South Korea · Travel Tales

Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung (Hint: Visit the Secret Garden!)

Changdeokgung, built in the 1400s, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung was also burnt down during the 1592 Japanese invasion — not by the Japanese, but by citizens angry at their king for abandoning them — but it was the first palace to be rebuilt, in 1610. The royal court was thus moved here. Now, even though fire has destroyed the buildings several times in Changdeokgung’s history, all the palace components remain intact. In fact, restoration is ongoing to reverse the changes made to it during the Japanese occupation (1897-1910), faithfully reconstructing based on historical research. Now that’s an awesome job to have.

We came to Changdeokgung from Gyeongbokgung by way of the Samcheongdong/Bukchon area, going eastward. This place is something else. There are boutiques that sell vintage clothes and jewelry, cafes, and lots of interesting street art.

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There’s traffic, though. The Samcheongdong area is best discovered by walking.

And finally, we reached Changdeok Palace. By now, the layout of the gung was already familiar to us. You have the outer and inner gates, followed by the throne room.

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The inner gate
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Injeongjeon, the main hall

 

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I forget which part of the complex this is, but it reminded me so much of The Moon that Embraces the Sun.

We zipped through the palace buildings because we had to catch the scheduled Biwon (Secret Garden) tour at 1:30 PM. I had reserved this about three weeks in advance; slots were actually filled quite fast. And for good reason. I think you’d be missing a lot if you go to Changdeokgung in autumn and not see the Secret Garden. The thing though is that you cannot enter the Secret Garden without the tour.

It’s a 90-minute tour, but on that day, after the tour, we were left to our own devices to take photos wander around.

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Buyongjeong Pavilion and Buyongji pond in Secret Garden

The Secret Garden, called Huwon during the Joseon era, was where kings and noblemen ate and drank, wrote poetry, floated wine cups, and more. While landscaped, it was apparently kept as natural as possible.

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This is the Bulromun. Pass through this gate and you become younger, the guide said. Guess what we all did afterward.

There are parts of the garden which have steep inclines, as it was landscaped so that it embraced the natural topography of the area. So do wear comfortable shoes!

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The reflection on Aeryeonji pond makes it look like the pavilion is surrounded by trees from top to bottom
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I can imagine a Joseon king writing in here.

Changdeokgung is directly connected to the Changgyeonggung near the entrance of the Secret Garden.

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South view of Changgyeonggung
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There was a show when we arrived
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Facing Honghwamun, the main gate, and modern Seoul from inside Changgyeonggung

To get to Changdeokgung, you may take the subway to Anguk Station (Line 3). You can also walk through the Samcheongdong/Bukchon area from Gyeongbokgung. 

Admission to Changdeokgung is ₩3000, while Changdeokgung with the Huwon (the Secret Garden) tour is ₩8000. However, you first need to secure a slot online for the Secret Garden tour here. You may reserve a slot up to a month in advance. Print out your reservation and present it to the ticketing booth. 

The Secret Garden tour is free with the integrated ticket for palaces, but advance reservation is required.

Changgyeonggung can be accessed via Changdeokgung.

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