If it’s your first time too, try to study the city’s layout so you can see which attractions are close to each other. That way, you can maximize your time and not worry too much about getting from Point A to Point B.
Gwanghwamun Square is just across Gyeongbokgung so you can go here before or after visiting the palace.
It’s a public space, so various events and activities are held throughout the year. When we went, they had a Public Art Festival where artists designed book benches and created chalk art directly on the ground. You can see it in the video at the end of this section. 🙂
We arrived on a weekend, so I scheduled the palace visits during this time. Gyeongbokgung is closed on Tuesdays while Changdeokgung is closed on Mondays.
Too bad we didn’t make it in time for the changing of the guards ceremony.
The palace complex is huge. You can explore it on your own (so you can take more pictures :p) or join free scheduled guided tours available in 4 languages.
Geunjeongjeon Hall or throne hall is where coronations, receptions of foreign envoys, and the king’s affairs of state were held.
Gyeonghoeru was where the king threw formal banquets for foreign envoys. To its east are Gangnyeongjeon and Gyotaejeon which are the king and queen’s living quarters, respectively.
I was very disappointed that Hyangwonjeong was inaccessible when we went. The whole area was closed off (see white walls behind pavilion) presumably for maintenance work. Visitors can only peek through the glass panels.
BUKCHON HANOK VILLAGE
Bukchon Hanok Village is sandwiched by Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung, so you can combine it with either palace visit.
Some hanoks or traditional houses were converted into cultural centers, restaurants or guesthouses, but it’s still largely a residential neighborhood so visitors are advised to keep noise levels to a minimum.
It’s best to go here very early in the morning because the place can get too crowded.
dongdaemun design plaza
Depending on your stamina, you can go to Insa-dong after visiting the 3 places above then to Cheonggyecheon (Cheonggye Stream), and walk until you reach Dongdaemun Design Plaza or DDP. If not, of course, you can just visit it on a different day.
Changdeokgung, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was constructed as a second palace of the Joseon Dynasty.
Injeongjeon Hall was used for conducting state affairs including coronations and royal weddings.
secret garden (huwon) tour
Changdeokgung’s notable feature is its back garden. It is the largest garden in all royal palaces.
Visitors can only see the Secret Garden through guided tours, and you have to pay an additional KRW5,000 on top of the palace entrance fee of KRW3,000.
According to our guide, the square pond represents earth while the round artificial islet represents the sky.
The Huwon Tour takes about 90 minutes. Wear comfortable shoes because you’ll walk through uphill and downhill paths.
namsan seoul tower
Since we were staying in Myeong-dong, we took the cable car to Namsan Seoul Tower.
I read one entry online that said there’s a free shuttle to the cable car platform from Myeong-dong, but couldn’t cross-check the info. I decided to ask the receptionist about the free shuttle, but he told me we could just walk.
So we crossed to Exit 3 of Myeong-dong Station, then took the road to the right of Pacific Hotel. Yes, it’s walkable, but it was like walking the whole length of Session Road from Baguio market to SM. haha
The tower might not seem much from the outside, but there’s actually several attractions and establishments inside like the OLED Tunnel, Ssentoy Museum, and Hello Kitty Island. You can buy combination tickets for the observatory and these attractions from Klook.
We didn’t go up the observatory as you can get expansive views of Seoul from the Roof Terrace as well. We were also lucky to catch a traditional Korean dance held in front of the octagonal pavilion. You can see it in the video at the end of this section.
If you need more information planning your trip to Seoul, you can check my previous post.