The most iconic site in all of Seoul is arguably the N Seoul Tower (also know as Seoul Tower, N Tower, and Namsan Tower). It was originally constructed in 1969 as a radio tower and then received a face lift in 2005. At 237 meters, the N Seoul Tower is the highest point in South Korea and offers a great panoramic view of the city. The tower has also become a symbol of the city of Seoul.
The tower is located at the top of Namsan Mountain (which literally translates to South Mountain). There are three main ways you can get to the top of the mountain: by cable car, by bus, or by walking. The first two you have to pay to use and walking is free. But, keep in mind, walking up the mountain takes a while- I have heard that people like to take the whole morning or afternoon to hike up the mountain, especially in the fall or spring to view the beautiful scenery and have a picnic along the way.
After reading many travel blogs, I saw that people were pretty split about when the best time of the day is to view the city from the top of the tower. I decided to find out for myself and ended up going to the tower twice, once during the daytime and the other at night.
The first time I went to the tower was on a sunny Sunday afternoon and my friends decided to take the cable car up (this is the most expensive of the three options). It’s nice because you get to see the mountain from above as you glide over the tree tops. Unfortunately, you’re also crammed in there pretty snugly with other people. The cable car ride was actually fairly quick and it brings you up most of the way.
At the top of the mountain is Namsan Park. The park is actually a historical site that dates back to the prosperous Joseon Dynasty. Back in 1394, the park’s main purpose was to protect the city of Seoul from invaders so it housed smoke signal stations to alert the citizens to possible threats. Today, this area surrounds the base of the tower and sports some great spots to view the city.
There are a few gift shops, restaurants, and cafes scattered around the park. But be advised that these places are all going to be on the pricier side.
There was also some sort of performance going on at the base of the Palgakjeong (octagonal hall) while I was there. I wasn’t sure what it was about but the costumes and the acting were fun to watch.
Locks of Love
Another famous aspect of Namsan Park is the locks of love. Similar to what you have probably heard about (on the no longer existent) locks of love bridge in Paris, couples come here to hang a lock together. This tradition isn’t restricted only to couples but that’s the vast majority of people here that do it.
Top of the Tower
For a fee of 10,000 won, you can ascend to the top of Seoul Tower.
The top is a circular shape so you can walk around the entire circumference to view all of Seoul in every direction. There is actually a few levels at the top of the tower, two of which are mainly for viewing purposes, the other two are mainly composed of a few restaurants and cafes. Again, prices here, just like in the plaza, will be sky high (~hehe~).
I must admit that the view during the day was pretty incredible. One of the viewing floors has stickers on the windows that name famous locations around Seoul (popular districts, palaces, etc…) and show you what direction they lie in.
The second time I went to the tower was right as sunset.This time around, my friends and I decided to take the bus since it’s cheaper than taking the cable car.
Taking the bus is an experience all by itself. You get crammed in there tighter than sardines in a can, which isn’t an exaggeration. There literally was no room to move in the bus and there were people standing starting from where the bus driver sat and going all the way back. One of my friends and I even sat in the area that was meant for luggage just so there could be more standing room.
The bus ride up to the mountain was eventful as well. Not only is the bus constantly weaving around other cars, but the bus driver is also constantly slamming on the breaks and on the gas. I could see out the front window of the bus as we drove and it was honestly quite frightening. But all that aside, we made it to the top of the mountain in one piece and just in time to see the sunset.
The views from the bottom of the tower at sunset were gorgeous! Since you’re on the top of the mountain, you can still see a pretty good chunk of the city. The colors of the sky and the lights from the city created some really cool effects.
You will be seeing these locks everywhere around Namsan Park. There are thousands upon thousands of them hanging off railings, fences, signs, etc…..
At night, LED lights light up the tower in various hues. Known as “light art,” this was one of the additions from the 2005 renovation of the tower.
Top of the Tower
I’ll come straight out and say it, I was not impressed by the views at night- mainly because it was really hard to see the the city. All the little shops and cafes that are spread out around the floor had their lights on and it reflected terribly off the glass. It way practically impossible to see, much less take a picture, of the city. In the end, one of my friends was nice enough to hold up her coat behind me in an effort to block out some of the light so I could at least take a few okay photos.
What didn’t help either was that the widows were so dirty. My camera kept trying to focus on the smudges and dirt instead of the city.
Student & Traveler Tips
It’s a major tourist attraction so it’s always crowded with people. As a general rule, the earlier you go on a weekday, the less crowded it’ll be. As the day and the week progresses, the more people there will be meandering around there. At night there is a ridiculously large amount of people there and I had to wait an hour before I could even go up the tower.
If you want to go to the top of the tower, I suggest going during the day so you can actually see the city (plus there will be less people there!). If you don’t want to go to the top of the tower, go there at Sunset. The view from Namsan Park is breathtaking and way better than what you would see at the top of the tower (plus you save some money).
Also, don’t be discouraged from coming here just because of the fact that there will be a lot of couples here. Sure it’s a popular date spot, particularly because of the locks of love, but it’s still a lot of fun if you come with your friends.