If you’ve ever been to Seoul, you’ll know what a fascinating mix of history and modern life it is. Traditional tea houses sit in between great glass skyscrapers as the old and the new collide in a confusing, complimenting way. This is never more apparent than when at Gyeongbokgung palace.
Gyeongbokgung was built in 1395 and was the main royal palace of the Five Grand Palaces of the Joseon dynasty. Its name translates directly as Palace of the Crown Prince, and in the 1800s it had an astonishing 7700 rooms. A large part of the palace was destroyed in the early 20th century during the Japanese invasion, but it is gradually being restored and reconstructed to its original form.
Nowadays, Gyeongbokgung sits among the metropolis of modern northern Seoul, on one side a backdrop of the mountains, on the other flanked by glass-fronted skyscrapers. It’s a pretty fascinating sight, and I thought it was a real representation of South Korea itself – tradition and modernisation side by side.
When I arrived at the palace I was lucky enough to get there at just the right time to experience a parade. I’m pretty sure it was the changing of the guard, but I could be wrong. Either way, it was great to watch, and set the mood for my visit.
After buying my ticket for 3000W ($3, or around £2.10), I entered through the main gate, walked through some courtyards and found myself at the main throne room. Before I got there, however, I had my first experience of being asked for a photo with some people I had never met before. They were in a beautiful historic place and they wanted a photo with the white girl! I had to chuckle. And of course I obliged.
After the throne room, I walked out a side gate and through some smaller courtyards and then round to the back of the palace to the gardens. Honestly, the gardens were the main reason why I had initially wanted to go to the palace, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The lily pond was absolutely stunning, and I must have spent at least an hour wandering the gardens and pond area, taking photos, enjoying the weather and people watching. It was a pretty calm place, despite all the tourists and a few school trips, and I was nice to just sit by the pond and relax in the shade for a little while.
Wandering back through the palace, I left through the main courtyard where I had arrived, and walked out of the very front gate to take a look at the guards on their post. They were pretty stoic, but not as scary as the Queen’s Guard in London!
I had a lovely time at Gyeongbokgung, and despite not being a very good tourist (I just like looking at things rather than properly learning about them, a fatal flaw of mine) it was wonderful to see and I really felt enriched after visiting. I could almost see the Korean royalty walking around on a sunny afternoon, an image reinforced by the group of Korean 20-somethings walking around in hanboks, the Korean traditional dress.
If you want to go to Gyeongbokgung or learn more about it, you can go to the Visit Korea page for the palace to hear more about its history or get some information on where, when and how to visit. I highly recommend it!
This is a post in my South Korea Second-Timer series. Read the rest here!:
My Holiday Bucket List
Part 1: Plane Panic and, um, Personal Space Please?
Part 2: Welcome to Busan!
Part 3: Hwamyeong, a Temple, and Being Spend Happy
Haedong Yonggungsa 해동용궁사 – The Water Temple
Beomeosa 범어사 – Temple of the Nirvana Fish
Gamecheon Culture Village 부산 감천문화마을