Translating as “Great West Gate”, Seodaemun-gu is a sprawling district in the Outer Old Seoul region of the South Korean capital. It is dominated by the forested peak of Ansan Mountain, which offers panoramic views across Seoul toward Mount Bukhansan, the Haegjusanseong Fortress and the Hangang River from its summit.
Things to do in Seodaemun-gu
Nestled in the foothills of Ansan Mountain is the Seodaemun Museum of Natural History, which opened to visitors in 2003. It was established to help preserve and study the local environment while allowing the public to interact with plants and animals. In addition to life-size skeletons of dinosaurs and a VR space dome, the museum houses exhibits about the geology of the Korean Peninsula.
One of Seodaemun-gu’s most sacred buildings is the temple of Bongwon, which was founded in 889 by Master Doseon. It is an important centre for the Taego Order or Korean Buddhism and hosts a ritual that has been designated by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Coincide your visit with the “Yeongsanjae” festivities to see ritual dancing and musical performances.
If you’re interested in the social history of the area, head to the Seodaemun Prison History Hall, which originally opened in 1908. It was here that Korean liberation activists were incarcerated during the Japanese colonial period before the facility was closed in 1987. Today, it functions as a memorial to those who served time here and is surrounded by the landscaped grounds of Seodaemun Independence Park.
Getting around Seodaemun-gu
Seodaemun-gu is around 30 minutes’ drive from Seoul Station and 1.5 hours from Incheon International Airport, which has flights to destinations across the globe. Subway services travelling along the Orange and Green lines stop at several stations throughout Seodaemun-gu. Buses are also available for getting around.