Day 2 in Seoul was going to be busy and tiring, and it was going to be more exhausting than I thought. But I didn’t know it when I left my AirBNB that morning and energetically took the train to Namsangol Hanok Village, my first stop of the day.
It was already a bit crowded when I arrived, but there were still a lot of moments when I enjoyed the architecture of the traditional Korean houses all to myself, and I liked what I saw: knee-level tables in between colorful floor cushions, wooden furniture with simple but arresting details, and scroll paintings that might have been influenced by Japanese art.
I liked the view outside too. The stone walls and wooden lattice windows looked distinctly Korean and yet reminded me of Japanese traditional houses in their structure and form. But the huge traditional kimchi jars that caught my attention were definitely uniquely Korean as the food they once preserved.
Aside from five hanok houses, the village also has a traditional garden, a charming cafe, and a plaza where a time capsule commemorating Seoul’s 600 Year Anniversary was buried. The reopening of the capsule is scheduled in 2394. The village also has programs and activities like wearing a hanbok and herbal medicine experience but I didn’t try any.
My next stop was Changdeokgung Palace where the detailed greens, red, and yellows on the buildings impressed me. It is apparently the most well-preserved palace of the five in Seoul and the buildings looked like they’re well-managed but the bare, sandy ground was a glaring contrast from the well-tended and paved grounds of Japanese castles.
The palace itself was imposing and impressive, but my favorite was the Secret Garden or Huwon, which can only be entered with a guided tour. In the past, the garden was only for royal family members and being able to see it now when it was once so exclusive was a nice experience, especially because the garden was beautiful and wide and there were many places of interest like where the king once recited poetry with his ministers.
While waiting for the guided tour of the Secret Garden to begin, I popped in Changgyeonggung Palace because it was included in the Integrated Admission Ticket: and it was right beside Changdeokgung Palace. The lake in Changgyeonggung was a beautiful sight but the buildings were pretty much a twins of the buildings in Changdeokgung. Although I didn’t get to see everything because I didn’t have a lot of time, I don’t think I missed much.
After hours of walking around the palaces I was ready to go back to my AirBNB and pick up dinner on the way BUT police barricades blocking a rally right outside the palace gates forced me to take a detour, which took me to Bukchon Hanok Village and, finally, food.
I don’t know if it was luck or because the day left me worn out and hungry, but I thought that restaurant served the best French food ever. The meal I had was the best way to cap an adventurous day, and became one of the most memorable parts of my entire trip. Yes, I was that hungry.
Integrated Admission Ticket: ₩10,000 (Four palaces and Jongmyo Shrine included)
Namsangol Hanok Village Operating Hours: 09:00-20:00 / 09:00-21:00; Closed Mondays
Namsangol Hanok Village Admission: Free
Nearest Station: Chungmuro Station
Changdeokgung Palace Operating Hours: 09:00-18:00 / 09:00-18:30 / 09:00-17:30; Closed Mondays
Changdeokgung Palace Admission: ₩3,000
Secret Garden Admission: ₩5,000
Nearest Station: Anguk Station
Changgyeonggung Palace Operating Hours: 09:00-18:00 / 09:00-18:30 / 09:00-17:30; Closed Mondays
Changgyeonggung Palace Admission: ₩1,000
Nearest Station: Anguk Station