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alive museum artwork

Wanna be a wall-climbing ninja, shoot yourself out of a cannon, or spar with a kangaroo? Well, it’s all possible at the Alive Museum in Seoul.

Optical illusion museums are not new in Korea. In fact, I’ve seen many an eye-bending photo floating around the internet for quite a few years now. Using the centuries old trompe l’oeil art technique, these museums “deceive the eye,” and allow you to become part of a 2 dimensional painting, that appears 3D.

Read about our visit to the Fresque des Lyonnais – a HUGE trompe l’oeil painting in Lyon, France.

Peek-a-boo!

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Visiting the Alive Museum

I admit that I was a wee bit curious about inserting myself into one of these clever mirages, but had discounted the Alive Museum as being over-touristy, gimmicky and more than a little silly. It wasn’t until, Shirley, a friend from Hong Kong, stopped into Seoul for a few days and insisted we visit, that I made it into one.

It turns out that trick eye museums aren’t just a Korean thing anymore. They’ve now expanded into Singapore, China, Vietnam and Thailand, with the first European location planned for Istanbul, Turkey. Shirley informed me that Hong Kong’s trick art museum was so popular, that it was impossible to get a clear shot without someone else’s body parts in the photo. Kinda defeats the whole purpose of an optical illusion if you ask me…

alive museum in seoul

Sparring with a kangaroo is totally normal, right?

So what did I think? Well, the Alive Museum is silly and gimmicky, but it also happens to be ridiculously fun, strangely exhausting and kind of complicated. How so?

Well, trick art plays not just with paint, but also with perspectives, and there were a few illusions that we just couldn’t get right. Even though there were example photos and specified zones for getting the best shot, we ended up rolling around on the floor for about 20 minutes trying different angles to no avail.

See? Fun, exhausting and kinda complicated. 😉

Tips for Visiting

The ideal number of people to visit with is 3 or more

I say 3, because there are a few exhibits designed for a pair of people, and you need a third to take the photo. There are staff around to take pictures for you if required, but it’s much more fun with people you already know.

You can do this picture alone but it’s really more fun with a friend.

Incidentally, if you’re traveling alone and desperate for some optical illusion pics of your own, it’s still possible to visit. While we were there, a staff member was escorting a single visitor all around the Alive Museum and taking photos for her.

Wear comfortable clothing
Some of the most interesting illusions require you to position yourself on the floor. Wanna look like a wall climbing samurai? Not gonna happen in a skintight mini dress and stilettos.

alive museum artwork

Oh yeah.. I AM a ninja!

Visit before 5PM
We visited the Ssamzigil branch of the Alive Museum in touristy Insadong on a Friday, around 4:00 and aside from 3 or 4 other groups, we pretty much had the whole museum to ourselves. By 5:00 though, the museum started to fill up and it became a lot harder to take effective photos.

If there are 2 of you, you’ll need about 2 hours to get through the entire museum properly.

The paintings really do look 3D!

Alive Museum Tickets

There’s actually 2 separate attractions available at the same location: the Alive Museum and the Dynamic Maze. You can choose to do one, or both with a combo ticket.

Regular price Alive Museum Tickets are 12,000 won for adults and children over 36 months of age. You can save some money by booking discounted or combo tickets online:

How to go to the Alive Museum

There are 2 branches of the Alive Museum in Korea. The main branch is in Insadong, and the 2nd is on Jeju Island near the Jungmun Tourist Complex.

Alive Museum Insa-dong

Address: B1-2 floors, Daeil building, Insadong street 12, Jongno-gu, Seoul

From Jonggak Station on Line 1, take Exit 3. Turn left at the Geumgangjehwa Intersection, continue straight for 300 metres and you’ll find it on the right hand side.

From Anguk Station on Line 3, take Exit 6. Walk straight for 150 metres and you’ll find it on your left hand side.

Have you visited a trick art museum in your country? Do you have pics? Share your links in the comments below. We’d love to see them!

Comments:

  • September 30, 2014

    I’ve been dying to be in a trick museum. They had one in a mall in Okinawa, but I missed it.
    Those trickeries are insanely creative. So so cool!!! And the positions, wow. Puzzler, too.

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    • October 2, 2014

      You’d have a lot of fun in there! They’re building one in Istanbul now, so I’m sure it’ll be all over the world soon enough. Maybe even in Greece!

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  • September 28, 2014

    Very cool!

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  • September 24, 2014

    This is so cute.. Haha

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  • September 24, 2014

    This looks like so much fun! I’d never even heard of these museums – I must be so behind the times 😉

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    • September 24, 2014

      I usually hate being in front of the camera, but this was so much fun, I (almost) forgot about that. 🙂 Haha, I think these museums are a Korean invention, but they’ll soon be all over the world. Istanbul as the first non-Asian location, and then who knows…?!

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  • September 23, 2014

    This is so awesome!!

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    • September 23, 2014

      We had a lot of fun there for sure. 🙂 Looking at the photos now – like the penguin one – I can’t believe they were just painted on the wall. Really clever and fun.

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  • September 23, 2014

    We visited the Trickeye museum in Hongdae. Perfect for lousy weather days with kids. (I didn’t know the Insadong museum even though that was my neighbourhood – is it new?) My kids loved it and its a place that suits the Korean (youth) obsession with photo posing! I was lucky enough to be at the museum when a truckload of money was being dumped: http://housebythewater.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/enough-dreaming/

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    • September 23, 2014

      The Alive Museum seems to be newer than Trickeye, because all the photos I see are always referred to as trick eye photos, even when they’re taken in Insadong. Brand supremacy perhaps? Haha, I love that photo… if only it would happen to us in real life. I sure could use a truckload of money falling into my hands right about now… 🙂

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  • September 23, 2014

    I’ve never heard of these museums before. They look so fun! I love the picture with samurai.

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    • September 23, 2014

      I think they’re a Korean invention, but they’re being franchised right now, so I’m pretty sure they’ll be all over the world soon enough. The samurai photo was my favourite one in the whole museum too. 🙂

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  • September 23, 2014

    Wow. That looks like so much fun. Need to come to Seoul!

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    • September 23, 2014

      Your little ninja would love this museum, wouldn’t he?! 😉 But have you never visited Korea? Eaten Korean food?? If not, you definitely need to take a trip. 🙂

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  • September 23, 2014

    So much fun!

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  • Sha

    September 23, 2014

    Lol, I’ve been to this museum numerous times. When it came to singapore, I did not even want to brave the crowds to try it again. But I would say that it’s great fun and one of the must see places for visitors, in my opinion. With each new travel partner that I bring to seoul, I always put this on the itinerary without fail, even if I’ve already gone through it before…:)

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    • September 23, 2014

      Lol…so does that mean you have multiple copies of you in the same optical illusion? 😉 I think that the different locates have different paintings – for sure Trickeye vs. Alive Museum are different, so it could actually be “fresh” every time you go. I’m kinda curious to visit Trickeye now actually. Which museum do you visit when you come?

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      • Sha

        September 23, 2014

        Haha…I usually visit the one at hongdae…they have different displays so each time im there, there’s always new ones for me to take photos with…and yes, I do have a few of the same ones but taken during different years…haha…shall we go try it out next next week? 😉

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  • September 23, 2014

    Wow! I had no idea about these museums being here. Your pictures are fantastic! I’ll have to try to get to the one here in Busan:-)

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  • Jen

    September 23, 2014

    One of my good friends was just there (she teaches in Seoul)! The museum is BRILLIANT. Obsessed.

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    • September 23, 2014

      Istanbul is not too far from Hungary, is it? You could check out the only (for now) European location? 😉

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      • Jen

        September 24, 2014

        HA – it might not be “far,” but the plane tickets there and back are a little much on my salary.

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