We made our way towards Myeongdong Cathedral after getting the daily fix at Isaac Toast. The eat-as-we-walk breakfast was such a delightful treat to start the day. Myeongdong Cathedral is located along the busy streets of Myeongdong and it’s said to be the first Western-style building in the country. Its Gothic design is indeed a standout in the area. And the high ceiling interior is fitted with nice stained-glass windows like most Gothic churches. The quiet St. Mary’s garden behind the cathedral is where the believers stop by for quick prayers.
Stepping back in time at the Gyeongbokgung
Visiting Gyeongbokgung (景福宮) is easy, being a short subway ride away from Myeongdong. Gyeongbokgung was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty and known to be the largest of its kind. The palace suffered the ill fate of several destructions due to previous wars and Japanese invasions. Thankfully, the Koreans saw the need to retain this cultural heritage and began a painstaking process for the past 20+ years in restoring Gyeongbokgung. And it will probably take some more years to fully restore all of the buildings.
The main entrance is Gwanghwamun Gate (光化門) with three arched doors and a double roof. We arrived just in time to catch the changing of the Royal Guards which happens twice daily (except Tuesday when the palace is closed). The re-enactment showcases to visitors on how the traditional handover was done in the past.
The ticket counters will be on the right upon entering from Gwanghwamun Gate. Thereafter, we have to pass the Heungnyemun Gate (興禮門) to the inner courtyard where Geunjeongjeon Hall (勤政殿) is located.
Geunjeongjeon Hall is the throne hall where the king would handle states affairs and hold meetings. The elaborated ceiling really stands out but it’s a pity that visitors can only admire the grand hall from the outside.
Gyeonghoeru Pavilion (慶會樓) sits peacefully on a pond and was used for grand banquets in the past.
There are way too many halls to be explored so we decided to move on to the National Folk Museum due to time constraints. The museum provides a glimpse of the Koreans living in traditional times.
Old Seoul at Bukchon Hanok Village
We continued to Bukchon Hanok Village after a brief lunch stop at Samcheong-dong to fill our stomachs and rest our feet. The uphill village is home to Hanoks, or traditional Korean houses, that are dated back to the Joseon Dynasty. It is well-preserved to showcase the living environment back in the days.
The houses are now mostly filled with tea rooms, cafes, restaurants, guesthouses despite being a residential area for some. There are signages and elderly Koreans being deployed to request for quietness in the neighbourhood. I suppose this is necessary especially with the influx of tourists roaming around here.
The Arty-farty Insadong
Insadong is commonly known to be the old school art district in Seoul. The street along this Artsy place sells anything from art pieces, traditional Korean paper, paper fans, handicraft, wooden toys, Hangul stamps and more. Similarly, there are plenty of souvenir items which can be found here too.
We also visited the famous Ssamziegil mall which has nice quirky shops and cafes in it.
The roof garden on the top floor is another interesting place where many round-shaped love notes are.
Our dinner was at Sinpo Woori Mandoo restaurant which is famous for their handmade dumplings.
Thereafter, we went over to Gwanghwamun square to take some touristy shots before heading off to Ewha Woman’s University Fashion Street. It is, after all, a shopping street caters mainly to the female students from the famous University. Hence, the things sold here are seemingly much more affordable.