Wandering Seoul | Korea – Days 1 & 2

Seoul is such a big city. So big that 5 days¬†and one trip to Korea is not enough. Still, we tried our best to visit the ‘usual’ tourist spots that first-time visitors to Korea must see.

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.

DAY 1

GWANGHwAMUN SQUARE

Gwanghwamun Square is just across Gyeongbokgung so you can go here before or after visiting the palace.

gwanghamun square
Statue of King Sejong – father of the Korean alphabet, Hangul

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. ūüôā

GYEONGBOKGUNG

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.

gyeongbokgung
Gwanghwamun Gate – the main gate of Gyeongbokgung

Too bad we didn’t make it in time for the changing of the guards ceremony.

gyeongbokgung
Hyeungyemun Gate is the first gate inside the palace walls.

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.

gyeongbokgung
Geunjeongjeon Hall

Geunjeongjeon Hall or throne hall is where coronations, receptions of foreign envoys, and the king’s affairs of state were held.

gyeongbokgung
The throne inside Geungjeongjeon
gyeongbokgung
Gyeonghoeru Pavilion is located on a pond west of the living quarters.

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.

gyeongbokgung

hyangwongjeong
Hyangwonjeong Pavilion sits on an artificial islet in the middle of Hyangwonji Pond

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.

bukchon hanok villagebukchon hanok villageSome¬†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.

bukchon hanok village bukchon hanok village

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.

dongdaemun
DDP is designed by world-renowned architect, Zaha Hadid.
dongdaemun
DDP is just across Dongdaemun Fashion Town.
dongdaemun
25,500 LED roses
dongdaemun
The LED Rose Garden is located next to the Yigansumun Exhibition Hall at DDP.

DAY 2

changdeokgung

Changdeokgung, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was constructed as a second palace of the Joseon Dynasty.

Changdeokgung Changdeokgung

Changdeokgung
Injeongjeon Hall

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.

Changdeokgung
Buyongji Pond & Juhamnu Pavilion

According to our guide, the square pond represents earth while the round artificial islet represents the sky.

Changdeokgung

Changdeokgung
Aeryeonji Pond
Changdeokgung
Some trees in Yeongyeongdang Complex are starting to change colors. Imagine how gorgeous it must look like in autumn!
Changdeokgung
Jendeokjeong Pavilion

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

namsan tower
The tower has become one of Seoul’s landmarks

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.

namsan tower
“Locks of Love” – Namsan is popular with lovers most likely because of the various K-dramas filmed here.

namsan tower

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.

namsan tower

If you need more information planning your trip to Seoul, you can check my previous post.

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