particularly in autumn, when the surrounding greenery shifts into various shades of crimson and auburn. From the flat grounds of the village, you can also get a good view of the renowned N Seoul Tower (남산서울타워), which stands amidst a sea of foliage. Namsangol exhibits five restored traditional Korean houses, locally referred to as hanok (한옥), that existed during the Joseon dynasty and used to be inhabited by a range of social classes. Today, the village remains a symbol of cultural heritage, where you can relive the past while watching live performances or participating in workshops like hanji (한지; traditional Korean paper) folding, Hangul (한글; Korean alphabet) writing, and tea ceremonies.
Namsangol Hanok Village, 28, Toegye-ro 34-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Flowing through the heart of downtown Seoul, the Cheonggyecheon Stream (청계천) is a regenerated green space right in the middle of a concrete jungle. The 8.4-kilometre-long restored waterway, which is bordered by fringe trees on its pedestrian-only walking paths, offers a respite from the hustle and bustle, allowing you to relax with the cold breeze on your shoulders. During the annual Seoul Lantern Festival in autumn, one of the city’s representative festivals, this urban recreational area gets illuminated by hundreds of life-size lanterns purposefully designed by local and international artists. For a more immersive experience, you can create your own lantern by writing down your wish on a paper boat and letting it float across the stream.
Cheonggyecheon Stream, Changsin-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Founded in 1886, Ewha Womans University (이화여자대학교) is South Korea’s first educational institute for women. It is considered as one of the most prestigious schools in the country and also the largest women’s university in the world. Perhaps its most iconic feature is the Ewha Campus Complex, an eco-friendly underground campus designed by French architect Dominique Perrault, which resembles a glass-and-steel valley. While the university boasts flourishing landscapes all year round, there’s something quite special about seeing the European-style buildings come to life with the vibrant colours of fall. On your way out, make sure to head straight to the nearby shopping district that overflows with retail stores and food stalls catering primarily to the young student crowd.
Ewha Womans University, 52, Ewhayeodae-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Nami Island (남이섬) may be located hours away from Seoul, especially when you’re taking public transportation, but it ranks among the most popular destinations for a day trip outside of the city. This natural paradise first gained attention as a major filming location of the phenomenal K-drama Winter Sonata, and its picturesque tree-lined roads have since welcomed a steady stream of visitors from across the globe. Nami Island transforms into postcard-like sceneries with the changing of the seasons, but the autumn foliage makes it exceptionally breathtaking. To better appreciate the views, you may rent a bike (they have the tandem bikes you’ve probably seen in dramas!) to explore the island’s famous tree lanes.
Nami Island, 1, Namiseom-gil, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea