When autumn comes, you may find yourself going for long solitary strolls—with headphones in your ears and your every step enjoying the satisfying crunch of brown, fallen leaves. This night walk to the Seoul Fortress Wall and beyond isn’t that. It isn’t meant to be appreciated on your own. It’s one where I remember the spots not by their official names or history; but by the people I went there with. It’s, “a walk for the people I like best,” as I once said on a date. The prelude to the walk itself starts at Exit 2 of Hyehwa Station, right next to Marrioner Park where often aspiring actors from Sungkwunkwan University are trying to memorize their lines and then climbing up the stairs of Naksan Park in a huff and puff reminiscent of Paris’ Montmartre. Pay special attention to Jazz Story at the foot of the entrance to the park where vinyl records are matched with cheap beers and sepia-toned lighting.
At the top, you’ll arrive at the Seoul Fortress Wall. Built in 1396 during the Joseon Dynasty to protect the city from invaders, the 18.6 km wall outlines Bugaksan, Naksan, Namsan and Inwangsan—with Naksan being my personal favorite. After you finish your ascent, reward yourself with a short rest before continuing. To the left of the last stop of the green Jongno 03 bus, on one of the highest points of the wall, there’s a dark corner of the fortress wall shrouded by trees, which I often refer to as,
“Seoul’s best first-kiss location.” Most beautiful just as the sun sets, the air is fresh and the glitter of city lights below is unlike any other view in Seoul. On crisp autumn days such as these, you can even see the stars at night—a rarity in this city. If security’s off-duty, groups of friends sometimes sit on the wall singing songs on acoustic guitars and drinking from green makgeolli bottles. The trail stretching from Hyehwamun Gate to Heunginjimun Gate along the curve of the Fortress Wall runs 2.1 km and remains brightly lit all throughout the night. Notice the words inscribed on some of the fortress rocks. Stones from King Sejong and King Taejo’s reigns have inscriptions that show which county built that portion of the wall, while stones from the mid-Joseon Dynasty are marked with the builders’ names and dates. Bundle up for a winter walk here and the view of the ice-covered wall topped with snow makes the cold worth enduring.
For a slight detour from the ordinary trail, step through “ammun” (the opening built into the fortress) and into Jangsu Village, where laundry dries on top of one-story houses with pictures drawn on their walls. Make sure the road leads you to Sang-Sang Playground on Samseongyoro 4-gil, where both a human-sized hamster cage and rope-climbing stand face Samgunbu Chongmudang (a government building from 1868). The walk is not long in distance, so leave a trail of footprints with someone you like best.
By Hahna Yoon