Changgyeonggung Palace (“The Palace of Bright Rejoicing”) was once the summer palace of Goryeo King Sukjong. Today visitors come to stroll among the gardens and admire the architecture of the 15th century palace.
Start at the Jongmyo Shrine. This internationally protected World Heritage site is the oldest Confucian shrine in the world. It has existed as it is today since the 16th century, and holds tablets with inscriptions of teachings from the various royals of the Joseon Dynasty. Traditional rituals and ceremonies still take place here.
Heading away from Jongmyo on the footbridge towards Changgyeonggung Palace, note the stone structures on the hill leading south. One of these is a former observatory. The palace’s grand entrance gate, Honghwamu, leads onto the Okcheongyo bridge. Constructed in 1483, the bridge is considered to be the oldest in Seoul. Look for the carved goblins lurking under the parapet.
Like Seoul’s other Great Palaces, the peaceful atmosphere at Changgyeonggung hides a turbulent history. It was destroyed in the late 16th century by the Japanese, and damaged by fire in the early 19th century. The majority of the buildings you see today are less than 200 years old. Keep your eyes peeled for older structures, such as the Myeongjeongjeon, which dates back to 1616 and is the oldest surviving main hall in Seoul.
Tours of Changgyeonggung Palace are available at regular intervals throughout the day. Sign up for one if you want to learn more about the palace’s colorful past. If you’re navigating the complex on your own, don’t miss Gyeongchunjeon, believed to be the birthplace of several prominent kings.
The glasshouse, or Daeonsil, is a Victorian-style conservatory built in the early 20th century. It’s a peaceful space where you can wander among indigenous Korean plants. At the center of the Daeonsil you’ll find a Renaissance-style water fountain with a stone turtle beneath the surface.
Changgyeonggung Palace is
open Tuesday through Sunday. If you want to see Seoul’s four other grand
palaces, consider buying an integrated ticket for discounted entrance into all