Mesmerized by South Korea's Ancient Charm in Gyeongbokgung Palace
1. Gwanghwamun Gate
Gwanghwamun Gate will be the first structure that welcomes you before you enter the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Gwanghamun Gate is a main gate to the palace erected in 1395 by the first king of Joseon dynasty built by granite stone. Its arched structure is based on the shape of a rainbow, which resounded well with its meaning as an 'Light of enlightment that blankets the whole world'. The gate is guarded by two Haetaes, mythical creatures in Korean folklore taking shape of a hybrid between unicorn and lion that have an ability to eat fire. While the original structure was destroyed by Japanese army during their occupation in South Korea, the gate was soon restored by the Korean government. As for today, the gate is considered as one of Korea's national treasure.
2. The National Folk Museum of Korea
Also located inside Gyeongbokgung Palace complex, the National Folk Museum of Korea displays interesting artifacts used by Korean people in the past where you can also learn intriguing facts about their cultural beliefs. Find out more about Korean's past lives by exploring three main exhibition halls displaying more than 98,000 artifacts. Korean Way of Life section displaying dioramas and artifacts depicting life of Korean villagers in ancient time, while Life Cycle of the Koreans provide in-depth informations about Confucianism and how it shape Koreans' traditions and customs up until today. While History of Korean People display various artifacts ancient Korean people used in their daily life, from prehistoric times to Joseon dynasty. The museum also boasts several main facilities, such as Childrenâ€™s Museum, Traditional Culture Learning Space, Exhibition Halls, Planned Exhibition Halls, and Folk Video Room.
3. The National Palace Museum of Korea
Located inside Gyeongbokgung Palace complex, The National Palace Museum of Korea is a place where you can see over 20,000 royal relics of Joseon Dynasty gathered from all five grand palaces in South Korea. You can learn interesting facts from the dynasty such as their ideals, ancestral rites, science development during the era. The three-storey exhibition halls are divided into 10 areas with displaying different relics. On the First Floor, youâ€™ll find Korean Empire section and Astronomy & Science Hall I. Kings of the Joseon Dynasty section, Joseon Palaces, and Royal Court Life are on Second Floor. Head to the Basement level One to see various Royal Court Paintings, Astronomy & Science Hall II, and Royal Procession section. You can also enjoy Royal Court Music performances in the hall.
4. Gangyeongjeon Hall
Centuries ago, the original Gangyeongjeon Hall was built as part of King Taejo's instructions. The large hall was soon used as the King's main residence and doubled as his office. It consists of long corridors and fourteen chambers, with one central chamber used by the King as his resting space while his court attendants will be inside remaining chambers to protect, assist, and receiving orders from the King. Gangyeongjeon Hall is the only building in Gyeongbokgung Palace complex that doesn't have top white roof ridge (yongmaru) on top of its roof. It is said that the words contain 'yong' character which means 'dragon', and it shouldn't be on top of King's head while he's asleep since the King is supposed to symbolize the dragon. Gangyeongjeon Hall was one of structure inside the complex that received major renovation after it was destroyed by Japanese army.
5. Geonjeongjeon Hall
During Joseon Dynasty, Geonjeongjeon Hall was used as a throne room where the Joseon King would gave important declarations and announcements, it's also a place where the King welcomed guests and ambassadors from overseas. The wooden-constructed building was destroyed in 1592 during Japanese invasion to Korea, although it soon later received renovations alongside with Gyeongbokgung Palace. Geonjeongjeon Hall's architectures is simply stunning. It is supported with large stone platforms lined with balustrades. There are decorations depicting mythical and real animals adorning the stone platforms, while the whole courtyard is enclosed with wooden cloisters.
6. Gyeonghoeru Pavillion
Gyeonghoeru Pavillion was originally built in 1412, before it was destroyed during the Japanese army's invasions to South Korea. The current building was reconstructed in 1867 using the almost similar design with the original building. The Gyeonghoeru Pavillion is supported with 48 stone pillars. The outer perimeters are supported by square pillars, while the inner columns are built in cylinder shapes, the combination was supposed to depict the idea of Yin and Yang. The building's corner balustrades surrounding the small island are decorated with charming sculptures of 12 animal zodiacs.
How to Get Tickets?
Paying for an entrance fee to Gyeongbokgung Palace will give you free access to both National Palace Museum of Korea and National Folk Museum of Korea. Adults age 19 â€“ 64 will have to pay 3,000 won per person, both for domestic and International tourists. For children age 7- 18 years old, the admission ticket costs 1,500 Won. Youâ€™ll get much cheaper deal if youâ€™re going in groups of ten or more. If youâ€™re planning to stay at Seoul for extended time you can also purchase Integrated Palace Ticket for 10,000 Won to enter Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace, and Jongmyo Shrine. The integrated ticket will be valid for three months after the day of purchase.
How To Get Around?
All attractions in Seoul, including Gyeongbokgung Palace are easily accessible by subway or public buses. To go around each attractions inside Gyeongbokgung Palace, you only need to walk on foot for few minutes.
What Should I Wear?
Thereâ€™s no strict dress codes you should wear during your visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace. You are free to wear your favorite denim shorts with a tee. However, itâ€™s more advisable to wear shoulder-covering tops and below-the-knee-length shorts to give respect since the site is also a cultural center. It is much more fun to wear hanbok though, just so you can completely immerse yourself with your surroundings. Also, be sure to check weather forecast first before your departure so you can dress accordingly.
Best Time to Visit
Gyeongbokgung Palace is open from Monday to Sunday, except Tuesday. Best time to visit the palace is in Spring or Fall, when most of the time the weather is ideal. On sunny days, there will be a Royal Guard Changing Ceremony being held. Guards clad in bright-colored Korean traditional outfits carrying traditional weapon on their hand will surely catch your attention.
Will I Need a Guide?
Guides are not necessarily needed, since the museums also provide audio guide translated in English. However it never hurts to hire a guide so you'll get much more in-depth informations about the palace building and historical artifacts in the museums.
How To Get There?
To get to Gyeongbokgung Palace, take a subway train from Seoul Subway Line 3 to Gyeongbokgung Station and head to Exit 5. You can also stop at Anguk Station and take Exit 1. Many public buses include Gyeongbokgung Palace in their route, such as Bus No. 1020, 7025, 109, 171m 172, 601, or 606 and alight at Gyeongbokgung Palace Bus Stop. You can also stop at National Folk Museum of Korea Bus Stop by taking Jongno Bus No. 11.