After our red eye flight, we headed to our hotel and went out immediately after leaving our luggage with the hotel!
Some basic info I researched prior to going there
- How to get there: Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 5 and walk for about 7-min in an underground tunnel with steps leading to a National Museum
- Ticket Cost: 3000W (do prepare exact change), if you wear Hanbok there it’s free! 😀 It is a good place to wear your hanbok and take photos within the palace like you are princess! (alot of girls were doing that)
- unless you want to go for Secret Garden then it is 10000W
- Secret Garden tour is at 1030 and 1430
- 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 the Donhwamun-ro Street for 10min
- There is also a moonlight tour at Changdeokgung Palace for about 30SGD
- unless you want to go for Secret Garden then it is 10000W
- Official English Guided tours: 11:00, 13:30, 15:30 (free)
- Tour starts in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace Information Center inside the Heungnyemun Gate. Tour lasts for an hour to an hour and thirty minutes.
- Sumunjang (Royal Guard) Changing Ceremony (free)
- 10:00, 14:00 / 20 minutes per ceremony
- Sumungun (Gatekeeper) Costume Experience (free)
- (1) Venue: Sumunjangcheong Building
- (2) Time: before and after the Guard Changing Ceremony and the Guard-on-Duty Performance (closed on Tuesdays)
- (3) Inquiries: 02-3210-1645~6
- ※ Reservation required for the king or queens costume
My first reaction on coming out of the MRT was OMG SO PRETTY!!!! We went ahead to buy tickets first and we reached around 9.45am knowing that there is a guard change ceremony. There is a pre-change ceremony at the right side of the palace at around that time (you can follow the drums!) and then after that there is the actual guard change ceremony in the main plaza. The best place to stand is at the cross section of the T-junction set up with poles!
Right after the Guard changing ceremony, there is a FREE Guards costume experience!! 😀 It is located at the left side of the plaza as you face the entrance of the palace. There are limited slots so do run there after the ceremony! They allow you to wear the costume to the near the costume area within the plaza for about 10 minutes for you to take photos with your own camera. The staff will help you put on and take out the costumes also! You can leave your bags inside with the staff during your photo taking session 😀
After that, we joined the FREE English Official tour for the palace! The tour guide spoke really good english and was very informative! Meet up place was inside the palace at the information centre right after the entrance (on the right) where they check your tickets. Our tour guide explained the various structures seen in the palace’s main hall, the King’s quarters, the Queen’s quarters, the quarters of the other Royal families including the Empress Dowager and also the official banquet hall where they host important foreign delegates and dignitaries including Ex-POTUS Barack Obama! The tour was a good pace and allowed us to appreciate the palace better rather than exploring it ourselves! I didn’t check if they have audio guides available but I didn’t see anyone using them.
After the tour, we walked on and ventured into the library within the palace! Apparently, it was really the library of the then King which has now been transformed into a functional library holding books and important relics from the Joseon period. Walking through the palace totally reminds me of Rooftop Prince even though it is not shot at this palace! It is the only building you can actually ENTER in the entire palace, so do go and explore it!
We were pretty tired from the red-eye flight and so we took the chance to rest a bit in the library which also had a cafe! 😀
After that we were quite tired and we decided it’s time for lunch! (our first meal in Korea!!!)
Tosokchon Samgyetang 토속촌삼계탕
Address: 5, Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 종로구 자하문로5길 5 (체부동)
This is the super duper famous Ginseng Chicken in Korea and it was walking distance from the palace! Just walk out of the palace through Gwanghwamun exit (where the guards are standing) and walk straight downwards to the street. We followed YL’s handy google navigation skills 😀 If lost, just go to Gyeongbokgung Station, Exit 2 and walk for 5 mins. We reached at around 1pm and there was no queue!!! (blessed)
Image above from VisitKorea
Once we sat down, they served us this barley tea tasting water and we helped ourselves to the kimchi and radish. They gave a small glass of Ginseng wine EACH and my gosh, it’s the most bitter thing I have ever tasted in my life. It is supposedly very potent and YL drank it all up. They actually have like an English guide to teach you how to eat the Ginseng Chicken. The kimchi and radish was free flow and self service. We had the 23k won (black chicken ginseng soup) and 16k (white chicken ginseng soup). Apparently the Koreans think the black chicken was more nutritious? That’s why the difference in price! I would say comparing the Singapore versions to this, this version had a way stronger ginseng taste (like there was legit ginseng inside the chicken!) but was way more bland than the ones we have here. It wasn’t to our liking unfortunately but the locals loved it!
We had to sit on the floor like tatami style and our legs were numb after awhile (LOL). They do have normal tables but I think it is for big groups of at least 4. I would still recommend you to try this because many people actually like it!!!
Bukchon Hanok Village
After we filled out tummies, we decided to venture on to see the Joseon architecture in Bukchon Hanok Village!
How to go:
- Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 1 or 2. Go straight for about 300m to arrive at Bukchon Hanok Village (you will definitely see the characteristic houses)
There are free walking tours held by Korean college students and you can check it out here!
Bukchon Hanok Village is a real residential area, so it is important to respect the residents here and keep your volume low while you tour their area. YL found a walking tour guide that is free for tourist to take when we exited the MRT gantry and it had a map with about 10 stops you can stop by around Bukchon Hanok Village! This blog actually did a super good write up on the village and it was super helpful during my research, do check it out! We went into some houses which were converted into retail space and/or museums! (they are ALL FREE). They also hired aunties and uncles to guard the area to warn tourists not to speak too loudly, but when we were there they spoke louder than us heehehee.
Do bring lots of drinking water or buy any banana milk from convenience stores cause it can get really hot during their summer afternoons!
Special Mention: Namsangol Hanok Village
Some people can get rather confused between the these 2 village, myself included. The difference is that Bukchon Hanok is a real residential area while This is actually a tourist attraction where they rebuild houses with Joseon period inspiration and make it into an educational village. We didn’t manage to go to this village in the end but I would like to share here so that you can complete your experience! Entrance is free and you get to play traditional games and see how people from that time live their daily live including going into the houses to see the typicial kitchen.
I really wanted to go but we didn’t have enough time!
How to go:
- Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway Line 3 & 4), Exit 3 or 4. – Walk along the road between oh!zemidong (Chungmuro Media Center) and Maeil Business Newspaper Building (150m). Get off at Toegyero 3(sam)-ga (National Pension Service) Bus Stop. Get off in front of at Twegye 3(sam)-ga (Hanok Maeul, Korea House) Bus Stop
If you are travelling there this summer, there is also a 1890 special night market happening right now that features people who sell traditional food and items inspired from Joseon period and they are dressed in traditional Joseon attire!
Myeongdong street food
After we checked into our hotel, we rested for a bit before going to Myeongdong via the hotel shuttle!!!
How to go:
• 230m from Exit #6, Euljiro 1-ga Station, Subway Line 2 (4 minutes)
• Exit #6, Myeongdong Station, Subway Line 4 (this is where you can see pacific hotel)
It is hard to miss the Myeongdong market because at night they will have rows and rows of street stalls that sell food, clothes, accessories, bags, etc in the middle and the skin care and shoe and clothes stores will line both sides of the street. Majority of the vendors and store promoters can speak fluent mandarin!
I am really pretty clueless about skincare and makeup so I was mostly excited about the street food 😀 We spent most of the night eating and looking at different sneakers from ABC mart, etc. We also tried their Juicy juice bar which is quite famous in korea! It’s kind of like our bubble tea chain stores here just that they sell juice.
Along Myeongdong, there were many promoters giving out free masks! Masks were also on sale like buy 10 get 10 free :O
I only managed to do my skincare loot after I rushed out some skincare research on my last night and rushed to buy everything on the last day. Will post more about my loot in a later post.
We were not very satisfied from our lunch and we thought we should treat ourselves to a good dinner! Yes, I know yoogane is available in Singapore also but… the Yoogane here is like half the price!!!! We ordered our usual chicken with octopus (big) for 2 with a portion of sticky noodles and it was heavenly!!! Water was FREE FLOW TOO. Yoogane Singapore please reflect! This blog featured the branch we went to! We spent only 21500W on the entire meal! This branch is actually nearer to the entrance area of the night market than the other! There was no queue when we went but the store was quite filled!
After that, we decided to go to our hotel’s shuttle bus stop while shopping along the way! The hotel shuttle bus stop was actually opposite the Myeongdong Cathedral which turned out to be super pretty at night!
We then went back to snooze and prepare for the early tour the next day! (Though we were so tired we still overslept!)
Hope this post helped in your research for Seoul!
Do share and comment to share your own experiences as well! Thank you 🙂