Seoul, South Korea: March 2015 (Part 1: Airport Transfer, Palace and Hanok Village)

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

Seoul, South Korea: March 2015 (Part 1: Airport Transfer, Palace and Hanok Village)

After several flights and a day in Tokyo we had finally arrived at our final destinations of Seoul! We went through customs then headed to the baggage claim to grab my bag and inquire about Joe’s lost luggage (he will talk about that adventure in a future post).  It was finally time to get a ride to the center of Seoul.

Our Trip so far!

We stayed at the Park Hyatt Seoul on this trip and before we arrived I had read a few things on what would be the best way to get there after our flight. The route that I decided sounded the easiest and most reasonably priced – the KAL Limousine Bus.  There are several routes which serve most of the major hotels in the city.  I was a little nervous about catching it when we landed as I knew the last bus to our area was at 10:50pm and by the time we went though customs and talked to the baggage people it was 10:40pm!  However, it all worked out very well and quite easily.  We found the KAL counter just outside the baggage area and although it was empty, someone quickly approached us to let us know that we could stand by the signs for your route outside and pay as you boarded.

KAL bus seoul park hyatt

Our route to Park Hyatt Seoul

On the signs they list the different hotels that the route serves.  This sign was literally directly out of the door when we walked outside.

kal bus seoul park hyatt

Our Bus

kal bus seoul park hyatt

Headed to Gangnam

Once outside we stood by the sign and waited for the bus to arrive, which it did almost exactly on time.  The driver came out and sold us a ticket for 16,000 Won each (under $16), loaded our bags and it was time to head out.

kal bus seoul park hyatt

Our ticket for 16,000 Won (under $16)

kal bus seoul park hyatt

Our almost private ride

Our seats were actually really comfortable and reclined a lot more than any bus I have ever been on, which was good since I was exhausted and fell asleep on the hour ride to the hotel.  There was also a TV up front and WiFi available for purchase.

kal bus seoul park hyatt

TV Screen up front

kal bus seoul park hyatt

WiFi available for purchase while you ride

kal bus seoul park hyatt

It’s been a long day, the seat reclined more than you can tell here

The bus made 2 other stops for the 2 other passengers and then dropped us off right across the street from the Park Hyatt Seoul!

Park Hyatt Seoul

Park Hyatt Seoul (yeah, that is a Helipad on top)

Park Hyatt Seoul

Park Hyatt Seoul

This place was FANTASTIC and I will have a FULL REVIEW of it later this week, but I can only say great things about this place.  It is located in the Gangnam District of Seoul which is good and bad, but again, I will discuss that later.

After a great night sleep in a real bed for the first time in almost 2 days it was time for an OUTSTANDING breakfast at the Park Hyatt and then off to see the sites!  Our first stop was originally going to be Gyeongbokgung Palace but of course, just like our day in Tokyo, it was closed the one day (Tuesday) we wanted to go there!  However, it was easy to change course and see some of the other great palaces in the area and we could go there another day!

At the Park Hyatt there is a subway station directly in front of the hotel that can take you to everywhere in the city and is very easy to navigate.  It is also one of the least confusing subways pricing systems as almost every ride, regardless of the number of stops or transfers was 1,000 won (under $1).  Overall we were impressed with transportation here. TIP: Ask the front desk at the Park Hyatt Seoul or other hotels for subway cards as some have special hotel cards that already have money on it and are easily reloadable.

seoul south korea subway

Subway screens showing where the next train is, with your stop on the far right

seoul south korea metro subway

Such a happy Subway

Our first stop was at Anguk on the 3 line (Orange) in the Jongno Area which puts you right in the middle of numerous historical sites including our first stop at Changdeokgung Palace which is actually a UNESCO Heritage site.

(CLICK TO ENLARGE, a few of these pictures may appear sideways, we are working on how to fix this)

seoul Changdeokgung Palace south korea unesco

UNESCO Heritage Site

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

Front gate of Changdeokgung

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

Front gate of Changdeokgung

After getting off the subway it was about 3 blocks down on our left and you can’t miss it.  The entrance fee is around $2-3, which was pretty standard for most of these historic places and I found to be really reasonable considering we spent over an hour there.  After going through the gate we began to explore and quickly realized that it was a HUGE complex and an outstanding first stop.  You can also pay a little more and see the Secret Garden behind the palace but you must take a tour as well which we weren’t interested in.

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

Main Throne Room

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

Main Throne Room without us in the way

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

Entrance to throne area

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

Throne

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

Throne Room

This was the second palace after Gyeongbokgung and one of five Grand Palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty from 1392-1897.  It was originally built in the 1400’s and then reconstructed twice in the 1600’s after being burnt down.

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

Here are some more pictures from this awesome palace:

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

Seoul Tower in the background

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

Changdeokgung Palace seoul south korea unesco

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

Following this we decided to walk a few blocks up the road to the Bukchon Hanok Village which has become very touristy but is a great area to walk around and is a traditional Korean village set between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung.  We walked up Bukchon-ro from Yulgok-ro where we eventually found a very small visitor center on our right which had maps of the area which we glanced at but really just walk around and enjoyed the views.  There are lots of small alleys, narrow roads and tons of hills, so if you have trouble climbing stairs this area may be difficult.

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

First narrow road leading to the village

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

Korean Tourists in traditional dress from the local shop

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

Door to one of the houses

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

Rooftops in the village

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

More Rooftops

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

My favorite picture

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

Joe walking the streets

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

More narrow streets

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

Beautiful streets of Bukchon Hanok

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

More great street views

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

Two of the only people not taking selfies every where

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

Nearing the edge of the village

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

Look over at Gyeongbukgung

We had started our visit on the east side of the village and ended it on the west side coming out on to a road that I don’t recall the name of but eventually turned into Insadong-gil when we crossed the main road. This was a great little pedestrian street with tons of places to eat and small shops.

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

Pedestrian Street

bukchon hanok village seoul south korea

Pedestrian Street

We walked down this path and into the Insa-dong district which is touristy but also with some great street food and shops.  This is where we will pick up from in our next installment (Part 2)!

Still have Seoul Tower, more Palaces, Korean Baseball and more to come!  Stay tuned!

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