Just one level below the bustling streets of downtown Seoul lies the Cheonggyecheon Stream, a surprisingly tranquil respite from the city towering above.
The nearly 7-mile park, created as an urban renewal project, reflects South Korea’s reverence for nature. Planners used a minimalist approach, letting the trees, shrubs and flowers flourish. The result: an inner sanctuary that could serve as a model for any city.
Less than a 30-minute subway ride from Conrad Seoul, Cheonggye Plaza, a popular cultural arts venue, sits at the head of the stream, which passes under 22 bridges before flowing into the Han River.
It wasn’t always this picturesque. After the Korean War in the early ’50s, an elevated highway covered the stream until 2003, when the stream was restored to the natural splendor of the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910). The Cheonggyecheon Museum documents the history of the stream and the creation of its memorable promenade.
Today, planners have injected a bit of whimsy, with playful walkways that let you cross the stream. Or you can just relax and snap a fun shot for Instagram. Creative seating built along the banks allows you to stop and revel in the botanical beauty.