What a busy life in a city with people moving busy, running cars at a high speed, and skyscrapers. We are living in modern times, in which all are changing rapidly. Here, Seoul city looks like all of the old traditional one have been all changed, but looking into a little bit more, you can find ‘Korea’s own beauty’ right in the middle of Seoul city. That is Korean traditional royal palace where still keeps the history and beauty of Korea tradition. What about taking time off in your busy life by taking tours of Korean traditional palace, where you can see how the history of Korea goes for a long time.
Gyeongbokgung’s secret room was released only for the first time in 50 years.
Gyeongbokgung is the main royal palace out of the best 5 traditional royal palaces in Seoul, which was built at first among them. Built in 1395 by Taejo of Joseon, Gyeongbokgung Palace is remarkably the most representative edifices of 5 royal palaces. Gyeongbokgung Palace recently starts night opening, so it is getting popular for people.
By the way there is a special place called ‘Chilgung(칠궁)’ where you should not miss out and do pay attention. Released only for the first time in 50 years to people, Chilgung is the palace of Confucian shrine dedicated to memorial services of 7 mothers of Joseon kings, who were not queens but concubines. It opened only for those who visited the Blue house, Cheongwadae, in the past, so it was often called ‘the Secret Palace next to Blue house‘. Unfortunately, this secret palace are only available by ‘Chilgung special exhibition’ 5 times a day. Its reservation is available on the official website of Gyeongbokgung and required at least from one day to six days before visiting.
It takes only 6 minutes by walk from Chilgung to ‘Cheongwadae Sarangchae’. After visiting Chilgung, it is good to watch a variety of exhibitions in Cheongwadae Sarangchae. There is a special ongoing exhibition celebrating the Inter-Korean exchange and cooperation, showing ‘Korean traditional lacquerware inlaid with mother-of-pearl’. It is getting deep into autumn, so how about taking art trip while staying at a tranquil and peaceful Gyeongbokgung along with 1000 years of Korea history?
Address 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
*Last admission: 1 hr before closing
* Operating hours are subject to change depending on conditions or circumstances.
Admission Fees 3,000 won
Royal Residence does not look flashy but look Gorgeous
Going out of exit 4 of Anguk Station and walking a little more, you can view ‘Unhyeongung’ royal residence right in the middle of Seoul city. It is actually not familiar with Korean people though. They might not know such a traditional palace exists there. Here, Unhyeongung was both the home of Heungseon Daewongun and his second son, Gojong, from his birth to becoming the Emperor, who later became the Emperor during Joseon Dynasty.
Having been built in 1864, it is still there as it used to be. Daewongun ordered the abolition of ‘Seowon’, reconstruction of Gyeongbokgung, tax reform, etc in this Unhyeongung. That’s why we can say here remains the meaningful Korean history. In addition, there is a small memorial hall where you can see Daewongun's antiforeign sentiment and the figure of King Gojong and Queen Min’s royal wedding ceremony
There is ‘Gyeongun-dong Min Ikdu’s House’ which is right across Unhyeongung. It was designed and built by Park Gilryng in person, who was a famous and representative architect during Japan colonial period. It is designated by Korea 15th Folk Cultural Property. You can see the features of modernized houses at the time. If you visit Unhyeongung, you can see how Korean traditional houses were changed in order. Surely it will give you a special experience.
Address 464 Samil-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Summer season (April-October) 09:00-19:00
Winter season (November-March) 09:00-18:00
* Last admission is 30 minutes before closing.
Honored but painful History
‘Gyeonghuigung’ is the royal palace you should not miss out in Seoul trip as well. Built in 1617 by Gwanghaegun, it was one of 5 royal palaces such as Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, and Deoksugung. Gyeonghuigung Palace served as the secondary palace for the Joseon kings, but when Japan began occupation of Korea Gyeonghuigung Palace was all destroyed by Japan and some parts of buildings only remained and the others disappeared behind history.
Its site only existed but in 2002 Gyeonghuigung came back because the reconstruction of Gyeonghuigung started in 1988 and a part of 120 small and large buildings was restored and released to citizens. It is now the place both to take time and learn Korean history for Seoul citizens right in the middle of complicated Seoul city. It is good to stop by Gyeonghuigung which has huge historical significance but painful history.
Nearby the Gyeonghuigung Palace is Seoul History Museum, after you have been to Gyeonghuigung, you can cross to History Museum as well. There are several ongoing exhibitions such as ‘88 Olympic and Seoul’, ‘Frontier of Korean Youth Culture, Sinchon’, and ‘Made in Cheonggyecheon’. After looking into Korean history, you can feel more of Seoul.
Adress 55, Saemunan-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Mondays, January 1
Harmony with Beautiful Nature
Changgyeonggung was first built in 1418 by the 4th ruler of the Joseon Dynasty, King Sejong for his retiring father, King Taejong. It often served as residential quarters for queens and concubines, named Myeongjeongjeon, Munjeongjoen, Tongmyeongjeon and finally renamed Changgyeonggung. It was all burned during The Imjinwaeran(Japanese invasions of Korea), repeatedly reconstructed. Even worse it was destroyed by Japan in 1909. During the Japanese occupation, it was the painful history that Changgyeonggung was demoted by calling into Changgyeongwon. However, Korea government started restoring this traditional royal palace from 1987 and regained its old grace after years of restoration.
The reason why Changgyeonggung looks special is not only it has the beautiful pond named Chundangji but the gorgeous forest. Seongjong of Joseon ordered to plant a number of tress for Queen Junghee and his mother, Queen Sohye. It is also damaged in a large area, but 160 kinds of rare tree species are still preserved, so its value of nature still persists. If you visit Changgyeonggung in your Seoul trip, it is better not just to look at the delicate details of the palace but to take a walk as well as to see around its forest.
If you head north there is ‘Jongmyo Shrine’ which are both UNESCO World Heritage and the historic site No. 125. Jongmyo is a primary place of worship for kings and queens throughout Joseon Dynasty and serves the memorial service. It contains over 56,000 (specimens of plants and trees) , consists of Jungjeon, Yeongnyeongjeon, Sindang. It will be a chance to look into the beauty of Korean architecture while appreciating Korean historical site.
Address 185 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Feb-May, Sep-Oct 09:00-18:00
* Last admission is one hour before closing
Every Monday (If Monday is a holiday, it opens)
Admission Fees 1000won
lights on the night of city.
Come autumn, the night opening of Gyeongbokgung always comes around. Unfortunately, it is very hard to get tickets online the same as superstar concerts for Koreans too. If you want to enjoy the night of Korean traditional palace, please visit to ‘Deoksugung’. Built in 1593 by Seonjo of Joseon, it opens till at 9:00pm, so it is one of the major places enjoying trips at night in Seoul.
Deoksugung Palace is one of 5 royal palaces in Seoul. Gojong declared the status of the Korean Empire, declaring Deoksugung Palace as the co-equal of other royal palaces, so it has a huge significance itself. However, due to successive fire and even Gojong’s forced abdication its significance decreased rapidly, compared to the past. Nevertheless, Deoksugung Palace has still remained its own beauty. Walking on Deoksugung Palace and its small stone-wall road, let’s fall into the romance of fall.
It takes about 6 minutes by walk from Deoksugung Palace ‘Hwangudan’. It is good to visit Hwangudan. It is a site for the performance of rite of heaven during the Korean empire. Here is the place where Gojong came into the power, so became the King Gojong. The Korean empire only had 13years of a short history. Go to a trip of that short but intense time, staying with Deoksugung Palace and Hwangudan.
99 Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul
09:00-21:00 (Last ticket sales and admission at 20:00)
The only traditional palace to gain the world’s applauses
‘Changdeokgung‘ is well known for the most well-preserved and beautiful palace of the remaining royal palaces. It was kept as natural as possible and regarded the harmony with nature as the most important design factor, so it shows us what should be considered to environmental design. Not only the palace but also a pond, tree, and plant are harmonized with nature. That’s why Changdeokgung was only recognized as a World Cultural Heritage site by the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Committee out of the remaining royal Joseon palaces.
Changdeokgung Palace’s rear garden is the beauty of Changdeokgung, showing Korea’s own way of decorating garden. Many kings and his families in reality enjoyed taking a walk, holding banquets, learning. For this reason, Changdeokgung is known for the palace where Kings of Joseon had stayed for the logest time than other palaces. Take precaution, here is only available to be with a cultural heritage speicalist guide. If you want, make a reservation online in advance.
Here’s another tip for your Seoul trip. ‘Bukchon Hanok Village’ is located near Changdeokgung Palace. It takes only 13 minutes from Changdeokgung to Bukchon Hanok Village by walk. Looking around where the Kings of Joseon and royalty lived in at the time, needs only 13 minutes. When wearing Hanbok(Korean traditional costume), the admission fee is free. Having borrowed Hanbok, take a walk to Changdeokgung Palace.
Address 99, Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Feb-May, Sep-Oct 09:00-18:00
* Last admission: 1 hour before closing
“Feel the way of this season, staying in a traditional palace”
It is so unfortunate only to stay at home in this season. It seems to go by more quickly unless you enjoy this season. For those who want to feel such a joyful time here is a good recommendation to take your time off in a traditional palace in Seoul. It will give you tranquil time in Seoul to walk and feel like you can smell the old Korean history.
Pictures: Editor’s pictures, Gyeongbokgung, Deoksugung , KTO Korea Tourism Organization, VISIT SEOUL, Cultural Heritage