A Tour Around Deoksugung Palace (덕수궁) in Seoul’s Busiest Downtown

After a less strenuous day of sightseeing in Suwon, a lovely reunion dinner with my Korean classmate & visit to our alumni – Sogang University to reminisce about the good old days, I woke up refreshed & energised for a brand new day in Seoul.  As I surfed the social media apps while having my breakfast in the apartment, the Deoksugung Palace (덕수궁) post on seoul_official instagram account that morning caught my attention. The post was a beautiful picture of a willowy cherry blossom tree in front of the Seokjojeon (석조전), publicising the Spring outdoor concert happening every Friday from 12.20 to 1.10 pm till 22 April. That was a Friday, so it meant I could check it out! 😉

OK folks, as you know, I’m not really a history person, & Deoksugung Palace wasn’t on my original plan at all. But, the picture looked beautiful & a quick research showed me that this palace is famous for its artistic stone-wall road. It is also the only palace that sits alongside a series of western style buildings, located at a corner of Seoul’s busiest downtown intersection. So hmm… that sounds like a place with some unique scenery for photos? Hence I decided to tweak my itinerary slightly to accommodate this, since it’s conveniently located near City Hall Station (시청역, Seoul Subway Line 1 or 2) exit 2.

Chanced upon the changing of royal guards ceremony at Daehanmun

Well, the palace isn’t far from my apartment, but I took my own sweet time & only arrived at the tail end of the Changing of Royal Guards Ceremony (the ceremony started at 11 am) at the palace main gate – Daehanmun (대한문). 😛 It was quite interesting to see the royal guards marched from the ancient palace & past the modern buildings surrounding it. After the ceremony, I walked to the left side of Daehanmun & was delighted to find a long row of flea market stalls. There were many people crowding around the stalls & I also joined in (hey, I haven’t really shopped after 1 week in Korea you know! Hehe). Probably because of the central location of this flea market by the palace, most looked like office employees who were out for lunch break.

Deoksugung Palace 2

I couldn’t effectively multi-task: take more photos of what the stalls were selling & shop at the same time. Apologies! 😛 Not sure if you can read the text on the plaque above, it’s actually an interesting writeup on why the artist of the Jangdockdae (장독대 in top left photo) created these deflated 3-generation family figures. The Jangdockdae is a place where different sizes of traditional ferment sauce jars are stored together. Taking care of these traditional sauce jars – Jangdock (장독), & making sure they are handed down to the next generation, is a very important job of the women in the family. So the artist was inspired to create these deflated figures after seeing the Jangdockdae covered in snow.

After a little shopping therapy along this street, I found myself craving for some warm Korean food, & so stepped into this cosy-looking restaurant, on the left of the stone-wall street, called 명동할머니국수 – 시청점 (Myeongdong Grandma’s Noodles – City Hall shop) for lunch.

Tasty kimchi fried rice for lunch!

Tasty kimchi fried rice for lunch!

Guess this restaurant is popular for its noodles since it’s already spelt out in its name, but at that point in time, I was craving for piping hot rice – the likes of dolsot bibimbap. Sad to see only bibimbap on its menu, not in a dolsot (돌솥) aka hot pot, so I ordered the kimchi fried rice (김치볶음밥, KRW5,000/ S$6) instead. Gosh, I was a bit shocked to see a big bowl of fried rice served, but it was so savoury that I finished the whole bowl! Oops. 😛 The ingredients were fresh & I loved the taste of its kimchi. Although it was fried, it didn’t feel overly greasy. I also sampled a small bowl of its famous noodles soup that came with my fried rice. Very smooth & chewy noodles, no wonder this restaurant chain has been going strong since it was established in 1958 with numerous shops all over Korea. Great accidental find! 😉

After a yummy lunch, I returned to Daehanmun, the palace main gate, pondering whether to purchase an admission ticket (KRW1,000 / S$1.20) to enter the palace so that I could go & check out the outdoor concert. Finally, I decided against entering because the concert had started (oops I forgot to keep track of time)… I tried my luck walking round the palace stone-wall borders instead, in the hope of hearing the music of the concert hahaha. Below are sightings of my walking tour around the charming Deoksugung Palace nestled within the modern city for your viewing pleasure. 🙂

Excited to see cherry blossoms just beyond the Daehanmun main gate

Excited to see cherry blossoms just beyond the Daehanmun main gate

Deoksugung Palace 5Alas, I didn’t get to hear even a teeny weeny bit of the concert in front of the palace treasure exhibition building – Seokjojeon despite a long stroll of about an hour. Nonetheless, it was a lovely stroll around Deoksugung. Indeed its surroundings of modern sky-high buildings makes this an elegant site not to miss, especially if you have been to the other more popular grand palaces in Seoul such as Gyeongbokgung Palace & Changdeokgung Palace. Come experience the difference for yourself! 🙂

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