1 day Seoul itinerary [Jongno-gu/종로구]

Seoul is made up 25 districts (gu). At the heart and center of Seoul, you will find the Jongno District (종로구).

It has been commonly referred to as the face of Korea because of the roles it has played in the many facets of the nation’s history. And to throw in one of the most commonly used phrases from any blogger in Korea, you could say that it’s the soul of Seoul.

Low-rises with the backdrop of a green mountain
Low-rises with the backdrop of a lush mountain. Am I walking through a dream?

There’s no better place to start our “1 Day Seoul itinerary” series than by focusing on this district.

Rich with approximately 600 years of importance in politics, economics, culture, and history, this district is filled with parks, historic neighbourhoods, and traditional sights that lend themselves to the essence of Seoul.

A cart filled with (what I assume to be) handmade wooden and woven objects.
An elderly Korean gentleman parks his cart on the side of a road and begins to prepare for a day of selling his handmade goods. Although the road is empty in the early hours of the morning, soon the warming weather will bring with it the onrush of crowds.

Visit Gyeongbokgung (경복궁)


Early mornings mean peaceful mornings.

You will be able to experience the palace that used to serve as the Kings’ household with only the company of the birds chirping in the distance and the wind brushing through your hair.

A bird sitting on a ledge at Gyeongbokgung Palace

Thoughts whirl through my head as I walk across the palace grounds.

Were the Queen’s ladies rushing back and forth to tend to her needs? Did the scholars concentrate on their studies or were they fooling around? Were the concubines hidden where only a few knew about them? Did the Crown Prince stay indoors or did he walk around the palace grounds, with his robes fluttering behind him?

If only the walls could speak and tell me their stories.

Photography by Studio KJD.
Location

Address
161 Sajik-ro, Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 종로구 세종로 사직로 161

Ticket prices

Adults (19-64): 3,000 won
Children (7-18): 1,500 won
Free admission: preschoolers (age 6 and younger), seniors (age 65 and older), people wearing hanbok, the last Wednesday of every month (Culture day)

Entrance of Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul

Breakfast at Cha-teul (차마시는뜰)


Located in the historic neighbourhood of Bukchon, you’ll find Cha-teul.

Welcome to 차마시는뜰 (Cha Masineun Teul).

The name Cha-teul is short for Cha Masineun Teul, which means garden for drinking tea. And in essence, that’s what it is.

A garden can be found in the center of Cha-teul
A garden for drinking tea.

Cha-teul is a portal into another realm.

The calming atmosphere of the garden, paired with an early morning breeze will bring you true bliss. And that first sip of tea will bring you a moment of solace as your worries and stresses dissipate away.

A photograph of some tables and a window with white curtains in Cha-teul.

A calm morning.

The summer breeze moves the white curtains.
You can hear the birds chirping outside and see them jumping from branch to branch on the trees.


Is this what we call bliss?

The outside of Cha-teul. There is seating by some big windows and a garden outside

With so many options for tea, take the plunge and try something new. Ask your server for a recommendation and try what they suggest. Or if you want to be a bit more adventurous, ask for the Korean menu instead and just point at random.

A sweet Quince tea (모과 돌배 차) with some strawberry and persimmon ddeok (찹쌀떡).
A sweet Quince tea (모과 돌배 차) with some strawberry and persimmon rice cake (찹쌀떡).
Persimmon and Strawberry ddeok with a class of Quince tea beside it
The persimmon and strawberry rice cake is a perfect complement to the subtle sweetness of the Quince tea.
Useful Korean phrases to use here

Please give me _____.
_____ 주세요 (____ juseyo)
example: 차주세요. Cha juseyo. (Please give me tea)

Thank you!
감사합니다 (gamsahamnida)

Location

Address
26 Bukchon-ro 11na-gil, Samcheong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 종로구 삼청동 북촌로11나길 26

Entrance leading into Cha-teul. It is to the side of the road.
You’ll find Cha-teul tucked away at the side of the road. If you’re not
paying attention, you might find yourself walking by it.

Walk through Bukchon Hanok village (북촌한옥마을)


A peaceful stroll after a warm cup of tea is the best remedy for a happy heart.

Take a walk through Bukchon Hanok village (북촌한옥마을) to experience a moment preserved in time.

A view of a roof of a house in Bukchon Hanok Village

This traditional Korean neighbourhood is made up of many alleys with beautiful hanok (traditional Korean homes) lining the streets.

A traditional-looking door in Bukchon Hanok Village
An alleyway in Bukchon Hanok Village

Visit Changdeokgung (창덕궁)


Changdeokgung is one of the Five Grand Palaces built by the kings of the Joseon dynasty (1392 – 1910) and is the most well-preserved of these five royal palaces.

It was the second palace to be built following the construction of Gyeongbokgung.

Visitors in Hanbok at Changdeokgung Palace.
Visitors in Hanbok at Changdeokgung Palace. Construction of Changdeokgung began in 1405 and was completed in 1412.

What makes this palace unique is the way in which it blends perfectly with the natural topography and follows the contours of the land.

Parts of the beautifully-coloured Changdeokgung palace
Changdeokgung is commonly referred to as the ‘East palace’ because of its location with respect to Gyeongbokgung.
Location

Address
99 Yulgok-ro, Waryong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 종로구 와룡동 율곡로 99

Ticket prices

Adults (19-64): 3,000 won
Children (7-18): 1,500 won
Free admission: preschoolers (age 6 and younger), seniors (age 65 and older), people wearing hanbok, the last Wednesday of every month (Culture day)

More visitors in beautiful Hanboks

Lunch at Gukbin Haengsong (국빈행성)


Authentic. Cozy. Warm.

These are the words that encompass Gukbin Haengsong (국빈행성).

If you’re looking for a place to get a cozy, home-cooked Korean meal, then this place is it. The owners are welcoming and kind, and you’ll have a memorable meal no matter which dish you choose.

Location

Address
15 Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울 종로구 계동길 15

Explore, get lost, and shop in Ikseon-dong (익선동)


Ikseon-dong (익선동) is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the center of Seoul and it is one of my all-time favourite places.

Explore the maze-like twists and turns of its narrow streets to find cafés, restaurants, vintage shops, and handicraft stores set up by young artists and entrepreneurs.

Tip
Bring cash with you. Some of the booths won’t accept card, and some will also give you a discount if you use cash instead of card.

Dresses being sold at a booth in Ikseondong
If you’re planning to buy clothes at these outdoor booths, you’ll have to eyeball the size because there aren’t any fitting rooms.

Don’t go in with a plan. Go in with the mentality of getting lost.

Flowers and plants on display in Ikseondong
Flowers to brighten your day.
A sign at a restaurant showing what they sell

Address
Areas of Supyo-ro 28-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul 
서울특별시 종로구 수표로28길 일대

A photo of a sign that reads 토스트 집, which directly translates to "bread house". There is also another sign beside it that says "open".
The sign reads 토스트 집, which directly translates to “toast house”.

Coffee break at Onion


You all know about Onion from the last post, so you know that it’s not somewhere you’d want to miss out on.

After a busy day exploring, stop by for a relaxing coffee break and refresh yourself before going out again.

A cup of coffee in a white mug with the word "onion" written on it. The backdrop is a flowerbed.
Nothing beats a tranquil morning, a good cup of coffee, and flowers.

Address
Seoul, Jongno-gu, Gye-dong, 계동길 5
서울특별시 종로구 계동 계동길 5

Coffee filters and more coffee-making contraptions to make your perfect cup!

Navigate the crowds and find some souvenirs in Insa-dong (인사동)


Think of Insa-dong (인사동) as a traditional street, where the cultures of the past and the present coincide.

At one time, it was the largest market for antiques and artworks in Korea. Now, it still contains 40% of Korea’s antique shops and art galleries.

Cups being sold in Insadong
A beauty in the disorganized, yet organized chaos.

It also contains 90% of the nation’s traditional stationery shops.

A store in Insadong selling calligraphy materials.
Hand pressed papers and calligraphy brushes, among other traditional
stationery items, line the walls and fill every space with a remnant of history.

On weekends, the main street is blocked from traffic and it becomes a cultural space where booths get set up and street food is sold.

Address
62, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 종로구 인사동길 62 (관훈동) 일대

Ceramic cups and bowls being sold in Insadong
Appreciating the details.

Have a taste of Korea at Gwangjang market (광장시장)


Get a taste of the local food scene by making a stop at Gwangjang market (광장시장).

A bibimbap stand at Gwangjang Market

This market is one of Korea’s largest traditional markets and has over a 100 years of history. Every turn brings with it alleys strewn with stores: left, right, and center.

The food street area is open until approximately 11:00pm, so you’ll have plenty of time to eat your way through the market. Just make sure to come with an empty stomach!

Fruit shakes on display to sell

Tip
On weekday mornings, you might find that prices are lower than at any other time.

Address
88 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno 4(sa)-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 종로구 종로4가 창경궁로 88

A sign at a fruit shake stand that shows what kinds of shakes there are

Take an evening stroll by the Cheonggyecheon (청계천)


End your day by taking a stroll along the Cheonggyecheon.

You can access it at many locations, since it runs for 11 km through downtown Seoul. But, if you want to start at the beginning, start your walk at Cheonggye Plaza (close to Gwanghamun station).

People sitting by the Cheonggyecheong

Fun fact
The Cheonggyecheon is a restoration of a stream that was once there during the Joseon Dynasty.

A man sitting by a sign
A photograph of a stream with greens and plants all around it and people walking down a path that runs parallel to its side.
A warm Friday afternoon.

If you had to pick only one of these places to visit in the Jongno District, which would you pick?
Let me know in the comments below!


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xx