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Koreans are a physically fit bunch. In fact, they put most of the world to shame with their trim physiques, not to mention their passion for fitness. So it’s no surprise that Seoul is crammed with just about every kind of exercise facility imaginable, from taekwondo academies to rock climbing centers. Grab your Fitbit and get ready to get your sweat on.
If you really want to keep your workout routine going while in Korea, sign up for a fitness class at one of the countless gyms throughout the city. There are more than 100 CrossFit gyms in the Seoul metropolitan area, in addition to numerous unique fitness studios that offer classes ranging from pole dancing and yoga to mixed martial arts and Zumba. Like most places around the world, Korean gyms will let you try out your first class for free.
Most classes are taught in Korean, but instructors are generally very welcoming and can convey the basics. If you insist on having an English-speaking instructor, however, check out Body & Seoul and FitClub Seoul in the Itaewon area.
If you’re the type that likes a little variety in your life, check out GuavaPass. This interesting new business empowers its users with an unlimited selection of classes ranging from yoga and kickboxing to spinning and dance. For around 150,000 won (US$130) per month, you get access to all the classes featured on GuavaPass’ curated list of fitness venues, meaning you can easily locate and register for classes that fit your schedule and your interests.
For those looking for a more luxurious workout sesh, the Westin Chosun Hotel in downtown Seoul offers around 70 different kinds of workout equipment, spread across an entire floor that was recently renovated by renowned American interior designer Adam Tihany. The atmosphere is just as nice at the Conrad Seoul Hotel in Yeouido, where members can enjoy cutting-edge facilities including a spacious 25-meter-lane indoor pool. Likewise, the Banyan Tree Club & Spa’s treadmills and rooftop jogging tracks offer stunning panoramas of Namsan Mountain.
Whether you’re exploring Seoul’s public parks or hiking one of its mountaintops, it’s easy to locate an outdoor gym. These ubiquitous public exercise areas are outfitted with a variety of basic equipment that can be used for free, making them a budget-friendly option for fitness lovers tight on won. They also make a great spot to interact with the city’s health-conscious elderly residents, who enjoy convening in these areas.
Despite being one of the most populous cities in the world, Seoul is home to a fair share of parks that are well equipped with jogging and cycling paths, many of which provide scenic views. Seoul Forest, Seoul Grand Park, and the parks along the Han River are resident favorites, not to mention sites for regular fitness events such as marathons.
Likewise, hiking enthusiasts can enjoy one of the hundreds of hiking trails that are all easily accessible by public transportation. Some are steep, long and rugged, while others are leisurely and follow a well-paved path. All offer great views and a glimpse into Korea’s unique hiking culture.
Taekwondo, the national sport of Korea, is not only centered on kicks, punches, breaking, and sparring but also on developing a mind that is controlled, humble, and respectful. Therefore, the popular martial art is a great way to cultivate both the mind and body.
The International Kumgang Taekwondo Center specializes in providing both short- and long-term taekwondo experience programs for international expats and visitors. English-language taekwondo classes are also available at the Taekwondo ROK Foreigners Gymnasium and the Mooto Taekwondo Center.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced climber, the rock climbing gyms in and around Seoul will challenge you and allow you to meet interesting new people along the way. B.Bloc Urban Climbing in Gangnam is perhaps the most popular. Marked with a clear grading system, this large climbing gym is split between long traversal problems and bouldering and is suitable for all levels.
For those looking for something a big “cooler,” the Kolon Alpine School in Ui-dong boasts the world’s tallest indoor ice wall in which visitors can try out ice climbing. Inside the ice chamber, three of the four walls are eight meters in height, with one towering a whopping 20 meters in height, stretching over seven floors of the building. Equipment such as boots, gloves, and ice tools can be rented at the climbing center for a nominal fee.