After a Seoul winter that saw very little by way of precipitation, the early bloom of the cherry blossom trees is a welcome substitute for the snowflakes some of us longed to see descending from the inky night skies. So, as the spring winds gust through the tree-lined streets, tiny white petals have taken flight to mimic the snows that never came. Donning spring clothing and cameras, all of Seoul seems to be out to capture this annual spectacle of natural brilliance. Accordingly, it is quite difficult to find places to enjoy these short-lived blooms apart from the crowds. We’ve spent a great deal of time struggling through crowds and stumbling upon abandoned areas which were all laden with these springtime heralds. Both festivals and guerrilla blossom hunts can be fun, and both scenes can be found easily.
The Yeongdeungpo Yeouido Spring Flower Festival is the largest celebration off cherry blossom trees in Seoul. This festival benefits from being located on a sizable island which is bordered by parks and nature to enhance this spring experience. Over by the National Assembly Building at the northwest third of the island is a road lined with some ridiculous number of cherry blossom trees. The tourism site says that these fluffy white trees number somewhere between 1400 and 1600, and after and extensive walk we don’t doubt its estimate.
The downside of visiting Yeouido during this time is the (exactly) 328.1 ga-billion people that visit each day. If crowds aren’t your thing, go on a weekday. To add to the festival atmosphere, there are street performers, traditional song/dance troupes, food stalls, Olaf from Disney’s Frozen, caricature artists, and much more. People watching isn’t an advertised event, but it is rampantly available. This festival also affords great views of the Han River and parks to lay out and enjoy the springtime sun.
This festival is worth battling the crowds, even for crowd-haters like us. Maybe it’s the renewed joy that spring brings to people or the diagonally drifting petals in the air, but the horde seemed less oppressive. Afterwards, we suggest checking out the rest of Yeouido’s parks for a chance to experience some rare nature and dirt paths.
Part of the crowd
We have also found countless other places to experience this year’s cherry blossom bloom apart from festivals and throngs of people. Many small rivers and neighborhoods have large areas lined with these popcorn trees that stretch on for blocks (if not kilometers). We always take the time to extensively explore our neighborhood wherever we live and this has definitely paid off in Korea.
From Guro Station on Line 1 down to around Geumcheon-gu Station runs the Anyang River. Both sides of this river are lined with walking and biking paths lined with cherry blossoms. Needless to say, the number of onlookers is much smaller and a peaceful walk down the river is much more relaxing and provides equally terrific people watching. Areas like this are less packed by families and film crews as by the middle and high school students on their way home from school taking an opportunity to update their social media profile pictures with these white trees for a background.
While living in Anyang for a year, we found many hidden gems in the area for a relaxing afternoon. Namely, the Anyang Art Park is lined with these gorgeous trees and remains one of our favorite areas. Filled with old people, street saxophone exhibitions, interesting artwork, frolicking children, and endless dining options: we knew that an afternoon in this area would surely be a beautiful chance to see this beloved area covered in white blossoms.
During the summer months, this stream is filled with families and swarms of kids splashing and lounging in the gentle pools. In the spring, however, the water is too cold and provides and interesting background for the blooming trees.
Like most things, the cherry blossoms do not last forever. They burst, spectacularly, into focus for a few short weeks before they have all rained down to the pavement. Rain and wind can make this window shorter, but you normally have a few weeks to really enjoy this yearly spectacle. It is certainly enough time each spring to form a nostalgic bond to this place and this season.
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