The Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest and most famous palace in all of South Korea.
The palace was originally built in 1395 during the Joseon Dynasty but was mostly burned down during the Japanese invasion in 1592. It was then reconstructed in the late 1850s and has remained a significant historical site since then.
The palace is located in a central spot in the bustling district of Jongno-gu in Seoul. As my friend/tour guide said it best, the contemporary design of the surrounding buildings create a balanced harmony with the traditional Gyeongbokgung Palace. This harmony accurately reflects the importance of both history and modernism in the Korean culture of today.
Changing of the Guard
The changing of the guard is a vibrant reenactment of what the original guardsmen of the palace did centuries ago. It is complete with colorful costumes, fascinating weapons, and an assortment instruments. It gives you a taste of the pageantry and regality of what the palace used to be and what it still tries to preserve to this day.
This ceremony is repeated twice a day by the Heungnyemun Gate and lasts only about 15 minutes.
One noteworthy comment about the palace is that the buildings and structures here all have a specific design pattern. Looking on the archways, ceilings, and such, you’ll see the same unique scheme of colors and shapes repeating throughout the whole palace.
The Geunjeongjeon Hall is also know as the King’s throne room. It is elaborately decorated with exuberant colors and architectural details.
This pavilion, suspended above a large pond, hosted many fancy dinners and parties for important guests of the King.
Hayngwonji Pond & Pavilion
One of the many cultural activities that are aviable at the palace including taking part in a traditional tea ceremony in Jagyeongjeon Hall.
Just as the changing of the guard ceremony, this tea ceremony strives to mimic the original tea practices of centuries past.
In a few of the preceding photos, you may have noticed people wearing some interesting costumes. The colorful dress-like article of clothing is a Hanbok and is a traditional type of Korean clothing. This trend started back in the Joseon Dynasty, same dynasty that the palace was originally built in.
There are many gorgeous styles and colors to the Hanbok, which are available for both women and men. Nowadays, anyone can rent a Hanbok, including accessories, to wear around the palace for the full traditional experience!
Student and Traveler Tips
The palace is actually quite large so be prepared for a lot of walking. Also, most of it is outside and uncovered so do check the forecast before heading out. It wouldn’t be a very enjoyable experience if it was too hot or if it were to rain.
*** The palace is closed on Tuesdays
If you are interested in participating in the tea ceremony or any other event, do your research first. Some of these things require reservations in advance. If you are interested in trying out the Hanbok costumes, I recommend doing that when it gets cooler outside so you don’t overheat.
Expect to spend at least an hour here but there are also plenty of things to do around this part of Jongno-gu so you can defiantly make a day trip out of visiting the area!