Breathing space /ˈbrēT͟HiNG ˈˌspās/
[Noun.] An opportunity to pause, relax or decide what to do next.
Or you can understand it literally as ‘a place to take a breather’.
As someone that prefers quieter and less-crowded areas, there are several spots around the city that I go to to study, write, or hang out and chat with a friend. I’ll introduce a few of them to you if you feel the need to get away from touristy Myeongdong and Hongdae and pause for awhile. 💞
Gyeongui Line Book Street
I talked about this place briefly in one article for Cosmo.ph but that was before I completely fell in love with it. I sometimes walk home from my language academy in Sinchon and I would purposely pass this area on the way even if it meant taking the longer way home. What I love about this area is its stark difference from Hongdae that it feels like there is an invisible dome of some sort hovering that creates the hushed and serene atmosphere to it. As the name goes, this park has train cabins in a line filled with all sorts of books, some even having art exhibitions, which you can freely come in. Unfortunately, most of the books are in Hangul but it’s still an interesting place to stop by.
Since the park has some distance to it, it’s nice to have a leisurely walk as some citizens would do during lunch breaks or any downtime. I’d often see several people walk their dogs or catch up with a friend over coffee in one of the benches. Overall, the park has a calming vibe to it that people can’t get enough of.
You can come to this place through Line 2 Hongik University Station and the park starts from Exit 6. Also, if you feel peckish after perusing the many books this place has to offer, there are several small restaurants in the street next to it.
Blue Square Book Park
If you haven’t noticed, I am a bibliophile so much so that I find it comforting to be surrounded by books. In this particular book park, their books literally tower over you with their 4-storey book shelf (and more everywhere), which you can scrutinize closely as you make your way up to each floor. The interior itself is just as amazing that if you’re not really a fan of books, you can just ogle at how cool the place looks. You’ll find it looks just like a modern day Beauty and the Beast library.
The place is actually a bookstore but everyone’s more than welcome to spend hours in here. They have a cafe at the top floor, and several sitting areas, some of them hidden behind bookshelves. After my very first Hangul class, I went all the way here (30 mins by train!) to study. Because the atmosphere is very conducive, you’ll see a lot of students studying. Plus, the staff won’t mind you bringing your Americano (a.k.a. Korea’s energy fuel) to your seating area outside their cafe if you need a pick-me-up!
To get here, you can take the train through Line 6 Hangangjin Station, and go out at Exit 3. It’s in the glass building across the exit. ☺️
Hangang Park stretches out as far as the river goes. As the representative people’s park, the area is composed of 12 districts, each with their own unique characteristics and activities. For example, both Yeouido and Jamsil districts have ferry cruise services; Ttukseom district has windsurfing, water-skiing, and other leisure sports; and Mangwon district has tennis and basketball courts. So there’s plenty of things to do depending on how you want to destress! Personally, I had several picnics at Yeouido Hangang Park (여의도한강공원) with my friends (more on that next time!).
Despite Yeouido being the most popular, the park in the district where I live is my favorite because of convenience and lesser people. I first came there with a friend and we spent over an hour walking and talking along the river. It eventually became a habit of mine to come there, most of the time when I couldn’t sleep because I would stubbornly drink coffee at night when I know I get badly hit by insomnia afterwards. The place also serves as a place of reflection. It helped me get over a bad case of writer’s block and frustration at the time when I was writing my MBA application essay.
To those who are worried that it might be unsafe to go there at night, I could say that it is 100% safe! While it isn’t congested, there are a lot of people who come to the park after work for a night run, a bike ride, picnics, or for a date! Particularly in my area, there are several restaurants and other commercial establishments leading to the park and the streets are well-lit (… and tbh, Seoul is generally a safe place anyway.).
Jamsil Baseball Stadium
Okay, this is the little rebel that sneaked its way to this list. I know what you’re thinking, “How can you pause or relax in a place such as this??” While it is ironic, I definitely consider the baseball stadium as one of my breathing spaces. It’s nice to come out here and scream and cheer at the playing teams, whoever they may be. Each team have their respective MCs, mascots, and cheerleaders that lead the cheering, and entertain the audience during downtimes, giving you a show if sports aren’t your thing. They can also get creative with their chants that you’ll end up still chanting them after the game ends! Lol. Korean baseball fans are really, really, really passionate about baseball and it’s not hard for their energy to get rubbed off on you.
I was able to watch two baseball games in Spring and had a grand time on both even if I didn’t know the teams and had no idea who to support. And if you do get hungry from too much cheering, there are A LOT of ahjummas and ahjussi selling chicken and other snacks outside the stadium. I recommend 치맥/chimek as the perfect game companion (Slang for chicken and beer)!
Tip! Doosan Bears are the reigning champions so it’s safe to bet on them but since you’re on Jamsil soil, their home team is the LG Twins. I cheered for Samsung Lions the first time but they lost so I supported the Bears in the 2nd game that I watched. Sue me for not being loyal. Hehe. ✌🏻
Baseball season runs from March to September and they have baseball games almost everyday so you can check out the official website for the schedule, and make your way to the stadium. The ticket prices aren’t expensive. They cost about KRW 8,000 ~ 10,000 / Php 350 ~ 450 depending on the seating area, and they usually don’t get sold out except on weekends and public holidays.
Take Line 2 Sports Complex, Exit 7.
Note! I spent a lot of my free time outside during the spring but it’s honestly something I would not recommend because of the horrible air pollution in Seoul brought by the yellow dust. That’s why it’s important to always bring a mask with you everywhere (and no, it’s not just KPOP idols who wear them!) because health is always first! ☺️