Written and photographed by Madeline Miller
If you know me, you know I like hockey. If you know me well, you know that I talk about my experiences with it very passionately, play it very lazily, and know absolutely nothing about the actual stats. That being said, I like to spend my free time doing lazy laps around a rink and want to share with you the places in Gwangju you can do that, too.
The only place to ice skate year-round in Gwangju is Yeomju Sports Center (염주체육관). Unfortunately, there’s not much information available online in English, but luckily for you, I’m here to be your guide! Located in Seogu, it is a full-sized rink tucked behind the main event hall – between the indoor tennis court, horse stables, and geom-do (swordsmanship) hall – and is primarily utilized for speed and figure skating lessons. There are many classes available, as well as private coaching if that’s what you’re into. If you’re like me, though, you just want to strap ’em on and go on your own. Public skating is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends, with a nice little lunch break from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. There’s a snack shop, bathrooms, skate sharpening (costs 10,000 won a pop and takes about 10 minutes) and some very friendly and helpful staff.
Recently, the center installed an automated payment system – when you walk in the front door, directly to the left is where you should pick your poison. 7,000 won gets you the full experience; 4,000 if you only want an entrance (i.e., if you brought your own skates or if you’re too chicken to step on the slippery surface at all). While I have my own skates (you know, being lazily into hockey and all), the ones provided by the facility are not too rotten. Keep in mind you are required to wear a helmet and gloves; helmets are provided, but gloves are not. If you don’t have any or happen to forget them, thankfully they’re only 3,000 won to buy in the skate shop to the right of the main entrance. There’s also a “warm room” alongside the ice, and the skate shop has warm clothes to rent, so if you don’t feel like freezing your butt off the entire day, that’s a good chance to bring life into your dead fingers once more.
The rink also has locker rental available – the day-lockers are located near the restrooms and are your standard “I’m going to just leave the penny I found outside and my extra socks here” size. A fuller size locker costs 5,000 won per month and is the perfect size for ice skaters. Additionally, there’s a small gym with treadmills and some weights equipment, but it’s only accessible if you pay for the rink membership at about 80,000 won per month.
If there were one thing I could change about the Yeomju rink, it would be shower facilities. If you’re just going for a romantic – or maybe frustrating, if the fool just drags you down while you’re trying to channel your inner Yuna Kim – date, obviously that’s unnecessary. But after a two-hour game, personally, I would love to take a quick rinse.
Aside from Yeomju, there is (at least) one other rink in Gwangju. Every winter, City Hall hosts an open-air rink on its front yard that costs only 1,000 won for a two-hour block. Last year, this was open from mid-December to early February; this year will likely be the same. Admittedly, the quality of the ice is significantly lower than that of Yeomju, and there are swarms of children getting in the way, but if you’re in the area and don’t feel committed enough for the full-blown 7,000 for Yeomju, this is a good option. It’s also nice to feel the crisp air and know it’s fresh(er) than that of the indoor rink. Here, too, you can purchase gloves if you neglected to bring them, but you will not be allowed to enter without them and a helmet (provided).
One benefit to skating at City Hall, rather than Yeomju, is the availability of food. I’m nearly always hungry, and the proximity of food to the Yeomju rink is a little frustrating. Other than the two nearby snack shops, the only options within a 10-minute walk are a coffee shop near the back entrance and the Lotte Mart next to the World Cup Stadium. As far as food goes, City Hall does hold the trump card as it is in the middle of Sangmu where there are food options everywhere.
Whether it be at the indoor Yeomju rink or City Hall’s outdoor center, get out there and skate this winter season!
Maddy lives a grandma’s lifestyle in a 23-year-old’s body. She has too many hobbies, most prevalent of which are reading, exploring, and chasing the children off her lawn (if only she had one). Her favorite food is anything that isn’t spicy or olives.