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Huwon Secret Garden Tour In Seoul (2023 Guide)

Huwon Secret Garden Tour In Seoul (2023 Guide)

The Huwon Secret Garden in Seoul is the highlight of Changdeokgung Palace. This complex was loved by Seoul’s royal family because it was built in harmony with the surrounding nature.

Huwon Secret Garden makes up about 60% of the Changdeokgung Palace grounds. But a limited amount of tickets are available because access to the garden is only allowed through guided tour.

In this Seoul guide, we will show you:

  • Where to find the Secret Garden
  • The best way to get tickets
  • What to expect when taking the Secret Garden guided tour
  • Highlights you will see in the garden grounds
  • Our personal photos from our visit

Without further ado, let’s explore the Huwon Secret Garden in Seoul!

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Our Experience In Seoul

Woman walking next to a wooden building in Huwon Secret Garden
Kristen inside the Huwon Secret Garden

We spent two weeks exploring Seoul in March 2023 after the covid lockdowns. Our goal is to bring you the most up to date info so you can plan the best possible Seoul trip.

During these two weeks, we personally visited Changdeokgung Palace and took the guided tour through Huwon Secret Garden. This guide features a walk through of our Secret Garden tour with tips for your visit.

What Is The Huwon Secret Garden?

Stretching an impressive 78 acres through Seoul, Huwon Secret Garden was created in the early 15th century during the reign of King Taejong.

These beautiful grounds allowed access to both Changdeokgung Palace or the nearby Changgyeonggung Palace so it quickly became an important place of rest for the royal family.

Popular leisurely activities inside Huwon Secret Garden included reading, poetry and thinking as well as archery, military drills and banquets.

During our tour, we learned many of the trees in the garden are over 300 years old and the landscaping throughout the grounds was designed to showcase minimal artificial features.

A tour through Huwon Secret Garden is one of the most interesting ways to learn about the Joseon Dynasty.

Free guided tour departure point in Changdeokgung Palace
Free guided tours sign inside Changdeokgung Palace

Where Is The Secret Garden In Seoul?

The Secret Garden in Seoul is located in the back of Changdeokgung Palace. This is arguably one of the most beautiful palaces in Seoul because it was built in harmony with surrounding nature.

Changdeokgung is the located on the eastern side of Seoul and here are the best subway stations for visiting the palace:

  • Anguk Station (line 3, exit 3)
  • Jongno 3-ga Station (line 1/3/5, exit 6)

After reading this guide, we recommend you read our Changdeokgung Palace guide which includes tips on how to get there and save money on tickets.

Ticket office for the Huwon Secret Garden in Changdeokgung Palace
Ticket office for the Huwon Secret Garden in Seoul

How Do You Get Tickets For The Huwon Secret Garden?

Only guided tours are available for the Huwon Secret Garden in Seoul. You must have a ticket for a guided tour in order to enter the garden.

Admission to the Secret Garden is limited to 100 visitors and there are two main ways you can get tickets for entry.

Half of these tickets can be reserved by online-reservation and the other half are available on site at Changdeokgung Palace on a first-come, first-serve basis.

If you have a Royal Palace Pass, just note you do not have automatic entry to the Secret Garden. You must exchange the Secret Garden voucher in your pass booklet for a valid timed-entry garden ticket.

Here is the current Secret Garden tour schedule:

  • Korean: 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00 (Mar-Oct), 16:30 (Jun-Aug)
  • English: 10:30, 11:30, 14:30, 15:30 (Feb-Nov)
  • Chinese: 12:30
  • Japanese: 13:30

Travel Tip: Tours and schedules are subject to change depending on unforeseeable circumstances so always double check times before your trip.

Long line of people waiting for entry into the Huwon Secret Garden
A long line of people waiting to enter Seoul’s Secret Garden

Our Huwon Secret Garden Tour Walkthrough

If you are planning to visit Changdeokgung Palace and the Secret Garden during your trip to Seoul, we will show you exactly what to expect in our walkthrough.

However, visiting both of these popular spots will take a few hours. So if you are still unsure, read through the rest of this guide to see if this guided tour through the garden is for you.

If you do not have tickets for Huwon Secret Garden when entering Changdeokgung Palace, we recommend you get your tickets first before they sell out.

Make a beeline for the Secret Garden Ticket Office to secure your guided tour ticket. This way you will know how much time you have inside the palace before visiting the garden.

Tickets for the Huwon Secret Garden cost KRW 5,000 and you must have a Changdeokgung Palace ticket or Royal Palace Pass voucher.

Travel Tip: If you rented a hanbok and received free entry into the palace, you will have to purchase a Huwon Secret Garden ticket separately.

Here are 10 best things to do in Huwon Secret Garden:

The two story Juhamnu Pavilion in Huwon Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace
Gorgeous view of Juhamnu Pavilion with Eosumun Gate

1. Juhamnu Pavilion + Buyongji Pond

One of the first attractions you will see inside Seoul’s Secret Garden is Juhamnu Pavilion. This gorgeous two story pavilion served as a library on the first floor and reading room on the second floor.

Juhamnu Pavilion was constructed in 1776 during the reign of King Jeongjo. This library was critical for King Jeongjo because he felt tremendous pressure in power and used the space to strengthen his mind.

We learned the small gate leading up to the pavilion is the Eosumun Gate. The name was a reminder to the king that a fish can not live out of water and he must always respect the people.

Buyongji is a rectangular pond with a small island in the middle located directly across from the large pavilion. This is an incredibly peaceful spot inside the garden and easily one of our favorites.

During our guided tour, we were given a short time to explore this area. Visitors can not go inside Juhamnu Pavilion, but they can walk up to Eosumun Gate.

Photography Tip: Juhamnu Pavilion is an extremely popular photo spot to see the beautiful fall foliage.

Tour guide inside Huwon Secret Garden
Our tour guide explaining the significance of Yeonghwadang Pavilion (not pictured)

2. Yeonghwadang Pavilion

Another interesting building from the Joseon Dynasty, this smaller pavilion was originally enjoyed by the king and his visitors who enjoyed poetry or nature.

But this pavilion later become a peaceful place where exams could be organized and administered.

These civil service examinations under the Joseon Dynasty were difficult tests that were very demanding. They tested the candidates knowledge of Chinese Classics and technical subjects.

Aeryeonjeong Pavilion inside Huwon Secret Garden
The Aeryeonjeong Pavilion next to a calm Aeryeonji Pond

3. Aeryeonjeong Pavilion + Aeryeonji Pond

After passing the garden at Juhamnu Pavilion, you will come to Aeryeonjeong Pavilion, which was built in 1692 during the reign of King Sukjong. It is located on Aeryeonji Pond hanging about half way over the water.

Aeryeonjeong Pavilion was originally placed in the center of the pond on an island, but it was eventually moved to it’s current location on the side of the pond so it faces north to allow for better reading light.

This entire area in Huwon Secret Garden is an excellent example of deign and beauty as these structures are in perfect unison with the surrounding nature.

The lucky Bulromun inside Huwon Secret Palace
The famous and lucky Bulromun Gate

4. Bulromun Gate

During your Secret Garden tour, you will pass under Bulromun Gate. This gate is significant because everyone who passes underneath it will be blessed with a long life and good health.

Our tour guide stopped for a brief second here so we could learn a little bit more about the gate.

Travel Tip: If you don’t make it to the Secret Garden, a Bulromun Gate replica can be found inside the Gyeongbokgung Station.

View of Seonhyangjae Hall with numerous trees and a small bridge
Exterior view of the buildings near Seonhyangjae Hall

5. Seonhyangjae Hall

After passing under Bulromun Gate, you will enter a section of the garden where the royal family in Seoul often resided and held banquets.

One of these buildings was Seonhyangjae Hall, which was built as the study next to Yeongyeongdang Hall. This building served as another library and school for the royal family.

It’s interesting to note this was once one of the most luxurious buildings in Korea because it features a sun shade on the western side, a wooden heated floor and a bronze plate that once hung from the roof.

Exterior view of Yeongyeongdang Hall in Huwon Secret Garden
The beautiful Yeongyeongdang Hall inside Huwon Secret Garden

6. Yeongyeongdang Hall

Built in 1828 by Crown Prince Hyomyeong for Jinjakrye (the royal banquet ritual), Yeongyeongdang Hall was used as a ceremonial place for both his mother, Queen Sunwon and his father, King Sunjong.

However, this hall was often used as the men’s quarters and it was also where the master of the house lived. All guests would be required to walk the three stairs, take of their shoes and wait on the wooden veranda.

We loved learning about how this hall was created because the windows on each side of the building feature windows that can be lifted in summer to let the breeze in.

Two dragons on the ceiling of Jondeokjeong Pavilion in Huwon Secret Garden
The stunning ceiling of Jondeokjeong Pavilion

7. Jondeokjeong Pavilion

Another important pavilion inside Huwon Secret Garden is Jondeokjeong Pavilion. We highly recommend you get close enough to look up at the two colorful dragons playing on the ceiling.

This pavilion is set on a small pond with beautiful views surrounding the garden. Our tour stopped here for another brief moment as our tour guided explained more about the royal family.

The fan shaped Gwallamjeong Pavilion in Seoul
Gwallamjeong Pavilion view from a distance

8. Gwallamjeong Pavilion

Located along Bandoji Pong, Gwallamjeong Pavilion is shaped like an extended fan. The floor and the roof of this pavilion were built with curved materials to suit the morphology of the structure.

No one officially knows when this pavilion was constructed, but it is estimated between the end of the Joseon Dynasty and the early colonial period.

We loved how private this pavilion appeared as it seemed to be tucked away hidden from the rest of the Secret Garden.

A rice field with Cheonguijeong Pavilion
Cheonguijeong Pavilion next to a small rice field

9. Ongnyucheon Stream

The Ongnyucheon Stream and the Eojeong Well pass through Huwon Secret Garden. This stream was designed with a simple stone bridge connecting numerous pavilions throughout the complex.

These bridges are perfect for pedestrians to explore more of the gardens. Next to the Eojeong Eell, you will find a large natural rock, a curved waterway and a manmade waterfall.

Don’t miss Cheonguijeong Pavilion because it features a straw-thatched roof and it’s located in the center of a small rice field. Your tour should stop in this location.

Chinese Juniper Tree inside Changdeokgung Palace
The gorgeous Chinese Juniper Tree inside Changdeokgung Palace

10. The Chinese Juniper Tree

As our tour concluded, we passed the 750 year old Chinese Juniper Tree, which is now designated and protected as a Korean National Monument.

This impressive tree measures 12m (40 ft) in height and 5.9m (19 ft) in circumference. The branches typically spread out in all directions, but it has been trimmed to to help the tree stay alive.

The Chinese Juniper Tree is significant because is has a very strong smell and is used as incense for ceremonies. It is very common to see this type of tree in gardens or parks in Korea.

Travel Tip: This tree will be located on the left hand side as you exit the Huwon Secret Garden guided tour.

Best Time To Visit The Huwon Secret Garden In Seoul

The best time to visit Seoul’s Secret garden would be in spring around early to mid-April for cherry blossom season or early October for the fall foliage.

But even if you can’t visit the Huwon Secret Garden during these two times, the gardens will still be beautiful. These grounds feature Joseon Dynasty design and architecture at its best.

We have seen gorgeous photos of Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon Secret Garden draped in snow, so winter would also be a magical time as well.

The moral of the story is you can’t go wrong visiting Huwon Secret Garden at any time, but if you want to see serious pops of colors, early to mid-April or early October would be your best bet!

Pink and yellow flowers in bloom in Seoul during March
Gorgeous flowers in bloom during spring season inside the Huwon Secret Garden

Is The Secret Garden In Seoul Worth Visiting?

Yes, we thought our guided tour through Huwon Secret Garden was worth it. We visited in spring just as the cherry blossoms were blooming and it was absolutely stunning through the grounds.

But the tour will take 90 minutes and tickets may sell out. Here are pros and cons to visiting Huwon Secret Garden so you can decide if this is the right activity for you.

Pros To Visiting The Huwon Secret Garden

  • Ability to tour a garden loved by Seoul’s royal family
  • The guided tour provides insight into the history of the grounds
  • Unique experience you won’t get at the other palace in Seoul

Cons To Visiting The Huwon Secret Garden

  • Tickets can sell out quickly in peak season
  • You can’t visit the gardens on your own and you must be with a tour
  • The guided tour takes about 90 mins so you need enough time

Changdeokgung Palace Secret Garden Photos

We loved our tour of the Huwon Secret Garden inside Changdeokgung Palace and took many photos. Here are a few of our favorites:

Numerous wooden buildings inside a royal palace in South Korea
A section of wooden buildings inside a royal palace in Seoul
A small pavilion and pong inside Huwon Secret Garden
A small pavilion and pond inside Seoul’s Secret Garden
Tourists on a guide tour inside the Secret Garden in Seoul
Our tour group inside Huwon Secret Garden in Seoul
Eosumun Gate near Juhamnu Pavilion in Seoul, South Korea
Close up view of Eosumun Gate near Huwon’s large two story pavilion
The large stone walls of Huwon Secret Garden in Seoul, South Korea
Large stone walls leading to the Secret Garden
Perspective photo of Ongnyucheon Stream inside a wooden pavilion
Ongnyucheon Stream view from a pavilion
Exterior view of buildings inside the gardens of Changdeokgung Palace
Gorgeous wooden palace buildings in Seoul
Lockers for personal storage inside Changdeokgung Palace
Lockers for storage inside Changdeokgung Palace
Visitors outside Changdeokgung Palace with a line forming for the cafe
Numerous visitors outside Changdeokgung Palace
Intricate ceilings and colorful roofs inside the Seoul's Secret Garden
Beautiful stone work inside the Huwon Secret Garden
Visitors on a guided tour in Huwon Secret Garden
Our tour group exploring Huwon Secret Garden
Two informational signs describing an important building in Seoul
There are a few informational signs inside Huwon Secret Garden (but you will learn more from your guide)
Bright pink flowers in bloom
Vibrant flowers blooming inside a royal palace in Seoul

Huwon Secret Garden FAQ’s

Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about the Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon Secret Garden in Seoul.

How long does the Secret Garden tour last in Seoul?

The guided tour of Seoul’s Secret Garden lasts for about 90 minutes and there is quite a bit of walking involved.

Which palace in Seoul has the Secret Garden?

Changdeokgung Palace is the complex in Seoul with Huwon Secret Garden. You will need to purchase an additional ticket for admission to the Secret Garden (KRW 5,000).

What is the best highlight of Huwon Secret Garden?

When visiting Seoul’s Secret Garden, you should not miss the Juhamnu Pavilion, Yeonghwadang Pavilion, Bulromun Gate, Ongnyucheon Stream and the Chinese Juniper Tree.

More Seoul Palaces

Want more Seoul content? Head over to our South Korea Travel Guides to explore the very best of Seoul and beyond.

We hope this guide featuring the Huwon Secret Garden helps with planning your visit to the Changdeokgung Palace!

Please let us know if you have any questions about visiting Seoul’s Secret Garden in the comments below!

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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