Welcome to the second part of my travel review! Last week I told you guys about my experience renting a Hanbok at the 3355 rental store in Gyeongbokgung. Well, today’s post is going to be about the spots I visited in Gyeongbokgung Palace as I showed off my beautiful Hanbok!
I wish I could have explored more, but it would have taken hours to tour the whole palace, and honestly my feet were killing me towards the end. It was gorgeous, though, and the weather was amazing.Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces (the other four being Gyeonghuigung, Deoksugung, Changgyeonggung, and Changdeokgung) and was first constructed in 1394 during the Joseon Dynasty. The name translates to ‘palace greatly blessed by heaven.’
As of 2009, roughly 40% of the original number of palace buildings still stand or are being reconstructed after being heavily destroyed by the Japanese government in the early 20th century.
Entering the Palace
Gyeongbokgung Palace is open every day except Tuesday from 9am to 6pm (last entry time 5pm). Keep in mind that closing times vary from season to season. From November to February, the palace is only open until 5pm.
Click here for the ticket prices. Don’t forget to bring your passport or a valid photo ID to confirm your age!
1. Gwanghwamun Gate
Gwanghwamun Gate is the main gate of the palace, with three arched openings and a double roof. The king would use the central arch, while the crown prince and officials entered through the sides. There also used to be a bell in the gate pavilion which was used to announce the time of day.
The gates are replicas of fortress gates, with high stone foundations and arched entrances in the center, which are a good indication that Gwanghwamun Gate is the main gate of the main palace.Make sure you don’t miss the changing of the guard ceremony that takes place in front of the gate every day at 11am and 1pm, excluding Tuesdays.
During the Joseon Dynasty, the royal guards had the task of guarding and patrolling gates of the palace. The ceremony took place whenever the shifts changed over, starting in 1469 and continuing until the end of the dynasty. What you see now is just a re-enactment. The guard’s bright-colored costumes and fluid movements are a real pleasure to see, so take lots of pictures!
2. Geunjeongjeon Hall
Geunjeongjeon Hall is the largest and most formal main throne hall of Gyeongbokgung Palace, originally built in 1395 during King Taejo’s reign. Here the king would hold meetings, receptions for foreign visitors, dignitaries, and handle state affairs.
There were also strange-looking stone gargoyles at the corners of the foundation and around the stairs, which I later found out were the 4 directional guardians and 12 Chinese zodiac animal signs.The spacious courtyard in front of the hall was where important events were held. It is paved with rectangular stones called ‘pumgyeseoks’, which are markers that civil and military officials would line up against according to their ranks during official functions.
The king’s throne can only be viewed from a distance, but just look at how grand it is. Also, check out all the intricate details surrounding the throne hall. Can you imagine how long it must have taken to build and paint all of that?!
3. Hyangwonjeong Pavilion and Pond
This next spot is by far my favorite in Gyeongbokgung Palace as it looks like something straight out of a postcard, with all the gorgeous colors and mountain view in the background.
Hyangwonjeong Pavilion, meaning ‘pavilion of far-reaching fragrance’, is a two-story hexagonal pavilion built on a small artificial islet in the middle of a pond on the northern grounds of the palace. The king used the area for rest and leisure.
The bridge allows private access to the island and actually used to be much longer and was on the north side of the island, but was destroyed during the Korean War. Its present form on the south side of the island was reconstructed in 1953. Unfortunately, you can only admire the pavilion from afar as no one is allowed to cross the bridge for safety reasons. The foot of the bridge is a very popular photo spot as it was right in front of it, though!
4. Gyeonghoeru Pavilion
Built on the pond west of the king’s living quarters, Gyeonghoeru Pavilion was where the king held special banquets for foreign envoys or court officials.
The name means that the king is capable of handling national affairs only when he has the right people around him. Once again, the original pavilion was burned down in a fire during the Japanese Invasions between 1592 and 1598.
Though you can’t really see them as you can’t get close to the pavilion, sculpted animals sit on top of the front railing stones leading to it. This is to ward off evil spirits.
5. National Folk Museum of Korea
The final place that I stopped by was the National Folk Museum of Korea. By this point, the balls of my feet were crying in pain in my shoes so I was practically hobbling around.Located inside the palace, the museum is home to over 4,000 historical artifacts that were used by ordinary Korean people in their daily lives. Thanks to the three main exhibition halls and donation hall, you can learn all about Korean society and culture throughout the centuries here.
I didn’t really get a chance to walk around and explore the museum due to time constraints, but the area was full of people and there were amenities like a cafe, internet room, library, and souvenir shop!Check out Trazy’s video below that shows you all of the five most photogenic spots in Gyeongbokgung Palace mentioned above. 😉
So How Do I Get There?
There are several ways to get to and tour Gyeongbokgung Palace. The Seoul Palace Guided Tour is a great way to explore Gyeongbokgung as well as Changdeokgung and Deoksugung with an experienced and knowledgeable English tour guide. If you want to immerse yourself in Korea’s rich historical heritage more comprehensively, try the Korean Palace Tour where you can also visit the National Folk Museum of Korea, Namdaemun Market, and Buddhist temples!For those who would prefer to explore without any guidance, the Downtown and Palace Course option for the Seoul City Tour Bus Ticket will take you to the most popular tourist destinations in downtown Seoul, including the major palaces. Aanndd that wraps up my two-part series on Gyeongbokgung! I hope that you guys enjoyed reading all about my experience renting a Hanbok and touring the palace. It was fascinating seeing how much history the palace embodied as I explored the grounds.
Don’t forget to check out Trazy.com, Korea’s #1 Travel Shop, for more travel reviews, guides, and fun things to do in Korea!