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Head outdoors for refreshing spring activities: As the weather warms up, check out some new spots to relish in the sunshine

May 10,2019
The evening view of the Seoul City Wall. The walk alongside the wall in central Seoul provides a good view of the city. [KOREA TOURISM ORGANIZATION]
The evening view of the Seoul City Wall. The walk alongside the wall in central Seoul provides a good view of the city. [KOREA TOURISM ORGANIZATION]
After many months being stuck inside because of the winter weather and poor air quality of early spring, people are finally making their way outside to relish in the sunny days of May. Eager to see nature in its full resplendence - green leaves dancing in the wind and brilliant flowers singing in the sunshine - everyone is looking for a chance to go outside.

The easiest option for people in Seoul these days is to head to the Han River. But nearly every weekend, the news is filled with reports of how crowded the riverside parks have become. Instead of heading there like everyone else, check out some other outdoor attractions that are less busy and offer new ways to enjoy the spring breeze.

Take a tranquil walk

As easily accessible as the Han River is the trail alongside the Seoul City Wall, which provides a mix of nature and spectacular views of the city. Much more relaxed than the riverside parks, the city wall is best enjoyed right around sunset. Also known as Hanyangdoseong Trail, the hike circles around Mount Namsan taking hikers to N Seoul Tower on top of the mountain, where you can see a night view of Seoul with lights from offices and homes, as well as greenery covering the ground.

The trail up from the entrance near the Millennium Hilton Hotel is a little steep, but it is just enough to help hikers warm up and get a good work out in.

Benches are available along the trail to give hikers a chance to rest and look up at the sky get darker by the minute. Restaurants and pubs that are open until late around the area also provide some good options to fill the stomach.

Those who wish to walk on flatter terrain should head to the area around Deoksu Palace. Adjacent to the Seoul Museum of Art, the walk takes people to many cultural hotspots. A quick walk around the palace allows one to enjoy the architecture of the late Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), and afterward, you can stop by the Seoul Museum of Art, which is currently exhibiting works by the artist David Hockney. The exhibit is one of the most popular cultural events in the capital city at the moment.

The palace and the surrounding area, located in the heart of office-heavy central Seoul, is usually not as crowded in the afternoon, except after lunch, as well as on the weekends.

Check the opening hours of any restaurant or cafe you have in mind to visit if you plan on coming on the weekend, as many businesses catering to office workers are closed on the weekend.

Another option the city government recommends is a walk around Mongchontoseong, also known as Mongchon Earthen Fortress, as well as Pungnaptoseong, another earthen wall. Away from the city center, this trail offers a more natural experience.

Dive in early

Who says it’s not water park season? To avoid hours of waiting, some people act fast to get to local water parks before they get crowded. Major amusement parks, including Ocean World and Caribbean Bay, opened their outdoor areas late last month. The parks keep water temperatures relatively high in the spring to allow visitors to enjoy themselves in the cooler weather. Additionally, tickets in the spring are cheaper than in the summer months, making the experience even more enjoyable.

Ocean World holds a water gun fight every Saturday until June 29, before the park gets too crowded. A dance competition will also be held on May 18 and 19. Those born in May can visit the water park for a discounted price of 28,000 won ($24) until May 24 when they present their identification - full-price tickets for adults are usually 50,000 won. Tickets for children from the ages of 36 months to 13 years are 22,000 won until May 24. A variety of other discounts are available as well.

For more information, go to www.daemyungresort.com/oceanworld or call 1588-4888.

Caribbean Bay is also offering a discount ticket price until May 31. Tickets usually cost 40,000 won ticket for adults. College and graduate school students with identification will be able to enter for 21,000 won, and middle and high school students who come in groups of three or more can get into the park for only 18,000 won until the end of this month.

For more information, go to www.everland.com or call (031) 320-5000.

Sweet tranquility

Bamboo forests, known for staying green throughout the year, usually see new shoots start growing around mid-May. To protect the young bamboo trees, forests usually restrict them to visitors. But, visitors can still walk through the forest’s trails. The bamboo trees offer a refreshing place for visitors to breathe in some clean air.

Although one of the biggest bamboo forests in Korea, located in Damyang, South Jeolla, just completed its annual festival, now that the crowds have died down, it may be a better time to visit.

Ulsan, Busan and other cities throughout the country also have beautiful bamboo forests of different sizes not too far from the city center, making it an easy destination for urban dwellers to find some respite from the busy city life.

A gem in the heart of the city

The newly-renovated JW Marriott Seoul opened up the terrace area at its restaurant The Margaux Grill.

The terrace, adorned with all kinds of trees and herbs, is a green oasis in the middle of the busy city, and can house around 30 people for a sit-down dinner, making it the place perfect for a small, yet private, gathering or even a wedding.

The tables are spread out so that diners have enough space to walk around and enjoy the natural environment. The glass wall that divides the inside and the outside of the restaurant makes a good backdrop because it reflects the greenery in the terrace. Live music is also provided to create a more cheerful mood.

The hotel is also home to Mobo Bar, which has a wall covered in planted herbs and serves up tasty cocktails using fresh greens. The terrace, which is called Grill in the Secret Garden, offers dinner on Fridays and Saturdays, but only until June 29.

Dinner costs 120,000 won and includes a cocktail from the bar, as well as food from a meat cart outside and other appetizers and seafood dishes served to the table. For an additional 20,000 won, diners can enjoy all-you-can-drink beer.

For more information call (02) 6282-6267.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]