Seoul is a very fortunate city in many ways. Not many large cities have rivers running through the middle of them that are restricted for recreational purposes only. Such is the case with the Han River in Seoul.
This is one fortunate consequence of the Korean War. The Han River is not used for industrial purposes because of its proximity to North Korea. In fact, no commercial boat traffic is permitted between Seoul and the mouth of the river. As a result, Seoul has avoided having its river turned into a transport path for shipping containers.
And so we have Hangang Park---a series of parks along a river used solely for sports and recreation.
The Scouting Report
There are actually 11 parks spread along the Han River, and they collectively form Hangang (Han River) Park. There are many similarities between the parks but also some differences. One common theme is a concerted effort by the park planners to provide awesome opportunities for fun along the Han River.
There are several sports facilities located in the various parks. From basketball and badminton courts to baseball fields to rock climbing walls to picnic spots, there is something for everyone. Fortunately, all the parks are well connected by bicycle and walking / running paths. If for some crazy reason you don't like the particular park you are in, hop on a bike (rental stations abound) and move on down to the next park.
The following information is a summary of each park starting with Nanji Hangang Park, located on the furthest northwest banks of the Han River in Seoul, and working around the river clockwise to Gangseo Hangang Park.
Nanji Hangang Park
As just mentioned, Nanji Hangang Park lies along the northern banks of the Han River in northwest Seoul. It is also part of World Cup Park. Nanji Hangang Park is very spread out and varied. At one end of the park, there is a dancing water fountain that is popular to play in during hot summer days. At the other end, there is a nature reserve. One unique offering of the park is the Nanji Camping Ground. Tents can be rented at a very reasonable price and a night under the stars under the sky can be had.
Mangwon Hangang Park
There are lots of opportunities to place sports in Mangwon Hangang Park. Among other facilities, it has basketball courts, soccer fields, tennis courts, and a small baseball field for the younger future MLBers. Underneath Seongsan Bridge is a popular filming location for scenes from various television and movie productions.
Ichon Hangang Park
Ichon Hangang Park is less than 1 kilometer from the National Museum of Korea. After spending a few hours inside learning about Korea in the museum, Ichon Hangang Park is a great place to wander to and enjoy the breeze blowing over the Han River.
As an official park, Ttukseom Hangang Park is the oldest of all the Hangang Parks. It also has perhaps the most well-rounded offering of sports facilities. There are basketball courts, soccer fields, tennis courts, a rock climbing wall, a swimming pool, and access to several water sports on the Han River.
Gwangnaru Hangang Park is known for two things: its cycling and its history. For those of you interested in biking, Gwangnaru Hangang Park is a great stop. For those of you interested in getting some exposure to Seoul's prehistoric past, this is a great stop.
Jamsil Hangang Park
Because the Jamsil Sports Complex (Olympic Stadium) sits next to Jamsil Hangang Park, this park is an excellent place to visit before or after sporting events. In addition to the numerous sports facilities available, there is also a small selection of restaurants and cafes in the park. Sporting event...Walk along the river...Dinner for two...Date spot?
Jamwon Hangang Park
Jamwon Hangang park is a popular place for those just wanting to sit and relax along the river with no particular agenda. If you happen to get the inkling to be a little more active, there are a few water sports activities to be found here.
The world's longest water fountain show can be seen from Banpo Hangang Park. The newly opened Floating Islands are also an interesting site. This park is a popular filming location for many Korean commercials, shows, and movies.
Due to its central location in Seoul and its proximity to the center of Korea's finance, government, and media entertainment worlds, Yeouido Hangang Park is extremely popular. Thanks to the wide open lawns found in Yeouido Hangang Park, a number of festivals and large events are held in this park every year.
Yanghwa Hangang Park often gets overlooked by many of its more popular Hangag Park kin, but it is a fine destination in itself. For one, it provides direct access to Seonyudo Island. This area should be visited by those looking for pleasant scenery but without masses of people getting in the way.
Gangseo Hangang Park is the most "wild" of the Hangang Parks. The park is made up of a number of small islands which form ecological wetlands. While there are limited sports facilities in Gangseo Hangang Park, the wetlands habitat is the primary reason to visit this park.