Autumn in Korea Travel

Myeongryundang (명륜당) – The Most Wonderful Place to See Fall Foliage in Seoul

When I titled this post as “the most wonderful,” I genuinely meant it! Among all my experiences in Seoul and Korea, visiting Myeong-ryun-dang and witnessing the breathtaking transformation of historically precious ginkgo trees during the enchanting fall season stands out as the most unforgettable memory.

Located within the esteemed Sungkyunkwan University Seoul campus, Myeongryundang is an ancient auditorium that played a significant role in the Joseon era. It hosted lectures, examinations, and entrance ceremonies for Confucian scholars over 600 years ago. Perhaps, if you’ve been to Korea, you might recognize Myeongryundang as it is depicted on the 1,000 won banknote.

According to the history, Confucius himself used to give lectures under ginkgo trees, hence, they were often planted in schools. Standing majestically in front of the study room are two colossal ginkgo trees, each boasting a remarkable lifespan of more than 500 years. They are the largest deciduous trees I’ve ever encountered. As a testament to their significance, these trees were designated as Natural Monument No. 59 in 1962, preserving them as cherished legacies of the past. The sight of these magnificent ginkgo trees adorned in their fall brilliance left an indelible mark on my heart, making this visit the most remarkable and cherished of all my adventures in Seoul and Korea.

While they may not hold the title of the largest or most ancient eun-haeng-na-moo (ginkgo tree in Korean) in the nation (that distinction belongs to the one in Wonju designated as Natural Monument No. 167), the vibrant display of their golden foliage never fails to captivate thousands of fall enthusiasts every year.

Having admired the seasonal spectacle of Myeongryundang’s yellow splendor online for years, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to visit last autumn. As the cool breeze swept through and the temperatures began to drop, I quickly checked to ensure that visitors were allowed on-site, considering the ongoing concerns related to the virus we’re all familiar with. Fortunately, they warmly welcomed guests, and I seized the chance to experience this stunning autumn wonder in person.

To reach Sungkyunkwan University conveniently, the best way is to take Seoul Subway Line Number 4 and disembark at Hyehwa Station (혜화역). From exit number 4, it’s just a 10-minute walk to the main gate of the school, where you’ll catch sight of the walled space beside the parking lot—this is the highly anticipated Myeongryundang lecturing area I was eager to visit.

Clearly, many autumn leaf enthusiasts had the same idea that very weekend, as the renowned trees on the campus were attracting attention. I arrived a little after 9 AM, and the ground was already bustling with photographers and early morning wanderers. Nevertheless, the allure of Korean traditional architecture adorned with the golden luminosity of ginkgo leaves left me standing in awe, amidst the frenzy of enthusiastic crowds.

The line was being formed as soon as the gates were opened

At the base of the grandest hall, Daeseongjeon, a perfect photo spot emerged, with the popular ginkgo pair gracefully rising from behind, forming a breathtaking backdrop. The sight of a line of ladies patiently waiting for their turn to capture candid shots, and a group of “insta boyfriends” diligently seeking the ideal angle, served as compelling testimonials to the wonders of this location.

A shot from the hot photo spot and it was pretty worth waiting in the line 🙂

If the main lecture hall area proves to be too bustling, I recommend taking a leisurely stroll inside the walls to immerse yourself in the beautiful remnants of the Joseon elites, once regarded as the hope of the nation. Additionally, you’ll come across a few more massive ginkgo trees, just as old and stunning as the duo found in the prominent zone. It’s a serene and fascinating experience, tracing the footsteps of history while being surrounded by these magnificent trees.

I came across a small update from a local news article, and unfortunately, it mentioned an incident involving one of the two ginkgo trees in the main yard. During the tree staking replacement service, one of the trunks snapped because it had been left without proper support for too long. Seeing a picture featured in the report deeply saddened me, as the tree suffered severe damage. I sincerely hope that they will soon find a skilled tree surgeon to carry out the necessary repairs. It will undoubtedly take some time for the eunhangnamu to fully recover. However, even with the fresh wound, I remain certain that its autumn display will continue to be awe-inspiring and impressive.

More treats for the eyes from Myeongryundang during autumn

Access Map

Quick Info About Myeongryundang


Operating Hours: 
09:00~18:00 (March to October)
09:00~17:00 (November to February)

Admission Fees: None

Naver Map: Seonggyungwan Myeongnyundang
서울특별시 종로구 명륜3가 

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