6 Hidden Gems You Can Visit at Downtown Seoul

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With globalization, Seoul has become more complicated and sometimes excessively crowded. At times we might just want some quiet time alone for total relaxation, or longing for uninterrupted time with love ones, but with the crowds everywhere especially during the weekends, having some quality outdoor activity could be a luxury ^^;;; On my recent trip with KTO I was introduced to some sites worth exploring. These places are relatively quiet than the major tourist sports. If you were given half-day free to check out Seoul City Hall area, 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 love ones. If you need an injection of Korean arts, musical or simply want a good dip in the Korean culture and humanities in the downtown area, and if my suggestion matters, this half-day tour plan is great for you.

Downtown/ City Hall Half-day Tour Plan: 

Daehanmun Gate at Deoksugung Palace → Stone Wall Street → Seoul Museum of Art → Jungmyeongjeon Hall → Jeongdong First Methodist Church  → Jungdong Theatre

city hall tour(Click on map to enlarge) Just follow the sequence of Red → Blue → Green → Purple to complete the trip!

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 conduct daily changing of the Royal guards ceremony. Be sure to catch the ceremony on time. Read more about it here on my blog post about Deoksugung and the ceremony here: http://goo.gl/ujQ6Ko

Ceremony Schedule: 11:00, 14:00, 15:30 (Closed on Mondays)

deoksugung daehan gate

Daehanmun Gate at the entrance of Deoksugung Palace

Royal Guard Changing Ceremony.

Changing of Royal Guard Ceremony.

2. Stone Wall Street 덕수궁 돌담길 

The Deoksugung Stone Walk Street 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 stone wall street 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.

stone wall street

stone wall street deoksugung It was a bright and sunny afternoon 3pm when we visited the stone wall street. 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 pedestrian hence less chance to get photobombed kkkkkkkkkk

Autumn and Winter at Stone Wall Street Deoksugung. Picture courtesy of Walkstoremember.wordpress.com

Picture courtesy of Walkstoremember.wordpress.com

Autumn and winter at the stone wall street looks pretty amazing here. This background looks perfect for a pre-wedding photo shoot, no? For those who are searching for 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 of the beautiful building: It is build at the site of Gyeonghuigung Palace in 1988 and moved it its current location on May 2002. The entrance of the museum has a beautiful Renaissance Façade, originally part of the Supreme Court which was built in 1928.

Opening Hours: 

Weekdays: 10:00-20:00
Weekends & Holidays: 10:00-19:00
Nov- Feb: 10:00-18:00
Last Admission: 1 hr before closing.
Closed on Mondays.

seoul contemporary arts museum

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 at the 1st level are free for admission.  Do check the admission and exhibition details at the Museum ^^

museum seoul

Last Winter 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? ^^*

drama scene seoul contemporary arts museum

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 hand phone but was totally being ignored now then when Song-yi asked about it… kkkk

별그대 촬영현장 시립현대미술관

Min-joon explained that he bought the handphone out of convenient 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!

my love who comes from the stars. movie scene

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 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 movement of anti- Japanese occupation in Korea).

jeong dong first methodist church

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.

P5169749e1Jungmyeonjeon Hall looking gorgeous under the 3 o’clock sweltering sun. Personally I find this place another good option for outdoor couple photo shooting too!visiting jungmyeongjeon halljungmyeongjeon

The Chinese Characters of “Jungmyeonjeon” (重明殿). If you can read Chinese, you might noticed 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 character “目” was used as 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.

glass floor

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 were installed to better preserve the patterned tiles.

jungmyeongjeon hall

As the building was designed by Russian, we can see the influence of the west here in the building, especially from its arched pillars surrounded 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.

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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 everyday at 4pm and 8pm. 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

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Writer’s note:

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!

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