GYEONGBOKGUNG PALACE IN SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
Gyeongbokgung Palace is to South Korea as Versailles is to France and Neuschwanstein Castle to Germany. This iconic palace is the largest of Five Grand Palaces constructed by the Joseon dynasty and served as the royal residence of the Joseon dynasty. Standing majestically today, many travelers are not aware that Gyeongbokgung Palace has raised one too many times from the ashes of obliteration.
The construction of Gyeongbokgung Palace was commissioned in 1394 by King Taejo and went on to be a home for kings, their servants as well as the capital of the dynasty for over 200 years. It is believed that the palace once holds up to 400 buildings within its rectangular perimeter, the majority of which were burned down during the alleged invasion of the Japanese.
I used the term “alleged” because another legend has it that the arsonists were actually a group of local slaves who were most often disdained and put through harsh living and working conditions.
Following the coronation of young king Gojong, the palace was rebuilt again in 1863 but shortly after, there was another invasion from Japanese. Under the Japanese, Korea was forcibly opened up for foreign trade.
It was on the Gyeongbokgung Palace grounds that Empress Myeongseong was assassinated in 1895; she was one of Gojong’s wives. The palace was constantly used by the Japanese as an interrogation and torture chamber, and to snidely destroy the pride of the Koreans, they also subjected the palace to numerous changes.
How to Get to Gyeongbokgung Palace
The grounds of the palace are located at the center of Seoul, in Jongno district. The grounds are also home to 16 palace buildings, 2 national museums, 2 bridges, and 6 gates, in addition to well-kept gardens, outdoor statuary and lotus ponds.
It is easy to get to Gyeongbokgung Palace, and if this is in your itinerary, you will not regret a visit to this historical monument.
Method 1: If you are staying at Jogno, catch the Jogno Bus 11, which makes a wonderful exploring loop through the Jogno district, stopping on the east side of the palace. Walk to the main entrance of the palace from the National Folk Museum.
The Jogno bus is distinguishable from the other green city buses, which are much larger in size with huge capital G imprinted on. Adults pay 850 Won, kids between 13-18 years pay 550 Won and young ones of between 6-12 years pay 300 Won. Children below 5 years ride for free.
If your hotel is outside Jogno district, you can take one of the 1 and 2 subway line, which will take you to Seoul City Hall, from which you can take the Jogno Bus 11.
Method 2: You can take the 606, 601, 172, 171, or 109 blue line city buses to the palace grounds, or alternatively the green line 1020 or 7025. A one-way bus ticket will cost you 1,150 Won – adults and teens, while children below 6-12 pay 450 Won while kids below 5 years ride for free.
Method 3: If you want to reach Gyeongbokgung Palace fast, use the subway at line 3 and get off at Gyeongbokgung station in exit 5. From here you can walk to the palace entrance which is eastwards.
Method 4: Use a taxi for convenience. There are numerous regular taxis in Seoul, but most of the drivers don’t speak English but you can easily communicate where you are going by uttering the words Gyeongbokgung Palace or pointing on a map.
There are international taxis for tourists in Seoul, which have English-speaking drivers. But these cabs are a bit expensive than regular taxis.
Things to Do Inside the Palace
Touring the Gyeongbokgung Palace can take at least a half a day. Ensure you arrive at the entrance before 10 AM and also grab yourself a map of the palace.
Watch the Gate Opening and Guard Changing Ceremonies
The Royal Guard change usually involves reenactment of the military practices during the Joseon Dynasty. The procession takes place between the Heungnyemum Gate and Gwanghwamun Gate, starting at 10 AM while closing at 6 PM. The guards change shifts every 60 minutes on the hour in between.
Take a guided tour of the Gyeongbokgung Palace
The free tour guides are offered in four different languages. The visitors on tour depart from the information desk close to the Heungnyemum Gate. The tours are offered maximum 4 times a day for up to 90 minutes. The English tour starts at 11. AM, 1.30 PM and 3.30 PM. Other languages are Japanese, Korean, and Chinese.
Admire the natural beauty of the palace
The Gyeongbokgung Palace gardens feature lush gardens, islands, lotus ponds and statuary. A visit to these grounds is like a visit to another planet, contrary to the surrounding bustling metropolis of the city.
The entrance fees to the Gyeongbokgung Palace is 3,000 Won for adults, 1,500 Won for kids between 7 and 18 and free for kids 6 and below. If you are planning to visit the palace for more than once, purchase an Integrated Palace ticket as it covers the entrance to the Gyeongbokgung Palace as well as other four palaces. The ticket costs 10,000 Won for adults and kids 5,000 Won. The catch is that you can use the ticket for only up to 3 months.
Tip 1: Being among the top tourist attractions in Seoul, Gyeongbokgung Palace always has large crowds. You can easily beat the crowds by showing up early (8.45 AM) before the palace gate is opened.
Tip 2: the tour buses drop off visitors on the east side of the grounds, where there is a ticket booth. This booth is always crowded because many tourists don’t know that there is actually the main ticket booth inside the Gwanghwamun Gate (the main gate).
Tip 3: The largest number of tourists visiting the Gyeongbokgung Palace is Chinese and they are usually in large groups too. But you see, they normally stop for three snaps and depart to their next destination. If you learn how to sidestep them and get to those attractions, you will be the only tourist who is not bothered by the crowd.
Seoul Travel and Tour Packages
Seoul Private 4 Hour Tour with A Korean Buddy
- Plan your own four-hour tour and have a Korean guide who speaks English, Chinese or Japanese guide you!
- You and your friends will get to see places that suit your interests the best.
- Find the most famous shopping items and the best restaurants with your Korean buddy.
- Meet your guide at the hotel or at the starting point of your tour, who will drop you off at your hotel safely.
- This is the ideal tour for groups who don’t have a lot of free time in Seoul to spare!
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