Having visited each of Seoul’s five great palaces it’s difficult not to think “once you’ve seen one palace you’ve seen them all.” However, Changdeokgung is noteworthy because it contains a ‘Secret Garden’, a vast space beyond the regular palace grounds. This exclusive area has fascinated me ever since I saw some stunning photos online and I finally decided to check it out for myself.
Donhwamun, the main gate.
The ticket booth is located right next to the main gate. One ticket for the regular palace grounds is ₩3000 and you can walk around at your own pace. However, if you would like to experience the Secret Garden it’s necessary to purchase an extra ticket (₩5000) and you must follow an organized tour led by a guide.
The royal library of the Joseon Dynasty.
The gates, while magnificent structures, all tend to look very similar.
These photos would suggest that winter is probably not the best time to visit the Secret Garden. The ponds were frozen, the trees were bare and everything was just a bit miserable. Obviously my complete lack of photography flair didn’t help matters either.
While I was slightly disappointed by what I saw I would definitely recommend the tour as it is genuinely very interesting and a nice way to spend an afternoon. In the concrete jungle that is Seoul opportunities to escape the hustle and bustle are few and far between and Changdeokgung is a welcome oasis.
Directions: The entrance to Changdeokgung is B on the map above. I personally believe the easiest way to get there is to take Jongno 3-ga (종로3가) station exit 7. Come out, turn back on yourself, take a right then walk straight and it’s impossible to miss it. Alternatively, take Anguk(안국) station exit 3 and walk straight until you reach the entrance.