서울 (Seoul) is much like any other major metropolis: a TON of traffic, people, and tall buildings. However, running right through the heart of the city is a little piece of nature called 청계천 (Cheonggyecheon). With 다리 (bridges), 징검다리 (stepping stones), and an impressive 폭포 (waterfall), this nearly 11km flow of water that runs from east to west has witnessed Seoul’s transformation throughout its 600+ years as the capital of Korea.
In 1394, during the Joseon Dynasty, King 태조 (Taejo) decided to move the 수도 (capital) of Korea to 한양 (Hanyang), the former name of 서울 (Seoul). The capital city grew around the stream, separating the northern and southern parts of the city. Back then, 청계천 was known as 개천, which literally means “open stream” or “creek” and became part of 서울의 sewage system. The stream was fed by tributaries that flowed down from the mountains which surrounded the city, thus was often bone-dry in the spring and fall, but frequently overflowed/flooded during the summer rainy season.
청계천 starts at 청계천 Plaza and stretches 8 kilometers to 살곶이공원 (Salgoji Park).
[The spiral cone shape statue that you can see in 청계천 Plaza.]
At 청계천 Plaza, there are always lot of events going on, from small open concerts to exhibitions. The closest subway station to this area is 광화문 (Gwang-hwa-mun) station.
Renaissance of History and Culture (restoration)
This fountain was designed by Swedish sculptor Claes Oldenburg and is aptly titled “Spring.” The 20-meter high sculpture was unveiled in 2005 and “…was designed to embrace the environment and nature by including water and light to feature the significance of the stream’s restoration” (joongangdaily.com)
On steamy summer nights (or any other night) in Seoul, people gather at 청계천 to hang out and cool off. Coming to the stream is as much of a cultural activity as it is temporary relief from the sweltering heat of Seoul summers.
The waterfall is just one of the many great attractions of the restored 청계천 area. There is shopping nearby at 명동 (Myeongdong), as well as the Chinese Embassy, 광화문 (Gwanghwamun), Seoul City Hall, and many street food vendors!! If you find yourself hungry while visiting Cheonggyecheon, fear not!! You can eat to your heart’s content!
The natural environment of the stream is accompanied by beautiful drawings, photos, musicians, and twinkling lights in the winter time.
The gentle flow of Cheonggycheon downtown Seoul draws citizens and visitors alike. Coming to Cheonggyecheon is as much of a cultural activity as it is a temporary relief from the sweltering heat of Seoul summers. Cheonggyecheon is a great place to hang out with friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, or family!
Cheonggyecheon Plaza is roughly a 2,500 square meter area located at the starting point of 청계천. The square, created based on the design of Korean traditional 보자기 (a colorful cloth used for wrapping), features the elegant beauty of traditional stonework that is colorful, yet tasteful
Whether you’re taking a stroll along the water, viewing the stream from the street above, or sticking your feet into the clear flow, you are experiencing an incredible amount of Korean history.