Changdeokgung or Changdeok Palace might be best known as one of Seoul’s favorite spots to admire red plum blossoms during the flower blooming season. But in autumn, a part of the palace that was once called the forbidden garden boasts out amazing fall colors captivating even more attention than the spring flowers ever does from the beginning of the year.
The garden is known today as the Secret Garden or Biwon as written in every tour guide pamphlet for the palace but many Koreans seem to simply refer to it as Huwon or the rear garden (창덕궁후원). Although it is established on the same ground inside the palace wall, getting into the garden might not be a piece of cake as it should be. A separate admission pass is required. Not only do you have to save a little extra money for the ticket but you also need to be on an arranged tour to visit Huwon. However, since everyone is quite acquainted with its prominence during the fall, the guided tour tickets can be commonly booked or sold out from early October.
If you would like to explore the garden at its peak, plan your trip accordingly. Get the ticket ahead of time or you can try to arrive at the palace ticket office very early in the morning. They sell 100 tickets per tour with 50 for purchase offline. It’s first come, first served, so you can try being there a little before 9 to reserve your tour.
My last visit to the Secret Garden was on the last day of October of 2021. Korea was then still under the pandemic hibernation. Admission to the Huwon was available but a lesser number of visitors was allowed and they offered a fewer tour a day too. The place had never been quieter during this time of year.
The time was pretty impeccable. We already noticed some brilliant shade of fiery red and glowing orange of trees within the palace that were in the process of surrendering their leaves as we headed towards the garden entrance.
Once we stepped into the first area of the garden, Buyongji and Juhamnu (부영지와 주함누), we were greeted by an amazingly turned brownish red fluff of a big tree by the rectangular pond.
Walking the path a little deeper, it would lead you to the second pond area, Aeryeonji and Uiduhap (애련지와 의두합). I felt it was a tad sooner for those maple trees behind the pavilion to give up their leaves by the time of my visit. Once they fully turn red, the scene can easily become the most postcard worthy picture of the Huwon during the fall.
The highlight of my trip has to be the vista of the third pond site located right in front of the pavilion called Jondeokjeong (존덕정). With all the plants and trees densely encompassing the lotus pond, I can picture how this would be a perfect place to relax and keep one’s mind sharp after a long hot summer day. And when those leafy trees start to change their color, it is truly a feast for the eyes and senses that should not be missed.
If you linger around till dusk, don’t forget to capture the view of the Namsan Tower with your good camera on your way out at the garden entrance. The image of the Seoul landmark framed with gorgeous foliage soaking up in warm autumn sunset is something I can assure you that is worth lingering around.
More Treats for the Eyes from My Visit <3
Quick Info About Changdeokgung’s Secret Garden
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