For our first official day, we decided to start roaming in Downtown Seoul so we can familiarize ourselves around the area. We were so tired from our ordeal the previous night so when we headed out we were already running a little late.
First stop, KEB Hana Bank in Myeongdong. (When we arrived, we only just have enough korean won to get us to the guesthouse.) Money changers are about everywhere in Myeongdong but we decided to exchange our money in the bank because we read they have better rates (I am not that good with numbers so I can’t tell you much on this).
Just across it is Myeongdong Tourist Information (Note: you can find them in every district. That is how they boast their tourism) so we decided to stop by.. but since we were behind our schedule, we did not linger.
Downtown Seoul is where the Palaces from the Joseon Dynasty are located. We decided not to use the subway for the day because we did not want to miss a thing, there is just so much to see and everything we wanted to visit were just kilometers away from each other. (Note: Some if not most part of Seoul consist of hills, so better keep your feet ready with proper footwear and brace yourselves from steep climbs and lots of walking.)
This is what I learned so far, ‘gung’ refers to palace,thus the names deoksugung, gyeongbokgung, changdeokgung, and changgyeonggung while ‘do” refers to province, thus the names gyeonggido (gyeonggi province), gangwondo (gangwon province) and so on.
If you plan to visit all the palaces and the Jongmyo Shrine, I recommend for you to buy the integrated ticket worth 10,000 won to save 4,000 won (if you buy individual tickets, you will spend 14,000 won) from any ticket booth of either of the palaces. The ticket is valid for three months from the date of purchase.
We bought ours at the Deoksugung Palace since it was our first stop. Just say “combination ticket” at the booth. Based from personal experience, the lady didn’t understand when we said we wanted “integrated ticket”, I don’t know if the same goes for everyone. (Combination ticket were her words not mine.) Changing of guards ceremony happen every hour.
I think the Palaces were closed during Tuesdays. Jongmyo shrine is on guided tours except Saturdays. I recommend the guided tours because you wouldn’t appreciate this UNESCO Heritage without learning its history.
Here you can try the “Hanbok” or South Korean traditional dress for free and have a photo op with their artificial backdrop or the Gwanghwamun Square.
This is the main palace during the Joseon dynasty. The place is huge you can spend half a day inside if you explore every corner. Because we already saw the changing of guards at the Deoksugung Palace, we decided to forego its ceremony.
Bukchon Hanok Village
From Gyeongbokgung, we passed by the entrance of Insadong but we didn’t have time to look around because we were headed to Bukchon Hanok Village.
This is where you see the traditional houses. Don’t expect activities here, there is none. But it is worth the visit because it is a sight to behold. They rent out the houses to tourists.
This is just one of the many UNESCO Heritage. After the Gyeongbokgung was destroyed by fire during the Japanese invasion, they moved the main Palace here.
The main attraction of Changdeok Palace is the Secret Garden. There is limit of visitors per day and its on a first come first serve basis. I have to warn you off on the very steep climb and tiring walk but it’s worth all the pain.
You can enter beside the entrance to the secret garden. This palace mainly served as house for the queen and the concubines.
On our way home, we passed by the famous stream. If you want to experience its beauty, I recommend for you to go during the night.
We were supposed to squeeze in the Jongmyo Shrine but somehow we got lost on our way there so we opted to go home since it’s harder to find your way home when it’s already dark, after all we’re in a foreign land.