The former presidential palace is fast becoming one of the must-see tourist destinations in Seoul. The sprawling compound of Cheong Wa Dae or the Blue House, so named after its blue roof, is conveniently close to Gyeongbok Palace and Insa-dong.
Most foreign tourists interviewed by the Chosun Ilbo last weekend knew Cheong Wa Dae has opened to visitors and wanted to see it.
One tourist from France said, "I found out on a French website for tourists and also on social media that Cheong Wa Dae opened to visitors." She added, "I heard it's like the Elysee Palace (the French presidential residence) of Korea and want to visit it as soon as possible."
Some foreigners had already been after asking Korean friends to make reservations for them. Another tourist who came from the Netherlands went on May 30. "Cheong Wa Dae looked so beautiful on Instagram," she said, "so I convinced a Korean friend to come visit it."
Travel agencies are quickly including it in their tour packages. The Korea Tourism Organization invited 30 travel agents from the U.S. and Canada to let customers look around the palace.
Kim Soo-young at VIP Travel said, "I want to offer a tour program to Cheong Wa Dae because I've had a dozen phone calls asking about the place." One travel website in Germany is selling a day trip linking Gyeongbok Palace, Jogye Temple and Cheong Wa Dae for W108,000 (US$1=W1,278).
But other popular tourist sites such as the shopping district of Myeong-dong in downtown Seoul have yet to see tourist traffic revive to pre-pandemic levels. Kim Hwa-kyoung of RYE Tour said, "New hotspots like Cheong Wa Dae make Myeong-dong and places like that less attractive."