Chuncheon (춘천,春川) City is the capital of Gangwon (강원, 江原), the northeasternmost province of South Korea. For travelers weary of Seoul's crowds and big city atmosphere, Chuncheon can be an ideal place to spend several days. The area, surrounded by rivers and hills, offers a variety of relaxing outdoor activities and small town pace.
The city is now a popular destination for East Asian tourists as it was featured in the popular Korean drama serial, Winter Sonata.
Reach the city from Seoul's Incheon Internation Airport (ICN) via intercity bus. Tickets available at the bus booth in the arrivals hall at ICN. The approximately length of the bus ride is 2.5 hours (assuming no traffic). The fare is approximately 18,000 Won.
If traveling from Seoul, buses depart from the Dong Seoul Bus Station. Buses leave regularly every fifteen minutes, between 6 AM and 9:20 PM, and charge a fare of approximately 6,000 Won. To reach the Dong Seoul Bus Station, take the Seoul subway system to Gangbyeon Station and leave through exit number 4. The bus station will be visible across the street. These buses take approximately 70 minutes or more depending on traffic.
Buses to Chuncheon also depart from Seoul's Sangbong Bus Terminal once every forty minutes, between 5:40 AM and 9:30 PM.
A new subway line has recently opened from Seoul to Chuncheon. The Gyeongchun Line runs from Sangbong Station in the northeast of Seoul to Namchuncheon and Chuncheon Stations. Subways leave every 15 minutes or so, and take a little more than an hour to reach Chuncheon. It's a brand new subway line, mostly aboveground, and winds through the mountains, alongside the rivers and lakes for which the Gangwon region is famous. A one-way ride costs approximately 2,000 won ($1.80), depending on which part of Seoul you're coming from.
You can also take the ITX high speed train from either Yongsan (용산) station or Cheongyangri (청량리) station. The train is very comfortable and quite affordable, and allows you to reach the center of Seoul in less than an hour and a half.
Taxis are the most efficient way of getting around Chuncheon. Taxis are plentiful and you can easily find one within a few minutes if you wait on the sidewalk of most busier streets in the city. You may have trouble catching one if you are on the outskirts of Chuncheon or during rush hour when most are in use. The English word "Taxi" is used in Korean, so it's easy to ask someone where one might wait to find a taxi.
The taxis are identified by a sign mounted on top of the car, but also have a red LED sign with Hangul lettering inside their windshield. If this sign is lit, it signifies that the taxi is available for hire. They turn this sign off when they are already transporting a customer. Stick your arm out to the street as a taxi approaches and they will stop.
Taxis are the best option for short trips through town and are nice when you need door to door service. They are especially helpful when shopping and you have goods to carry with you as you can put them in the trunk or the back seat. Another benefit is when you have multiple people in your group as the fee is the same no matter how many people ride.
Most taxi drivers speak no English, so it is a good idea to have the address of your destination written in Korean to show the taxi driver.
Though bus numbers are clearly marked and always run the same routes, most are not on any kind of schedule and you could wait 5 minutes or over an hour at a bus stop. They can also become very crowded and you may have to wait for people to get off after several stops before you can acquire a seat. Bus stops are placed throughout the city, but may be a little walk from where you are staying or from your destination. However, buses are more economical when traveling alone or going very far outside the city. Bus fare is typically 1100 won per person. Most Koreans who ride the bus regularly have a chipped card they scan when they board. As a visitor, you will need to put the exact cash into a slot in the front when boarding.
When you approach the stop you need to get off at, press the red button to the right of the exit door located on the passenger side of the bus half way back. This signals the driver to stop and the side doors will open. Exit quickly as it seems they are often off and running again before you can hit the ground.
Korea's only Animation Museum is located in Chuncheon and is worth a visit of a few hours or more. The museum sits directly next to an animation studio. Patrons may also purchase tickets to view a screening of animated Korean short films for 4,000 won. The subject matter mainly pertains to the history of Korean animation, but also highlights animation from other parts of the world, including North Korea, Europe, Japan, and the United States. Although most of the displays are in Korean only, English speakers will still enjoy the variety of media presented. The sculptures outside of the museum, created with used car parts, are a popular photo opportunity.
A large island on the Soyang River. A ferry runs to the island every half hour. Fare is 5500W per adult. The island makes a great day trip or picnic. You can hike around and see ancient Korean huts, or rent bikes and ride a paved trail that goes around one side of the island. Bike rental is approximately 10,000w per hour. Surrey bikes and four wheelers are also available to rent. The island has places where you can camp, and at the southern end there are cabins for rent (55,000 won per night and up). Ask about these at the tourist bureau; they don't speak English at the office on the island.
At the head of the Soyang river. The dam creates Soyang Lake. Boat rides are available to tour the lake, and there is a boat ride that takes you to a hiking trail to see a Buddhist temple. There are food stalls along the walk to the docks - they sell boiled lake shellfish, pancakes, fried grasshoppers and such...
Chuncheon sits in a valley surrounded by mountains. Bong Ui Mountain is a famous peak located just North of Myongdong (Downtown Chuncheon) and sits just south of the Soyang river. Trails lead to the top from all sides of the mountain, and there is exercise equipment on top. It is not a very tall peak, but makes for a good hike. Its elevation is approximately 925ft, next to the Soyang River which is 240ft.
Another group of hiking trails is located on the east side of Chuncheon. Starting at the provincial police headquarters, and running in back of the LotteMart in EmmaCo, the main trail runs along a ridge, crossing over several highways on elaborate bridges. Side trails lead up from the west.
From the tourist resort of Gangchon, one can hike to a waterfall, or up the mountain to a high village where there are several restaurants for hikers.
Trails for hiking and biking can be found along the river running through the south part of Chuncheon, and then on along the lakeshore on the west side of town.
A park with many marble statues and a building which contains and replica of an ancient Korean water clock. A small store provides bike rentals and across the street are docks where you can rent paddle boats on the river. The river feeds into the Soyang and from there you can see Jungdo island. The Ethiopian war memorial is adjacent to this park.
Located approximately 30 minutes drive from downtown Chuncheon. A free shuttle runs from Chuncheon to the ski resort.
Koreans rely heavily on small, individual stores to provide goods and services for specific things. The idea of a mega store that sells everything is more recent, but growing in popularity. There are a few of these type of "mega" stores in Chuncheon, making it easy for a foreigner to find most of the grocery and general household items they need.
The closest thing to a Walmart equivalent, Emart is a large shopping center with most everything you might need. The lower level is a food court and grocery center, the second level a department store and additional levels for parking. Emart is located on the south side of Chuncheon.
A bit smaller than Emart, GS mart provides much of the same in terms of product and pricing. GS Mart also has a food court upstairs that includes a McDonalds. Some local Koreans seem to prefer GS Mart due to it's "cleaner" and less crowded nature, but it doesn't offer as large of a selection of groceries and household goods as Emart. GS Mart can be found in Seoksadong on the east side of Chuncheon.
Address: Toegye-dong 144-1, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea. Hours: 10am - 12pm Price: Like Emart: Relatively inexpensive. It is very similar to E-mart and has all essentials packed into one, four story building. Produce, groceries, electronics, hardware, homeware, kitchenware, beauty products, cleaning supplies...obviously the list goes on. If you live in Toegye-dong it's the best and probably closes mart you can get to. It even has a really yummy food court on B1 and an American style restaurant (buffet style) on B2.
Chuncheon is known for its Dakgalbi Street, featuring a large number of restaurants that specialize in the dish. Dakgalbi (Hangul: 닭갈비) is a delicious grilled chicken dish with vegetables and topped off with a spicy Gochujang Sauce. Most restaurants will offer both tables with chairs and tables with floor seating. Chicken, rice cakes vegetables are grilled before you on the table's skillet.
There's a number of places, for both Korean and foreign cuisines in this area.
Starting a block east of the bus terminal, one finds dozens of restaurants serving a wide variety of Korean dishes. Walk around and check it out!
This upscale restaurant in the far eastern part of Chuncheon's urban area serves lunch for around 18,000 won per person. The set meal comes with many courses, appealing visually as well as taste-wise.
The downtown market has a number of inexpensive food stalls serving all kinds of Korean food. Also get fresh fruits here, sweets, rice cake, meat (including gaegogi [dogmeat] in season]. A five-day market located near the main post office also has tasty dishes as well as produce, fish, etc.
This tasty ice dessert is sold with many variations in the summer and early autumn. Bakeries often make the best versions. Try the Paris Baguette on the main circle in the middle of town.
If you are interested in trying other Korean foods, try walking or driving around Chuncheon as there are many restaurants to be found. Note that many restaurants specialize in just one type of food. For example, some restaurants serve only pork, others only chicken, and so on.
The budget traveler can easily purchase instant noodles and other snacks cheaply from convenience stores.
Chuncheon has plenty of bars and small, local establishments that serve beer and coffee and a limited selection of food. These small establishments are called "Hof's".
Motels can be found in many places throughout Chuncheon. While they vary in price, they tend to be around ₩50,000.
Tell the taxi driver the name of the jjim jil bang, but if necessary tell him the address is Yagsa-dong (Hangeul: 약사동) 150-10.
Buses depart regularly to most major cities, including Seoul, from Chuncheon's Bus Station, on the south side of town. It may be worthwhile to inquire in advance at the station if unsure of the bus schedules.
A popular place for locals and other East Asian tourists is Nam-i Island, which consists of tree-lined boulevards that are among the set locations for the popular Korean drama serial, Winter Sonata. Particularly romantic when it snows in the winter, and popular among couples.