According to the Life in Korea website:
"Construction of Changdok Palace (historic site #122) was started in 1405 by King T'aejong, and it was completed in 1412. In 1463, King Sejo expanded the palace and created Biwon (secret) Garden. The Japanese burned all the buildings during 1592. Although rebuilt, many of the buildings have burned and been rebuilt several times. Thirteen of Korea's kings lived here for a total of over 270 years, a longer period than at Gyeongbok Palace. The palace grounds cover over 110 acres. Thirteen of the original buildings remain, with an additional 28 in Biwon Garden."
The interesting about Changdeok Palace is that you must be accompanied on a guided tour to check it out. Why you ask? Well, in the past they had some troubles with people not respecting the palace so they changed the policy to guided tours. You can have the tour in four languages: Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and English.
Guess what tour I went on? Nope, not the Chinese tour (I can understand and speak Cantonese, not Mandarin) but the English tour. I went on this tour with my buddy Tae, who is the local expert on all things Korean (he teaches me things like how you can make a "NOT!!!" joke with Koreans by saying the Konglish term "BUNG!" instead; it's been tried, tested, and true at work, hehe).
Here's the main palace gate, Donhwamun Gate, built in 1412:
We were a few minutes late so we had to jog a bit to catch up to the tour (thanks to my gym membership, I was able to run for more than 10 seconds without losing my breath, haha) Our tour guide was an English speaking Korean. She did a pretty good job explaining about the palace to us.
Here's a video of the tour in action. Our tour guide is describing the architecture of the buildings:
All of these palaces are surrounded by building as they are in the heart of the city:
These are the living quarters of the Emperor and his Queen:
Another section of the palace had these doors, that when opened could also be raised to the ceiling for better air circulation:
Curious as to where the whole "heated floor" phenomenon came about? It started a long time ago. This picture explains it all:
This was one of my favorite little doors. It was the "poop" door, where the Emperor would leave his "business" in a pot and a servant would open this door and remove of the excrement--talk about a stinky job!
This is Huwon (it means "rear garden"; also known as the Secret Garden) that was built behind the palace. It is surrounded by a lush forest with lots of plants and greenery--I was surprised to see this in the city! Anyways, it was previously closed to the public and was only recently opened for viewing. It was a garden for the Emperors to enjoy and relax themselves:
Here is a a video of the "Secret Garden"--you can check out for yourself:
This lotus pond was home to some of the largest goldfish I've ever seen:
Near the end of the tour, you will see this Chinese juniper that is believed to be over 750 years old. Its branches are supported by wooden beams. Either way it did look pretty darn old:
Here are a couple other miscellaneous pictures for you to enjoy:
My visit to Changdeok Palace was interesting and it was nice to go on a guided tour in English. I commented to Tae about how the architecture looked similar to Chinese and Japanese buildings. He explained that there are subtle differences distinguish these buildings to those who are aware of them. I would recommend visiting the palace, in particular the trek to the "Secret Garden" as I was able to breathe in some "fresh" air!
Want to check out the palace yourself? Here is all the relevant info, courtesy of Life in Korea:
Feb. - 09:15 ~ 15:45 Enter every 15 and 45 minutes past the hour.
Mar. - 09:15 ~ 16:45 Enter every 15 and 45 minutes past the hour.
Apr. ~ Oct. - 09:15 ~ 17:15 Enter every 15 and 45 minutes past the hour.
Nov. - 09:15 ~ 15:45 Enter every 15 and 45 minutes past the hour.
Dec. ~ Jan. - 09:45 ~ 15:45 Enter every 45 minutes past the hour.
* The last entrance time varies according to sunset time.
3 times per day: 10 AM, 1 PM, 2 PM; takes 3 hours (closed on Mondays)
Adults (19 to 64 years old): 3,000 won
Youths (7 to 18 years old): 1,500 won
* Children 6 and under, seniors 65 and over: Free
Subway lines 1, 3 & 5, Jongno 3 (sam)-ga Station, exit 6, 10 minutes walking
Subway line 3, Anguk Station, exit 3, 5 minutes walking