People have some particular fascination with the top office of the country. In the UK, it’s Buckingham Palace, for the USA it’s the White House. In South Korea, it’s quite similar – people go to visit The Blue House (Cheong Wa Dae). It’s interesting to see where the top government meetings take place and get a glimpse of the President’s life.
Cheong Wa Dae means “building with blue (청 – ‘Cheong’) roof tiles (와 – ‘wa’). That’s why in English, the President Complex is The Blue House. It’s located near Gyeongbokgung Palace, at the site of Gyeongmudae (archery range). At this location, civil service examinations, military recruitment, and martial arts competitions took place. In the back of Blue House is Bugaksan Mountain, one of the four mountains surrounding the old city of Seoul. From the garden, in front of the President’s Office, you can enjoy the fantastic views of Namsan and the city of Seoul.
Cheong Wa Dae is home to the executive office and the residence of the President of South Korea. The complex also accommodates the Presidential Secretariat and Press Center. President Youn Posun (1960-62, 4th presidential term) first used Cheong Wa Dae to describe it’s office and residence.
How to Book?
To visit the Blue House, you need to make an online reservation at least three weeks before your visit to the Blue House. President’s website. Note you have to hold a valid passport on the day of the tour. You cannot book more than once a month. After filling in the online reservation, you will get a confirmation email with detailed instructions about the tour.
The tour starts from the Blue House Tourist booth at the East Gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Make sure to go at least 20 min before the actual start of the tour. You have to show first your passport for a check-up. Then well-dressed staff will validate your name in their reservation app. Then you will board one of the buses to escort you to the entrance of the guided tour at the Press Gate of Blue House. You cannot just show at the Blue House if you haven’t been checked and registered.
``Cheong Wa Dae Access Badge``
``Present from the President``
The Blue House Tour
The tour starts at Chunchugwan – the press center of Blue House. Chunchugwan is where journalists get briefed on government policies. You will go through a security check and collect a present (a mug with ‘People First’ slogan). Here you have to collect an English interpretation set. Make sure to ask here, as it’s impossible to get it once the tour starts. Then you will get invited to watch an informative movie until everybody goes through the check, followed by a short security announcement.
As you might expect, the buildings and surrounding green and service areas are carefully maintained. The first stop will be a beautiful garden.
``170 years old umbrella pine tree``
``Nokjiwon Selfie with a friend``
Nokjiwon is a garden with a 170-year-old umbrella pine tree and three Korean red pine trees. The lawn is often used for outdoor events like concerts or press conferences. Here is the first place where you can take photos. Be sure to position yourself quickly to take pictures, as the security will move you quite fast to the next viewing spot.
Sangchunjae is a beautiful hanok house in front of Nokjiwon. The building accommodates state guests and important visitors of Cheong Wa De. Sangchunjae means “eternal spring.” It’s not open for viewing at this point.
Sugungteo is the site of the former Blue House representative building. Built in 1939 during the Japanese Occupation, it was the residence of the Governor-General. For 54 years, until 1993, this was where presidents met foreign officials and held government meetings. One witness, which survived the Joseon Era, the Japanese Occupation and the turbulent recent Korean history stands nearby, a 700-year-old spreading yew tree.
``700-years-old yew tree``
``Garden at The Blue House``
The next stop is the highlight of the Blue House Tour. You will pass a second security check. If you look to the left after the security gate, you will see the beautiful Segongwon Garden with a replica of the famous Bullomun Gate of Changdeokgung Palace. I can imagine the garden can be one of the favorite places of the President and the First Lady for a talk and walk with dignified guests.
``Blue House uses Dancheong building painting technique``
``View towards Namsan Tower and Central Seoul``
Main Blue House Building
Main Blue House building reflects the traditional Hanok style architecture. In the back of the building are the footsteps of Bugaksan Mountain. The most striking part of Cheong Wa Dae is the roof structure. It’s painted in a discrete Danchong coloring style. The three sections of the President’s office are covered with over 150,000 blue roof tiles.
Unfortunately, the tour does not include inside the premises tour of the Blue House. If you get lucky (or have some significant contribution to South Korean society), you might get invited someday to see the Inwang Room on the first floor or the President’s office on the second.
After the short lecture about the building and it’s various uses, you will have time for some pictures. Make sure to move fast to get the best shots, including the spectacular lawn views with Namsan and central Seoul. The big lawn is were state guests review the Honor Guard before getting to some serious business.
The last stop of the Blue House guided tour is Yeongbingwan.
State Guest House is the venue for welcome banquets, state meetings, and various performances. The exterior of the building is classical, with impressive granite columns. You can only get a glimpse of the interior through the big glass windows of the grand foyer of the building.
That’s the official end of the guided tour. You will have the option to go back to the starting point at Gyeongbokgug or cross the street and visit Cheongwadae Sarangchae. Cheongwadae Sarangchae is a museum dedicated to the history of the Korean Presidency.
- Even though there are no dress code requirements, make sure to be adequately dressed for what Cheong Wa Dae represents.
- Tour is only in Korean, so make sure to ask for audio tour guide available right after security check
- Taking photos at Cheong Wa Dae is permitted only at certain spots. If you do not speak Korean, the safest is to use your camera when you see Korean people doing it.
- Tour is around 60-70 min, so plan accordingly.
- Food and drinks are not allowed at the Blue House and will not be provided inside.
- Toilets are only available at the beginning of the tour at the security check.
Tuesday to Friday on the 2nd and 4th weeks of the month – 10:00, 11:00, 14:00, 15:00