South of Myeongdong on Mt. Namsan is Namsan Park, popular for hiking trails, tourist attractions, N Seoul Tower, and panoramic views of downtown Seoul. Namsan, meaning “South Mountain”, is the largest park in Seoul attracting over 20,000 people a day who visit here to experience a little slice of nature in the middle of the urban city.
Some of the most spectacular views of downtown Seoul and the surrounding area can be had at the peak of Namsan at 262 meters (860 feet) and better yet, at the top of N Seoul Tower which soars another 237 meters (777 feet) into the sky. If you’re going to go to the top of N Seoul Tower you need to bring something stronger than binoculars, like a hunting spotting scope, just to see the street below you.
During the rule of Taejo, the first king of the Joseon Dynasty, Namsan was considered a sacred shamanistic site. He ordered the construction of a fortress wall that would protect the city from invaders. The wall that ran through Namsan marked the southern boundary of the city. Some sections of the wall still exist to this day.
In 1925, the Japanese, who occupied Korea at the time, built an important Shinto shrine known as Chosen Jingu at the peak of Namsan as part of their policy of Japanization. The shrine was dedicated Amaterasu, the Japanese goddess of the sun and universe and Emperor Meiji, the 122nd Emperor of Japan who reigned from 1867 to 1912. After the independence of Korea in 1945, the shrine was demolished.
In 1970, the Patriot An Chung-gun Memorial Hall was built on the former site of the Shinto shrine. This memorial hall was built in honor of Ahn, a Korean nationalist and independence activist. who assassinated Ito Hirobumi, the former prime minister of Japan and first Resident-General of Korea at Harbin Railway Station on October 26, 1909. A year later, on March 26, 1910, Ahn was executed for his actions.
Though most visitors come to Namsan Park to enjoy the views, the nature, or go for a hike, there are also a few interesting sights to see. Other than the N Seoul Tower, there is the Mongmyeoksan Beacon Hill Site (Bongsudae), a set of beacons constructed to warn the city of incoming enemy invasions, an octagonal pavilion known as Palgakjeong, and Locks of Love, a wall of locks that symbolize endless love for those who hang them.