Seoul

South Korea Itinerary Part 2(c): Seoul – Palaces, Jongmyo Shrine, Insadong & Namdaemun

Also see
For budgettravel infoculture, see Itinerary Part 1.
For Seoul Itinerary Days 1-3, and Days 12-14, see Parts 2 & 8 respectively.
For Andong Itinerary Day 4, see Part 3.
For Gyeongju Itinerary Day 5, see Part 4.
For Busan itinerary Days 6-8, see Part 5.
For Jeju Island Days 9-10, see Part 6.
For Haeinsa at Gayasan National Park Day 11, see Part 7.

Seoul Itinerary Day 2: Changdeokgung Palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Insadong, Jongmyo Shrine, Namdaemun Market

There are 5 palaces in Seoul, but don’t bother visiting them all. They look all the same after a while. TIP: note that the palaces close on different days of the week and Jongmyo shrine only allows guided tours at specific timing, so you’ll have to plan carefully.

The palaces, shrine and Insadong are about 15-20 minutes’ walk from each other.

Gyeongbokgung
Start early with Gyeongbokgung Palace (pictured above), the biggest and most important palace. It was first built in 1394 but was destroyed by palace servants in 1592 to eradicate records of their service. Rebuilt by King Gojong in 1872, he fled to Russia in 1885 when the Japanese sent assassins to murder his wife in the palace.

Jongmyo Shrine Korea
Not a ghost, that’s the guide for Jongmyo Shrine.

Cross the major road to Insadong to have an early lunch and walk east to get to the UNESCO world heritage site Jongmyo Shrine at 12pm to catch the English guided tour. IMPT: Jongmyo Shrine does not allow tourists to roam the grounds except on Saturday. You must catch an one-hour guided tour for the rest of the week (closed Tue). Built in 1394, an annual ceremony to honor dead monarchs, considered most complete ceremony in the world, is held here on the first Sun of May. This was one of the highlights to me because there was a sense of serenity in the shrine.

Jongmyo Shrine Seoul
The folding doors have a gap because it allows the spirits to enter in and out of Jongmyo Shrine.

The guided tour will end at 1pm. You have go to a cafe and rest. Then walk north for 15-20 minutes to another UNESCO site Changdeokgung Palace, where the last prince died in 1970, arriving for the 2.30pm English tour. There are two tours here, one for the palace buildings and one for the palace garden. The 2.30pm tour, focussing on palace buildings, lasts for an hour and then you should immediately hop on to the next tour at 3.30pm for Biwon or “Secret Garden.”

Toto's Nostalgia Museum
On display at Toto’s Museum, Hello Kitty ironing in a Hello Kitty iron. Very postmodern.

Now you can rest. Walk back to Insadong to explore the area. I loved this neighborhood, full of teahouses and cafes. It felt very leisurely and arty but not as commercial and fake as Garosugil at Sinsa, an area my friend recommended. There is a toy museum along the main street, Toto’s Nostalgia Museum (169-2, 2nd floor, Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu 서울 종로구 관훈동 169-2; +82-2-725-1756, 10am-9pm daily), that showcases toys from the 60s to present. It isn’t worth going because the toys are in a mess without any explanation or proper cataloguing.

Namdaemun Shijiang Seoul
When you have rested enough, take a train to Namdaemun Shijiang (pictured above), the largest tradition market in Korea since 1414. They say if you can’t find it here, it doesn’t exist. I was there from about 6-8pm and by 8pm the shops seemed to be closing. Although according to the tourism website, it seems that the shops reopen at midnight. I’d advise you to come here and eat but not shop because the vendors jack up the prices.

How to Get to Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung station (line 3, exit 5) or Gwanghwamun (line 5, exit 2). 5 minutes walk from either exit.
Address: 1 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu
T: +82-2-3700-3900
Admission: ₩3000 (adults)/ ₩1500 (youth)/ free for above 65 or under 6
Hours: Mar-Oct: 9am-6pm; Nov-Feb: 9am-5pm, closed Tue
Free English Tours: 11am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm (There is audio guide so these tours aren’t as important as Jongmyo Shrine’s tour or Changdeokgung’s.)
Free Chinese Tours: 10.30am, 1pm, 3pm.

How to Get to Changdeokgung Palace

Anguk Station (line 3, exit 3) or Jongno 3ga Station (lines 1, 3 or 5, exit 7).
Address: 2-71 Waryong-dong, Jongno-gu
T: +82-2-762-8262
Admission: ₩3000 (adults)/ ₩1500 (youth)/ free for above 65 or under 6
Hours: Apr-Oct 9am-6.30pm; Nov 9am-5.30pm; Dec-Feb 9am-5pm; Mar 9am-5.30pm. Closed Mon & Sun.
English Palace Tours:10.30am, 2.30pm
English Garden Tours: 11.30am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm
Chinese Palace Tour: 4pm
Chinese Garden Tour: 12.30pm

How to Get to Jongmyo Shrine

Jongno 3ga Station (lines 1, 3 or 5, exits 8 or 11).
Address: 155 Jongno 1(il)-ga, Jongno-gu
Tel: +82-2-765-0195
Admission: ₩1000 (adults)/ ₩500 (youth)/ free for above 65 or under 6
Hours: 9am-6pm (Mar-Sep)/ 9am – 5.30pm (Oct-Feb), Closed Tue
English Tours: 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm
Chinese Tours: 11am, 3pm

How to Get to Insadong

Anguk Station (Line 3), Exit 6.

How to Get to Namdaemun Market

Hoehyeon Station (Line 4), Exit 5.

What to Eat at Jongno-gu & Insadong (Near Palaces & Shrine)

Gogung Insadong
Gogung Insadong1. Gogung Insadong Store BIMBIBAP The shop is in a gray building where there is a tourist information booth. The bimbibap was quite refreshing, even though I ate it in the heat of summer. It was not at all spicy–I suspect they reduced the spice for me–and the bean paste brought out the subtleties of flavors. 3/5.
Address: Basement, 38 Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
T: +82 2 736 3211
Budget: ₩11K
Directions: On the main street of Insadong, look out for a building with wooden giraffe sculptures on the roof. Gogung is at the basement of this building.

This is their namecard (click to enlarge):
Gogung Directions

2. To Sok Chon 토속촌 KOREAN GINSENG CHICKEN samgyetang A favorite of the late Korean president Noh Muh-hyun.
Address: 85-1 Chebu-dong, Jongno-gu 서울특별시 종로구 체부동85-1
T: +82-2-737-7444
Budget: ₩15K onwards
10am-10pm daily
Directions: Gyeongbokgung station (line 3, exit 2). Walk till you come to GS25 convenience store and turn left.

3. Mirinae Makguksu KOREAN serves ssambap (rice with lettuce and noodles) and makguksu (mixed somen noodles).
Address: 11-2 Jung-dong, Mapo-gu
T: +82-2-779-2756
Budget: ₩6K onwards
T-Sat: 11am-1am.
Directions: Gwanghwamun (line 5, exit 8)

Book Cafe Leah - Bingsoo
4. Book Cafe Leah CAFE I adore this quiet cafe (pictured above), on the 2nd floor along the main street of Insadong. It is full of living things like books and plants. Lots of character in the decor. I had bingsoo (₩7), something like ice kacang, with shaved ice, peanut powder, red bean and little bits of mochi. It came with free coffee! 3.8/5
T: +82 2 735 9407
Book Cafe Leah - Free Coffee
Free hot bitter coffee with cold sweet bingsoo – a wonderful combination!
Book Cafe Leah doesn’t have a name card but it has book marks with its address on it:
Book Cafe Leah

5. Mingadaheon KOREAN-EUROPEAN FUSION Reservations recommended.
Address: 66-7 Gyeongun-dong, Jongno-gu
T: +82-2-723-2966
Budget: Set menus from ₩60K onwards
noon-10.30pm daily
Directions: Anguk Station, Line 3, exit 5

6. Nwijo KOREAN TEMPLE VEGETARIAN CUISINE The restaurant’s name means “god of the silkworm” and the chef uses mountain herbs and local produce.
Address: 84-13 Gwanhun-dong, Jong-gu
T: +82-2-730-9311
Budget: Set menu from ₩20-90K
11am-10pm daily
Directions: Anguk Station, Line 3, exit 6

7. Sadong Myeonok KOREAN DUMPLINGS If you don’t want the fist-sized mandu (dumplings), try the bibimbap or beosut jeongol (spicy mushroom hotpot).
Address: Insadong 5-gil, Jongno-gu
T: +82-2-735-7393
Budget: ₩6K onwards
11am-10.30pm daily
Directions: Anguk Station, Line 3.

Cafe Maroo Seoul
8. Cafe Maroo CAFE Seoul has a strong cafe culture and each cafe is different from the rest. This one has a relaxed, Mediterranean feel to it, pictured above. The mocha (₩7k) I had was a tad sweet and expensive but I liked it. 3.4/5
Address: 184 Myo-dong Jongno-gu 종로구 묘동 184 서울특별시
T: +82 2 764 0777

9. Yongsusan 용수산 KOREAN ROYAL FOOD
Address: 118-3 Samcheong-dong, Jongno-gu (서울특별시 종로구 삼청동 118-3)
T: +82-2-771-5552
Budget: from ₩25K (lunch) and ₩40K (dinner)
noon-3pm; 6-10pm
Directions: Anguk Station, Line 3.

10. Sook Jook Heon 송죽헌 TRADITIONAL KOREAN Also known as hanjeongsik, the restaurant will pile food on every inch of your table. Reservations necessary.
Address: 37-1 Unni-dong, Jongro-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 운니동37-1)
T: +82 2 763 4234
Budget: from ₩25K (lunch) and ₩70K (dinner)
M-F: noon-2pm; 6.30-10pm
Anguk Station, line 3.

What to Eat at Namdaemun Market

Jinju Jip Seoul
Jinju jip Namdaemun
1. Jinju Jip (진주집) KOREAN BEEF SOUP Tucked in one of the alleys (pictured above), you’ve to ask the vendors for direction. MUST-EAT. Locals here only, with old men drinking. Tears welled in my eyes as I ate the ox-tail soup (₩19K). Lip-smacking collagen orgasm! Seoul food, seoul good. Point on the menu the one that has 尾 in the title.
Jinju Jip Oxtail Soup
Rating: 5/5
Address: 34-31 Namchang-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 중구 남창동34-31)
T: +82 2 318 7072
Daily 24 hours
Name card:
jinju jipjinju jip direction

Namdaemun fried bun
2. Bulgogi Fried Pancake This stall stands near the entrance of subway station and the bulgogi fried pancake was good I went back to buy another one!
Namdaemun bulgogi pancake
Rating:4.3/5

Chinese buns Namdaemun
3. Chinese Buns Lots of people queued up for this (pictured above). There are pork buns and red bean buns – skip this. Singapore’s buns are better. Full address here:
Namdaemun chinese bun

To be continued…

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Categories: Seoul

29 replies »

  1. Always been an ardent fan of your blog albeit a silent one. guess I just broke my silence! Heading Korea in end Oct and you cannot believe how useful this is! Apart from the soy sauce crab I been wanting to try, Jinju Jip is definitely the next MUST-GO! Thank you!

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  2. Hi hi, I am planning to go korea next year too. Is it possible for you to email me your itinerary too? Your blog is very detailed, it sure will be helpful to a lot of first timers to korea. Thank you!

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  3. Thank you for all your posts for Korea. I will go to Korea for month (alone), and your itinerary will be mine light in this trip. I hope that if I lose myself in Korea someone will find me…So,, please wish me “good luck” and when I come back in Bulgaria I will tell you my experiences

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  4. you had it described so good that I made sure I dropped by when I was in Seoul recently. :). but may I ask if you find the soup and the meat a little disconnected? as in the soup did not have the meat sweetness and the meat lacks the soup flavor. or was it because I was unlucky to have my bowl served to me a lil bland? just sharing and just wondering. beef was tender and not gamely for sure.

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    • Hey Fabian, oh that’s the Korean style of eating. The soup is unseasoned so you have to add salt and pepper to your own liking. After I added salt and pepper, the soup was awesome! If you’re in Korea again, try to be there and add salt and pepper this time. It makes a lot difference!

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  5. Hello,

    Great information on here. Just wanted to ask if you need to reserve in advance for the guided tours or you just show up at the place on the designated time/s? Thanks! :)

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  6. Hello, your blogs are very informative! Thanks a lot. We’ll base our itinerary on yours!
    Btw, would you know if the Gyeongbokgung palaceis open on October 19-25, 2014. Will be there on these dates but as i checked on the website: http://www.royalpalace.go.kr/html/eng/guide/guide01_tab01.jsp?dep1=1&dep2=1
    I noticed the admission stated:
    June through August 09:00~18:30(Final admission at 17:30)
    November through February 09:00~17:00(Final admission at 16:00)
    Thanks! =)

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  7. Hey there! I really like the way you write! Before I left to South-Korea I read your posts here! Haha funny dude! But I’m happy me and my mate went searchign for the traditional local food stuff everytime we were hungry :-) that is the bigggest tip you could give!

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