Seoul Sights – Gyeongbokgung

In Korea by Jaclynn Seah0 Comments

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.

Sue me, a Japanese tourist took this pic for me

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.

The Guard Changing Ceremony is so elaborate it even warrants its own separate brochure to explain it properly – pick yours up at the ticket counter!

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.

Me and a Korean guard, kinda like taking pix with the London guards

Still, if you hang around the main gate Gwanghwamun, the guards do shift positions at intervals!

Tour guide in traditional hanbok explaining the sundial

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!

Your typical Joseon dynasty style building. This one was the throne hall Geunjeongjeon where main court business was conducted. The stone markers you spy on the left and right mark the positions where the various officials were supposed to stand – Civil officials on the right and Military officials on the left.

The vibrant colours on the underside of Joseon Dynasty buildings. The paint colours were representative of the 5 elements, and were mixed from natural pigments and could last a century!

Inside of the throne hall. The King’s throne always had a painting behind it with the Sun (King), the Moon (Queen) and the mountains (Korea) on it. Very yin-yang, and spoke quite clearly of their close relationship with China

These little animals are inspired by the characters from the Chinese tale ‘Journey to the West’, and are meant to protect the building. The more figures there are, the more important the building.

This scary mythical creature statue was placed by the side of the river to prevent evil spirits from emerging from the water and entering the palace

Lake and pagoda at the back of the palace grounds. I took a nice walk around this little lake that afternoon.

These chimneys were connected to the stone floors of the main house which were heated via burning coals. Their hexagonal shape was pretty unusual and they’ve been classified as National Treasures.

Tourist Info:

  • 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

Getting There:

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

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