Seoul Sights: Gwanghwamun Square

One name you’ll hear very often in Seoul is ‘Sejong’ – as in King Sejong the Great, 4th ruler in the Joseon dynasty and one of the most prominent Kings in Seoul’s history. He’s most well known for his invention of the current Seoul writing system Hangeul, and you can also find him on the 10,000 won note.

It was the day that I visited the Changdeokgung and met my new friend Terrie. After our lunch at Insadong and  walking the Cheonggyecheon, we ended up at Gwanghwamun Square right in front of the Gwanghwamun Gate of the Gyeongbokgung. It’s less a square and more a strip really, and it’s pretty hard to miss with the throng of tourists there.

You’ll start off with the imposing statue of Admiral Yi Sun Shin, who had a pretty interesting career as one of the most successful naval admirals ever – go check out his wikipedia page, it’s pretty fascinating stuff. I didn’t find out much of this when I was there unfortunately, I was more fascinated by the fountains and the lovely backdrop of mountains – Gyeongbokgung was built in this location because of Fengshui – Mountains in the back and Water (the Cheonggyecheon) in the front was most favoured.

Further behind Admiral Yi is an underground plaza, the ‘sunken square’ where you can purchase tickets for the Sejong Belt, and there was even a little booth where you could dress up to take touristy pictures! It’s apparently connected to the subway station.

Then you see the regal golden King Sejong statue, sitting benevolently in front of the Gwanghwamun gate. Along with his statue is a plaque commemorating his invention of the Hangeul language, as well as replicas of other inventions, like the sundial and the rain gauge.

Terrie and I then wandered around the area a bit, and soon found ourselves at the Seoul Museum of History. Now Seoul has lots of museums that sound pretty similar, so we weren’t really sure what this one had to offer, mostly we were just grateful for the aircon!

Interesting stuff around the museum, check them out if you have more time than I did!

The most impressive thing about this museum had to be 317.29m2, 1:1500 replica of Seoul City on the 5th level – it’s absolutely amazing. You walk on glass panels around this huge scale replica, and there are 3 levels to observe it from – walking directly over it, a bird’s eye view from a platform, and an eye-level view where you could study the buildings up close. We weren’t allowed to take pix there, so here’s what I managed to scour from the internet.

Pic above from Seoul Design Market

Tourist Info:

  • Gwanghwamun Square is accessible 24 hrs
  • Seoul Museum of History:
    • Hours: 9am – 9pm (weekdays), 7pm (weekends)
    • Closed on Mondays
    • Free entry!

Getting There:

Gwanghwamun Square can be accessed via Subway (Gwanghwamun station, Line 5, Exit 2). The subway is interesting as its lined by some artwork and looks like the walls of the fortress above

Around the area:

  • North: Gwanghwamun gate is the front entrance of Gyeongbokgung.
  • East:
    • Jogyesa temple is pretty nearby if you want to check it out
    • The mouth of the Cheonggyecheon is walkable, look out for the red and blue spiral
  • West: Another palace you can visit is Gyeonghuigung, which is right behind the Seoul Museum of History
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