How To Visit Changdeokgung Palace (+ The Secret Garden)


Where Are Those Morgans Changdeokgung Palace guide

Changdeokgung Palace is one of the most popular things to do in Seoul because it’s home to the Huwon Secret Garden. It was the second royal palace built during the Joseon Dynasty and has since become a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring beautiful architecture and harmony with nature.

In this guide, we’re going to show you exactly what to see inside Changdeokgung Palace including how to take a free guided tour and how to get tickets for the famous secret garden.

Our Seoul Experience

Woman posing for a photo next to a cherry blossom tree in Seoul
Kristen inside Changdeokgung Palace next to a cherry blossom tree

We spent 14 days exploring Seoul in March 2023. During this trip, we personally visited Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon Secret Garden. This is one of the popular palaces in Seoul and it was extremely busy because it was the beginning of cherry blossom season.

Since this was one of more well known palaces, we decided to take the free guided tour through both Changdeokgung Palace and the Huwon Secret Garden. Our guide will show you what to expect and how to plan your day so you can see both attractions too. Read more about us.

Changdeokgung Palace History

A vibrant pink cherry blossom along side a smaller purple bush
A large vibrant blooming cherry blossom inside Changdeokgung

Constructed in 1405, Changdeokgung Palace was created as a secondary palace during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1410). This is the second oldest palace in Seoul after Gyeongbokgung. Unfortunately like many other palaces, it was heavily destroyed during the Japanese invasion from 1592-1598, but it was rebuilt in 1610.

Changdeokgung Palace then served as the main palace in Seoul for 270 years. It was loved more than any other palace by the kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty because it was home to the Huwon Secret Garden.

This garden was essential because it provided an intimate space for the royal family to enjoy numerous outdoor activities such as military exercises, archery and parties. Changdeokgung was built in harmony with the surrounding mountains and landscape preserving original topography as much as possible.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Changdeokgung Palace complex is a must do activity in Seoul because visitors can walk the same paths as the previous kings and queens.

Visitor Information

Combination tickets for the royal palace pass in Seoul
Our Royal Palace Pass for Changdeokgung Palace

Known as the eastern palace, Changdeokgung is the located on the eastern side of Seoul. It’s open every day of the week from 9:00-17:00 or 18:30 depending on time of year, but it’s closed Monday. Last admission is one hour before closing so make sure you give yourself enough time when visiting.

  • Address: 99 Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
  • Location: Google Maps
  • Best subway stop: Anguk Station (line 3, exit 3) or Jongno 3-ga Station (line 1/3/5, exit 6)

Admission tickets for Changdeokgung Palace cost 3,000 KRW for adults (US$ 2.26), and 2,400 KRW  (US$ 1.81) with groups of 10 or more. Visitors over the age of 65 and children under the age of 19 will receive free entry into the palace. You can also visit for free on Culture Day, which is the last Wednesday of every month.

We think the easiest way to purchase tickets is on site, but if you plan to visit all 5 of Seoul’s royal palaces, you should consider the royal palace pass. This is what we used to visit Changdeokgung Palace.

The royal palace pass costs 10,000 KRW (US $7.53) and it’s valid for three months from the date of purchase. This pass can only be purchased from the sites listed below:

  • Gyeongbokgung
  • Changdeokgung
  • Changgyeonggung
  • Deoksugung
  • Jongmyo Shrine

It’s a good opportunity for those who want to visit numerous palaces in the city because it will save you a little bit of money. Additionally, it also saved us some time by not having to wait in a long ticket line.

Huwon Secret Garden Tickets

A ticket for entrance into the Huwon Secret Garden
Our admission ticket for the Huwon Secret Garden

While you can visit Changdeokgung Palace on you own, you can only visit the Huwon Secret Garden via tour by an official palace guide. Admission to the garden will be indicated by the tour time on your ticket and you won’t be allowed to enter at any other time.

You’ll have to pay an additional 5,000 KRW for adults (US$ 3.76), and 2,500 KRW for children (US$ 1.85) for children to enter the Huwon Secret Garden. If you have the royal palace pass, you won’t have to pay this additional fee, but you’re required to exchange your Secret Garden voucher for a valid ticket.

Admission to the Huwon Secret Garden is limited to 100 people per tour. You can book tickets on site or online via this website here. Half of the tickets can be reserved online and the other half are allotted on a first-come, first-served basis at the palace. When we visited, the ticketing website was not available so everyone had to book on site and it was extremely chaotic. We recommend you book online to secure your spot.

Here is the current tour schedule for the secret garden:

  • Korean: 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00 (Mar to Oct), 16:30 (Jun to Aug)
  • English: 10:30, 11:30, 14:30, 15:30 (Mar to Nov), 10:30, 11:30, 14:30 (Dec to Feb)
  • Chinese: 12:30 (Tues, Thurs + Sat)
  • Japanese: 13:30 (Wed, Fru + Sun)

All tours start at the entrance of Huwon Secret Garden. Our tour started right on time after everyone had their tickets verified. You can visit the official website for more information.

Hanbok Rentals

Admission to Changdeokgung Palace is free for anyone wearing a hanbok. This is traditional Korean clothing and it’s very common for people to have their hair done for the occasion as well.

When you visit the palace, you can expect to see numerous tourists dressed in hanboks. If you want to rent you own, this Hanbok rental is a very popular option. The pick up spot is located between both Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palace so you could visit both palaces in the same day if you planned well.

Travel Tip: If you want to visit the Huwon Secret Garden, you’ll have purchase an additional ticket even if you’re wearing a hanbok.

Changdeokgung Tours

A beautifully colored building in Seoul, South Korea
Beautifully colored buildings can be found all through the palace complex

There are many ways you can experience Changdeokgung Palace. You can use the free informational brochures provided in numerous languages to walk around the grounds and learn about the various buildings on your own. Or you can rent an audioguide at the main entrance.

When we visited, we took the 10:15 free guided english tour provided on site and it was well worth our time. You can expect a tour to last between 60 and 90 minutes. The tours begin at the large information board near the main entrance. Here are the guided tour times for the palace:

  • Korean: 9:30, 11:30, 13:30, 15:30, 16:30 (Mar-Oct)
  • English: 10:15, 13:15
  • Chinese: 10:00 (Tues, Thurs, Sat)
  • Japanese: 11:00 (Wed, Fri, Sun)

If you can’t visit during the free guided tour hoursyou can book a tour with a third party company. Many of these tours include admission to the palace as well as some of the best things to do in Seoul.

Here are highly rated tours:

10 Best Things To Do In Changdeokgung Palace

The highlight of Changdeokgung Palace is without a doubt Huwon Secret Garden. However, access to this garden is limited and if you don’t get a ticket, you won’t be able to enter. We made the Huwon Secret Garden our priority when visiting because the garden extends to more than half of the complex.

But even if you don’t visit the secret garden, we recommend you try to take one of the free guided tours. Here is what to see at Changdeokgung Palace:

1. Huwon Secret Garden

The large pavilion and library inside the Huwon Secret Garden in Seoul, South Korea

The Huwon Secret Garden is located at the rear of Changdeokgung Palace. It spans an impressive 78 acres and takes up 60% of the entire palace grounds. It was primarily used by the royal family as a place of rest as it gave them much needed privacy.

Highlights of the garden include numerous pavilions, libraries, living quarters, beautiful Chinese juniper trees and so much more. We won’t get into much detail about the garden because we want to focus on the palace in this guide. But if you want to see a walk through of our tour, you can read our guide for the Huwon Secret Garden next.


2. Take A Tour

Large group during a guided tour inside Changdeokgung Palace
Our large group during the morning english guided tour

As we mentioned above, we took the free guided tour inside Changdeokgung Palace. There are a few small informational signs scattered around the palace, but overall we’re happy we took the tour because we learned much more than we would have without it.

Our tour lasted 90 minutes and we had an extremely knowledgeable guide who spoke great English. We stopped a handful of times at important points of interest throughout the complex. If your interested in learning about the history of the palace or Seoul in general, we highly recommend you consider a tour.

Travel Tip: Free guided tours are also available at other royal palaces with the exception of Gyeonghuigung.

3. Donhwamun Gate

The large and two tiered Donhwamun Gate
The stunning two-tiered Donhwamun Gate

Donhwamun Gate is the main gate of Changdeokgung Palace and the largest among all other palace gates in Seoul. This is the main entrance and you’ll walk directly beneath the gate to enter the complex.

Throughout history, Donhwamun Gate served as the king’s entrance, whereas the king’s subjects would use the west Geumhomun Gate. A bell and drum used to hang from the upper floor which signaled curfew time. It was also used for surveillance and has since been enlarged for automobiles.

We think Donhwamun Gate is one of the best gates in Seoul because it’s extremely intricate yet very simple. But it can be an incredibly busy photography spot with numerous visitors taking photos on the wide stone platform out front.

4. Geumcheongyo Bridge

Geumcheongyo Bridge with an empty stream
An empty stream underneath Geumcheongyo Bridge

Geumcheongyo Bridge is a must see in Changdeokgung Palace because it’s the oldest standing stone bridge within the Seoul royal palaces. Constructed in 1411 by King Taejong, Geumcheongyo Bridge is 12.9m long and 12.5m wide featuring two arches.

The Geumcheon Stream originally flowed between the main gate of Changdeokgung Palace and Jinseonmun Gate. Although the stream now runs dry, crossing the bridge symbolized cleansing. The bridge was believed to help palace visitors cleanse their worldly burdens before meeting with the king.

5. Injeongjeon Hall

Maine throne hall inside Changdeokgung Palace
Interior view of the main throne hall

Located in the center of the complex, Injeongjeon is the throne hall of Changdeokgung Palace. Important events such as the king’s accession to the throne, state official examinations, royal banquets and assembly of subjects were often held here.

Visitors are not allowed to enter Injeongjeon Hall, but you can peak inside to see gorgeous examples of Korean architecture. We loved the beautifully colored and innately carved ceiling. Only a few people can look inside at the same time so you might need to wait your turn, especially if you’re on a tour.

Travel Tip: As you walk up to the throne hall, you’ll notice several stone markers inscribed with the ranks of court officials. These were used during royal rituals and every official would stand by their corresponding marker with higher ranks closer to the king.

6. Seonjeongjeon Hall

The famous blue green tiles found inside Changdeokgung palace in Seoul
Don’t miss the beautiful blue tiles of Seonjeongjeon Hall

Seonjeongjeon Hall is a one story building where the king would often work and it was built next to the king’s sleeping quarters. During meetings, the king would sit on his throne and his subjects were permitted to take their seats on both sides of him. A scribe would also record what was discussed during each meeting.

We learned during our tour, Seonjeongjeon Hall has the only existing blue tiled palace roof. Sections of this hall were closed during our visit, but we could still view the beautiful blue tiles. And if you look closely at our photo, you can clearly see the difference in color between the two roofs.

7. Huijeongdang Hall

Interior of the kings hall at Changdeokgung Palace
Interior view of Huijeongdang Hall

Directly next to Seonjeongjeon Hall, you’ll find Huijeongdang Hall. This building was used as a women’s residence and then it was later converted into another office for the king. It was here the king would often meet with officials to discuss political issues.

The original building was destroyed by a fire in 1917, but it was rebuilt in 1920 with materials from Gangnyeongjeon Hall of Gyeongbokgung Palace. This building was closed during our visit, but our tour guide spoke about it extensively.

8. Daejojeon Hall

Located behind the king’s residence, you’ll find Daejojeon Hall, otherwise known as the queen’s residence and this is the only building to not have a crest of ridge on the roof. Sadly, Daejojeon Hall was lost several times by fire, but it was rebuilt every time.

Today, there are massive bronze mirrors at the edge of the base to help ward off fire. It was a common belief the god of fire was frightened at seeing his own shape reflected in the water. This hall was completely closed when we visited for a private event so we could not take a photo of it.

Travel Tip: Daejojeon Hall is where numerous kings and queens spent their remaining days as well as the birth place of Crown Prince Hyomyeong.

9. Seongjeonggak Hall

Visitors walking as part of a large group during a guided tour in a Seoul palace
Our tour group exploring the Changdeokgung grounds

Seongjeonggak Hall is unique because it’s where the crown princes were educated. The building is located on the eastern section of the complex and it’s believed to have been built during King Sukjong’s reign (1674–1720).

In addition to serving as a learning space for the princes, Seongjeonggak Hall was also a popular place for the kings to read with various buildings such as Huiuru and Bochunjeong Pavilions nearby.

10. Nakseonjae Hall

A colorful pavilion next to cherry blossoms and intricately painted buildings
Exterior view of Nakseonjae Hall

Built by King Heonjong in 1847, this hall features unique architecture without dancheong (or multi-color painting) you’ll commonly see throughout the other sections of Changdeokgung. Next to Nakseonjae Hall, you can also find Seokbokheon House and Sugangjae Hall. These buildings were used for the king’s grandmother, the king’s consort and Empress Sunjeonghyo.

It’s located very close to the entrance of the Huwon Secret Garden and showcases a stunning stone terraced flowerbed with beautifully designed chimneys. The cherry blossoms were just starting to appear during our visit in March and this was an extremely beautiful spot.

The Morgan Conclusion

Visiting the Changdeokgung Palace is a great way to learn about Korean History. This is one of the best preserved palaces in Seoul and it’s a stunning complex featuring the Huwon Secret Garden. Visitors can also take advantage of the free guided tours offered in numerous languages.

So is Changdeokgung Palace worth visiting?

Yes, the Changdeokgung Palace is worth visiting because it’s the most unique palace in Seoul. It was built in harmony with the surrounding landscape and features a secret garden. The palace is also located directly next to Changgyeonggung Palace so you can easily visit both in one day like we did.

We think Changdeokgung is one of the most beautiful palaces because it served as the main palace for 270 years and it became very popular with the Korean royal family due to the accessibility of the Huwon Secret Garden. In addition, the complex showcases stunning architecture including a blue tiled roof and one of the oldest standing stone bridges.

However, it’s an expansive complex and you’ll need a few hours to visit with a very large amount of walking required. We spent about 4 hours inside Changdeokgung with a 90 minute guided tour of the garden and a 90 minute guided tour of the palace. But you can shorten this time frame by visiting on your own.

Our Changdeokgung Palace Photos

We enjoyed our visit to the palace and took many photos. Here are a few of our favorites so you know exactly what to expect:

Woman standing inside a wooden door frame inside Changdeokgung Palace
Kristen posing for a photo inside a wooden door frame at Changdeokgung Palace
Perspective shot of the main throne hall inside Changdeokgung Palace
Perspective photo of Donhwamun Gate with our tour group
Close up view of budding cherry blossoms in Seoul
Close up shot of the gorgeous cherry blossoms in March
A beautifully colored building in Seoul, South Korea
Visitors walking through Seonjeongjeon Hall
Woman reading an informational sign about Changdeokgung Palace
Kristen reading about the palace from an informational board
Perceptive shot of Korean stone markers
Close up view of the stone markers near the main throne hall
Large gates and lush trees inside in Seoul, South Korea
Large gates and cherry blossoms are scattered throughout the palace
Informational pamphlets offered in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean
Informational brochures are available in numerous language
A colorful room inside a Soul palace featuring the moon and mountains
Interior view of the large throne hall
Injeongjeon Hall with visitors waiting in line to peek inside
Exterior view of Injeongjeon Hall with numerous visitors looking inside
Narrow and intricate alleyways inside Changdeokgung Palace
The intricate and narrow alleyways of Changdeokgung Palace
A small budding cherry tree inside Changdeokgung Palace
A vibrant cherry blossom among the beautiful buildings
A small and colorful gate inside a Korean royal palace
Another large gate inside the palace complex

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We hope this guide featuring best things to do at Changdeokgung Palace helps with planning your visit to Seoul!

Please let us know if you have any questions about visiting the palace or Seoul in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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