This royal palace has been destroyed on more than one occasion, but today it stands as one of Seoul’s finest examples of classic Korean architecture.
Seoul is a relativelymodern city, but Gyeongbok Palace is one of the exceptions. The palace wasoriginally built in 1395 and, as home to the Joseon Dynasty, was one of themost important places in the country. Today, almost half of it has beenrestored to its former glory and serves as an example of traditional Koreanculture.
The complex has beenthrough hard times. It was first destroyed during Japanese invasion in the late16th century, and demolished by the Empire of Japan again in the 20th century.Work is still ongoing to restore the 300 or so buildings that made up theoriginal palace.
Gwanghwamun is thecomplex’s main gate to the south, and where most visitors enter from. It’s alsowhere you can catch the changing of the guard, which happens hourly throughoutthe day. Other highlights of the palace complex include Gangnyeongjeon Hall (wherethe kings once lived), the Royal Banquet Hall, and the picturesqueHyangwonjeong, one of the only surviving 19th-century structures.
You’ll need at least anhour to stroll the palace grounds. Learn about Gyeongbok in depth on one of thefree guided tours, which depart from the information office inside HeungnyemunGate a few times a day. Learn more about Korean history at the National PalaceMuseum to the south of Heungnyemun Gate, and the National Folk Museum, which isin Hyangwonjeong itself. Both museums contain extensive collections of Koreanartifacts and cater to English speakers.
A short stroll to thenorth of Gyeongbok Palace brings you to South Korea’s current seat of power,the Blue House. This is where the head of state resides. Though you’ll need tobook well in advance for a tour, the exterior alone is worth seeing. Thetraditional-style blue-tiled pavilions and mountainous backdrop make for asuperb photo opportunity.
GyeongbokPalace is best reached from the Gyeongbokgung or Gwanghwamun subway stations.The palace complex is open every day, except Tuesdays. Consider buying anintegrated ticket, which includes access to three other Grand Palace complexesand the Jongmyo Shrine.