I went on a big Palace tour over a weekend. There are five palaces in Seoul from the Joseon area, three of which will be discussed here.
I always enjoy visiting these places, and there were quite a lot of events going on during this time as part of the Royal Culture Festival, so it seemed like a good time to check them out. All of these are located pretty close to each other in downtown Seoul, so you can probably get through all of them in a day.
Visting these historic sites, you often see Koreans wearing traditional clothes (Hanbok) and taking pictures, which gives these places their own unique vibe.
There are (pretty low) entrance fees. You can buy individual passes, or buy a combined ticket that gets you into about half a dozen palaces and shrines. I don’t remember the price, but it was really cheap.
Changdeokgung was founded in the 14th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This palace was used by kings and ministers to discuss state affairs, and as a residence for the royal family.
As you can tell from the pictures, it’s a beautiful place featuring the usual Korean architecture of the time. Much recommended.
This palace also contains a Secret Garden, which appears to be one of the main attractions as you have to pay separate tickets for that one (and it costs a lot more than the palace ticket), but I didn’t have enough time to check it out. More on that at a later time, maybe.
Changgyeonggung Palace was built in the 15th century and primarily served as a residence for queens and concubines.
It features some lovely gardens and a pond that is a fantastic place to hang out and relax. Furthermore, there is also a botanic garden that can be traced back to the time of Japanese colonial rule.
There was also a musical act going on as part of the Royal Culture Festival:
Gyeongbokgung (also referred to as the Nothern Palace), is the biggest of Seoul’s five palaces and was built in the 14th century. It was used as the King’s residence in the Joseon era, as well as housing the government and the Kings’ household. Needless to say, there’s a lot to see here. Furthermore, the bulk of the activities of the Royal Culture Festival seemed to take place here.
Inside, there is also a beautiful pond:
The palace grounds also are located next to two museums. First, there’s the National Folk Museum:
This museum gives insights into the daily lives of ordinary Koreans by showing a bunch of (replicas) of historical objects ranging from prehistoric times to the early 20th century. My favorite part are probably the old buildings located outside that make you feel like you have just stepped into a time machine.
There’s also the National Palace Museum that features exhibitions on (among others) ancestral rites, palace architecture, and science in the Joseon dynasty.
In front of the palace entrance, there was a big stage where different musical acts performed each evening during the Royal Palace Festival. When I went there, a group from Thailand was invited to perform some traditional music and dance performances from the Chakri dynasty. A very neat coincidence, as I’m supposed to give a presentation on Thailand shortly, including its traditions and culture, so this made for some good #synergy.
This is a tale as old as time. The dude is trying to get with the lady. To quote the description that was given beforehand: ‘She flirts with him, but then just vanishes in a cloud.’ Women, amirite? Sadly, there was no cloud, and they just walked offstage.
Watching these performances as the sun set was quite a beautiful experience. And if you’re ever in the area at night, make sure to check out the area in front of the palace:
Overall, I really enjoyed all of these temples. If you only have time for one, Gyeongbokgung is definitely a must see visit.