Cheonggyecheon Stream

Flowing from the city hall area of Seoul (서울) is the Cheonggyecheon Stream (청계천). While taken for granted by many of the denizens of Seoul as a relaxing walk, this 10.9 kilometer stream has a storied history that can trace its origins back to the Joseon Dynasty (조선왕조). Its original purpose was to act as a drainage system for Seoul. It would continue to exist in this state well in to the 20th century, with people moving to Seoul and building makeshift houses on the banks of the stream, leading to even greater deterioration. Eventually the people of Seoul decided that this disgusting sight was too much of an eyesore and decided to cover the stream in concrete and even built a freeway over it.

In 2003, the Seoul Metropolitan Government(서울시정부) initiated a project to remove the old concrete and restore the stream. The public would see the stream again 2005, when the Cheonggyeoncheon Restoration Project (청계천 복원 프로젝트) was complete. Its restoration can give thanks to Seoul’s movement towards reintroducing nature into the city. Now residents of Seoul and tourists alike can enjoy a beautiful walk and forget the hustle and bustle of the city in this.

The stream runs in front of the Hanyang Women’s University (한양여자대학교), which is right by the student dormitory where I live, so that’s where we’ll start our tour! Facing away from the university, if you turn left onto the path parallel to the stream, you’ll start heading towards its source. This part of the stream is very focused on residential recreation. You’ll see many Koreans using the public exercise equipment and playing sports. Sometimes you’ll find something special like a group of people practicing a cultural dance of sorts! Even though a freeway runs over this portion of the stream, it’s surprisingly quiet and relaxing.

20160522_181010 20160522_183317


Eventually, the path becomes pedestrian only, and the view becomes a bit more ecological. You’ll also see some things devoted to the history of the stream such as restored houses that would be on the river before its restoration. One of the most striking things is a “wall of hope” which celebrates the restoration of the stream. It speaks of a brighter and cleaner future for Seoul.

20160522_183511 20160522_185556 20160522_185601

As you walk along the stream, you’ll see many Koreans sitting in designated places under bridges enjoying a picnic. I even caught some older gentlemen drinking soju (소주) together at the end of the day! I would later find out that drinking in public is okay in Korea, which surprised me because public intoxication in the U.S. is very illegal!


Another wonderful thing about the Cheonggyecheon stream is the art that lines its walls. You’ll find pieces inspired by Seoul’s history as well as artwork that has doesn’t have a theme that’s very obvious. My favorite installation was a painting that spanned a few meters of walls that represented a royal Korean procession through the streets. In the daytime, there are speakers that will play the clopping of horse hooves as well as music that would have been played during those processions!

20160513_155715 20160513_160352

One of the wonderful things about this place is just how green it is. If you were to sit by the bank and avoid looking up into the city skyline, you’d think you were some sort of meadow with the stream flowing nearby. There is also some wildlife which includes ducks, crane, and fish!

20160522_181824 20160513_155211 20160513_161925

The beginning of the stream is the liveliest part of it. Here they are always changing the art displayed. For example, the was recently a lantern festival with the lantern displays being in the middle of the stream itself. When I returned to take a date there to see the lanterns again, instead we found a display of flowers (side note: we still had fun despite the change in the installation)! Also, just a bit beyond the stream there is usually a market where you can find handmade goods as well as food and live street performers!

20160522_200117 20160522_200246 20160522_201437 20160513_153622 20160513_153355 20160513_152908 20160513_152740 20160513_152731

And there you have it, the Cheonggyecheon Stream. If you’re looking for a quick getaway from the city, this should be the place. It also makes a great place to take a date. You’ll see couples running all over the place, just because it’s too beautiful to miss! Before ending this post, I’d like to leave you with two additional pictures. The first one is a picture of the remnants of the freeway that once shadowed over the stream, and the second one speaks for itself.



Article by Eli from the U.S.A.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: