It has been some time ago that I posted part one of this series, so part two was long overdue. Instead of making this a list of five like the last one, I picked two places that are fairly close together. Don't worry, there will be future installments, because there are still other places with amazing views that are readily accessible. By posting just these two I can get the information out faster and it is also more useful, since both locations can be visited in one day. If you haven't seen part one yet, you can click here.
1. Ansan Mountain
Ansan (안산) has one of the best views of the mountains around Seoul, save for maybe Namsan. However, N Seoul Tower on Namsan is so iconic for Seoul's skyline, that I rather be on Ansan when I take a panorama. If you're an early bird (unlike me), you can even see the sun come up over Seoul when standing on this mountain. Sunset is just behind the mountain so it is difficult to photograph the sun directly, but you don't need the sun in the picture to take great photographs at this place.
What's also fantastic of going at the end of the day is being able to photograph the city at night. Seoul and its two towers light up like a christmas tree. Don't forget to bring your tripod and some warm clothes if you go outside of the summer season, however. It can be quite cold and windy. A flashlight, for going down the mountain in the dark, isn't a luxury either.
Hiking up the mountain is fairly easy. There is a wooden boardwalk that is encircling the mountain where you can work your way up slowly. I reckon it will take you an hour or so if you don't stop along the way. You do want to stop along the way, because the view is stunning. Eventually you'll have to take a stone path and do some climbing to get to the top though. It isn't major and if you're out of shape it is still doable. You can also take the stone paths almost from the beginning to go up quicker. Just follow the signs with summit on them and you'll get there eventually.
How to get there
Go to Dongnimmun Station (독립문역) on line 3 and go out at Exit 5. Walk around the prison and go left up the hill. For more details click here to see a video with directions.
2. Bukchon Observatory
Bukchon is a bit of a tourist trap and that's why I have been avoiding to write about it on the blog. Although it has its charms, there are just way too many people in the weekends to roam around and take pictures of the buildings comfortably. Things have improved considerably however, since people decided to start wearing Hanboks. Now if there are people in your frame it is an asset instead of a distraction.
There is one place that seems to be unaffected by the surge in tourism this area has received the last couple of years. Maybe it is because it is not obvious that it is there. Although there are signs pointing at the Bukchon Observatory, they are not very eye catching and easy to miss. Also, the observatory itself is located on a dead-end street in normal apartment building. Many tourists wouldn't think there was anything special up there. Combine that with the winding streets of Bukchon (where I always seem to get lost in) and you have one hard to find place.
When you reach the top floor of this apartment building, the first impression is that of a boring cafe. However, when you reach the windows it is obvious that this is one special place. The view of all the roofs of the traditional houses with the modern city in the background is just stunning. A view like this is not easy to find Seoul. The one that comes closest is Tomorrow cafe's in Jeonju, which is a bit too far for me to get to regularly.
There is an entrance fee of 3000 won, which will also get you one drink. They used to serve real coffee, but I guess it was too much of a hassle, because now they serve that Korean instant stuff which I'm not really fond of. Luckily they have juice as well. The owner is a quiet guy, but friendly.
How to get there
Go to Anguk Station (안국역) on line 3 and get out at Exit 2. From there it is a bit complicated to give you directions in written form, but I've made a video so click here and you'll get to know exactly how to get there.
35-62 Samcheong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 35-62 3층 북촌로 11다길 22-3)