Autumn in Korea Travel

A Walk Along Jeongdonggil During Full Autumn Swing

Situated across the street from Seoul City Hall in downtown Seoul, the small yet enchanting neighborhood of Jeongdong beckons. Not only is it cherished for its serene ambiance, nestled away from the bustling business district, but it also preserves remnants of Korea’s rich past. Historical landmarks grace this area, including a compound of palaces, the first all-girl school, religious and arts establishments, and a few envoy offices. However, what truly captivates visitors and finds its way onto many maps is the picturesque street sheltered by ginkgo trees, known as Jeongdong-gil (정동길).

For quite some time, I had marked Jeongdong-gil on my map, saving it for my fall foliage quest. Finally, last year, during the peak of autumn, I embarked on this delightful journey. This street is renowned as one of the most romantic roads in Seoul and holds the distinction of being designated the first beautiful walking street by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in 1999.

The passage begins at Daehanmun (대한문), the main gate of Deoksu Palace, stretching around 800 meters until it reaches Jeongdong Junction (정동 사거리), where the historical site of Donuimun (돈의문) can be found. The allure of Jeongdong-gil and its historical surroundings truly make it a gem worth exploring.

As you stroll along the first 300 meters of the street sidewalk from Daehanmun, you’ll be accompanied by the palace’s iconic stone wall on your right. This specific stretch of the road has served as a backdrop in numerous popular Korean movies and dramas. For instance, in episode 10 of “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” (이상한 변호사 우영우), which happens to be the most-watched non-English show on Netflix recently, the lead couple takes a memorable walk down this very alleyway during a night out. The allure of this location adds an extra layer of charm to the already captivating setting.

While Jeongdong-gil is an ideal place for a leisurely stroll, there is a curious saying that I once heard from a friend: walking down this road with your partner brings bad luck and might lead to a breakup. This belief seems to have its roots in the history of the former location of the Seoul Family Court and the Supreme Court, which were situated at the north end of the Deoksugung stone wall road. This area was associated with divorce, thus earning the reputation as the “road to getting divorced.”

Another theory behind the street’s perceived bad luck dates back to the Joseon Dynasty, where it was believed that concubines who failed to receive the king’s favor would pass through this path. Despite these ominous stories, couples can still be seen choosing Jeongdong-gil as a spot for their romantic dates. Perhaps love can triumph over superstition in the face of the street’s undeniable allure.

Continuing further down the cobblestone paved walkway, you’ll arrive at what now appears to be a simple roundabout. At some point in the past, an elegant statue graced the center of this space. Gazing beyond the traffic circle, you’ll spot a narrower road lined with majestic ginkgo trees, forming a golden carpet that leads to the rest of Jeongdong-gil.

Throughout the year, the street is always bustling with eager pedestrians. Even on the hottest weekdays, groups of professionals from the nearby office area can be seen strolling along the shaded road, seeking a pleasant coffee break. It’s no surprise that the street becomes even livelier during the stunning season of fall. The allure of this place draws people in, making it a vibrant and enchanting destination for all who visit.

In a bid to avoid the crowds of autumn leaf enthusiasts and the bustling traffic, I skillfully timed my arrival at the second half of Jeongdong Street, nearly twenty minutes before 9 o’clock on the first weekend of November 2021. As a reward for my rare early morning wake-up, an empty avenue welcomed me like a precious gift. Although the ginkgo leaves hadn’t fully matured, the transition from light green to radiant golden yellow was still utterly enchanting to behold.

Certainly, ascending the small hill from Jeongdong First Methodist Church (정동제일교회) to the road’s end should have taken no more than 20 minutes. However, when the hillside was adorned with a magnificent canvas of ginkgo leaves, the turnaround time unexpectedly doubled. The mesmerizing scenery, especially as I approached Ehwa Girls’ High School, the first all-female school in Korea, nearly made me lose track of time and almost caused me to miss my second appointment that morning. The sight of the red brick buildings clustered prominently on one side of the promenade during its prime left me utterly awe-struck. Undoubtedly, it was one of the most exquisite walks I have ever experienced.

Jeongdong-gil truly lives up to its reputation garnered over the years as one of the best places in Seoul to relish a leisurely stroll. The picturesque beauty and historical significance of the area make it a remarkable destination for anyone seeking a memorable and enchanting walk.

Access Map

Quick Info

Naver Map:
Jeongdonggill Trail
서울특별시 중구 정동 30-1

Date of my visit: 2021.11.05

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