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Cheonggyecheon, Jongno 5(o).6(yuk)ga-dong, Seoul
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Cheonggyecheon  Seoul  South Korea
'Daylighted' in the Heart of the City—A Stream Flows Free Seoul  South Korea
Cheonggyecheon  Seoul  South Korea
'Daylighted' in the Heart of the City—A Stream Flows Free Seoul  South Korea


Located below street level, the public space Cheonggyecheon offers an easy escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown Seoul. The area is part of a massive urban renewal project in which an old elevated highway was cleared to reveal the stream below. To find the entrance, look for Claes Oldenburg’s sculpture Spring Tower, which resembles a giant unicorn horn, and from there you can enjoy a serene 3.6-mile walk that meanders past art installations, graceful fountains, and green rest areas. Duck out at any point on one of the 22 overhead bridges that cross the stream, or walk to the end of the trail and visit the free Cheonggyecheon Museum to learn more about the area.

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AFAR Local Expert
almost 8 years ago

'Daylighted' in the Heart of the City—A Stream Flows Free

Chong-gye-cheon stream and park is a several-miles-long ribbon of pedestrian tranquility in the heart of Seoul.

For decades, an elevated expressway ran through the heart of Seoul. The air pollution and congestion made people forget that a stream used to flow through the city along the exact same route.

War refugees in the early 1950s had turned this stream into a shabby neighborhood of makeshift houses. As conditions deteriorated, it was decided that the stream would be paved over, and then when the elevated freeway was built in the 1970s, it seemed greenery would never return to this area.

In 2003, mayor Lee Myung-bak, later the president of S. Korea, pushed through the idea of "daylighting" the stream, demolishing the highway, and providing some much-needed green space in the heart of Seoul. Critics balked and business owners feared the disruption—but now this is one of the most popular places for residents and visitors alike. Since 2005, families, grandparents, and young couples in the heart of this megalopolis can all enjoy feeding ducks and koi in the clear flowing stream.

As my wife and I strolled, we thought: Paris has the Seine, and now, Seoul has Chong-gye-cheon.