Seoul itinerary [ Day 1: Gyeongbokgung Palace & Gwanghwamun ]

I could tell you all about how I was on an early flight (7:40AM), which meant I started packing at midnight, didn't sleep a wink and was out of the door by 4AM. Or how on my first flight, I had a quirky seat neighbor who saw my headphone as invitation to chat & criticise my life choices, and later, a guy who kept asking about my Facebook, which I guess in this day and age, is the equivalent of phone number. 

Or how we reached Incheon airport well after 10PM and saw the lights in my parents' eyes dimmed when I told them that it would take an hour to get to downtown Seoul. And later couldn't find the apartment due to inaccurate map (more on that later) and only found the place after consulting multiple people. Ran into some drunks at the lobby. Found a good samaritan who spoke great English and called the apartment staff on our behalf and finally settled in at 1AM in a room that screamed budget (uh-oh).

Because that would be boring. 
Instead, let me summarise the lesson that became a running theme during this trip:

Weather won't cooperate,
You'll get lost a dozen times... if you're lucky,
You won't have time to see all the places you want to see.

Nothing will go according to plan...

Plan ahead anyway :)

That first night really gave pressure to me, as the self-appointed tour guide, to turn things around the next day.
Morning view from the apartment

And thus we started with the flashiest of the royal palaces from Joseon dynasty, Gyeongbokgung Palace. 
Heungnyemun - Second inner gate
Geunjeongjeon Hall - Main Palace
Gangnyeongjeon - The King's living quarters
Sajeongjeon - office quarters
Interesting decor at the Kimchi festival... old style toilet? 
Stopped by the souvenir shop / cafe and drank tea like a Joseon royal with this peaceful view...
We were interrupted by the ringing of bells and a woman's voice blaring from a megaphone. Styrofoam cups in hand, we hurried outside to catch the Royal Guards Changing Ceremony at Gwanghwamun gate. The ceremony was quite an experience, and you can take pictures with the guards after.
Gwanghwamun gate

Had all kinds of gasms seeing the stunning details on the roof

Tips on visiting royal palaces in Seoul:
Gyeongbokgung ended up being the only palace we visited in Seoul for weather and shopping reasons, but if you plan on visiting all four of them, get a combination ticket for 10,000 won. I suggest choosing 3 places and splitting them over the course of several days - these palaces are vast and will take time to explore on foot.

Opening times and ticket prices:
(Closes Monday)
❤ Deoksugung (1000 won)
How to get to DeoksugungTake Subway Line 1 or Line 2 to City Hall station, head to Exit 2.
Changing guard ceremony: 11:00, 14:00, 15:30

❤ Changgyeongung (1000 won)
How to get to ChanggyeongungTake Subway Line 4 to Hyewa Station, head to Exit 3.

(Closes Tuesday)
❤ Gyeongbokgung (3000 won)
How to get to Gyeongbokgung: Take Subway Line 3 to Gyeongbokgung station, head to Exit 5.
Changing guard ceremony: 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00 & 15:00

❤ Changdeokgung, which I heard is stunning (3000 won) & the attached Huwon / Secret Garden (5000 won). Best to visit the garden during autumn foliage season. You have to get their 90 minute guided tour, included in the ticket price. English tour for the palace available on 10:30 & 14:30 & Huwon, 11:30 & 15:30.
How to get to Changdeokgung: Take Subway Line 3 to Anguk station, head to Exit 3.

❤ Jongmyo shrine, which is a UNESCO World heritage site (1000 won). You have to get their guided tour except Saturday where you can explore the entire place on our own. Guess which day I went :)
How to get to Jongmyo shrine: Take Subway line 1 to Jongno Sam(3)-ga station, head to Exit 3.

Up next: Tosokchon, Wangbijib and night in Myeongdong
Previous Post: Japan & Korea 29 day self-guided trip planning 

Photos taken with Canon EOS 100D (18-55mm kit lens) & iPhone 4s, edited with VSCOcam


Ordinary 90s Girl said...

1st day only visited Gyeongbokgung and Gwanghwamun?
post food pics too, please! Hehe

Steffi said...

Hey Beth! This was only in the morning, but it got too long so I'm splitting it in two. Food pics, for sure!! :)