Korea has tourism down to an art.
The other night, some friends and I went down to Cheonggye Stream to check out the Lantern Festival – a huge series of giant ‘lanterns’ lined up in the path of the stream in a plethora of shapes and designs, some Korean, some foreign.
Cheonggyecheon itself is a real wonder of urban renewal – at some point in the ’70s, the stream was buried under concrete and massive freeway to accomodate Korea’s rapid economic development, but later ‘reclaimed’ during the aughts when everyone decided that it was enough of an eyesore. The freeway was demolished and the stream uncovered, then beautified with paths of stepping stones, art displays, light shows at night, and green walking paths…to name just a few things.
Periodically, Cheonggyecheon hosts art festivals and events which are always open to the public, always free.
In truth, Seoul is rife with these sorts of things – the city always has something planned, always something going on, some sort of cultural event or art show or performance that’s free to everyone. It’s pretty impressive, actually, and it’s one of the main reasons that I’ve fallen head over heels for this city. Seoul is concerned with vibrancy, with culture, with art. A large part of the city’s efforts to constantly organize public events is to draw tourists in, but also very much to turn Seoul into a truly cosmopolitan city.
You will never, ever be bored in this town.