HWASEONG, Gyeonggi Province -- Although the weather still feels cold for early March, impatient flower lovers head to Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province to look for the first signs of spring.
Some 50 kilometers southwest of Seoul, Hwaseong Botanical Garden welcomes visitors with more than 580 species of plants growing on the Korean Peninsula.
Outside the garden, trees and flowers have yet to bloom and the dry, crinkled brown leaves are a reminder of the last snap of winter. But inside the walls of a large glass house at the botanical garden, spring has already arrived.
Known for its glass-covered hanok design, Hwaseong Botanical Garden mesmerizes not only the flower-loving public, but also content creators -- tvN’s smash-hit drama series “Hotel Del Luna” (2019) was shot there, too.
With the warm sunlight coming through the windows, the flowers are in bloom and the green leaves of the forest make visitors feel like summer is already here.
Taking off their padded jackets and scarfs, visitors wonder around the garden unrestrained. Amateur photographers are seen whipping out their cameras to capture the vibrant flowers, including azaleas and forsythia.
“As wearing face masks will no longer be required indoors, I think we will be greeting the ‘real’ spring season for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. I wanted my child to go out and smell the spring flowers, which he couldn’t do for a long time,” said Park, a man in his 40s, on Tuesday.
“It seems like there are many people who wish to enjoy the spring vibe a little early as the botanical garden is filled with flower lovers today,” Park added.
A young child held on tightly to her grandmother with one hand while pointing at a violet with the other. A small group of adults was catching up with each other while walking on the stone paved path and listening to the chirping of birds.
“Hwaseong Botanical Garden gets even better when spring arrives. The brown, ochre-colored leaves and grass that you saw outside will turn green. The vine garden and grass square will be filled with even more visitors,” a 68-year-old retired office worker, Yim, told The Korea Herald.
“For those who want to spend a calm, quiet time at the garden. I think March and early April may be perfect to enjoy the flowers with fewer crowds,” the Hwaseong resident added.
A mere two-minute walk from the garden, the amusement forest welcomes energetic children for whom looking at flowers is just not enough.
Ranging from a mini zip line to a winding slide, young boys and girls quickly become friends while awaiting their turn and running around the park.
If you are too old for the amusement forest, you might try the winding trail to the Deunggosan observatory for a panoramic view of the garden and Hwaseong city.
Varying plant species surround the trail to the observatory, including flame grass, hydrangeas and rose of Sharon flowers, among others.
Free guided programs are available, which require an online reservation on the garden's official website a week ahead of any visit.
Entrance costs 3,000 won and 2,000 won for adults and teenagers, respectively. Children under 12 pay 1,500 won.
While Hwaseong Botanical Garden is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and weekends, the glasshouse is closed on Mondays.
For more information about the Hwaseong Botanical Garden, including information about themed exhibitions and special flowers of the month, visit its website.