Our main method of navigating our way back to our hotel was the conveniently placed N Seoul Tower, just above where we were staying; we simply had to walk towards the tower from the station until we found our road. As such it only made sense for us to pay our guiding beacon a visit during our stay.
N seoul Tower, or the YTN Seoul Tower, constructed in 1971, is a communications and observation Tower and is the highest point in Seoul, at 479.7m above sea level. The tower itself is 236 meters and visitors can go up for a fee. We got the cable car up to the base of the tower but elected not to pay to go up to the tower as it was fairly expensive and you can see a lot of the view from the base as it is already on a mountain. The N stands for ‘namsan’ (as in Namsan Mountain, where the tower is built), ‘new’ and ‘nature’ (not really sure why it stands for nature but it is in a park).
The tower is lit up at night until 11pm on nights that the air quality index reads 45 or less. The South Korean Index denotes that a reading under 50 will not affect anyone including sensitive patients whereas over 50 carries some risks; as such the tower also functions as an air quality indicator.
Upon arriving at the base of the tower it becomes apparent that this is a very popular date spot. Every railing is covered in brightly coloured padlocks with names written on them, some have even opted for bike locks (even better?), or have locked phone cases onto the railings in order to write out more feelings. These locks are a sign of eternal love and are probably a pretty cheap date idea. If one can safeguard a relationship with a quick trip to a romantic spot and a £1 padlock then love can’t be all that difficult.
Curious, I did some research (wikipedia) on the origins of this tradition. The supposed original ‘love bridge’ is in Serbia, where a school teacher, Nada, once met with her lover, a Serbian officer. They committed to each other and the officer went off to war. However, while fighting abroad he fell in love with another woman and left Nada, who subsequently died of heartbreak. Young women from her home town, wishing to avoid a similar fate, wrote their and their lovers’ names on padlocks and attached them to the railings of the bridge the two lovers used to meet.
In many European cities these locks are cut off, however Seoul tower seems to actively encourage it; their website homepage reads: “where your love comes true, now have a happy date at N Seoul Tower“. We were there a few days before Valentine’s day, I can’t imagine how busy it was on V-day.
We ate dinner up on the mountain with a lovely view of the city. I tried Korean beer which was weak and inferior to Japanese beer, and ate bibimbap, a dish where you mix rice, vegetables and spicy sauce together. This was much better than the beer.
I would recommend a visit to Seoul tower, even if it’s just to do the same as me and just go for the view from the bottom. It was Seoul’s number one tourist attraction in 2012 and attracts over 8 million visitors per year. I have heard there is a lot of stuff to do within the tower so if you have time you can spend half a day or so there. You could even get the full experience and declare your undying love with a padlock (or even a bike lock), just don’t throw your key off the platform or you’ll get into trouble.