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There are two highly anticipated special events in Seoul this month – the Royal Culture Festival and the opening of the presidential residence, Cheong Wa Dae, to the public. Both offer tourists an excellent opportunity to experience Korea’s traditional culture and heritage.

After two years of pandemic disruptions, the Royal Culture Festival is resuming its full program showcasing Korea’s unique royal court culture. The festival’s 49 planned events include traditional and modern interpretations of ceremonies, performances and art. The events are held across Seoul’s grand palaces and shrines, as well as online.

Visitors can tour the historically and culturally significant Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Deoksugung, Changgyeonggung and Gyeonghuigung palaces, built between 1392-1910 during the Joseon era, plus Jongmyo Shrine and Sajikdan Altar. Wander vast palace grounds and marvel at the architecture between events, or come back for a night tour for a rare opportunity to see one of the palaces under tranquil lantern light.

Also in May is the opening of Korea’s former presidential residence and headquarters, Cheong Wa Dae, to the public as a cultural space for the first time in history. Built 74 years ago, it was originally the back garden of Seoul’s most visited palace, Gyeongbokgung. Now it has been permanently vacated for public use following the inauguration of president Yoon Seok-yeol. Koreans and foreigners are eager to step inside the previously well-guarded gates and see the place that has been home to the last 12 South Korean leaders.

The grounds include the main office used to receive foreign dignitaries, adorned with 150,000 blue roof tiles that give Cheong Wa Dae its English moniker “The Blue House”. There is also a 9th century Stone Buddha, Sanchunjae, a traditional wooden hanok and Nokjiwon, a pristine garden with 120 species of trees. To celebrate the opening, Nokjiwon hosted events such as tightrope walking (known as “jultagi”) and modern interpretations of Korean traditional music (“gugak”).

The biannual Royal Culture Festival is held in May and October, this month running from 10 May – 22 May. Cheong Wa Dae is now open to visitors permanently. Go to visitkorea.org.au to find more information about the Royal Culture Festival and https://www.korea.net/Government/Current-Affairs/National-Affairs?affairId=2247 to find more information on Cheong Wa Dae.