We had a little bit of flexibility in terms of time for our day three. Our itinerary started at 08:00 am so we did not kick our butts off to wake up very early. Further, we did not anticipate the surprises that welcomed us that day!
For some reason, my best friend Weng is like a live compass: she can very quickly navigate through new places, can pick up directions easily, and can weave alternative routes faster that we always get the best and cheaper option for our trip (isn’t this amazing?)! The reason why I am telling this is because, for that day we initially planned to use the Subway to go to our first destination: Jongmyo Shrine. But Weng with her special skill, intuitively calculated that the distance from Myeongdong to Jongno 3(sam)-ga Station can be walked by foot. Amazingly, she’s absolutely right!
We reached our destination around 08:20 am. The Shrine is open to public at 09:00 am so we still had time to grab our breakfast in Starbucks.
Direction going to Jongmyo Shrine:
The first surprise that happened to us on this day was the knowledge that we no longer need to attend the compulsory guided tour around the place. Do you want to ask why? It’s because every last Wednesday of the month is a “Cultural Day” in Seoul where all entry to their palaces and shrines are free of entrance fee and guided tours. Hurray!
Jongmyo Shrine is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage. This place was recorded to be the primary place of worship for the Kings in the Joseon Dynasty. It is also said to be the oldest preserved royal Confucian shrine. One thing that you should target when you are traveling to a new country is to research if there is a UNESCO Heritage and visit that place. Hence, this is exactly what we did!
Important Information about Jongmyo
Admission: is included in the integrated ticket; free every last Wednesday of the month
Operating Hours: 9:00 – 17:30
English tour: 10AM, 12NN, 2PM, 4PM;
Japanese – 09:00, 09:40, 10:40, 11:40, 12:40, 13:40, 14:40, 15:40, 16:40 (Mar. to Sep. only);
Chinese – 11:00, 15:00; Korean – 09:20-16:20 (every hour), 17:00 (Mar. to Sep. only)
Closed on Tuesdays
Jongmyo is a relatively small place and an hour to explore it is enough. At 10:00 am we were already off to our next destination – Changdeokgung & Huwon!
Direction from Jongmyo to Changdeokgung:
Before we proceed to our next destination, there was another surprise for us on that day – admission to the palaces were free as well! We saved a total of 40,000 KRW (~1,600 PHP) for the integrated tickets! All we had to pay was the Huwon Tour. Hurray again!
We were like children wandering inside the big palace in a cold Wednesday morning!
Changdeokgung Palace is one of the five major palaces that Seoul prides itself. One of the main reasons why we chose to visit this place is because it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage. If you are going to read its historical significance, you will uncover the culturally rich stories behind this place.
Important Information about Changdeokgung Palace:
1. Entrance here is included in the “Integrated Admission” to the four palaces at 10,000 KRW.
2. Regular Tour (1 hour duration)
March & November: 09:00-17:30
3. Closed on Mondays
Trivia – the floor is designed to be heated using charcoal in cold seasons. I wonder how many tons of charcoals they needed to warm up the entire palace floors?
HUWON GARDEN TOUR
After spending an hour exploring Changdeokgung Palace we headed to our next destination – Huwon Garden! Huwon is the shooting location of the famous Korean series: Secret Garden.
Here are the preparations needed prior to this tour:
1. The tour is on a first come first serve basis (only 100 tickets are available for each tour). It is important to have your reservation in advance. You can click this link to reserve.
2. Select your desired tour time. Below are the schedules:
Korean: 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 14:30, 15:00, 16:00, 16:30
English: 11:30, 13:30, 15:30 (no tours between Nov-Jan)
Japanese: 10:30, 16:30 (60min)
3. Huwon admission is free if you will buy the integrated tickets, otherwise, you have to pay for the regular admission (3,000 won) and admission to Huwon (5,000 won).
Brief Background of Huwon:
The garden is around 78 acres (very wide) situated inside Changdeokgung Palace. This garden was created purely for the leisure of the royal family. It was constructed in 1400 under the reign of King Taejong.
If you notice, the garden goes one with the nature: the trees, the grass, the landscape, the ponds, the rocks, and all other things inside are all natural & barely touched by human hands (except for the pavilions). This garden became the get-away place of the royals when they want to engage in poetry, sports, banquets, and meditation.
As I participated in the tour, it kept me thinking how members of the royal family were transported through a palanquin in this vast garden! Whew, truly royals and servants alike played an important role in the history!
We highly recommend that you visit this place during autumn to see its verdant trees!