Historically almost every dynasty has left its landmarks to its descendants. Gyeongbokgung Palace is definitely one of the best historical remains, if not the best, of Joseon Dynasty. This palace went through the whole history of Joseon Dynasty and it is absolutely worth being on your itinerary.
161 Sajik-ro, Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Metro: Line 3 (Orange Line), get off at Gyeongbokgung Station, Exit 5 or Line 5 (Purple Line), get off at Gwanghwamun Station, Exit 2
Bus: Take No. 1020, 7025, 109, 171, 172, 601, or 606 and get off at Gyeongbokgung Palace Bus Stop.
Jan. – Feb. / Nov. – Dec. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Final admission at 4 p.m.)
Mar. – May / Sep. – Oct. 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Final admission at 5 p.m.)
Jun. – Aug. 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. (Final admission at 5:30 p.m.)
Age 19 – 64: KRW 3,000 / 2,400 ( group of 10 or more )
Age 7 – 18: KRW 1,500 / 1,200 ( group of 10 or more )
Children (age of 6 and under) or Seniors (age of 65 and above): Free
*With the purchase of a book of Combination Tickets (adults: KRW 10,000 / youth: KRW 5,000), one admission for each of the five different Palaces is available within three months. (Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace – the Secret Garden included, Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, and Jongmyo Shrine)
Tips for Free Admission
1. Wearing Hanbok or 2. The last Wednesday of every month (Culture day)
Gyeongbokgung Palace, The Center Of Joseon Dynasty
King Taejo (Lee Seonggye) founded Joseon in 1392. In 1394, he moved the capital to Hanyang (Seoul’s old name) from Gaeseong, the capital of Goryeo Dynasty, and Gyeongbokgung Palace was completed in the same year. The palace was burnt down and destroyed several times through Joseon period including Imjinwaeran, Japanese Occupation, and Korean War. Although not all Kings of Joseon Dynasty did not reside and govern in Gyeongbokgung Palace, the place has been considered the main palace of Joseon throughout the whole period.
The name ‘Gyeongbok’ means to wish the prosperity of the Kings, the royal family, the descendants of kings, and the people of Joseon. Gyeongbokgung Palace went through several reconstructions. As a matter of fact, it is still under reconstruction. The current project started in 1990 and plans to complete the work by 2030 to bring 76% of the original palace back.
Tour of Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeongbokgung Palace is not a small place, which sits on an area of 432,703 square meters. You are more than welcome to wander the place as you wish, but just to make the route a little simple, let’s take a look at the palace according to the recommended itinerary on its map.
Gwanghwamun is the main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace. You will see three gates at Gwanghwamun: the middle one is where the kings entered and exited and the other two doors for anyone else, mostly officials. This historical structure has been featured numerously in Korean dramas, movies, and popular Kpop music such as ‘광화문에서 (At Gwanghwamun)’ by Jo Kyuhyun and ‘광화문 연가 (Gwanghwamun Love Song)’ by Lee Munsae.
Changing of the Royal Guard at Gyeongbokgung Palace
The royal guards in Joseon Dynasty were responsible for protecting the king and the palace by guarding and patrolling the gates. They changed shifts in the ceremonial style and this changing ceremony was reborn as a reenactment in 1996. Since then, this guard changing ceremony has been one of the most popular events among visitors to Seoul.
The guards reenact in the exact same way it used to be held with the same uniforms, weapons, and traditional musical instruments. The related performances take place near Gwanghwamun Gate six times a day. The best part is that these are all free to watch.
Royal Guard Changing Ceremony: 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (20 minutes per ceremony)
Ceremony of Guarding Gwanghwamun Gate: 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (10 minutes per ceremony)
Public Training of the Royal Guard Soldiers: 9:35 a.m. and 1:35 p.m. (15 minutes per ceremony at outside Hyeopsaengmun Gate)
Heungryemun (흥례문), The Second Inner Gate
How To Tour Gyeongbokgung Palace
1. For Adventurer Type: If you prefer to explore and learn about Gyeongbokgung at your pace, simply get a map at the ticket booth and go ahead. Or, you can download the map here even before you get to the palace.
2. For Scholar Type: You are willing to learn and love to hear the historical background and small details that many visitors might miss out. If this is you, you need to join a guided tour. It’s free and the tour is available in English, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, and Vietnamese.
3. For The Free Soul: Do you feel even a map is a burden to you? Just stroll Gyeongbokgung Palace following your heart. Each place and building has its own sign and information so you would not wonder what this beautiful building was for five hundred years ago.
Yeongjegyo is a bridge located over Geumcheon stream between Geunjeongmun and Heungnyemun. There are a total 8 of Seosu (an imaginary animal like a unicorn) statues over and around the bridge.
Yuhwamun is a gate on the west side of Gyeongbokgung to let officials move in and out conveniently between assembly halls and the administrative buildings.
Geunjeongmun (근정문), The Third Inner Gate
Geunjeongjeon is the center of Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is the main throne hall. National ceremonies were held at this building including coronation ceremonies and New Year’s Day events. Also, this is where kings conducted national affairs with their officials. When foreign envoys visited Joseon, kings greeted them here as well. This building is National Treasure No. 223.
You may recognize this place from many Korean movies and dramas including Netflix’s Kingdom (Just to make sure, no zombies during Joseon Dynasty.)
I took the first picture of Geunjeongjoen late afternoon close to the closing time. It’s usually crowded just like the picture above.
Mothers of the kings stayed at Jagyeongjeon.
At the backyard of Jagyeongjeon, find Sib Jangsaeng chimney (십장생 굴뚝), which is considered one of the best chimneys in Korean Palaces. This chimney is the Korean Treasure No. 810.
At the center of the chimney, Sib Jangsaeng (십장생), ten signs of long lives, are carved. What you see at the top and bottom of the chimney are cranes and bulgasari (a mythical animal). People believed these animals to keep evil spirits away and wish for long life.
Donggung is the area where the crown prince and his family resided and worked. Jaseondang (자선당) is a residential place where crown princes and princess consorts stayed and Bihyeongak (비현각) is an office where the crown prince studied with scholars and mentors.
Donggung means “the palace on the east side.” The crown prince was considered as the new sun, which comes out from the east.
Geoncheonggung is an area located northern part of Gyeongbokgung and consists of a few buildings. King Gojong planned and added this area to the palace and Jangandang was a place where the King stayed.
Jibokjae (집옥재) and Palwujeong (팔우정)
Jibokjae and Palwujeong were a library for the King. King Goojong greeted foreign ambassadors at this site as well. Jibokjae reopened to the public as a library in 2016. Please confirm the open hours before your visit. It closes during wintertime because heating is not allowed in the place.
Taewonjeon is an area where caskets of Kings and Queens lied down during funerals. Funerals took up to five months so a separate site was required.
Gyeonganmun (경안문) is a gate leading to Taewonjeon.
Gyeonghoeru is a pavilion built in the pond and kings hosted state banquets for foreign ambassadors or any important national celebrations. It is Korea’s National Treasure No. 224. The size of the pond is quite large: 113 meters (371 feet) by 128 meters (420 feet.) A total of 48 massive stone pillars are supporting the wooden structure. The square pillars outside and the round ones inside represent the concept of Yin and Yang.
Sujeongjeon was rebuilt in 1867 at the location where Jiphyeonjeon (집현전) was originally located. The place originally served as a king’s advisory committee but later functioned more as a royal research center. The most notable historical value of Jiphyeonjeon is its role as a center for the creation of Hangeul (Korean alphabets.) The original building was destroyed during the Japanese invasion in 1592 and rebuilt in 1867. The name changed to Sujeongjeon with its reconstruction.
Sojubang was the kitchen area for the royal family and other royal events. The venue consisted of three areas. The original Saengmulbang, the kitchen for desserts and snacks for the royal family, has become Saenggwabang, a traditional style dessert cafe and serves the visitors. Please, double-check the open hours because it changes seasonally and according to schedules of events at the palace.
A Perfect Place for Pictures
Colorful pillars, curved roofs, mysteriously dated doors. Every corner of Gyeongbokgung Palace gives you an opportunity for lifetime selfies. Take time, breathe in the history, and leave good memories with pictures. Remember that admission will be free for visitors wearing hanbok. There are several hanbok rental shops near the palace.
National Folk Museum of Korea (국립민속박물관)
National Folk Museum of Korea stands on the ground of Gyeongbokgung Palace.
Gyeongbokgung Palace in Korean Drama and Korean Movies
This symbolic landmark has been a stage for numerous Korean dramas and Korean movies. The list includes The King and I, The Great King, Sejong, Deep Rooted Tree, Jang Yeong-Sil, Masquerade, and recently Netflix’s Kingdom.