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Changdeokgung-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
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An Oasis Once for Royalty, Now for All Seoul  South Korea

An Oasis Once for Royalty, Now for All

Covering 78 acres of hilly forest in the middle of Seoul, the Huweon, or "Rear Garden" of Changdeok-gung Palace is better known by the city's millions as Biweon, or "The Secret Garden."

Once exclusively for the royal family, today it's a favorite spot for couples on dates and foreign visitors alike. In the early 19th century, the Joseon dynasty kings built a country villa (part of which you see above) as a rustic respite from the duties of governing. Even royalty needed an oasis from the fishbowl of the palace, it seems.

I spent an afternoon alone here, contemplating history and family. A few weeks later, it was a joy to show my wife, on her first visit to Korea, these lush grounds, while strolling in the summer rain.

(Daily tours are available in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese. To get here by subway, exit at Jongno 3-ga or Anguk stations, from lines 1, 3, or 5.)