If South Korea's rich history has always fascinated you, a visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul should be a definite inclusion on your travel bucket list! This magnificent palace - also referred to as the Northern Palace due to its location - is considered to be one of the country's most famous royal palaces. Read on to find out what makes it so special and why a visit is truly worth it.
History and Origins
The history of Gyeongbokgung Palace dates way back to 1395, when it was constructed by under the rule of King Taejo - the first king and the founder of the Joseon dynasty. The palace was the very first royal palace built during the dynasty and it served as the kings' royal residence as well as the government of Joseon.
The palace was later expanded upon by King Taejong and King Sejong the Great - the third and fourth Kings of the Joseon dynasty respectively. It sustained severe damage by fire years later - most of which was restored under the reign of King Myeongjong.
However, the palace was completely destroyed during the Japanese invasions of Korea in 1592-1598, following this the royal court was moved to Changdeokgung Palace. Only the burnt ruins of the palace remained during the next three centuries.
The palace was later restored only in 1867 - during the regency of Daewongun. A massive palace complex was put up and it became a royal icon and landmark for the whole country.
What's There to See?
Make sure you don't miss out on the opening and closing of the Royal Palace Gates and the Royal Guard Changing Ceremonies. The Royal Guard-Changing Ceremony in particular provides a great opportunity for visitors to get a glimpse into South Korea's rich culture and past.
This unique cultural event is quite a sight and will parade the gate guardsmen dressed in vibrant costumes, traditional weapons and accessories. The ceremony is a top tourist activity in Seoul and provides a plethora of opportunities to take some great photos during your trip.
The palace hosts three special acts:
1) Sumunjang (Royal Guard) Changing Ceremony
10:00, 14:00 / 20 minutes per ceremony
2) Gwanghwamun Gate Guard-on-Duty Performance
11:00, 13:00 / 10 minutes per ceremony
3) Sumungun (Gatekeeper) Military Training (outside Hyeopsaengmun Gate)
09:30, 13:30 / 15 minutes per ceremony
How to Get There?
To reach Gyeongbokgung Palace, you may either take the subway or the bus. Those taking the subway may alight at Exit 5, Gyengbokbung Palace Station (Seoul Subway Line 3). Alternatively, they may alight at Gwanghwamun Station (Seoul Subway Line 5).
Those taking the bus can take bus number 1020, 7025,109, 171, 172, 601 or 606 and get off at the Gyeongbokgung Palace Bus Stop.
Did You Know?
- Gyeongbokgung means Greatly Blessed by Heaven.
- The palace presently houses both the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum - which are open to visitors.
- The palace was voted one of Seoul's most scenic locations - following a survey by the Seoul Development Institute.
- Witnessing the changing of the guards at the Gwanghwamun Gate was voted amongst the top three must-try activities in Seoul by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.