While Seoul is a pretty modern and vibrant metropolis these days, it still retains a good part of its history, right in the middle of the city. Once called Hanyang, Seoul only became the capital city during the Joseon dynasty way back in 1394, and the main palaces of the kings were built in the centre of Seoul, and a wall built around it to protect it from invasion.
Gyeongbokgung is the main palace in Seoul (there are 5 palaces in Seoul) where the King officially resided in and was the first thing I saw in Seoul.
It’s famous for the guard changing ceremony on every hour from 10am-4pm, but I got there a little after 10am and only caught the end of it, sadly.
Still, if you hang around the main gate Gwanghwamun, the guards do shift positions at intervals!
I caught the free English tour at 11am, conducted by a cute little Korean lady dressed in the traditional hanbok. Her english was pretty good and she was very earnest and informative, so she was a great guide all around.
I’ll let the pix do the talking!
- Hours: 9am – 5pm (nov-feb) / 6pm (mar-oct)
- Closed on Tuesdays
- Free English tours: 11am, 130pm, 330pm, lasts about an hour.
- Tours in Japanese and Chinese also available! I recommend you do a tour if you don’t speak Korean, it really makes the place come alive more
- Admission Fee: 3,000 won
- You can get a combined ticket for 10,000 won if you plan to visit the other palaces. If you plan to do Changdeokgung and the Secret Garden, I suggest you get this ticket as that tour (CDG + secret garden) costs 8,000 won in total
Gyeongbokgung can be accessed via Subway (Gyeongbokgung station, Line 3, Exit 5). The subway is interesting as its lined by some artwork and looks like the walls of the fortress above
Around the area:
- Also on the premises and free!:
- National Palace Museum of Korea (Closed on Mondays, which was the day I visited!)
- National Folk Museum of Korea (Looks like a pagoda outside, very modern on the inside, nice looking museum but I walked it pretty quickly and mainly enjoyed it for the aircon on that hot day)
- East: I walked to Samcheongdong (an upscale indie sorta neighbourhood) and then the Bukchon Hanok (residential area made up of old Korean style houses) after my Gyeongbokgung tour
- Changdeokgung, the other palace I visited is on the other side of the Bukchon Hanok, it’s possible to do both palaces in the same day, but note that Changdeokgung is closed on Mondays.
- South: the artsy area Insadong is walkable from the palace, I walked to Insadong after I was done with Samcheongdong and Bukchon Hanok
- Also nearby if you’re tired of palaces: Jogyesa (A buddhist temple in the middle of the city next to Insadong)
- Gwanghwamun Square lies in front of the main Gwanghwamun gate. A giant statue of King Sejong the great, his admiral and a fountain line this open plaza