Seoul is the capital of South Korea and one of the most thriving cities in Asia. Known for its rich culture, heritage and history, Seoul is usually the first stop for tourists exploring the country. Today, it is a modern-day metropolis with towering skyscrapers, world-class subways and countless modern shopping malls.
Yet, the historical side of the city remains hugely popular with tourists, especially amongst history-lovers and those hoping to catch a glimpse of dreamy scenes from famous Korean period dramas. The ancient palaces scattered around the city gives visitors a chance to go back in past and reimagine a day as royalty. A big part of their attraction also goes to their picturesque nature and surrounding scenery, which makes for beautiful photos.
Don’t know which palaces to explore? Here’s a quick guide on the popular palaces in Seoul:
This was the earliest of the Joseon palaces, and the representative legal palace of the Joseon dynasty. Unfortunately, the original palace had been destroyed during war and rebuilt once, only to be destroyed again. The Gyeongbokgung Palace today has been restored from a 1990 plan so that people can experience the magnificence of the royal family and Korea’s history through it.
The main and most majestic entrance to the palace is the iconic Gwanghwamun Gate. Upon entering, you will see what is known as Korea’s largest wooden structure, Geunjeongjeon Hall, used for the most important royal events. Numerous other halls and royal quarters are open for exploration, whether via a tour or by yourself.
Changdeokgung is the second-largest palace in Seoul, and well-loved for its proximity to nature. Built in 1405, it served as a secondary palace for the third king of the Joseon dynasty. Artfully manicured gardens, stones, and ponds adorn the palace throughout, making it a very tranquil and pleasant place to explore.
Amongst the palaces of Seoul, Changdeokgung is the most well-preserved, designated by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1997. Due to its popularity, getting tickets to this palace is quite competitive. But if you manage to do so, it will definitely be worth your time to soak in the beautiful natural sights as well as cultural performances on the grounds.
Built during the reign of the ninth king of the Joseon dynasty, Changgyeonggung Palace offers a closer look into the private affairs of the royals. It was intended as living quarters for the king’s grandmother, mother, and other elders of the royal family; hence, the living areas dominate this palace, with government areas kept to a minimum. Thus, expect to learn about stories of family strife and drama through the tour of this palace.
One notable point of the palace is its greenhouse, known as the first Western-style greenhouse in Korea. Its European flair gives off a romantic touch, and it is no wonder couples find this place a wonderful backdrop for dates and photoshoots.
Whether it’s to learn more about Korea’s vibrant history, or just to explore some vivid scenery, the palaces of Seoul are amazing attractions you should visit. Knowing a bit of the Korean language will also help you appreciate much more the history and stories behind the places.
If you are interested in reading up more on Korea’s history and culture, it is a must to possess some Korean language skills. It’s never too late to begin with a Korean language course with Sejong Korean Language School!