Travel period Feb 2017
The “Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven”
Gyeongbokgung, also known as Gyeongbokgung Palace, is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces. Located in northern Seoul, South Korea, Gyeongbokgung was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty, and is one of the most iconic sights in all of Korea. Construction on Gyeongbokgung Palace was completed in 1395 at the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty during the reign of King Taejo.
Gyeongbokgung, that means “palace greatly blessed by Heaven”, and was built in the heart of Seoul surrounded by Mount Bugaksan and Mount Namsan. When construction was completed, Gyeongbokgung Palace became the heart of the capital of Korea along with the head of state of the Joseon Dynasty. The place is absorbing, and the chance to stroll the dusty paths between its delicate tile-roofed buildings is one of the most enjoyable experiences Seoul has to offer.
Gyeongbokgung Palace is a very big area with many buildings and details to explore. The layout consists of the outer courts, inner courts, pavilions, etc. There are also two museums located on the grounds of the palace. The National Palace Museum of Korea is located south of Heungnyemun Gate, and the National Folk Museum is located on the eastern side within Hyangwonjeong.
We started our tour at Gwanghwamun, the palace’s southern gate. Entering through the first courtyard – Gwanghwamun gate
Gwanghwamun Gate is the imposing main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace. The gate has been rebuilt many times over the years but remains an icon of Seoul. Construction began in 1395 at the beginning of the Joseon dynasty. The gate quickly became one of the most important gates of the Joseon Dynasty since it guarded the main palace. During the Korean War, the wooden gatehouse was destroyed once again. It was rebuilt using concrete and remained this way until 2006.
In December 2006, work began to restore Gwanghwamun to its original wooden specifications. The restoration work paid special attention to historical details. On August 15, 2010, restoration work was completed.
In the main gate, the palace provides free guides, and free brochures with details about Gyeongbokgung. However, we couldn’t seem to catch an English tour anywhere so we just roamed around the Palace grounds on our own. After we passed Gwanghwamun gate, we entered the second gate – Heungnyemun Gate
Heungnyemun Gate is the second inner gate into Gyeongbokgung Palace. The gate is located just past Gwanghwamun Gate, the main gate of the palace. When originally built in 1426, the gate was known as Hongnyemun. It was not renamed to Heungnyemun until 1867 when Gyeongbokgung Palace was rebuilt under the orders of Prince Regent Heungseon Daewongun.
After we walked through the Heungnyemun gate, we entered the main throne hall of Gyeongbokgung palace – Geunjeongjeon Hall
Geunjeongjeon Hall is the main throne hall of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Originally built in 1395, Geunjeongjeon is now the largest and most formal hall at the palace where the King met his officials to discuss the problems of the country. This is also the place that the King gave his decree to publish his decision about the national importance. The name translates to “all affairs will be properly managed if Your Majesty demonstrates diligence.” Despite being the largest wooden structure in the country, this two-level construction remains surprisingly graceful, with the corners of its gently sloping roof home to lines of tiny guardian figurines. The central path leading up to the building was once used only by the king, but the best views of its interior are actually from the sides.
After visited Geunjeongjeon we went to the next place named – Sujeongjeon Hall
Sujeongjeon Hall located to the south of Gyeonghoeru Pavilion was used as a sleeping quarter of the king and as a cabinet office during the Reform Movement of 1894. Originally, the hall located here was known as Jiphyeonjeon or Hall of Worthies. It was built by King Sejong during his reign from 1418 to 1450.
Located on a peaceful pond, Gyeonghoeru Pavilion is the most beautiful views at Gyeongbokgung Palace. This was the place holding the most important state banquet in Joseon Dynasty. It was also used to welcome important foreign visitors as envoys from other countries.
Located to the east of Gyeonghoeru Pavillion is – Gangyeongjeon Hall
Gangnyeongjeon Hall, named after the virtue of health, the former living quarters and resting area for the king. It was first constructed in 1395 and was built in a checkerboard pattern of fourteen rectangular chambers and corridors. Fourteen chambers are divided into two sides with seven chambers on each side. The king also met with his entourage here to discuss daily activities, state affairs and office duties.
Our next visit was
Gyotaejeon Hall, located behind Gangnyeongjeon Hall, was the main residence for the Queen – the most powerful woman in the King’s harem. Different from other concubines, the Queen had her own place to live. This was Gyotaejeon. The hall, which was built around 1440, served as the location where the queen oversaw the operation of the household at the palace. At the rear of Gyotaejeon Hall lies the garden of Amisan. This famous and beautiful garden features a terraced flower garden, decorated stonework, and four chimneys. These chimneys, hexagonal in design, were built around 1870 and feature decorative orange bricks and roof tiles.
Geoncheonggung Residence was built by King Gojong for the purpose of being politically independent of his father, Heungseon Daewongun. The residence was constructed in 1873, five years after Gyeongbokgung Palace was built. Jangandang Hall was where the king resided while Gonnyeonghap Hall was the residence of the queen. A library was built behind Jangandang Hall. In 1909 this area was demolished by the Japanese government. In 2007 after years of restoration and renovations, the area reopened with its former design.
Hamhwadang Hall and Jipgyeondang Hall, located north of Gyotaejeon Hall, is where King Gojong met with officials and welcomed foreign envoys when he resided at Geoncheonggung Residence. The exact purposes of the buildings are not known. It was believed that these halls were used as living quarters for concubines and court ladies. Hamhwadang Hall and Jipgyeongdang Hall are connected by a corridor that is a fine example of the once complex network of passageways of the original palace.
Hamwonjeon Hall, built during the reign of King Sejong, was believed to have been used as the location of many Buddhist events at Gyeongbokgung Palace. Hamwonjeon Hall has been damaged by fire and rebuilt many times throughout the years. The hall was last rebuilt in 1888.
Heumgyeonggak Pavilion, located near Gangnyeongjeon Hall was built in 1438 during the reign of King Sejong, and was used by the king for astronomical and agricultural observations and research. Heumgyeong means “respectful veneration of the ways of heaven.”
Hyangwonjeong Pavilion is a two-story hexagonal pavilion built on a small island in the middle of a lake on the northern grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace. The beautiful pavilion was built on an artificial island in the middle of Hyangwonji pond and connected to the grounds by a bridge named Chwihyanggyo. Coming to this part of the palace, you can admire the harmonious combination of the artificial constructions with the beauty of nature around.
Directions to Gyeongbokgung Palace
Take Subway Line 3 to Gyeongbokgung Station (Exit 5) OR
Take Subway Line 5 to Gwanghwamun Station (Exit 2).
Ticket office close 1 hour before closing time.
Closed on Tuesday
Adult: KRW 3,000
Teenager: KRW 1,500
Free guided tours in English are available at 11:00, 13:00, and 15:30. Meet at the information center next to the main entrance. Tours are also available in Japanese (10:00, 12:30, 14:30) and Chinese (10:30, 13:00, 15:00).
This palace is included with the Integrated Ticket of Palaces.
Note: The information provided in this post was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service.