CHEONGWADAE OR BLUE HOUSE
The residence of the president of South Korea is called “Cheongwadae” or “Blue House”. It is the building with the blue roof seen from Gwanghwamun. It is possible for Koreans and foreigners to visit the place ~ but you must make a reservation weeks in advance!
When I was in 6th grade, I got to visit Malacanang Palace in Manila. We had a grand tour of the palace including Imelda Marcos’s bedroom and the 3,000 pairs of shoes. Ten years ago, I got to visit the White House in Washington, DC but we didn’t get to tour inside. Here in Korea, I’ve done the Cheongwadae or Blue House tour a couple of times. The latest was in April this year when I took my high school friend and her son, who were visiting Korea for the third time in less than two years!
To visit Cheongwadae, the first step is to make a reservation online through their website. Although there is an English reservation site, it is better to use the Korean website if you have a Korean ID. There are more slots for Koreans and you could just represent your non-Korean companions. Only one person needs to make a reservation.
Korean citizens can use their ID while foreigners or non-Korean citizens need to provide their passport number. After making a reservation, you will get confirmation on the phone you provided. You will also get a reminder a few days before your schedule.
English page for reservation
Check the schedule for September ~
You don’t need to go to the Blue House directly. The meeting place is at the East Gate of Gyeongbokgung. You could get there easily by taking subway line 3 and getting off at Gyeongbokgung station exit 5. Just walk to the east parking lot.
Or you could take line 1 and get off at Seoul City Hall station. Go to the bus stop just a few meters from exit 4 and wait for the village bus 11. Get off the bus at the third stop. Cross the street and you’ll find the parking space for the buses going to Cheongwadae.
Verify your ID and reservation at the booth before boarding the bus. The presidential security guards could speak English so don’t hesitate to talk to them in the language. You might be tempted to take photos of them though ~ they are all good looking. The bus trip to the Blue House is barely 5 minutes, but stay in the bus until you’re told to get off.
Inside the Presidential Compound
Once we got inside the gate, we had to go through security ~ similar to airports. The security will also ask to look inside your bag even if after the xray scan. If you’re carrying water or any liquid, you’ll be asked to take a sip. If you have a DSLR camera, you’ll be asked to take a shot.
Foreigners are provided with audio device since the tour is conducted in Korea. The audio device lets you listen to explanations in English, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish. You will need to provide an ID or a passport and you can take it back when you return the audio device. They will only lend the device to foreigners ~ so if you’re a Filipino with a Korean ID they will not lend it to you.
We were given number ID to wear and were told to wear them with the number showing. Then we were ushered to a theater packed with other tourists ~ mostly old people and high school students.
The tour starts at the Public Information Hall. There we were shown a short film about the president and the residence. We were reminded that we could only take photos at designated areas ~ for security purpose.
These are the places we went to ~
Nok Ji Won – allowed to take photos
Gyeong Mu Dae – taking pictures is prohibited
So Jeong Won – taking pictures is prohibited
Cheong Wa Dae – allowed to take photos
Yeongbingwan – allowed to take photos
Chilgung – only available if requested
I noticed that they removed a few areas we were able to visit in the past years.
We were given mugs with the drawing of Cheongwadae. In my successive visits, they gave Korean pouches with the Cheongwadae logo ~
There is another presidential palace in Korea and it’s called “Cheongnamdae“. It is a better tour because we got to go inside the mansion and the surrounding area is just breathtaking! It is far from Seoul though ~
AFTER THE TOUR
After the tour, you could walk to visit the Tongin Market or Cheongwadae Sarangchae. I will be posting about the two laterz ~
TRANSPO AND TICKETS
How to get there: Gyeongbokgung station exit 5, walk to the east parking lot of Gyeongbok Palace
Ticket price: FREE. Reserve at least 3 weeks in advance. Passport or ID is needed. Please check the links above.
Tour duration: About an hour.