Don’t say you’ve been to Korea if you have never visited at least one of the palaces, especially not if you are a huge fan of Korean period dramas!
Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is also commonly referred to as the Northern Palace because its location is furthest north when compared to the neighboring palaces of Changdeokgung (Eastern Palace) and Gyeonghuigung (Western Palace) Palace. Gyeongbokgung Palace is arguably the most beautiful, and remains the largest of all five palaces.
Plus point: This was the filming location for “Rooftop Prince”, “Queen In-Hyun’s Man” and “Moon Embracing the Sun”!
The palace is always crowded, irregardless of whether it is a weekday or weekend 😂Personally I don’t really like the crowds because it’s a little jarring to see so many people in your photographs, and it does ruin your viewing experience a little, but I guess it’s inevitable for a tourist hotspot. In fact, many locals also visit Gyeongbokgung – I’ve seen them coming during lunch hour? Not sure why.
I visited this palace twice – once in summer, and another time in winter. If you rent a hanbok to wear into the palace, you get to enter for free! Hanbok rental shops are prevalent in the area. I picked one that was rather crowded (and directly across Gyeongbokgung). I paid 15 000 won for 2h hanbok rental, and 5000 won for a staff to help me with my hairdo.
I really like the design of this hanbok because it looks so fairy-like and ethereal, but just a warning that the quality of the material itself is not great. I didn’t take much of an issue with it because I had to return it and it wasn’t something that I was keeping, but if you are more particular about material quality, do check out the other hanbok rental shops around the area.
Another thing to take note is that the hanbok is a little thin to wear in the winter weather. I actually wore my sweater and jeans underneath, but it’s still pretty cold without my thicker winter jacket on. I think it’s too hot to wear it in summer though, so the best time to come and try this on would probably be in spring or autumn.
Depending on where you walk from, you might enter Gyeongbokgung from Gwanghwamun. This main gate also holds a rich history of its own; during the 1592 Japanese invasion, it was destroyed by fire and left in ruins for over 250 years. After being rebuilt in 1867, its wooden structure was ruined again in the Korean War, and the stone base lay in neglect. It definitely has seen a lot of history, and many tumultuous events.
Besides exploring the palace grounds and taking photographs, do take the time to visit the National Palace Museum and National Folk Museum if you can. I didn’t have the time to do so on both occasions (it would take almost half a day if you attempted it), which is a real pity, but I’ll be sure to do so next time.
However, I think you can find the occasional exhibition in the palace which are less time-consuming, but definitely no less interesting. Last year, there was an exhibition on Empress Myeongseong, who is a very influential figure in Korean history. The Japanese government at that time (Meiji Japan) considered her an obstacle to their overseas expansion, which she attempted to block in Korea, and was hence assassinated.
You can also stay to watch the royal guard changing ceremony, but do check the timings for each day before you head down. Check it right here ~ I did manage to see it on my first time there, it’s an eye-opening experience that you should definitely try to catch a glimpse of.
Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 종로구 사직로 161 (세종로)
Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3) and Exit 5.
Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3) and Exit 1.
Take Bus No. 1020, 7025,109, 171, 172, 601 or 606 and get off at Gyeongbokgung Palace Bus Stop.
Take Jongno Bus No. 11 and get off at National Folk Museum of Korea Bus Stop. 마을버스 종로11
Gyeongbokgung Station is nearer to the palace, but Anguk Station is actually also not too far off. I usually walk from Anguk Station, which happens to be near Insadong as well. If you are planning on visiting Insadong before heading to Gyeongbokgung, Anguk Station will do the trick.