With 5 palaces in Seoul, Changdeokgung Palace (창덕궁) is the place to be if you want to admire the pretty spring/autumn blossoms set amidst a historic cultural backdrop. Famed for its gardens, Changdeokgung Palace’s Secret Garden (Biwon 비원 / Huwon 후원) is the place to be if you want to admire some pretty spring/autumn blossoms!
|A sign that can't be missed|
It was a brief 10-20 minutes walk (depending on your pace) from the (mrt) train station before we found ourselves at the main entrance of Changdeokgung Palace (창덕궁), Donhwamun (돈화문). Getting the admission ticket was fast and easy process.
|Admission ticket to the palace|
|Secret Garden Tour! ^^|
Being bilingual allows the flexibility and does not have the limitations of being restricted to a particular timeslot for that one language and planning it around it. So when it came to planning which timeslot to go for, (between the English and Chinese), we decided on the English tour at 1530 in the (late) afternoon.
|Past the gates...|
|into the palace...|
|... on the way to the Secret Garden!|
|All the way from the entrance to the garden|
Do note that the ticket for the tour is additional and not inclusive of the admission fee upon enter (unless you booked in advanced online). You can actually pre-book your preferred timeslot (and language) for the Secret Garden Tour. But if you are not able to so, no need to worry as there is another counter at the entrance of the Secret Garden where you can purchase the (separate/additional) ticket at 5,000 won. It takes about another 10-15 minutes from the main entrance to the Secret Garden .
So with tickets in hand, we made our way to the Secret Garden for the anticipated Secret Garden Tour! There was already a crowd of all nationalities gathering at the entrance waiting for the tour to start. And wait we did as we all started to line up to enter… Be prepared to be bombarded with photos, photos and yes, more photos!
|Another ticket counter inside the palace for the Secret Garden Tour|
|Waiting for the tour to commence|
Finally time for the tour to commence! We were introduced to our tour guide (or rather our tour guide for the day introduced herself to us), a friendly lady dressed in pink hued hanbok (traditional Korean dress) who spoke reasonably good English.
|The pretty guide :)|
Before setting off, she did say that there would be a lot of walking involved, and believe me it was really a lot of walking! So forget about heels or flip-flips, comfortable shoes for walking would be the best choice for navigating the vast garden of hilly steep slopes and steps amidst the lovely spring blossoms, scenery and architecture. Thank goodness for the cool spring breeze! The clear cool spring air was a nice reprieve from all that walking.
Tour route: Hamyangmun Gate > Buyongji Pond (부용지) area > Uiduhap Building > Bullomun Gate > Aeryeonji Pond area > Yeonggyeongdang House > Jondeokjeong area > Ongnyucheon > Donhwamun Gate
|Making our way from Hamyangmun Gate|
|Buyongji Pond (부용지) area: Juhamnu Pavilion 주합루 - library and reading area|
|Buyongji Pond (부용지) area: The pavilion with a view|
|Yup, that's the view from the pavilion. Tranquil ain't it? ^^|
|Yeonghwadang 영화당 - civil service examination hall|
|Aeryeonjong "Love of Lotus" Pavilion 애련정|
|Another view of Aeryeonjong "Love of Lotus" Pavilion 애련정|
|Just nature and spring... ^^|
|Bullomun 불로문 - Gate of Long Life (so those wanting longevity can walk through this gate more); only the King was allowed to walk through here.|
|Uiduhap 의두합 - reading and studying place for the Crown Prince|
|Living quarters of the servants: Entering via Jangrakmun 장락문|
|Rooms where the servants slept.|
|The ondol where wood was burnt to keep the room warm in winter.|
|Men and women were in separated living quarters. The only difference? Everything for the men were on a bigger scale (women weren't really highly regarded and thought of being beneath men - Confucianism... bleh)|
|Entering the women'ss quarters|
|Just some random tree|
|Pyeomusa 폄우사 (reading/resting/stuyding place for the Crown Prince) with Jondeokjeong 존덕정 (left)|
|Gwanramjeong Pavilion 관람정 and Bandoji Pond 반도지|
|Soyojeong 소요정 - where poetry and parties were held|
|Cheonguijeong 청의정 - apparently the King did some farming as well. It was supposed to to help him understand the importance of farming to the people|
|Stairs and slopes!|
|Even more steps... the servants were really fit (all that walking)!|
After touring Gyeongbukgung Palace by ourselves (just wondering and wandering), it got tiring after a while without a guide as we tried to figure out where we were and where we wanted to go (that and having to read the guidebook to figure out what the building was used for become a little of a hassle as time wore on).
Having a guide book to tell you of the history is all good, but I find being on a tour really makes that much of a difference (especially when it comes to historical places). The ‘live’ ongoing commentary with some background story from the tour guide somehow seems to make the surrounding architecture come ‘alive’, almost as if you were teleported back in time and the events described (from the past) unfolding before your eyes. Of course, this would depend on how good your tour guide is with the commentaries and the limits of your imagination (and maybe even how many sageuk dramas you’ve watched). (✿◠‿◠)
After all that walking and marveling at the gardens natural beauty and architecture that was incorporated into it, the tour concluded at a (almost) thousand year old tree (which was also near the entrance).
|Chinese Juniper tree 향나무: A tree of many 'faces': if you look closely enough you can see a monkey, elephant and much much more (ˆ▽ˆ)|
When the tour concluded, the group soon dispersed and headed their own ways: the tour guide on to lead another group, some lingered around and decided to walk about, and the rest headed out of the Secret Garden, back into Changdeokgung Palace.
Overall, it was an enjoyable tour (with many photo opportunities) and I wouldn’t mind going back again (probably in another season like autumn). The garden tour alone took about 3 hours, so expect a good half day or longer spent here getting mesmerized by the pretty (spring/autumn) blossoms and a piece of history.
Changdeokgung Palace (창덕궁)Address: 110-360 서울특별시 종로구 율곡로 99번지
Tel: 02-762-8261 / 9513
Directions: 5 mins walk from Anguk Station (안국역) Exit 3 (just follow the signage, it’s very straight forward and easy)
Admission FeesEntrance Ticket / Regular Tour
Youth (7-18 year olds): ₩1,500
Free for kids below 6 years old
Secret Garden Tour
Youth (7-18 year olds): ₩2,500
Free for kids below 6 years old
Online Reservation or you can always purchase it on the spot
Palace / Regular Tours - check here
Secret Garden Tour - updated schedule here (as of Apr 2013)
- Seoul Trip 2013 Day 1
- Seoul Trip 2013 Day 2
- Seoul Trip 2013 Day 3
- Seoul Trip 2013 Day 4
- Seoul Trip 2013 Day 5
- Seoul Trip 2013 Day 6
- Seoul Trip 2013 Day 7
- Seoul Spring 2013 Trip Itinerary (7D/6N)
- My South Korea Travel Resources
- Alternative Accomodation - Linda's Loft (AirBnB)
- Upcoming Trip: Seoul Spring 2013 (7D/6N)