SEOUL

Part II

(November 2017)

PALACES 

The 5 palaces described bellow are circled in this central Seoul map.

The 5 palaces described bellow are circled in this central Seoul map.

Deoksugung Palace

Deoksugung Palace is located just opposite the City Hall and can be reached by metro lines 1 and 2. 

Admission is 1,000 for adults (children and seniors enter free of charge).  If you wear a traditional korean dress then you also enter free of charge!

www.deoksugung.go.kr

Deoksugung Palace in automn colors

Deoksugung Palace in automn colors

The palace used as a royal residence again when Gojong moved here in 1897.

The palace halls were rebuilt and the compound expanded to some three times its present size.

However, Gojong was forced to hand the throne over to his son who became Emperor Sunjong in 1907.

Emperor Sunjong moved into Changdeokgung Palace and his father remained here until his death in 1919.

Sumunjang ceremony

Sumunjang ceremony

Deoksugung Palace

Deoksugung Palace

Deoksugung Palace served as the king’s residence twice during Joseon Dynasty. 

The site was originally the home of Prince Wolsan, and King Sronjo lived here temporary after returning to the capital (then called Hanyang) following the withdrawal of Japanese forces in 1593. 

His successor, Prince Gwanghae renamed it Gyeongungung Palace after making the newly built Changdeokgung Palace his main residence.

Deoksugung Palace

Deoksugung Palace

The compound came to be called Deoksugung Palace.

At the entrance of the palace watch the ceremony of the changing of the royal guards (called sumunjang), which takes place three times a day.  It is a multi-person multicolor noisy performance. 



  • ☞ Address: Seoul Plaza.
  • ☞ Directions: CityHall Station (Subway Line 1), Exit 2 & 3 or (Subway Line 2), Exit 12. 
Deoksugung Palace

Deoksugung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace was the first royal palace built in the Joseon Dynasty and is where the Joseon Dynasty's 500-year history began.


☞ Directions: Gyeongbokgung (Government Complex-Seoul) Station (Subway Line 3), Exit 5.

Admission for Adults is 3,000 (free for seniors).  You can also wear your traditional costume and get into the palace for free!

www.royalpalace.go.kr/

At least twice a day, you can watch the Opening and Closing of the Royal Palace Gates and Royal Guard Changing Ceremony.  Nothing much of a tradition here: Koreans have invented all these ceremonies in the 90s.

The National Falk Museum Pagoda

The National Falk Museum Pagoda

Geunjeongjeon

Geunjeongjeon

At the Gyeongbokgung Palace

At the Gyeongbokgung Palace

I do not really want to spoil your amazement, but, there is nothing old about anything in Seoul.  The Japanese brutal occupation and the wars that followed (WW II, Civil War) have left Seoul with virtually none of its old architecture.  Nevertheless, Koreans, meticulously and with the highest possible respect to their history, rebuilt everything.  This is the reason why all palaces look dazzling new: they are all new.

The scenery of the Palace with the mountains as the background of the buildings is stunning.  

The largest of the five grand palaces remaining in Seoul, Gyeongbokgung Palace provides a glimse into Joseon's royal culture, palace life and architecture through the Geunjeongjeon (built on a small lake), Gyeonghoeru Pavillion, and other Stractures.  You can learn more about the royal culture at the National Palace Museum (located just at the metro exit 5/Line 3) and about the historical living conditions of Koreans at the National Folk Museum of Korea.

Around the Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Around the Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Faces of Korea.

Faces of Korea.

Ladies of Korea

Ladies of Korea

Gentlemen of Korea

Gentlemen of Korea

Like a fairy tale.

Like a fairy tale.

Gwanghwamun Square.  This 555 m-long, 34 m-wide square is in front of Gwanghwamun, the main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace.  Statues of Admiral Yi Sunshin and King Sejong, two of the most respected historical figures in Korea, are situated in Gwanghwamun square.

Stand at the very bottom of the Square (at Sejong-daero junction) and admire the scenery towards the Palace and the mountains.

Gwanghwamun Square

Gwanghwamun Square

Nature and urban landscapes around Gwanghwamun Square.

Nature and urban landscapes around Gwanghwamun Square.

Unhyeongung Royal Residence

Unhyeongung Royal Residence.

Unhyeongung Royal Residence.

Damaged during the Japanese colonial period and the Korean War, the Unhyeongung Royal Residence seen today is a much smaller version of the majestic structure that it used to be.

Admission is free of charge.

☞ Directions: Anguk Station (Subway Line 3), Exit 4. 

Unhyeongung Palace is the smallest of all palaces in the center of Seoul. It is located near the Jongno Police station and the Japanese Cultural Center.  This is the house where Emperor Gojong, the 26th king of Joseon, lived before he acceded to the throne.  Under order of Queen Mother Jo, Unhyeongung was renovated into a grand, palace-like house with four gates.

It was owned by Regent Heungseon Yi Ha-Eung, the father of Gojong.  While staying at this house, Regent Heungseon ruled over the country for about 10 years, after taking control of state affairs in place of his son. 

Unhyeongung Royal Residence

Unhyeongung Royal Residence

Changdeokgunng Palace

The entrance in the courtyard of the Throne Hall (Injeongmun)

Changdeokgung (literally, "Prospering Virtue Palace"), is set within a large park in Jongno-gu.

It is one of the "Five Grand Palaces" built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897).  As it is located east of Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeokgung—along with Changgyeonggung—is also referred to as the "East Palace".

The entrance in the courtyard of the Throne Hall (Injeongmun)

Changdeokgung was the most favored palace of many Joseon princes and retained many elements dating from the Three Kingdoms of Korea period that were not incorporated in the more contemporary Gyeongbokgung. One such element is the fact that the buildings of Changdeokgung blend with the natural topography of the site instead of imposing themselves upon it. 

Injeongjeon: Throne Hall.

Injeongjeon: Throne Hall.
Huijeongdang: King's Residence.

Huijeongdang: King's Residence.

It, like the other Five Grand Palaces in Seoul, was heavily damaged during the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910–1945).

Currently, only about 30% of the pre-Japanese structures of the East Palace Complex (Changdeokgung together with Changgyeonggung) survive.


Admission is 3,000 (free of charge for seniors).

 ☞ Directions: Anguk Station (Subway Line 3), Exits 2,3. 

 eng.cdg.go.kr/

Seongjeonggak:  Crown Prince's Study.

Changgyeonggung palace

Main Palace gate, Honghwamun Gate.

Main Palace gate, Honghwamun Gate.

During the Japanese colonial period, the Japanese built a zoo, botanical gardens, and museum on the site. After independence in 1945 and the turmoil and destruction of the 1950-53 Korean War, the zoo was restocked through donations of wealthy Korean and gifts from foreign zoos. In 1983 the zoo and botanical garden were relocated to what is known today as Seoul Land

The king's throne, in Myeongjeong-jeon Hall.

The king's throne, in Myeongjeong-jeon Hall.

The houses face southwards, but Myeongjeongjeon faces the east. Because the ancestral shrine of the royal family is located in the South, the gate couldn't face the south as the Confucian custom.

There are stones with the status of the officials carved on the yard. Behind Myeongjeongjeon on the upper left side is Sungmundang. This building utilizes the slope of the mountain.

If you look at Myeongjeongjeon and Munjeongjeon, the combination of the high and low roofs offers a beautiful view.

Tongmyeongjeon was built for the queen. It is the biggest building in Changgyeonggung Palace, and you can recognize the delicate details of its structure in various parts of the building. 

If you head north, there is a large pond called Chundangji. Half of the pond was originally a rice field that the King took care of. But during the Japanese Occupation the rice field was changed to a pond with little ships floating on it. And the botanic garden built above the pond remains today.

The palace was built in the mid-15th century by King Sejong for his father, Taejong. It was originally named "Suganggung," but it was renovated and enlarged in 1483 by King Seongjong, at which time it received its current name. 


http://jikimi.cha.go.kr/

Admission is 1,000 (free of charge for seniors).

☞ Directions: Anguk Station (Subway Line 3), Exits 2,3 if you want to enter the palace through Changdeokgung Palace.  Othertwise, Hyehwa Station (Subway Line 4), Exits 3,4. 

Many structures were destroyed during Japan's multiple late 16th century attempts to conquer Korea and invade China. It was rebuilt by successive Joseon Kings but was once again largely destroyed by the Japanese in the early 20th century, but this time torn down methodically to make room for a modern park, a showplace for the empire, akin to Tokyo's Ueno Park.

Hwangyeong-jeon Hall.

Hwangyeong-jeon Hall.

Enter the Changgyeonggung Palace from its main gate the Honghwamun Gate, and you will find Okcheongyo Bridge.

All palaces of the Joseon Dynasty have ponds with an arch bridge over them, just like Okcheongyo Bridge.

Cross Okcheongyo Bridge, pass the Myeongjeong Gate, and you will find Myeonjeongjeon. This is the office of the King, and Myeongjeongjeon is the oldest of the Joseon Dynasty palaces.

If you look at Myeongjeongjeon and Munjeongjeon, the combination of the high and low roofs offers a beautiful view.
Tongmyeongjeon.

Tongmyeongjeon.

Gyeongchun-jeon Hall.

Gyeongchun-jeon Hall.

Cafés,Tea Houses & more

Coffee Hanyakbang

Coffee Hanyakbang is located in an alley in Euljiro that is so narrow that you would have to close your umbrella to enter on a rainy day.


  • ☞ Address: 16-6, Samil-daero 12-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
  • ☞ Directions: Euljiro 3(sam)-ga Station (Subway Line 2, 3), Exit 1.

Ignore the dreary vibes given off by the alleyway and the old wooden door; they only serve to protect the wonderful world that hides within Coffee Hanyakbang. 

The entrance of Coffee Hanyakbang on the left and the cake shop on the right.

The entrance of Coffee Hanyakbang on the left and the cake shop on the right.

Coffee Hanyakbang location.

Coffee Hanyakbang location.

The interior of this café is decorated with mother-of-pearl and lacquer ware items and antique roasting tools.

Music is continuously played from LP records to complete the vintage aura.  The first time I went there they were playing the soundtrack of the film "The last Emperor" (music composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto) and another time Barbra's "Memories".

The alley is so narrow that you cannot stretch yourself.

The alley is so narrow that you cannot stretch yourself.

Both the coffee shop and the dessert shop get very crowded, even though there are four rooms all together (ground floor and 1st floor for the café and ground floor and 1st floor for the cake shop).  You can take your coffee and tea from one shop and go to the other shop for a cake and vice versa. 

Filter coffee is about ₩ 4-5,000 and cakes around 8,000.  I had a green tea cake and fig tart... just wonderful!

The interior of the cafe

The interior of the cafe

Coffee Hanyakbang roasts their coffee beans daily through the direct contact method, something that is not seen often in other cafés. Through the direct contact roasting, the beans take on a smoky flavor that translates into the coffee grounds. Because of the strong flavor and smell, filter coffee is a must-try when visiting Coffee Hanyakbang! However, if you do not enjoy drinking coffee, the café also has raspberry, grapefruit-lemon, and grapefruit teas made in-house, as well as house-made raspberry yoghurt.

The owners of Coffee Hanyakbang also operate Hyemindang, the dessert shop just across the alleyway. 

The Hyemindang pastry shop.  The entrance (down left), me having cake and coffee at the downstairs room (right), and the 1st floor room (top left).

The Hyemindang pastry shop.  The entrance (down left), me having cake and coffee at the downstairs room (right), and the 1st floor room (top left).

Osulloc Tea

Posters outside a tearoom

Posters outside a tearoom

In 2004, Osulloc, opened its first Tea House in Myeong-dong, Seoul - a little Jeju in the city. 

There are several Tea Houses today and they serve the best of green tea and tea products like: cakes, ice cream, lattes, green tea milk spread, etc.

The story of Osulloc started in 1979, when a neglected rocky field on Jeju island turned into a prototype tea plantation.   It was barren land with only stones and wind. Three remotest areas abandoned even by residents were cultivated for years under full understanding of the natural environment in Jeju as well as with perseverance to make it green.

As a result, Jeju was reborn as a world’s best tea field where premium green tea is growing with passion and devotion, and now wins world’s prestigious tea contests every year. It is a place where you can find the beautiful devotion of OSULLOC trying to spread the Korean tea culture.

Green tea latte and green tea cake.

Green tea latte and green tea cake.

The Osulloc Tea House in Insadong-gil.  It can be reached by metro  (Anguk metro station - exit 6).

The Osulloc Tea House in Insadong-gil.  It can be reached by metro  (Anguk metro station - exit 6).

Osulloc cakes and green tea chocolates.

Osulloc cakes and green tea chocolates.

The three Osulloc tea plantations on Jeju Island (middle).

The three Osulloc tea plantations on Jeju Island (middle).

Yupdduk restaurant

Yupdduk restaurant in Dongdaemun.

Tteok-bokki is a popular Korean food made from small-sized, long, white, cylinder-shaped rice cakes called tteokmyeon. Tteok-bokki can be seasoned with spicy gochujang (chili paste) called Gochujang tteok-bokki. This can be very spicy. I mean very spipcy! It can be served on its own, or coupled with eggs, dumplings, vegitables,sausages, fish cakes and topped with mozarella cheese.Gochujang tteok-bokki as street food can be found everywhere!

Yupdduk restaurant in Dongdaemun.

Yupdduk restaurant location.

Yupdduk restaurant location.

There is a chain of Korean restaurants specialized in Gochujang tteok-bokki. It's called Yupdduk and it’s slogan is “Ttangcho Hot Food”.  

There is one in Dongdaemun area, very close to our hotel,  housed in a standard 2-storey Korean shophouse.  Don't bother coming here unless you have sky-high tolerance for spicy food.

 http://www.yupdduk.com/

 ☞ Directions: Dongdadeum History & Culture Park Station (Subway Line 2, 4), Exit 11, 12. Walk 100 meters on Euljiro street.

Yupdduk restaurant in Dongdaemun. 1st Floor.

Yupdduk restaurant in Dongdaemun. 1st Floor.

Do not forget that dishes are very big and are made to be shared by two persons.  Gochujang tteok-bokki is divine (it is called Yupgi Topokki).  There is a spiciness scale from 1 to 4.  Choose 2, it is hot enough.  A good idea is to order also  the peach juice, which is very good to relief your mouth after all that Gochujang!  

Chicken stew (it is called Yupgi Takdori) is also very tasty (if you mange to taste anything else but spiciness!), but do not expect any meat on the bones… just bones slowly cooked.

Our order in Yupdduk.

Our order in Yupdduk.