Having undergone major reconstruction since its original completion in 1395 during the Joseon Dynasty, Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest of 5 palaces in Seoul, South Korea.
Positioned with Mount Namsan in the foreground and Mount Bugaksan to its rear , the Palace sits in the very heart of Seoul. It’s name means “Palace Greatly Blessed By Heaven” and is suitably impressive both inside and out.
We entered from the road through one of four main gates to the palace, namely Gwanghwamun1. With a two-story gate tower and three arched gates, you are given a taste of the grandeur to come.
The central arch was rightly reserved for the kings entrance, while the crown prince and officials entered through the arches on either side.
Heungnyemun Gate Compound
This is the first gate inside the palace walls and its corridors extend out to form an enclosure, within which is Geumcheon Stream. This stream together with the bridge at its center marked the boundary where officials stood during their audiences with the king.
Geunjeongmun Gate Compound
This gate leads into the compound of the Throne hall or Geunjeongjeon, whose name means “diligence helps governance”. Planted on the courtyard are rank stones which enabled court officials to find their places during functions. Rectangular stones used to pave the courtyard have a rough finish to help prevent people standing in the courtyard from being blinded by the sun. Coronations and events involving foreign envoys were held in and around the hall, which is the largest and most formal of Gyeongbokgung Palace.
Of great importance, the Throne Hall was where the king granted audiences with his officials, met foreign envoys and where large official functions where presided over.
Exterior Of The Hall
Sitting grandly with Mt. Bukak in the background, it has a stunning and intricate two-tier roof and sits raised on a double tier terrace foundation. Sculptures of four directional guardians and twelve chinese zodiac animal signs sit at the foundation corners and on the stair banisters.
Interior Of The Hall
Once inside, the elaborately designed and decorated ceiling is open to the second tier, with the throne sitting in the middle of the halls north side. Intricately patterned square blocks line the floor and a pair of sculptured dragons decorates the ceiling to stunning effect.
A beautifully painted wall screen sits behind the throne, showcasing the sun, moon and a five peak mountain scene.
Strolling from Geunjeongjeon Hall, you can view Gangnyeongjeon Hall which was the kings living quarters, and Gyotaejeon Hall serving as the queens living quarters. Although structurally the same, there is a stone veranda in front of Gangnyeongjeon Hall.
There is a beautiful area behind Gyotaejeon Hall, called Amisan or an artificial mound, which has the same chinese characters for Mt Emei which is said to be beautiful. The hill has floral terraces and stone structures symbolising ponds and lakes, creating the imaginary scene of harmony between lakes and mountains.
Be sure to check out the other buildings, pavillion and lake as there is plenty to view and photograph.
As part of your Palace ticket is free access to the National Folk Museum inside the Palace grounds.
National Folk Museum
The outside section of the museum has wonderful wooden totem poles and stone sculptures of the spirit guardians which would protect villages. Inside on display are a diverse selection of artifacts and materials related to the daily lives of Korean people and give a comprehensive insight into Korean culture.
Various scenes have been created and show how Korean life has changed and adapted over the years to present day, from customs, rituals, local superstitions, traditional banquets and weddings.
Rent an audio guide from the information desk for a pre-recorded commentary explaining the exhibits in the order of the tour and the movement path.
There is a cafe on site and a well stocked museum.
- Gyeongbokgung Palace can be reached from Exit 5 of Gyeongbokgung Palace Station on Subway Line 3.
- Closed on Tuesdays, admission prices and opening hours can be found here.
- Tours are available in foreign languages
English : 11:00, 13:30, 15:30
Japanese : 10:00, 12:30, 14:30
Chinese : 10:30, 12:30, 14:00, 16:00
- The Palace main site has extensive information on all the buildings within the complex.
- A guide and visitor information can be found on the main site of the National Folk Museum.
- I would get there as early as possible due to the popularity and crowds of visitors.
Have you visited any of the Royal Palaces in Seoul?
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