Under a Moonlit Sky: A Night Tour of Changdeokgung Palace

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-30

About a week ago, I had the opportunity to do a moonlit tour of Changdeokgung Palace. I had visited the palace the past fall, but this was an opportunity to see the palace in a new light (literally). During this year from April to November, the palace offers up moonlit tours twice a month, on the full moon and one day next to it.

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-25

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-35

I love evening tours, and figured this would be a good opportunity to do some night photo shooting as well. The tour started at the main gate at 2000, at which point, it was almost completely dark. Luckily for us, the weather was good, though a tiny bit hazy, so it wasn’t a perfectly clear moonlit night.

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-20

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-21

At least it didn’t rain though. We were taken through parts of the palace grounds, from the main hall, to different out buildings. We didn’t actually enter any of the buildings, but we were able to look inside. We had lanterns to guide us on the trail, which was convenient for some of the stairs.

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-22

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-23

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-27

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-26

After seeing some of the buildings, we were taken back to the Secret Garden. We didn’t see the full tour of the Secret Garden like I did during a day tour, but the most scenic places of the garden, like the Buyongjeong Pavilion were shown. All the buildings were very lushly lit and it was made for some nice photography.

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-34

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-33

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-32

The actual walking tour of the grounds took about 90 minutes, and the last 30 minutes was a sampling of cultural performances. We were treated to a variety of Korean dance, opera and traditional music in an open air setting, so it was pleasantly cool by this point in the evening. It was a good opportunity to see different aspects of Korean culture you might not be able to see. We were also given some traditional Korean tea and sweets to enjoy the performance.

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-37

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-38

This tour is geared more toward cultural awareness rather than photography, which is why tripods are specifically banned in the advertisement for the tour. However, in my group there were numerous people who brought and used tripods and the tour guides did not prevent anyone from using them. I know my pictures would have turned out better if I had brought my tripod.

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-36

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-31

This is not a tour open to just anyone. This is a tour just for foreigners, so no Koreans are allowed to attend. Three languages are offered for the tours: English, Japanese and Chinese. The tickets are easy to buy online through Interpark, and you pick up your ticket at the venue after 1930 the day of the event. Tickets cost 30,000 won per person, and I believe one person can reserve two tickets at a time. Make sure you bring some form of an ID, such as a passport to prove your identity when you check in at the palace. The total tour lasts around two hours, so figure you will spend 2000-2200 in the evening there. Changdeokgung Palace is easily reached from metro line 3 (Anguk stop, exit 3), and it is a few hundred meters up the road, or you can walk to the palace from metro stop Jongno-3(sam)-ga (Lines 1,3,5, exit 7).

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-28

If you like moonlit tours, particularly of palaces, and would like to see a different aspect of Korean culture, I highly recommend the tour.

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-29

Luscious Fall Colors at Changdeokgung Palace and the Secret Garden

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-13

Last fall I took my mom to visit Changdeokgung Palace when she came to visit Korea. I had visited the palace on a previous tour, but not during fall. At the time, the fall leaves were just a bit past peak color, but they were still vibrant enough to make you stop and stare.

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-14

 

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-9

We got to the palace relatively early, because we had a full day planned of palace visiting and walking around Seoul. We first did the Secret Garden tour, which is to the rear of Changdeokgung Palace, and actually makes up the bulk of the complex.

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-8

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-3

You can only access the garden via a guided tour, of which there are multiple ones throughout the day, in both Korean and English. However there are only two tours in English, at 1130 and 1430.

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-2

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-7

The garden was designed for the private pleasure of the king and his family. It has a wide variety of buildings, gardens, ponds, flowers, and trees, some of which are hundreds of years old.

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-15

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-16

The highlight of the Secret Garden tour is the Buyongjeong Pavilion on the Buyongjeong Pond, which was restored a couple of years ago.

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-6

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-5

The tour of the Secret Garden lasts about two hours, and it moves at a leisurely pace. You definitely have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, listen to the tour guide and take pictures.

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-11

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-12

This was definitely one of the most beautiful places to see in Seoul in the fall. There are many places that have colorful leaves, but the Secret Garden has some of the greatest concentration of fall beauty.

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-10

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-4

Changdeokgung Palace is easy to get to, since it is centrally located in Seoul. You can reach it via metro line 3 (Anguk stop, exit 3), and it is a few hundred meters up the road, or you can walk to the palace from metro stop Jongno-3(sam)-ga (Lines 1,3,5, exit 7). There are separate English language tours for the palace (though you can walk through most of the palace grounds on your own) and the garden (guided tour required). It is open from 0900-1700 (winter) or 1830 (summer).

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-1

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-17

If you like palaces, and especially if you love beautiful gardens, this is definitely a palace to visit. And if you have the opportunity to visit it in the fall, that is even better.

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-18

Changdeokgung Palace by day and night-19