Seoul DIY (Day 2): In and around the Palaces

Today’s Itinerary: Gyeongbukgung, Chandeokgung, Bukchon Hanok Village, Samcheongdong, Myeongdong

Today we went back to actually see the palaces.  We were there at around 10am, and we bought the combined palace tickets (Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung and Jongmyo Shrine) for 10,000 won, thinking that we would be able to visit the palaces within the day. This would be a good buy if you plan to visit all four palaces within your stay, as you would save around 4,000 won. For us, however, this was another expensive mistake as we only ended up visiting two palaces because of our limited time.

**the combined palace tickets are good for 3 months. So if you’re going back or someone you know can use the tickets you won’t be able to use, then this probably would be good too!

We joined the free English tour at 11am, which lasted for an hour or so. I must say that this is a great tour to join, because it adds so much appreciation for the culture and the palace itself. The buildings in itself look very similar, and without a guide it’s quite difficult to know its functions and the meanings behind the building. I watch a lot of k-dramas so I have a pre-existing appreciation, but after the tour, my sister who knew 0% of Korean culture ended up asking for a historical drama to watch! (haha victory!!)

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The beautiful Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, where royal banquets were held.
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The chimney connected to the ondol.
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Our guide showing us a chimney near the queen’s residence, which is considered a national treasure because of its intricate design (which unfortunately is not seen much in the pic)

The tour ended near the National Palace Museum, and with a story of how the lineage of the royal family ended naturally. The last king had two sons only. One died early and the other had no children. Now there are only royal relatives who live common lives, but are in charge of the annual ancestral rites. It’s quite interesting how South Korea would be like if the royal family’s line continued. Maybe they would remain as symbolic figures? Ohwell, I can watch Goong for that fantasy. Haha.

After the tour we went out the East gate, and it was a short walk to Samcheongdong. This place turned out to be one of my favorites in our whole trip in Seoul, as it had a very young and artsy vibe, and it was truly built in human scale. There were so many interesting shops and restaurants that we had a hard time settling for one!

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We ended up eating at this restaurant which served rice bowls at a cheap price.

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Steak and kimchi?! but then again, kimchi is a staple on the table here. :))

I have no idea what the restaurant is called, but the food was great, and the ambiance was so chill~

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We enjoyed a leisurely walk around the area while eating churros, looking for the road that will lead us to Bukchon Hanok Village. By this time our feet were like ice from the cold and the tiredness, so it was a struggle even to walk!

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General tips for Gyeongbokgung and Samcheongdong:

  1. Do join a tour for the palaces! They’re very very good and will give you a better appreciation of the culture.  Our hanbok mistake turned out for the better in the end, because we might have ended up not joining the tour and just taking pictures of ourselves.
  2. It is quite impossible to visit all palaces in one day if you want to do it at a good, steady, appreciating-the-surroundings-while-imagining pace. If the palaces are a must-visit for you, try and look for a hotel near Gyeongbokgung,  Anguk or Hyehwa stations so you could visit the palaces nearby at different days. Jongno sam-ga is also a good proximity to the palaces, plus the station is an intersection of 3 lines so I imagine it’s super convenient to live near this station.
  3. Samcheongdong is good for shopping for unique finds and interesting snacks! There were a lot of shops filled with random cute stuff, or paintings, and even designer toys. I loved the fact that some designers were there themselves, explaining their products to us. If it were just up to me, I’d spend a good part of my afternoon to early evening in the area.

Check out the next post for the rest of the day’s itinerary: Changdeokgung, Myeongdong

Do let me know your thoughts and recommendations! 🙂

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