Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Grandeur of Gyeongbokgung Palace

Built in 1395 and situated at the foot of Ungbong Peak of Mount Baegaksan in south of SeoulSouth Korea. Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces built during the Joseon dynasty. Not only that. Gyeongbokgung Palace was also served as the principal palace until 1592. History stated that it was burnt down during the Japanese invasions. It was a sad moment as for the next 300 years it was in ruins up until King Gojong father’s era - Heungseon Daewongun; in 1865 it was finally being restored and rebuild. 

Gyeongbokgung Palace means the "Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven" and used to housed around 500 buildings within its complex. Due to the vastness of the area, I would highly suggest for you to wear a good and comfy walk shoes and allocate ample time (this is of course if you are into historical sites, architecture and heritage). Changing of the guard ceremony commences that usually takes place twice a day should not be missed hence give yourself a full day or so… And try to avoid weekend.

The great thing is that the palace offers and interpretation service/tour that departs from Heungnyemun Gate Information Center. The language options are English, Japanese and Chinese for the duration of 1hr 30mins approximately. Details of the timing is stated at the end of this post.

If time is not on your side, I would suggest that you visit this 4 places within Gyeongbokgung Palace Complex. Do bear in mind that the compound is huge so planning and strategizing the buildings/places is best done prior the trip.

1. Geunjeongjeon Hall (Imperial Throne Room)
The prestigious Imperial Throne Room has a courtyard surrounding it. On the banister, stood sculptures of animals representing prestige and bravery. The Imperial Throne Room is the highlight of the palace complex as this where the king meets important and notable visitors back in those days. Geunjeongjeon basically meant the "diligent governance hall".

2. Gyeonghoeru Pavilion
Sits on a beautiful and calm small lake is where the king frequently hosted royal events. An interesting fact, the pavilion appeared on the ₩10,000 note and not only that, it is registered as the National Treasure on 1985.

3. Hyangwonjeong Pavilion
An iconic building located in Gyeongbokgung Palace and what makes it unique is that it is equipped with an ondol heating systems, and that the smoke travelled along the sides instead of the middle. The famous Chwihyanggyo Bridge connects the ‘mainland’ to the Hyangwonjeong Pavilion ‘island’. Like other buildings, Hyangwonjeong is translated as ‘pavilion of far-reaching fragrance’ meanwhile Chwihyanggyo means ‘bridge intoxicated with fragrance’. How apt, right?

4. Geoncheonggung Residence
Geoncheonggung Residence is built by King Gojong in 1873 and his majesty Gojong resided from 1888 onwards. History stated that King Gojong’s wife Empress Myeongseong was assassinated by the Japanese agents here. Saddened by this occurrence the king left the palace in January 1896. This was the beginning of the Japanese occupation.

The Geoncheonggung Residence was later torn down by the Japanese in 1909, and was revived and reconstructed to its former design. Persimmon tree was planted in the rear garden in the memory of King Gojong and Queen Myeongseong.

1. One activity that you might be interested (I know many girls would love this) is that you can rent and wear a beautiful Hanbok trandtional dress at any Hanbok rental shops nearby, and you are able to get a FREE ADMISSION to the palace. I highly encourage you guys to consider this, it’ll be so much fun.
2. There’s a Guard Changing Ceremony or also known as Wanggung Sumunjang that was first re-enacted in 1996 and since then has become one of the favourite must watch performance at Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is happening at 10.00am and 2.00pm daily. However, do take note that it is temporarily closed due to COVID-19
3. Other interesting activities are as below :
   - Gwanghwamun Gate Guard on Duty Ceremony at 11.00am and 1.00pm
   - Royal Guard Costume Experience (before and after the Changing of the Royal Guard Ceremony)
   - Gatekeeper Military Training at 9.30am, 1.30pm (running time 15 min.)
4. Public transportation to Gyeongbokgung Palace
   - 2 options either take the Seoul Subway to Gyeongbokgung Station (Exit 5) or Gwanghwamun Station (Exit 2).
   - For the Gyeongbokgung Station (Exit 5), it is connected to the palace. This is the nearest station to the palace.
   - For Gwanghwamun Station (Exit 2), it takes approximately 8 minutes on foot.

So this is my 4 must visit places/building in the Gyeongbokgung Palace complex. Hope the info and tips are of great help for you to plan a trip once the pandemic is over. Do remember to give ample time when visiting the palace, you’ll never regret it.

Gyeongbokgung Palace
161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
South Korea

Operating Hours*
Nov – Feb : 9.00am -  5.00pm
Mar – May : 9.00am – 6.00pm
June – Aug : 9.00am – 6.30pm
Sept – Oct : 9.00am – 6.00pm
*Closed for visitations every Tuesday

Entrance Fee
Adult : ₩3000
Child ₩1500

Guard Changing Ceremony
10.00am and 2.00pm daily

Interpretation Services
Depart : Heungnyemun Gate Information Center
Duration: 1hour 30min
Tour Schedule
English : 11.00am, 1.30pm, 13.30pm
Japanese : 10.00am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm
Chinese : 10.30am, 1.00pm, 3:00pm

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