The great thing about working in Bukchon (“North Village”) is that you can spend your lunch hour wandering around one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Seoul.
Bukchon, so called for its location north of Cheonggyecheon Stream, is a residential district on the low hills between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung palaces. Sitting on prime real estate with beautiful views over the city, the neighborhood was home to the grand estates of the politically powerful in the Joseon Dynasty. In the early 20th century, as Seoul’s population rapidly grew, these estates were divided into smaller parcels, on which wealthy Korean families built more modern, “urbanized” hanok homes. This was when the neighborhood took on its current appearance, with clusters of hanok homes lining the narrow, winding alleyways, the eaves of the roofs seemingly blending together to form a sea of black tile. Today, the district is preservation zone (albeit one not without its problems — see here), home to Seoul’s largest collection of hanok homes.
The most picturesque stretch of Bukchon is 31 Gahoe-dong, a steeply climbing alleyway flanked by handsome hanok homes. With lovely views from both the top and bottom of the hill, the site is often used as a shooting location for TV and film. It’s also exceedingly popular with tourists, both foreign and domestic… perhaps too much so, as there’s a sign — in multiple languages — at the foot of the hill asking visitors to remain quiet, reminding them that this is still a residential neighborhood.
For these photos, I experimented with a contrast mask using GIMP, giving them a bit more pop.
Don’t forget, you can view the larger, 1,200px images by clicking on the photos.
There’s a spot overlooking 31 Gahoe-dong where you can see the “sea of tile” in all its splendor.
From the top of 31 Gahoe-dong, visitors are treated to wonderful views of hanok roofs, Mt. Namsan and downtown Seoul. This spot works well at night, too.
The bottom of the hill, too, offers up its own charming views, especially when you have a nice blue sky like today, providing a nice contrast with the earthy tones of the hanok.
Never noticed it before, but this hanok has some graffiti on it. Clearly, somebody wanted some bill/measure withdrawn, but what, I’m not sure.
Magical sunset over Mt. Inwangsan
The gorgeous day ended with a fantastic sunset, perhaps the most spectacular of the year.
Sunsets don’t get much prettier than this.
I’m guessing the Samcheong-dong cafe at the bottom is probably a nice place to take in the sunset on an evening like this.
Another day goes by…
Downtown from the hill overlooking Samcheong-dong.
Hidden in the alley running along the left side of Jeongdok Public Library is Coffee Barn, a recently renovated hanok now used as a coffee house. Now, this being the Bukchon/Samcheong-dong area, you’ll be tripping over cafes and coffee houses (many of them good), but this one is a cut above the rest, IMHO, both in terms of coffee and charm. It’s definitely worth stopping by if you’re in the area, unless you prefer tea, in which case the teahouse Cha Masineun Tteul is just a short walk up the hill towards 31 Gahoe-dong, and is highly recommended.