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Gapyeong Tour

Many people may know Nami Island in South Korea, famous with the beautiful tree lanes and shooting place of Winter Sonata drama, but not so many people know about Petite France, which is near Nami Island. Petite France is located in Gapyeong-gun (gun = county), the eastern part of Gyeonggi-do (do = province), and Nami Island is 3.8 km away from Gapyeong, in the border between Gyeonggi-do and Gangwon-do (but it belongs to Gangwon-do). If you come all the way from Seoul (or basically from anywhere) to Nami Island, it is worth it to also visit Petite France in the same day. I call it as Gapyeong Tour. Gapyeong is beautiful with natural views like mountains, rivers and lakes. There are many villas and resorts over there as it is one of the favorite relaxing and vacation destinations in Korea.

View Gapyeong Tour in google map

Petite France

The way to go to Petite France by public transportation from Seoul is to take subway/train to Cheongpyeong Station in Gyeongchun Line. For example, if I go to Cheongpyeong Station from Seoul National University Station (near my home), it would take about 100 minutes by subway with 2 transfers. So the distance depends on which part of Seoul you are going from.

Map from SMRT website

From Cheongpyeong Station, take exit 2 to the bus stop to catch Gapyeong City Tour Bus (I know the website link from Jim who commented this post, thanks Jim!). If you’re lost, don’t worry, there is a Tourism Center in exit 1, so you can ask them. This shuttle bus passes several stops including Petite France, Nami Island, and the nearest subway stations and bus terminals. You can hop on and off at every stop you want by using single ticket, which costs 5,000 KRW ($5) per person. Ticket can be purchased to the driver inside the bus. You need to keep the ticket and show it to the driver every time you hop on to the bus. It runs 5 times a day. Here is the timetable (click it to enlarge):

My route was on the red timetable: Cheongpyeong Station – Petite France – Nami Island – Gapyeong Station. If you want to travel the other way around, see the green timetable
Gapyeong City Tour Bus

During the bus journey from Cheongpyeong Station to Petite France, which took about 20 minutes, the TV inside the bus showed us Running Man episode #40 which was located in Petite France. It looked funny even though I didn’t understand Korean, and it is indeed funny when I watched it after that at home with subtitle. Not only funny, it also shows us the beauty of Petite France. It’s hard to split my attention between the funny show inside the bus and beautiful white lake along twisty road outside the bus.

So, what is exactly Petite France? Petite France is a theme park designed like a French village in the middle of Alps mountains. The buildings are in European style, narrow and high, with bright colors. It is located in the middle of nowhere on the hillside, and surrounded by mountains (in the winter covered by snow) so it really looks like a Mediterranean village in the Alps.

The entrance fee for this village is 8,000 KRW ($8) per person. It is built by a Korean who likes The Little Prince (French: Le Petit Prince’) story so much. That’s why we can see many drawings, and a museum about this famous story. When I stumbled around the museum, I accidentally found The Little Prince stamp. I directly put it on my notebook. Apparently there are total 8 stamps with different picture that you can find anywhere inside this village. I only found 3 stamps. If you have time, try to search and collect all of them, it will be fun.

In Petite France we can also try Mediterranean clothes and French foods. There is one restaurant but I don’t recommend it. It has only 5 choices of food, which is expensive and not really good (of course foods in attraction places are usually over-priced). There are some buildings in the village that serve as accommodation for overnight guests and halls for events. Many youth trainings are camped in this place.

The unique thing about this place for korean drama fans: it is the shooting location of Beethoven Virus. If you watched the drama, you will be familiar with Kang Maestro’s working room. In this room, everything is about music, from a guitar shaped desk, piano, music books and note sheets. There are also photos and signatures of the actors and actresses of the drama, including Jang Geun Suk.

Nami Island

Enough with Petite France, I moved to Nami Island using the next bus. Taxi ride between Petite France and Nami Island would cost about 20,000 KRW ($20). Yes, it is quite expensive and it is hard to find a taxi in Petite France, so Gapyeong City Tour Bus is really a good option. The view in 20 minutes bus journey to go there was really amazing! You can’t take your eyes off beautiful frozen lake and snowy mountains in the winter. We can see many villas facing the lake and their private boat parking on the lake.

The other options to go to Nami Island directly from Seoul:

  1. Take subway until Gapyeong Station in Gyeongchun Line (2 stations away from Cheongpyeong Station). On the bus stop in front of station exit, there are many taxis waiting to bring you to Nami Island entrance gate. It is only 5 minutes drive, Taxi costs about 4,000 KRW ($4), while local bus costs 1,000 KRW ($1). Taking taxi is a great deal when you travel in 4 people group.
  2. Take shuttle bus from Nami Island Seoul Center in Insadong (besides Tapgol Park) directly to Nami Island entrance gate. It costs 23,000 KRW ($23) including 2 ways bus and admission tickets (8,000 KRW or $8 for foreigner). Bus from Seoul departs at 9.30 and bus going back to Seoul departs at 16.00.

I personally prefer the first way. It may be more complicated to transfer transportation for few times, but it is more adventurous, cheaper and more free to go whenever we like.

From entrance gate, a 5 minutes ferry ride takes us to the island. Ferry comes every 15 minutes. We can also fly there using Zip Rider (and come back with Ferry), which costs almost 40,000 KRW ($4) including admission fee.

Nami Island or Naminara Republic is named after General Nami who was a brave soldier and died at young age because of false accusation of being a traitor. His grave lies in the entrance of this island. In 2001, Nami Island was renovated as an art and culture amusement park. It was shooting location for several movies and a famous Winter Sonata drama in 2002. In 2006, it declared independence as the Naminara Republic.

Since Korean Wave (Hallyu) spread well-known in Asian countries, there are many Asian tourists come to this place, including Malaysians and Indonesians. When I came there on the first day of 2012, I found a new year greeting written in Bahasa Indonesia or Malay. It was really something.

The island is really great for relaxing and enjoying the nature. We can rent bike or take electric car tour or walk slowly on the forest path surrounded by pines or picnic. I have been there during Autumn and Winter seasons, this island in both seasons are beautiful!

Nami Island in Autumn

Nami Island in Winter

Going back to Seoul is easy. From entrance gate of Nami Island, walk through parking lot until the bus stop. Take Gapyeong City Tour Bus to Gapyeong Station, only 5 minutes ride. Take the train towards Sangbong and transfer to any subway stations in Seoul.

That is the end of Gapyeong Tour.


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