Gyeongbokgung Seoul


Gyeongbokgung Palace was the first royal palace built in 1395 by the Joseon Dynasty, three years after it was founded and as the largest of the Five Grand Palaces in Seoul, it served as the main palace during the Joseon Dynasty. Despite the fact that all that had been restored after its demolishment by the Japanese is only about forty percent of how it used to be, the number of beautiful buildings within the palace is countless and I can't wait till 2030, the completion year of the 40-year restoration project that aims to fully restore Gyeongbokgung Palace to its original form. It has got to be breathtaking!

The most convenient way to get to Gyeongbokgung Palace like a local i.e. no taxi, would be the subway since the palace is located directly outside Exit #5 of Gyeongbokgung Station. Besides, the subway station is designed in a way that it complements the "imperialness" of the nearby attraction so one would get to see many interesting exquisite works of arts on the way to the exit, some so beautiful that they stopped me in my tracks.

Some of the visual arts displays waiting to be put up

Apparently, one can attain longevity by going through this stone arch. I hope it works!

What you will see upon exiting the station

The steps here leads to the National Palace Museum (south of Heungnyemun Gate) where one gets to see the authentic articles relating to the royal families. I went in but as impressive as the exhibits and also some of the special programs are, I was quite disappointed there wasn't any translation for tourists on the information boards. Nevertheless, the displays such as the arrows and bows, imperial robes and such were really stunning so I strongly encourage anyone who is visiting Gyeongbokgung to come by this very much neglected museum, as well as the National Folk Museum (eastern side within Hyangwonjeong) which showcases the history of Koreans livelihood.

Regardless of how bad I am with my camera, one just can't take an ugly picture of something that is so magnificent.

Heungnyemun Gate

Heungnyemun Gate is the second largest gate of Gyeongbokgung and was demolished totally during the Japanese occupation when the Japanese government constructed a building for the Japanese Governor General of Korea in its place. Fortunately, the gate was restored to its original form in 1995 and it is where the reenactment of the Changing of the Royal Guard and the Patrol Ritual takes place every day. If you are interested in joining the 1-hour guided tours that are also available at Gyeongbokgung, the Information Center at Heungnyemun Gate is where the group departs. The schedule is as below:

Chinese - 10:30am, 1:00pm, 3:00pm
English - 11:00am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm
Japanese - 10:00am, 12:30pm, 2:30pm

The admission fee to Gyeongbokgung is KRW 3,000 for adults and KRW 1,500 for children and teenagers from 7 to 18. Do note that the palace is closed on Tuesdays and they are usually open from 9am to 6pm, although this is subjected to weather conditions due to seasonal changes. Alright, we are imagining we are all dressed up like Yeon-woo and Lee Hwon from The Moon Embracing the Sun and heading in to our palace. Do visit their website here for updated information.

The spaciousness here makes one young and carefree ^.^

The Imperial Throne Hall

Geunjeongjeon is the throne hall of Gyeongbokgung Palace where the king was formally briefed by his officials, issued proclamations, and greeted foreign envoys and ambassadors. It was also the central venue for various coronation ceremonies of the royal household.

Even the trees are so grand

Hyangwonjeong Pavilion

Hyangwonjeong, which literally means "Pavilion of Far-Reaching Fragrance" is located to the north of the palace. It was constructed by order of King Gojong on an artificial island in a lake and was connected to the palace grounds by a bridge named Chwihyanggyo, "Bridge Mesmerised with Fragrance".

Gyeonghoeru Pavilion

Gyeonghoeru is located next to Geunjeongjeon. It is also situated on an artificial island in the middle of a rectangular lake with three stone bridges stretching out to the palace grounds, an arrangement which illustrates the way in which traditional Korean architectural style blends simplicity and splendor.

Short video of one of the public performances in the palace

Gwanghwamun Gate

Gwanghwamun is the main gate of Gyeongbokgung and is comprised of three arched gates with the middle gate reserved for the king and the two on either sides for his officials. Gwanghwamun was severely damaged during the Japanese occupation and the Korean War but was similarly restored to its original site and reopened to public on August 15th, 2010.

That's all for Gyeongbokgung!

If you are looking for more things to do in this area, do consider Tongin Market and Gwanghwamun Square. Tongin Market is less than ten minutes from Gyeongbokgung Palace (go straight for about 1km from Exit #2 and turn left at Hyoja Apartment on to Jahamun-ro 15-gil), and is famous for oil fried Ttokbokki and the Dosirak lunchbox cafe which allows customers to purchase food items in small amounts for their lunchbox around the market with tokens from the cafe. After browsing through and filling up your lunchbox, one can then return to the cafe for a proper sit-down meal. There is also a carpentry studio at Tongin Market where you can make your own pencil cases, bookends and storage boxes.

Sounds interesting, doesn't it? Well, do note that the market is closed on Sundays and operates only from 9am to 6pm on weekdays and to 1pm on Saturday.

As for Gwanghwamun Square, it is where the statues of King Sejong the Great, the fourth and most respected king of the Joseon Dynasty who invented the Korean writing system Hangeul, and also of Admiral Yi Sun-shin, who defeated 133 Japanese naval ships with only 12 ships of his own and fought 23 battles without a single defeat, sit. The entrance to "The Story of King Sejong" exhibition hall is located behind the statue of King Sejong and you can get to enjoy varioues activities such as writing your name in Hangeul there.

It was a pity we didn't get to take much pictures as it was the weekend they were celebrating Hangeul Day (9 October) and hence too crowded for us to move around comfortably though it was really nice to witness the ceremonies as well as how much Koreans love their own language and its creator.

Find out more about my Korea itinerary here,

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