Snow on the ground, sun in the blue sky, a perfect day for exploring the city by foot. I got off the subway at 한성대입구역 (Hansung University) exit 6 and took a stroll along 성북로 in the north-east of Seoul.
The area is a jumbled mixture of old and new, making it feel to my mind very much the quintessential Seoul neighborhood. It has a really relaxed atmosphere, and is full of hidden little places and interesting sights stacked up high on the hilly slopes. Korea's religions are expressed in the many Presbyterian and
Catholic churches and Buddhist temples around the area. Step out of the subway and you'll see street vendors selling Korean food along the sidewalk. Follow the main road a little, and you'll pass these painted murals:
When I'd walked as far as 선잠단지 (Seonjamdan Altar), I turned off the main road. The steep, winding lanes here are edged with high walls, CCTV cameras and expensive parked cars. Signs indicate the homes of international ambassadors. The area is quiet and green, and lovely to stroll around and get lost. I'd like to live here!
Keep walking and you'll arrive at 길상사 (Gilsangsa), a large and impressive Buddhist temple. Although not as famous as other temples in Seoul, I think it is one of the most beautiful to look around. They also run templestay programs for people interested in the practices of Buddhism.
Although I spent around two hours wandering around Seongbuk-dong today, I feel like I've only seen a little bit of it and there's lots more to explore. The area captures a sleepy, historical ambiance with its distinctly Korean architectural styles, set against the backdrop of the city's northern mountains. There's no mistaking that this is Seoul.