Activities available to Seoul’s families seem to be limitless. In addition to the numerous historical and cultural sites, museums, and amusement parks, the National Zoo greets millions of visitors every year. Many school children experience the zoo by first walking its grounds during part of a school trip. Growing up in the United States, while I had numerous zoos nearby, I was never treated to such excursions, making me jealous every time I see a bus arrive in the parking lot.
Today, the Seoul Zoo is the tenth largest in the world, but it didn’t start out that way. In fact, prior to 1909, Korea didn’t have a national zoo. It wasn’t until the Japanese occupation that one was created. While zoos are a fantastic place to learn about animals and the environments in which they live, the original national zoo was created on the grounds of Changgyeonggung. The first animals to be viewed by visitors were Siberian tigers, kangaroos, ostriches, camels, orangutans, among others. By housing the animals there, Imperial Japan hoped to break the spirit of the Korean people. This was further seen by changing the name of the palace to Changyeonweon.
The zoo stayed in Seoul for some sixty years. However, as more and more creatures were added, it became evident that a new facility was going to be needed. October 30, 1978 saw ground being broken on the current site adjacent to Gwanak Mountain in Gwacheon. The new zoo opened in 1984 and now has over 3400 animals and boasts more than 360 different species. Total area of the facility is an astonishing 9.1 million square meters and includes camping facilities, nature parks, hiking trails, and an amusement park.
When first arriving to the zoo, you’ll be greeted by a large lake. Swimming and frolicking in the sun are resident ducks. They usually pay no attention to the visitors walking high above on the bridge suspended above them, but provide guests with an excellent gateway to what lays ahead – scores and scores of things to see and do. A favorite place for couples to walk is the Rose Garden. Inside this botanical treat are more than 20,0000 roses from over 200 species.
Probably the highlight of a visit to the zoo is watching the famed seal and dolphin show. Depending on the time of year, two to four shows are staged daily. In addition, children usually find great enjoyment at the zoo area just for them, with several baby animals ready to be viewed and played with. If you’d like to get a bird’s eye view of the zoo, that can also be granted by taking a ride on the 1.7km skylift.
To be sure, Seoul Zoo has something for everyone.
Address: Gyeonggi-do Gwacheon-si Makgye-dong 159-1
Phone: +82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese); For more info +82-2-500-7245 (Korean, English)
April – September: 9:00am – 7:00pm (Last admission: 6pm)
October – March: 9:00am – 6:00pm (Last admission: 5pm)
* Seal & Dolphin Show:
4 Shows Daily: 12pm, 1:30 am, 3pm, 4:30 pm
(December – February: 2 shows – 1:30pm, 3pm)
Parking: Small car : 4,000won / Large car : 9,000won
Zoo: Adult(Age 19 or older) 3,000 won (group of 30 persons or more 2,100 won)/ Teenager(Ages 13 – 18) 2,000 won (group of 30 or more persons 1,400 won)/ Children(Ages 4 – 12) 1,000 won (group of 30 or more persons 700 won)
Dolphin Show: Adult 1,500 won/ Teenager 1,000 won/ Children 500 won
Youth Training Center: Adult 2,000 won/ Teenager 1,500 won/ Children 1,000 won
Getting There: Seoul Grand Park Station, Line 4, Exit 2