The bus I caught in Itaewon took me up the mountain in central Seoul and dropped me off at a bus roundabout close to Namsan Seoul Tower, which is sometimes referred to as just Seoul Tower. Construction of Seoul Tower started in 1969 and finished in 1971, and it originally it served primarily a broadcast tower for TV and radio signals. In 1975 the tower’s observation deck and other indoor facilities were completed but it wouldn’t be until 1980 that Seoul Tower was opened to the public. To reach Seoul Tower from the bus roundabout I hiked up a short path leading to the base of the tower.
Right below Seoul Tower there’s a plaza area with some nice views of the city. In fact, some people don’t pay to go up Seoul Tower since the views from the plaza are pretty good on their own. While my plan for the day was to go up the tower I do think that a lot of visitors to Seoul will be satisfied with the free views from the plaza.
After purchasing my ticket I went inside and passed through some neat exhibits on my way to the elevator. One of the rooms below the tower had dynamically changing images projected onto the floor and walls that made for some cool optical illusions.
The upper levels of Seoul Tower have several observation decks that give a 360-degree view of the surrounding area. It was a bit hazy that day but I could still see the vast majority of Seoul, ranging from the mountains north of the city to the distant skyscrapers of Gangnam on the south side of the river. I’ve read online that the greater Seoul area is home to 48% of South Korea’s entire population and it certainly looks that way from up in Seoul Tower. Even if it were a perfectly clear day I’d probably have difficulty seeing the exact bounds of the city.
As I was looking around I couldn’t help but think about how Seoul’s geography compares to that of Tokyo. Whereas Tokyo is built on largely flat terrain and consequently looks like a giant ocean of gray buildings, Seoul’s cityscape has scattered green mountains and a large river to break up the urban sprawl. While I personally prefer Tokyo to Seoul purely as a city, I can see the argument that Seoul’s landscape is more scenic. Regardless, both Tokyo and Seoul are among the great cities of this planet and worth seeing from on high.