Biwon Secret Garden, Seoul
We went here on our first visit to Seoul. It was necessary to go round on a guided tour - unfortunately. It was pretty, but winter is not the best time to visit a garden. I did, however, like the frozen pond. I would go back here in a different season. Spring or autumn would definitely be lovely.The gardens are the grounds of Changdeokgung Palace.
Changdeokgung Palace meansThe Palace of Prospering Virtue. It is at times referred to as the East Palace. It is said that Changdeokgung was the favourite palace of the many kings of the Joseon Dynasty. The secret garden of biwon has many pavilions, ponds and woods.
To get there: Take subway Line 3 to Anguk Station and get out at Exit 3. Changdeokgung Palace is open from 09:15~17:45 (April ~ October) and 09:15~15:45 (November ~ February). In March, visiting hours are from 09:15~16:45. Entry is permitted every 15 and 45 minutes past the hour. The palace is closed on Mondays. Entry to the palace is only permitted with a guided tour. Visitors do not have to join the tour on Thursdays. Admission is 3,000 won.
Biwon, meaning "Secret Garden," was originally named Huwon, or "Rear Garden" as it sits behind Changdeokgung Palace. My favorite spot in Biwon is the Buyongji, a still pond surrounded by unique buildings including the pavilion Buyongjeong, the Juhamnu library, and the examination hall called Yeonghwadang. There is also a small stream called Ongnyucheon which passes through gardens built in 1636, past several pavilions, and under an arched stone bridge. One of the final stops before exiting the garden is the Kings' shrine called Seonwonjeon, the last existing shrine of the Joseon dynasty.
To visit Biwon, you must enter during a guided tour time, but you do not have to take the guided tour. In fact, once you pay your fee and enter at the designated time, you can linger as long as you wish. Many people bring books or snack, and just relax for hours. English tours are conducted 3 or 4 times a day, the best time being around 1530. Get there early... most days there is a changing of the guards ceremony at 1500.
The cost for a guided tour is 5,000 Won, but you also have to buy a 3,000 ticket for entrance to Changdeokgung.
Okay, so after having our own tour around the Changdeokgung Palace, we decided to proceed in exploring the “secret garden” of the palace. Gawd! We can’t wait for the English tour at 1130am! We went to the backyard of the palace where the secret garden is located! The lady at the entrance told us that self-guided tour isn’t allowed but we can join the Korean tour which was about to start when we arrived at the entrance.
Funny thing was, we joined the group even though we can’t understand Korean, haha!!! So the whole 1.5 hours of the tour, we don’t understand anything about the history! We just relied on the plaques’ description (written in English) that defines the halls/annexes as we passed by.
Secret Garden is known as Biwon. It serves as the resting and entertaining place for the Kings and family royalties. This is one of the best places I would really recommend to visit by photographers! Everything is very beautiful!!! I think the season of Fall added a very fantastic sight during our visit! If you can just see my amazed face as I walk along the paths, you might think that I’m exaggerating, haha! I’m just really fascinated… it’s really, really, really nice!!!
During the tour, we also realized that self-guided tours are prohibited due to the numerous paths along the way that are very misleading.
As I’ve mentioned we joined the locals… my friend and I was the only foreign tourists with them. Then a few locals asked me if I can have their group picture taken, haha! I became an instant photographer! Anyway, it’s good meeting other people once in a while. They were 6 gentlemen and thank goodness, there’s 1 guy (Baeck’s the name) who knows how to speak English! Like what I usually mention about the locals, these men too are very kind. Baeck educated us a little about a few of their culture and tradition.
Biwon or Secret garden is the private garden of Changdeok palace. This was the private recreation area of the Royal Family and included a normal person's house so the king could learn what it was like for his subjects.
The Biwon, or Secret Garden, is reached through a gate at the back of Changdeokgung.
Inside there are rolling hills, woods a lake and pavilions, which make it kind of hard to believe that you are in the middle of a big city like Seoul. This is where members of the royal family strolled and read poetry.
You are only allowed to enter as part of a guided tour, which can spoil the tranquility somewhat. I found, however, that the lakeside was a good place to escape from the guide and make a run for the hills.
The Peninsula Pond is in the form of the Korean Peninsula, here with an easel in the foreground containing an artist's rendering. The second photo depicts the Boo Yung Jung bower and the Boo Yung Ji pond. The bower is of improtance because it is unique in construction for the period. It has twenty sides and cantilievered over the edge of the pond with 2 pillars in the water. The last image is of an old tree described as the Aromatic Tree. These are 3 of the highlights of the Secret Garden.
The six acre garden is filled with ornamental and sacred buildings as well as several ponds. In season, the ponds are covered with lotus, the symbol or purity in Buddhist and Confucian tradition. Here, across the pond, the Oh Soo Mun gate, and also the Chwi Han Jung bower.
This World Heritage Site is a 6 acre private garden built for the Royal Family with woodlands, lotus ponds, and multiple pavilions. The original plan dates to 1623. It is truly beautiful and well worth a leisurely visit. On this page, the entrance gate and a stone tablet detailing the history of the garden.
Not too long ago, a secret haven rests within the heart of Seoul. Beautiful and unseen, this garden was the secret backyard of the Korean royalty who, no doubt, would not have any trouble skinny dipping or sunbathing in the buff if they wanted to.
Today, of course, all that exculsivity and royalty is gone. The last princess died in Changdeok more than a decade ago and ordinary mortals like us can see this beautiful garden if we pay about $4 . The admission fee also includes a guide so it is not all that bad.
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The royal heritage is especially visible in the older part of the city, where Gyeongbok Palace and Deoksu Palace luxuriate in parklike settings with halls and pavilions among the gardens. Biwon Garden, next to Changdok Palace, is worth visiting in its own right. You also should take time to visit Bongeun Temple, the oldest temple in the city. Seoul also is home to shrines to sports: Olympic Park, the venue for the 1988 Summer Olympic Games, as well as the Seoul World Cup Park and Stadium.
This is the lake where the King and his family read poetry and I made my break for freedom. It is the most beautiful part of the garden.