The Gyeongbokgung Palace is also called the “Northern Palace” because of its location as compared to the neighboring Changdeokgung (east), Gyeonghuigung (west), and Deoksogung palaces. Each of the palaces has its own beauty but Gyeongbokgung is arguably the most beautiful and grandest of all palaces. It is the main of the five grand palaces built by the Joseon dynasty and when translated, it means the “Palace of Shining Happiness.”
Gyeongbokgung is a 5-10 minute walk from 126 Mansion, the guesthouse we stayed in. On our way to the palace via Samcheongdong-gil street, we passed by the National Folk Museum. The entrance ticket to Gyeongbokgung includes entrance to the National Folk Museum. There are two museums in Gyeongbokgung, the other one being the National Palace Museum of Korea.
At the end of the street is Dongsipjagak which is the palace’s guard watch tower. If you turn left, you’ll be heading to Insadong area or the Anguk MRT station. That’s also where you can find Changdeokgung Palace which is on the same street as Gyeongbokgung but it’s a long walk if you take this route (check the map below for an alternative route to Changdeokgung). On the other hand, if you turn right, you’ll be heading to the Gwanghwamun Square and the Gyeongbokgung Palace. The picture you see above is the view upon turning right.
Gwanghwamun Square is where you can see the statues of King Sejong and Amiral Yi and it is right in front of the main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace. We didn’t go there on our first day even if it’s just across the palace. Gyeongbokgung is so big you’ll need about 2-3 hours to explore the whole area, and Gwanghwamun, even though it only appears to be a vast open space is somehow just as big. Anyhow, I had the opportunity to go to the Gwanghwamun Square at night and I will show photos of that in another post.
That is the Gwanghwamun Gate which is the main gate of Gyeongbokgung and as you can see, there are lots of people at the entrance.
That’s because there was an on-going ceremony called the “changing of the guards.”
The ceremony has not started yet when we came so we went inside first to get our entrance tickets.
Upon entering the main gate, look to your right and you’ll see this pink structure. Beside that is the ticket house.
Tickets cost 3,000krw but for groups of 10 or more, you can get them at a discount for only 2,400krw.
There are so many gates inside the palace and that’s us having a photo op with the second inner gate or Heungnyemun at the back.
While we posed for a few more photos, the ceremony of the changing of the guards was ready to start.
During the old times, the royal guards of Joseon Dynasty performed a specific task of guarding the Gwanghwamun Gate. The ceremony of changing guards first took place in 1469 and continued until the end of the dynasty. The present day ceremony is only a re-enactment of the original one and the re-enactment was started only in 1996.
The ceremony is a parade of guardsmen wearing colorful uniforms, unique weapons, and accessories.
It is a great attraction for tourists because it’s rare to experience traditional events in such a huge and modern city like Seoul.
The changing of the guards happen everyday at regular intervals from 10am to 3pm except Tuesdays. Like any other tourist, I had to do my Asian pose with the guards as my background
I was able to capture a short clip of the ceremony and uploaded it in Youtube. Sorry if it’s blurry
Check out more of our Gyeongbokgung Palace photos below:
Heungnyemun or the second inner gate
i heard the palace is the most famous of the five grand palaces. i guess it’s obvious just by looking at the number of guests who went there on a weekday. i heard the number increases on weekends.
look at the details. so intricate.
Gyeunjongjon Hall is the throne hall where the king formally granted audiences to his officials, gave out speeches and declarations, and greeted foreign envoys during the Joseon Dynasty
i got mesmerized by the details that surrounded the throne hall
wooden door at the throne hall
again, the details… i can imagine how painstaking it is to make these for all the structures in the palace..
just as the palace is breathtaking, so is the view outside… love the moutains that serve as the backdrop for the palace!
i heard each tile is hand-painted…
i also learned that the restoration of the palace is not yet fully completed…
that’s hubby and moi enjoying a photo op with the pillars
inside Gyeongbokgung Palace is a corner where you can try wearing hanbok. it’s the traditional Korean dress often characterized by vibrant colors and simple lines without pockets. because of the simple lines, wearinga hanbok will make you look fat haha kidding
wearing a hanbok is free but you have to register and wait for your turn. we waited for an hour for our turn. we’re the last group accommodated and if i remember it correctly, the hanbok kiosk closed around 4pm.
tada! me and hubby in hanboks!
goofin’ around in hanboks fun times
while waiting for our turn to wear hanboks, we made a few more walks inside the palace and we stopped to admire the beauty of this pond… again, with the mountain view at the back, the whole scene is simply breathtaking…
this is not to taint the breathtaking view with our chubby faces but heck, we travelled too far just to be here… we can’t just waste this rare chance to camwhore, right?
this is Gyeonghoeru or the pavilion which holds special banquets during Joseon dynasty
another photo op with hubby because as they say, you better take that shot or it didn’t happen!
And that wraps up our Day 1 in photos. Gyeongbokgung is a beautiful place. Some would probably argue that Changdeokgung is more beautiful especially because it’s recently popularized by the hit Korean drama “Secret Garden” which starred Hyun Bin. I didn’t go inside Changdeokgung because we didn’t have enough time but I saw it from the outside when my friend Hyunchung and I went out for a walk.
So if you’re wondering which palace should you go first when you go to Seoul, you need to consider your time limitations. If you have a lot of time to spare for palace-hopping, visit them both. But if you only have limited time, Gyeongbokgung would be a good starting point because it is the main of the five grand palaces.
Before I end this post, I promised I will share a map of our route on the first day and I’m posting here the map I got from 126 Mansion because it’s really helpful. The pink lines will show you the streets we went to and the yellow arrows point to places of interest.
As a recap, here’s what happened on our first day in Seoul:
Arrival at the Incheon International Airport and transfer to Seoul via pre-contracted Deluxe Jumbo airport taxi. Cost, 80,000krw divided by six persons. 13,335krw.
Visited Gyeongbokgung Palace. Entrance ticket costs 3,000krw with 20% discount for groups of 10 or more. 2,400krw.
Visited Samcheongdong and Bukchon. Free.
Watched the changing of the guards. Gyeongbokgung entrance ticket is not required. Free.
Tried on hanboks. Free but included in the Gyeongbokgung ticket.
Lunch and Dinner. We had a heavy breakfast at 126 cafe. Then I had smoked ham sandwich, banana caramel toast, and coffee at Nescafe Cafe in Samcheong-ro, around 8,500krw. For dinner, I only had a set meal at Burger King with sandwich, French fries, and large soda, around 8,000krw. Total for food, 16,500krw.
Total Day 1 Expenses: 32,335krw or P1,290.
Whew! I’m done with Day 1 but please come back for Day 2 because I’ll be posting photos of our experience in Nami Island and Myeongdong shopping
This is part of a series of posts about Seoul. Check out the others:
- [Updated] Getting a Korean Visa
- Seoul Series: Why I Love 126 Mansion (review)
- [Seoul Series] Day 1: Arriving in Seoul and Exploring Samcheongdong and Bukchon
- [Seoul Series] Day 2: Nami Island/Naminara Republic
- [Seoul Series] Day 3: COEX Mall, COEX Aquarium, Kimchi Field Museum, and Doota Mall
- [Seoul Series] Day 4: Insadong, Ssamzie-gil, Jogyesa Temple