With globalization, Seoul has become more complicated and sometimes excessively crowded. At times we just want some quiet time alone for total relaxation, or longing for uninterrupted time with loved ones, but with the crowds everywhere especially during the weekends, having some quality outdoor activity could be a luxury!
In my recent collaboration with KTO, I was introduced to some sites worth exploring. These places are relatively quiet than major tourist sports. If you have half a day to check out the City Hall area in Seoul, what would you do?
Here I came up with a tour plan including 6 relatively peaceful sites around downtown Seoul (aka City Hall Station area). These sites are not only perfect for a slow stroll but also ideal for quality time with your loved ones. If you need an injection of Korean arts, and musicals or simply want to immerse in the rich Korean culture, this half-day tour plan in downtown Seoul is great for you.
Downtown/ City Hall Half-day Tour Plan:
Daehanmun Gate at Deoksugung Palace → Stonewall Walkway → Seoul Museum of Art → Jungmyeongjeon Hall → Jeongdong First Methodist Church → Jungdong Theatre
1.Daehanmun Gate @ Deoksugung Palace. 덕수궁 대한문
The Daehanmun Gate right outside the Deoksugung Palace is a landmark of the area. This colourful gate stands out among the concrete forest of downtown Seoul, leaving its guests a prominent first impression. The palace conducts a daily changing of the Royal guards’ ceremony. Be sure to catch the ceremony on time. Read more about it here in my blog post about Deoksugung and the ceremony here: http://goo.gl/ujQ6Ko
Ceremony Schedule: 11:00, 14:00, 15:30 (Closed on Mondays)
2. Stonewall Walkway 덕수궁 돌담길
The Deoksugung Stonewall Walkway or Doldam-gil is one of the most beautiful walkways in Seoul. Stretching about 900 metres in total, the walkway has over 20 benches and 130 trees, which provide an extraordinary romantic atmosphere, especially in Autumn and Winter. This stonewall walkway was Korea’s first successful attempt at creating a comprehensive urban space where both people and nature can coexist. The road was built using eco-friendly materials and the utmost precautions were taken to ensure pedestrian safety.
It was a bright and sunny afternoon at 3pm when we visited the stonewall walkway. Not a perfect time for couples to get in the mood for romance though. I would suggest an evening stroll, or maybe only include this activity on your to-do list during Spring or Autumn. Winter is another option as there will be considerably lesser pedestrians hence less chance to get photobombed kkkkkkkkkk
Autumn and winter at stonewall walkway look pretty amazing here. This background looks perfect for a pre-wedding photoshoot, no? For those who are searching for a good wedding photo location in Seoul, this place is what I will recommend.
3. Seoul Museum of Art 서울 시립 미술관
Being one of Korea’s leading art museums, SeMa has gained its reputation through a series of impressive special exhibitions. Bring your date here for a romantic escapade. Impress her by telling her some historical facts about the beautiful building: It is built at the site of Gyeonghuigung Palace in 1988 and moved it its current location in May 2002. The entrance of the museum has a beautiful Renaissance Façade, originally part of the Supreme Court which was built in 1928.
Weekends & Holidays: 10:00-19:00
Nov- Feb: 10:00-18:00
Last Admission: 1 hr before closing.
Closed on Mondays.
I love the ambience around this neighbourhood and often take my time to stroll around the area before following my schedule of the day. Most of the time the main exhibition hall on the 1st level are free for admission. Do check the admission and exhibition details at the Museum ^^
Bonus: Drama “My Love From Another Star” Filming Location 별그대 촬영지
If you are a fan of the drama “My Love from Another Star”별에서 온 그대 you’ll surely find the below stone-paved walkway familiar. This walkway actually appeared in one of the scenes in episode 7 of the drama 별그대 “My Love from Another Star”. Do you know which scene was that? ^^*
It was the scene where Lawyer Jang was miffed by Do Min Joon when he found out that Do Min Joon bought the handphone just because Cheon Song-yi asked him to. Remember that part where Lawyer Jang said that for the past decade he had been urging Min-joon to get a handphone but was totally being ignored now than when Song-yi asked about it..
Min-joon explained that he bought the handphone out of convenience but when Lawyer Jang checks the phone, he confirms that Song-yi is saved in the No. 1 slot. XD Min-Joon got caught red-handed and he tries to explain that Lawyer Jang is No. 2 and offers to swap their orders, but Lawyer Jang snaps that he doesn’t care and it’s childish! Hilarious enough!
4. Jeongdong First Methodist Church 중동 제일 교회
Established in 1987 by American Methodist missionary Henry Appenzeller, Jeongdong First Methodist Church is the first Protestant Church in Korea. It was the one and only church which was built in the 19th century in Korea. This church has great historical significance as it was the place that fountainhead the “March First Movement” (One of the earliest public movements of anti-Japanese occupation in Korea).
5. Jungmyeongjeon Hall 중명전
Jungmyeonjeon Hall, a three-story Western-style building was designed by Russian architect Seredin Sabatin. This building was used as an imperial library from 1897 to 1901. After Deoksugung Palace caught fire, Jungmyeongjeon Hall became the main office of King Go Jong. The building also witnessed the tragic part of history in which the infamous Eulsa Treaty was signed.
Opening Hours: 10:00-17:00, Closed on Mondays. Free Admission.
Jungmyeonjeon Hall looks gorgeous under the 3 o’clock sweltering sun. Personally, I find this place another good option for outdoor couple photo shooting too!
The Chinese Characters of “Jungmyeonjeon” (重明殿). If you can read Chinese, you might notice that the 2nd character “明” look slightly different from what it should look like. Precisely, the character “明” should have “日” as its component. However, the character “目” was used as a component here. It was said that since this building was a Royal library, Go Jong purposely selected the character “目” which literally means “eyes” as an admonishment to see things clearly.
Although admission is free for all visitors, everyone is required to change into slippers before entering the building to protect the building. Even glass flooring was installed to better preserve the patterned tiles.
As the building was designed by a Russian, we can see the influence of the west here in the building, especially from the arched pillars surrounding the building. As the building is built from bricks, after Deoksugung caught fire, Go Jong feels much safer working here and hence shifted his office to this building.
A picture of Go Jong with the officials who second the idea of signing the Japan-Korea protectorate treaty (Eulsa Treaty), one of the saddening past of Korea. You can check out more about the history of Eulsa Treaty here at Jungmyeonjeon.
6. Jeongdong Theatre 정동극장
Lastly, you may catch your traditional Korean Musical here at the Jeongdong Theatre. There are 2 shows every day at 4 pm and 8 pm. Plan your date wisely. You can either finish off the night with a dinner at the 길들여지기(click me) restaurant in the theatre compound after the show (will be about 530pm), or wind down at the restaurant before getting into the theatre to catch the 8pm show. Currently, Jeongdong Theatre is having their new musical Baebijang-Jeon (배비장전) which I have reviewed earlier on the blog. Check out the ticketing and synopsis here: http://goo.gl/t16VTf
This is a suggested half-day tour plan if you wish to explore around Jeongdong/Deoksugung/City Hall area. I hope you like the plan. You may want to modify the itinerary to fit your schedule. If possible, please send me your feedback or leave me a comment below. Just click on the grey little callout button with a “+” at the lower right-hand side and you’ll see the comment box. Have a great day!