Where to go, what to see and what to eat?
Palaces on Foot
Gyeongbokgung Palace, National Folk Museum of Korea, Bukchon, Changdeokgung Palace, Insadong und Deoksugung Palace
Starting from Gwanghwamun Square (광화문광장) at 9 in the morning, which is a glorious sight on it’s own, we went to Gyeongbokgung palace (경복궁) first. Which was closed because it was Tuesday…fail. But we managed to get in on the next day.
It is beautiful but very crowded therefore it makes sense to go there as early as possible. Inside the palace is a National Folk Museum (국립민속박물관), which is worth a visit if you are already there. The premises around the palace are worth a look as well, especially in the direction of the east gate. It is less crowded and has some recreation of Korean village homes and of some shops from the 60s-70s era. I generally have a feeling that most tourist only go to see the main palace building and leave again, because most premises around the palaces were endurable. I just cannot stand crowds and crowds of noisy tourist groups. It was impossible to take any photos of the beautiful buildings.
Moving on from Gyeongbokgung we walked in the direction of the Blue House or Cheong Wa Dae (청와대) in Korean. It is the official residence of the Korean head of state and the security only allows to take photos at some designated spots. I have been inside before and personally don’t think it is worth the time, since you don’t get to see much anyways. After passing the Blue House we went to Bukchon (북촌), which still has some of the traditional Korean houses. And again, it is so crowded and touristy, I feel bad for the residents, who have to endure all this noise.
The neighborhood has some great views though:
Moving on front there we went to Changdeokgung Palace (창덕궁). It does have a beautiful park around it and a Secret Garden, for which you have to buy an extra ticket. You can only go to the Secret Garden with a tour group so we decided to skip it. I remember visiting it in early spring, but the scenery looked a bit triste. It probably looks best between late spring and autumn.
I love the rooftop with the blue colors. The camera just doesn’t do it justice, because the color is so much more beautiful in the sunlight:
After Changdeokgung you can go to Insadong (인사동) for shopping and eating. Though I do think most of the restaurants are a tourist trap. It is always crowded and the quality of the food is not what it should be. It is still a must see neighborhood and great for buying souvenirs. A lot of people started to rent Hanboks and wear them while strolling the street. Instead of Insadong we went directly to Deoksugung palace (덕수궁) by bus, which passes Gwanghwamun Square and stops right in front of the entrance. Deoksugung is my favorite, because of the mixed architecture. It has some western style buildings and a stunningly beautiful fusion-style pavilion Jeonggwanheon (정관헌) designed by a Russian architect Aleksey Seredin-Sabatin and build in 1900.
If there is still time left, visit the city hall which is located right in front of the palace. You can still go to Insadong from there. I am a crazy walker, so we did most of the sightseeing on foot. All these places are located in one area so it made sense geographically to go in this order, even though we had to redo Gyeongbokgung on the next day. This concluded the historical sightseeing for us. Next stop, Lotte World Tower!