Which Royal Palace to visit in Seoul?
There are 5 Royal Palaces in Seoul and if your time is limited, it might be difficult to decide which one to visit. While Gyeongbokgung Palace is the most well known and most grand of them all, my heart really stayed with Changdeokgung Palace and I want to tell you why.
Gyeongbokgung Palace ( the most famous palace in Seoul, images of which you are likely to see when you looking for things to do) is very grand as it was used mainly for state functions and while beautiful, it leaves you a little cold like any other official building.
Changdeokgung Palace, which was added to UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997, feels more human and the Royal Family actually lived there, including the last members of the family.
When I was visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace, its gardens were closed for some restoration works, but in Changdeokgung Palace, the Secret Garden is an attraction in itself. Make sure you book Secret Garden tour, as you will not be able to visit this part of the palace otherwise. They only allow a certain number of visitors per day and the visit is guided.
The Secret Garden is very large and features a lot of unique buildings and recreational pavilions, which Royal Family used for relaxation and retreat. In fact, while you are in the Secret Garden you stop feeling like you are in Seoul, as there is so much greenery around you. And it is peaceful.
The guided tour lasts around 1.5 hours and it is very informative , and there will also be enough time for you to take pictures.
Another thing that swayed me towards the Changdeokgung Palace was our lovely guide, who was passionate about Korean history and kept telling us delightful stories, making us laugh or marvel how things used to be done in the past. The tour is free, so if you have time, I urge you to allow time for this as you will learn a lot.
If you are getting confused, there are two separate tours, one for the Palace itself and another is for the Secret Garden. You can time the tours in such a way, that you are able to listen to the general Palace tour first and then find your way to the Secret Garden tour, which was what we did.
And the last but not least, on the grounds of Changdeokgung Palace there is a cafe which faces one of the buildings, so you would be able to enjoy a drink or a snack while appreciating surrounding beauty. Gyeongbokgung Palace is a bit more official and there is no facility like that.
Overall, I also felt that Gyeongbokgung Palace was more crowded as it is more well known, despite Changdeokgung Palace UNESCO status.
So if you only have time to visit one palace in Seoul, I recommend you choose Changdeokgung Palace.
Did you pay a visit to any Royal Palaces in Seoul and what did you think about them?