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Secret Garden Fit for a King

Many kings, actually. Yesterday we visited Changdeokgung Palace, built in 1405 and — second to the Gyeongbokgung Palace — the palace from which many Joseon dynasty emperors ruled, including the last reigning one, Emperor Sunjong, who ruled until 1910. Like the Jongmyo Shrine, this palace is also a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the way its buildings and design are integrated with nature. It was Will’s first palace visit in Seoul.

The palace grounds are immense, 110 acres if I remember correctly. Many different areas and so many buildings — whether housing quarters for queens, concubines, princes, or staff, or meeting halls, ceremonial halls, horse stables, storage rooms, etc. — it’s easy to get lost looking around. We were there for hours and I still don’t think we saw everything. Once you pay admission into the palace, you can explore freely. If you want to visit the palace’s Secret Garden, however, you need to pay a separate admission fee and go in with a guided tour group. They give the tours in various languages, several times daily.

The Secret Garden (aka Rear Garden) is even larger than the main palace grounds, taking up almost 60 percent of the entire area of the Changdeokgung Palace. Its acres and acres are filled with ponds, streams, gazebos, pavilions and many beautiful walking paths. The garden was meant as a place for the kings and their royal family members to relax, but also used for military exercises, archery contests, banquets and growing certain grains. Since it is also located next to the Changgyeonggung Palace, it was used by members of both palaces.

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