Seoul's powerful and beautiful palaces.
Yes, a good visit to Seoul should certainly not happen without a visit to one of the beautiful palaces. There are even 5 royal palaces in Seoul which historically all link together. Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace and Gyeonghuigung Palace. We have visited 2 of these palaces ourselves, based on the advice of the local Koreans.
The beautiful Gyeongbokgung Palace was the first and largest of the royal palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty. Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace was located at the heart of the newly appointed capital of Seoul (then known as Hanyang). This palace complex is huge and varied. You will see large palaces, an enormous garden with beautiful ponds and even more beautiful plants. Impressive buildings with amazing carvings give a special atmosphere of the antiquity of the complex.
When visiting, don't forget to coordinate your visiting time with the changing of the guard. We have seen this in many different countries, but this changing of the guard is grand and very impressive. The changing of the guard takes place at 10am and 2pm every day except Tuesdays. Aim to arrive at least 15 minutes before the changing of the guard ceremony in order to ensure a good viewing spot. The performance begins when the gong sounds and continues for about 20 minutes.
Gyeongbokgung palace welcomes visitors every day except Tuesday. Hours vary by season, but generally, you can expect the attraction to be open from 9am to 5 or 6.30pm. Admission costs 3000 won for adults, and 1500 won for visitors ages 7 to 18.
Within walking distance of Gyeongbokgung palace is the equally impressive Changdeokgung Palace. Also a huge complex with lakes, enormous palace buildings and a wonderful atmosphere.
Built in 1405, this palace has been the principal residence off many kings from the Joseon dynasty. The marriage of nature and architecture is a stunning sight at this palace. Many of the buildings here are hand painted. This palace was once burned down in 1592 when an angry mob vented its frustration over the absconding king during the Japanese invasion. Perhaps the most well known part of this palace is the Huwon or secret garden. It is surrounded by gorgeous trees and fountains and is absolutely heavenly in all seasons, especially autumn. The palace was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1997 and since then its popularity has only soared.
During a visit it is very worthwhile to visit the secret garden. This costs a little extra, but you get a guided tour together with a small group of people. All the impressive photo-worthy locations of this beautiful garden are highlighted here. It's really breathtaking.
Changdeokgung Palace welcomes visitors every day except Monday. Opening hours are from 9am to 5.30 or 6.30pm. Admission costs 3000 won for adults, and 1500 won for visitors ages 7 to 18. The secret garden (Huwon Tour)tour costs 5000 won for adults and 2500 won for visitors ages 7 to 18.
Visit the palaces in the local Hanbok costume:
At the beginning during your visit to the palaces you will be surprised if you see people walking in traditional (Hanbok) clothing. A nice touch is that the entrance to the palace is free for those who are dressed in the traditional Korean Hanbok. Several shops can be found around the entrance of the palace that rent out the clothing. Entire families and groups of friends shuffle around the grounds in the special dresses, which provides more than enough fun photo moments.