Forest of Wisdom (Free)
Bibliophiles will love this treasure trove of books, which can be found in Paju Book City, the country’s publishing hub. The forest’s bookshelves measure eight meters tall and three thousand meters in length, so ask for a ladder in case you need to check higher shelves. All reading materials are donated, and are arranged based on the name of the donors, not the Dewey Decimal System.
Only three years old, this Gyoha-eup library has 500,000 titles in its collection with a very small fraction on display. The space is divided into three sections: Hall 1 serves as the repository of materials given by leading intellectuals and Halls 2 and 3 are the haven of books donated by publishing companies. Navigating your way may prove to be daunting, so ask the book advisors for help when looking for a title.
A nearby accommodation, Jijihyang Hotel, is connected to Hall 3 which is open 24 hours. You can read to your heart’s content then go back to your room without ever having to leave the building.
Try to catch the Forest’s year-round events: humanities lectures from March to December; a children’s book fest in May; and Paju Book Festival in October.
Opening hours: Hall 3 is open 24 hours; Hall 1 is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Hall 2 is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Botanical Garden Byeokchoji (from US$5.30 for adults)
A veritable feast for the eyes, this garden is a favorite spot for pre-wedding photoshoots. Its popularity is driven by the fact that some of the most successful television shows were shot here, as well as its diverse collection of flora. A slow stroll around the area takes only two hours, but its myriad workshops—claypot painting, ceramic making, dyeing, and even sweet potato picking—will keep you in the garden for at least half a day.
Founded in 1965, it was created to provide an accessible respite for Seoul residents, especially families. Prams are available for rent, parking is free, and there are several restaurants and cafés within the area where you can hang around for a quick bite or a leisurely lunch.
Opening hours: March to October from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; November to February from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.