As Spring Approaches
See & Do Tours
April's Main Article
Spring is the season of revival. It’s a time when many shrug off their thick, winter coats for lighter ones as they head out to admire the flowers. Traces of spring can be found everywhere throughout the city of Seoul. Colorful flowers greet pedestrians from their pots along the street while the petals from the cherry blossom trees sway along with the gentle wind. As if casting a spell, April envelopes the city in a soft, sweet haze brimming with warmth.
Spring in Seoul is beautiful in its own unique way.
As the weather gets warmer, the four palaces of Seoul are filled with the footsteps of visitors eager to take a photo with the fleeting yet majestic scenery of the flowers in bloom. The surrounding eight gates of Seoul – made up of four great gates and four small gates – also come alive with blooming flowers. April is a perfect time to witness the beauty of Seoul through its four palaces and eight gates.
♬ Gatekeeper, Gatekeeper, open the gates! We don’t have any keys. Which gates shall we go through? Through the Namdaemun Gate! ♪
Where does spring strike first in Seoul?
The Four Great Gates and Four Small Gates of Seoul along the Seoul City Wall were the very first places to welcome the spring season. Embracing the heart of the city, the Seoul City Wall finished construction in 1396 and has been through numerous repairs ever since. Although there were eight gates in the past, only six of them remain in the present.
Many have heard of Sungnyemun (Namdaemun) and Heunginjimun (Dongdaemun), the two great gates that have earned the title of being the first “National Treasure of South Korea” and first “Treasure” respectively. But not many know of the other six. It’s time to get reacquainted with the eight gates that have protected Seoul throughout its history.
Heunginjimun (Dongdaemun “Great East Gate”)
Titled the first National Treasure of South Korea, only its gates remain as its surrounding walls have been knocked down by time.
Donuimun (Seodaemun “Great West Gate”)
Demolished without a trace, only the lot where it once stood remains. The name itself continues to live on through a subway station with the same name.
Sungnyemun (Namdaemun “Great South Gate”)
Considered to be one of the biggest gates, it underwent restoration after it was damaged by a fire.
Sukjeongmun (Bukdaemun “Great North Gate”)
Compared to the other three great gates, this one is much lesser known. Located near Bugaksan Mountain, a hiking trail was developed for easier access to this landmark.
① Hyehwamun ② Gwanghuimun ③ Changuimun
- Hyehwamun Located between the North and East Great Gates, it’s also known as the “Small East Gate”.
- Gwanghuimun After being closed to the public for 39 years, it’s been reopened since February 2014.
- Changuimun Famous for having a wonderful night view, a road was built to the west of the gate to accommodate traffic.
- Souimun (nicknamed “Small West Gate”) Although it has been built with the constructing of the city wall back in 1392, it was demolished without a trace when Korea was under Japanese occupation. The location of where it stood can only be guessed to be somewhere within the Seosomun (Small West Gate) district.
Stepping through one of the eight gates, visitors are greeted with the sight of the four palaces. It’s not only the tourists that flock to the palaces. As the weather gets warmer, the locals gather there as well. Ever since the trend to don a hanbok and walk around the city started a couple of years ago, it’s never been easier to spot people wearing hanbok around the palaces. Wearing a hanbok and walking along the palace as the cherry blossoms sway in the wind is enough to make one feel like they’ve traveled back in time.
Being the first palace to be built by the Joseon dynasty, Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of the most famous attractions found in Seoul. The best spot to take really great selfies is located inside the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion. A limited numbers of visitors are allowed in the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion at a time, so it’s highly recommended to make reservations in advance. Separate from the admission fee, entrance into the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion costs an extra 3,000 won and visitors are allowed a limited time frame of 40 minutes to tour inside. Only 100 visitors are allowed inside the pavilion each day.
Famed for its beauty and recognized as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, Changdeokgung Palace was constructed so that its architecture was harmonious to its natural environment. With so many flowers and trees within its grounds, visitors are sure to get a great selfie no matter where they take it. However, if visitors are looking for the best of the best, a trek into the Secret Garden is a must. Like Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, there’s an additional fee of 5,000 won for a 90-minute guided tour inside. Only 100 visitors are allowed inside the garden per day.
No one can deny Deoksugung Palace as being the best place for cherry blossoms. It’s also the only palace where medieval and modern style architectures exist together in harmony. If visitors make it within a certain time frame, they can see the “Changing of the Royal Guards” as well. Night tours are also available and hugely popular among visitors. Seeing the cherry blossoms lit up at night is another unique way to experience the beauty of this palace.
Many varieties of flowers can be found throughout this palace. To name a few, visitors can expect to find flowering spicebushes, Cornelian cherry, azaleas, and apricot trees. As mid April approaches, the cherry blossoms are expected to be in full bloom, bringing more beauty to the palace.
There are always many things see and do in Seoul throughout the seasons. However, spring is undoubtedly a great time to visit when seeking the flowering beauty of the city. With winter making its leave, get ready to welcome the oncoming spring with open arms.