Most tourists are considerably familiar with the name “Gyeongbokgung“ when it comes to Palace visiting. As it was the same for us, until we found out there is also Changdeokgung [Gung (궁) is “Palace” in Korean]. It is said that Gyeongbokgung have stunning scenery surrounding the inner part of the palace, with amazing architectures. Comparing to Changdeokgung, which it’s said to have a more Korean looking ambience preserved , so one could better see the historical side of the palace, chamber & halls of the Kings & Queens. Finally, after weeks of dilemma, we have decided to venture & experience Changdeokgung which have more historical touch of Joseon Dynasty.
Changdeokgung (창덕궁) is one of the five palaces in Seoul & the second palace to be built after Gyeongbokgung (경복궁) under the reign of King Taejong in the year 1405 and completed in year 1412. King Taejong, who settled at Changedeokgung avoided going to Gyeongbokgung because he had killed his half brothers there just to be enthroned as a King of Joseon. Later on, King Seonjo expanded the palace grounds by about 500,000 square meters, including Huwon (후원) also known as the Rear Garden or Secret Garden. Changdeokgung was listed in 1997 as a UNESCO world cultural heritage site.
Closed on Mondays, the main palace is accessible by anyone after purchasing an entrance ticket of 3,000 won for adults, 1,500 won for kids. However, the ONE AND ONLY Huwon, will require a guided tour from the palace staff (additional of 5,000 won entrance fee to Huwon + tour for adults & 2,500 won for kids). For more information on Huwon & tour sessions, you may visit this website, as well as to make a booking for the tour. You need not to worry if you do not have any credit cards or Paypal account, as you will only pay the fees on the day itself & please be there to claim your tickets 1 hour before the tour or else it will be deemed forfeited. Since there are only a LIMITED number of tickets available for each session, I strongly advise you to book them in advance.
- Donhwamun Gate – The main palace gate. Built in 1412, Donhwamun has a two-story pavilion-type wooden structure, and is the largest of all palace gates. Donhwamun was burned down during the Japanese invasion of 1592 and was restored in 1608.
- Geumcheongyo Bridge – Oldest bridge still extant in Seoul. Built 1411.
The 78-acre Huwon which was originally constructed for the use of the royal family and palace women. The garden incorporates a lotus pond, pavilions, and landscaped lawns, trees, and flowers which are over 300 years old.
Maybe, you would be asking which would be the best season to visit? There is no appropriate answer, in my opinion, every season has it’s own natural beauty, and it will be depending on when you will visit Seoul too. During Spring season, you could see the blossom flowers bloomed so beautifully all over the palace, or in Summer where the green bushy leaves stays so healthily on the trees, while in the Autumn, it turns yellowish red and starts to fall, at the same time it creates a calming view to your eyes. Last but not least during the Winter, where layers of thick white snow makes everything so romantic and reminds you of those sa-geuk (사극) [historical dramas] romance drama. As for us, we went during the fall.
The Huwon tour usually takes 1 hour and you may explore it freely as you like, as long as you don’t go anywhere which are prohibited to the public. We basically didn’t follow the group because we couldn’t catch up with them as we were busy taking pictures & exploring at our own pace. The Huwon is not only huge, it also have lots of different roads & paths, so watch where you are going to avoid getting lost, follow the crowd if you get lost.
This peaceful building is known as Juhamnu Pavillion (주합루), a 2 storey building built in year 1776 under the reign of King Jeongjo where the lower level is a Gyujanggak (규장각) also known as a Royal Library, while the upper level served as a King’s reading room. Those gates leading up to the pavilion are known as Eosumun (어수문), built in a unique structure, where the bigger gate should be used by the King while the smaller ones used by his subjects.
Uiduhap Pavillion (의두합) was constructed by Crown Prince Hyo Myung as a purpose for studying & meditating. Unlike those rich-looking buildings with fancy designs, it is rather small and simple like those houses of the citizens.
Overall, it was a great experience during this palace visit. Being able to see how the royal chamber looks like, a real-life garden where the Queens used to walked around, and imagining the Kings of Joseon fishing at the pond… Though it would be more enticing if there were some traditional royal games which the Kings & Queens used to play during Joseon Dynasty..
Anguk Station (Subway Line 3), Exit 3. Go straight for 5min.
Jongno 3(sam)-ga Station (Subway Line 1, 3 or 5), Exit 7. Go straight along Donhwamun-ro Street for 10min.
Wish everyone a pleasant trip and happy exploring the Joseon secrets!