Today was our full day for exploring and while I wanted to see ‘all the things’, I knew our energy levels would accommodate only one palace, so Changdeokgung was my choice. Entry to the grounds was a reasonable 3,000 won (~$2.50USD) but we skipped paying the additional 8,000 won to do a guided tour of the Secret Garden. I was on the fence about this but I think the extra price might be worth it during the Spring or later Fall.
The entrance was quite epic:
There were countless couples dressed in traditional outfits taking photos. It was no mystery why anyone would pick this place for a photo shoot – the painted ceilings and roofs were stunning.
And also difficult to walk under at times!
We were here for about two hours in all, with frequent sitting breaks to rest our feet, definitely worth the visit.
Afterwards we walked up to the famed Bukchon Hanok Village to find a bunch of Insta-phototogs and passive-aggressive women with signs reminding people to whisper (on a public street?!?) as actual people lived there. None of the courtyard doors were open and most had well-placed warnings about trespassing (yikes), so it really was just a steep crowded street with random people posing in doorways. Not our jam, so we hustled out of there quick.
After this disappointment, I convinced Eric to try the Ihwa Mural Village, and we liked that experience much better. The stairs were insanely steep (photo below) but the awesome views and general lack of people made it much more charming.
Of course, we also loved the murals and art installations.
On our way back to the hotel, we decided to get off the very crowded subway and take a quick stroll through Namdaemun Market. I believe this market is listed as being open for 24 hours, but many of the food stalls were closing up at 4pm – presumably for a break before dinner.
We spent a couple of hours in the lounge reading and relaxing (and drinking cava) before heading back out. This evening it was south again to the Iteawon neighborhood. That morning, we had asked the hotel to try and make us a dinner reservation at Maple Tree House. Unfortunately they had no reservations left, so we tried our luck at just showing up. No luck, an hour wait wasn’t something we were interested in.
Thankfully, Eric had found a good alternative next door so we went to Busan Galbi instead. The staff didn’t speak much English but the menu was easy to read and pointing worked just fine. Meat arrived with tons of other small dishes, and our waitress cooked the food for us right at the table (the table next to us did their own so this also seems to be an option).
The kimchi was good and very spicy! Eric really liked the soy-red pepper paste sauce and we both liked the salad with sesame dressing. Eric was happy he chose the soy marinated beef (which was quite lean) and my ribeye was delicious. I felt this second-floor restaurant was a good value and its location is right in the heart of this busy neighborhood.
We hadn’t had a cocktail for two whole days, so that needed to be remedied! Blacklist was supposed to be located a short walk up the street from our dinner place, but when we found the building, there was no sign of the bar. Not giving up, Eric stalked their social media pages and saw that they posted an address change on Instagram mere hours earlier. So, we put in the new address and tracked them down to their new location a few blocks away. Turned out it was the first night of their soft open! Because they were still not completely open, the atmosphere was very casual and the lounge was full of regulars and friends of the owners. After we ordered our drinks, we spent some time chatting with the owners, meeting the resident whippet, and enjoying some strong cocktails. My Mule was great but Eric could have done with less ginger in his whisky cocktail!
After a lovely evening out we took the metro back to our hotel and slept oh so well after a long day.