Spring in Seoul, South Korea: Exploring Deoksugung Palace

It’s our 7th day in South Korea, and early in the morning we left Busan at exactly 7:10 AM from Busan Station via Korail’s Mugunghwa train to Seoul Station. We arrived at Seoul at around 12:35 PM, the regular class fare was 28,600 KRW (approx. 25 USD).

Tip no.1, if you are in a hurry and have some money to spare, you can opt to take Korail’s KTX train instead. Regular class fare is 58,800 KRW (approx. 53 USD), travel time is 2 hours and 45 minutes. Also, take note that trains in Korea leaves on the dot by its schedule so make sure not to be late.

Since we arrived in Seoul around lunchtime, before we going to the guesthouse, we had our fill at South Korea’s very own McDonald’s, Lotteria at Seoul Station’s Lotte Mall.
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For our remaining 4 days in The Land of the Morning Calm, we stayed at Phil Guesthouse in a girls dorm of 8 for only 13,000 KRW (about 11 USD). It’s located few meters from Achasan Station of Seoul Subway Line 5. It’s cheaper than the usual 15,000 – 20,000 KRW but the trade-off is it is farther from the city’s main attraction.

Tip no.2, if your trip in Seoul includes staying out at wee hours of the night, better get a guesthouse around Insadong, Hondae, Myeongdong, or Itaewon area since they are near to the main attractions and nightlife of the city, just in case the subway service is already closed and you have to take a cab, the fare will be cheaper.

We have two planned destinations for the day, one is Deoksugung Palace which the details of it will be covered in this post, and Seoul Namsan Tower which I will share to you in a separate entry.

Deoksugung Palace is one of the Five Grand Palaces built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty, with a current status of South Korea’s Historic Site No. 124. The palace had two critical moments during the said dynasty, one at the end of 16th century and the other at the end of 19th century,  which is both related to Japanese invasion. It’s now located at the corner of Seoul’s busiest downtown intersection where Seoul’s city hall is, sitting along series of western styled buildings. It is famous for its elegant stone-wall road which is called Jeongdong-gil road. In the fall, it becomes one of the city’s top destinations as the yellow leaves of ginkgo trees along the wall make the surroundings bright and stunning. To go here, take Seoul Subway Line 1 to City Hall Station and go out from Exit 2 or take Seoul Subway Line 2 to City Hall Station and go out from Exit 12. Entrance fee to the palace is 1,000 KRW and it’s open from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM. The palace is closed every Mondays.

Tip no.3: There’s an available Integrated Palace Pass for 10,000 KRW which includes admission to the four palaces (Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung, and Gyeongbokgung), Jongmyo Shrine, and Changdeokgung’s Secret Garden. Admission to Changdeokgung and its Secret Garden combined already cost 8,000 KWR, so if you’re planning to visit all that’s mentioned, do buy the pass. It’s available at all the said locations, do ask about it at the counter as they don’t openly advertize it.

Daehanmun Gate is the main gate of Deoksugung Palace, and it will be the one that will greet you as you enter the palace. The ticket booth is on its left side.
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Hamnyeongjeon Hall was the sleeping chamber of the king. The east wing is for the king, while the west wing is for the queen. This hall is historically important as it is where the great file of 1904 broke out.
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Deokhongjeon Hall is one of the most recent buildings in the palace. One of its unique features is that is that it is square (almost, as technically it’s not a perfect square) as most Korean-style buildings were built in a rectangular shape.
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Jeonggwanheon, which when translated means the place from which to watch the garden silently. It is where King Gogong (26th king of the Joseon Dynasty, 1863-1907) whould rest and have a party. During the Japanese occupation, it was used as a cafeteria which casused it to lose some of its original features.
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As we walk around the palace, it’s inevitable not to notice the lilac colored bougainvilleas that graces the surroundings.
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Junmyeongdang, is where King Gojong received honored guests and foreign envoys. The building was also used as a kindergarten for Princess Deokhye, she was born when King Gojong was 60 years old. I love how the building’s roof is brightly colored and uniquely styled.
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Jeukjodang Hall, which literally means the house where the kings ascended their throne. A name given by both King Gwanghaegun (15th king of the Joseon Dynasty, 1608-1623) and Injo (16th king of the Joseon Dynasty, 1623-1649), who both ascended to the throne here.
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Seogeodang, the only two-story building in the palace and the only one that is plain-looking. King Seonjo (14th king of the Joseon Dynasty, 1567-1608) moved here during Japanese invasion and was concerned about the hardships suffered by the people, and ordered it to be left unpainted.
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More spring flowers inside the palace. Adoring this fully bloomed cherry tree beside Seogeodang.
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The Junghwajeon (Junghwa Hall) is the palace’s main hall and was the center of politics during Daehanjeguk (the Great Korean Empire) and served as the backdrop to critical discussions on national affairs among the country’s leaders. Though the Junghwajeon was originally built in 1902 as a multi-roofed building, it was redesigned as a single-roofed building in 1906 after it caught on fire in 1904.
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The elaborateness of the hall’s interior is said to reflect the confidence of King Gojong (26th king of the Joseon Dynasty, 1863-1907) in his ability to effectively lead the country into the 20th century. One of the most striking parts of the building is the pair of dragons that decorates the canopy above the throne of the king. These dragons can also be seen on the ceiling of Junghwajeon and were representative designs of Deoksugung Palace, the imperial palace at that time.
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Junghwamun Gate, the main entrance and exit to Junghwajeon. You can see that there are no walls beside the gate which allows anybody to enter and exit the main hall from anywhere. But originally, there were walls surrounding the courtyard which only allows the access to the hall only through this gate.
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So there goes our tour around Deoksugung Palace. After spending a couple of hours or so strolling around here, we headed to Seoul Namsan Tower and capped our 7th day of spring in South Korea there. More about that will be shared in the next post.

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