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[Well-curated] Reptiles, Hangeul-theme cafe and circus on Nodeul Island

By Lee Si-jin, Lee Jung-youn, Hwang Dong-hee

Published : May 3, 2024 - 09:01

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A yellow-spotted monitor, also known as the Argus monitor lizard, which is found in northern and western regions of Australia, is seen at Gecko's Republic in Mapo-gu, western Seoul. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald) A yellow-spotted monitor, also known as the Argus monitor lizard, which is found in northern and western regions of Australia, is seen at Gecko's Republic in Mapo-gu, western Seoul. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)

Explore world of reptiles

Gecko's Republic, located right around the corner from Mangwon Station on Subway Line No. 6, is a mini reptile zoo housing a wide range of unique reptile species, including chameleons, turtles and lizards.

The two-story building is an inviting spot not only for reptile enthusiasts but also for those looking to raise reptiles themselves.

Unlike some other reptile cafes that allow visitors to feed turtles and watch the lizards, Gecko’s Republic looks after some 40 different types of reptile species, which are both for display and for sale.

“Gecko’s Republic’s unique feature may be the glass-free (or steel bar-free) pet cages for many of our reptiles,” the shop's owner Lim Sang-hun told The Korea Herald on April 23.

“Since the reptiles are pets ... I hope our visitors become familiar with these charming creatures. Visitors also don’t need to feel pressured to buy reptiles while watching them at our store,” Lim added.

Passersby look at the reptiles on display at Gecko's Republic in Mapo-gu, western Seoul. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald) Passersby look at the reptiles on display at Gecko's Republic in Mapo-gu, western Seoul. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)

Gecko’s Republic also offers a special one-day class on weekends.

The moss-themed vivarium class is available at 2 p.m. on Sundays, where visitors can learn about installing a vivarium, an area for keeping and raising animals (or plants).

For those, who wish to enjoy Gecko’s Republic to the fullest, ask workers at the shop for a feeding experience, where you can get a closer look at the turtles and rabbits, which are also on display.

“Because our shop is located in Mangwon-dong, one of Seoul’s hippest neighborhoods, the visitors are very young. Many of them are interested in raising more unique pets,” Lim said. “But, a lot of family visitors are enjoying our shop during the weekend, too. They come here to explore the exciting world of reptiles without having to go to large zoos.”

Gecko's Republic

World Cup-ro 14-gil, 50-13, Mapo-gu, Seoul

A mountain-shaped sculpture decorated with moss and a small waterfall stands in the center of Leedorim, Jongno-gu, Seoul. (Lee Jung-youn/The Korea Herald) A mountain-shaped sculpture decorated with moss and a small waterfall stands in the center of Leedorim, Jongno-gu, Seoul. (Lee Jung-youn/The Korea Herald)

Coffee at Sejong the Great's birthplace

If you're strolling around the bustling streets of central Seoul, where tradition meets modernity, there's a cafe worth a visit near Gyeongbokgung.

From the outside, the cafe is a white building surrounded by mirrors, but as you step inside, you will be greeted by a dimly lit corridor. As you pass through the corridor, the name of the cafe is revealed: Leedorim.

Leedorim is a collaboration between the famous coffee house Hongdae Blot Coffee and Gallery Leedorim. Gallery Leedorim -- named by combining the name of King Sejong the Great, Lee Do, one of the most beloved and respected kings of the Joseon era, and "rim," meaning forest -- was established at the birthplace of Sejong the Great. Inside the cafe, various objects related to King Sejong and Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, are displayed.

The cafe also serves vegan and non-vegan bread and desserts provided by Vake, a bakery in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province.

Inwangsan, as seen from the rooftop of Leedorim in Jongno-gu, Seoul (Lee Jung-youn) Inwangsan, as seen from the rooftop of Leedorim in Jongno-gu, Seoul (Lee Jung-youn)
The entrance of Leedorim in Jongno-gu, Seoul (Lee Jung-youn) The entrance of Leedorim in Jongno-gu, Seoul (Lee Jung-youn)
Leedorim in Jongno-gu, Seoul (Lee Jung-youn) Leedorim in Jongno-gu, Seoul (Lee Jung-youn)

The intricate, maze-like structure of the cafe allows visitors to discover new pathways and spaces. The rocky mountain display that pierces through the first and second floors is adorned with moss and a small waterfall. Mist cascading from the top creates a mystical ambiance, and the echoing sound of water droplets and soothing music further accentuate the spatial experience throughout the cafe.

As visitors ascend to the rooftop, a small, shallow pond and serene garden appear. Visitors can sip on coffee as they enjoy the view of Inwangsan and the streets of Seoul below. For safety reasons, children cannot enter the spaces on the second and third floors.

Following a monthlong soft opening period, Leedorim officially commenced business on May 1. The cafe operates from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.

Leedorim

Jahamun-ro 43, Jongno-gu, Seoul

The Seoul Circus Festival (Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture) The Seoul Circus Festival (Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture)

Circus festival on Nodeul Island

This weekend, Nodeul Island will be transformed into a magical wonderland for kids and grown-ups alike. Get ready for the Seoul Circus Festival on May 4-5, which promises to whisk children away into their dreams while reigniting nostalgic memories for adults. A total of 17 performances are scheduled to be staged each day.

Under the theme of "Time Travel with Circus," this year's festival invites visitors on a journey from traditional circus spectacles to modern marvels, featuring heart-pounding stunts and innovative collaborations with other genres.

The Seoul Circus Festival (Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture) The Seoul Circus Festival (Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture)

In particular, Dongchun Circus, Korea's very first circus troupe founded in 1925, will perform acrobatic acts at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at the Nodeul Yard.

Also, don't miss the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture's latest production, "Yeot, Da!" which blends traditional tightrope walking with silk aerial acrobatics.

From interactive shows for children to a circus playground where visitors can try their hand at circus skills, there will be something for everyone. Related exhibitions will be held indoors, as well as music parades, miniature trains, flea markets, and photo zones, offering a myriad of other island adventures.

For more information, visit the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture's website and the festival's Instagram page.

The festival runs from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Nodeul Island

445, Yangnyeong-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul