Seoul Sights – Changdeokgung

Of the 5 palaces in Seoul, while Gyeongbokgung is supposed to be the main one, Changdeokgung is regarded as the most beautiful one… Or so they say!

While Changdeokgung was built as a support palace, it ended up being the one which was lived in for the longest period of time, and where the last of the Joseon dynasty died out… And that wasn’t that long ago! The last crown princess passed away in the 1960s, which hey, about 500yrs after they built these palaces!

Changdeokgung was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status because its layout was planned to harmonize with its natural surroundings. It’s also well known for the ‘Secret Garden’ or the Biwon/Huwon in the back, taking up 60% of the palace grounds. Since the king and especially the queen could hardly leave the palace, they built this as a respite from the rigors of palace duty.

Its a separate tour from the main palace tour and lasts longer (1hr 40 min) and costs more(5000 won)! Conveniently though, if you catch the 1030am english palace tour, you should finish in time and right near the Secret Garden entrance and just in time for that tour at 1130am, which is essential because while you can explore the palace on your own, you have to join the tour for the secret garden.

And the secret back garden, unlike Gyeongbokgung’s, is more of a secret forest than a garden. Wear good shoes and be warned – the king had his palanquins and Horses back then while you’re stuck walking on foot, servant style. And it is hilly!

Let’s have  a look at Changdeokgung:

the hanbok clad guide for the palace, she spoke pretty american english and she was quite knowledgable
So the rooms and all were smaller then because the people weren't so tall, but apparently doorways are intentionally low so they force you to bow
Position markers so officials knew where to stand in the courtyard. In the corner you might notice a blue roofed building, which was where the King's conducted his official daily business, and is the building with blue tiles which are supposed to be very expensive!
nice roof shot =)
Walk through the gate for everlasting youth!
The King often came out here to relax and sit in the pavillions to chill out and read. There were libraries in here! Some of the trees here too are over 300 years old!
A gardeny portion of the Secret Garden, which honestly is more foresty than gardeny
Fun fact: The King used to conduct these farming demonstrations to the common people with a symbolic plot of crops. Wonder what they planted here?

Frank opinion: since Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung were both built in the dynasty by the same dude, the overall structures, layout and thought process behind the palaces is very much the same from a layman point of view. Perhaps it was because i saw these 2 palaces just a day apart, but one Joseon dynasty building is very much the same as another Joseon dynasty building! Perhaps if you’re there over a long period of time, you might want to see them in different seasons. And if you’re a fan of the drama serials, ??? was partially filmed here!

Tourist Info:

  • Hours: 9am – 5pm (dec-feb) / 530pm (mar & nov) / 630pm (apr-oct)
  • Closed on Mondays
  • Free English tours (Tours in Korean, Japanese and Chinese also available):
    • Palace: 1030am, 230pm lasts about 50mins
    • Secret Garden:  1130am, 230pm, lasts about 1hr 40 mins
  • Admission Fee: Palace – 3,000 won / Secret Garden – 5,000 won
    • You can get a combined ticket for 10,000 won if you plan to visit the other palaces/Jongmyo. If you plan to do Changdeokgung and the Secret Garden and another place, you save a little bit with this ticket

Getting There:

Changdeokgung can be accessed via Subway (Anguk Station, Line 3, Exit 3)

Around the area:

  • Changgyeongung is also one of the 5 grand palaces of Seoul, and you can enter at the same place where you take the Secret Garden tour (the gates are next to each other). It’s closed on Mondays like Changdeokgung
  • West:
    • You can walk to the Bukchon Hanok (residential area made up of old Korean style houses) and then to Samcheongdong (an upscale indie sorta neighbourhood) which is closer to Gyeongbokgung – they are sandwiched between the two palaces –> links coming soon!
    • Gyeongbokgung, the other palace I visited is on the other side of the Bukchon Hanok, it’s possible to do both palaces in the same day, but note that Gyeongbokgung is closed on Tuesdays.
  • South:
    • the artsy area Insadong is walkable from the palace, I walked to Insadong after I was done with Samcheongdong and Bukchon Hanok –> links coming soon!
    • Also nearby if you’re tired of palaces: Jogyesa (A buddhist temple in the middle of the city next to Insadong) –> links coming soon!
    • Jongmyo shrine and park where the rites for the dead royalty are conducted and their tablets kept is pretty close by, just south of Changdeokgung. –> links coming soon!
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