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Seoul’s Five Grand Palaces

Been to Seoul a couple of times prior my recent February trip, and having visited Gyeongbukgong twice already, I mused on leaving no palace stone unturned and had a look at the rest of the Joseon era’s grand palaces during the jaunt.

I travelled with my bestfriend Marilou who was overly thrilled as it was her first time in Seoul and was also celebrating her birthday during one of the two days I alloted for the walking tour to the grand palaces. We originally planned to ramble in  Hanbok (traditional Korean Dress) but it was extremely cold so we rescinded the idea and cinched on the intention of walking in thick, warm clothing. Teehee.

I strategically chose a hotel in Anguk Station, which is conveniently located a few blocks away from two of the palaces and about 20-30 minute walk away from the other three.

Each of  the palaces is truly fascinating as the local food. More than their eye-ppetizing architecture, each tells a stirring story. During the trip, I didn’t plan any order on which to visit first, and that made us waste precious hours that could have been spent on other activities – aherm – like more shopping time in Myeong-dong. So I plotted a sequence that would greatly help one to have a quick grasp of the Joseon Dynasty, appreciate it and save time as you do the Grand Palaces Tour.  I have split the itinerary into two days – focusing on the west and north palaces during the first day, and east palaces on the second day. I highly suggest that you drop by the Seoul Museum of History  before doing the Grand Palace tour to give you a little backstory of the Joseon Dynasty and the palaces.

First Day: West and North Palaces
1. Gyeonghuigung
The construction of Gyeonghuigung commenced in 1617, during the reign of Gwanghaegun, the fifteenth king of Joseon and was completed in 1620. Also called Seogwol or western palace, the layout of Gyeonghuigung  is unique as it reflects the lay of the land. Ten kings lived at Gyeonghuigung, from the 16th to the 25th of the Joseon Period.

Operating Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:00AM to 6:00PM. CLOSED ON MONDAYS and January 1.
Admission is FREE.
How to get here: Take Subway Line 5 and alight at Gwanhwamun Station Exit Number 7, or at Seodaemun Station and take Exit No. 4.
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2. Deoksugung
Deoksugung  is the only palace with western architecture. Seokjejeon Hall is a Western-style stone building completed in 1910 which consists of three floors and Jeonggwanheon Pavillion is a mixture of Western and traditional styles, which was used for banquet hall.
Operating Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:00AM to 9:00PM (ticket booths close at 8:00PM). CLOSED ON MONDAYS
Admission Fee: Adults ages 19-64 KRW 1,000 (KRW800 for groups of 10 or more), Students 7-80 years old KRW500 (KRW400 for groups of 10 or more)
How to get here: Alight at City Hall Station and take exit 2 on Subway Line 1 or Exit 12 when taking Subway Line 2

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3. Gyeongbokgung, The Palace of Brilliance and Fortune.
Built in 1392, Gyeongbokgung is the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty. It was the center of the dynasty’s politics and economy.

Operating Hours: March to May and September to October 09:00AM to 6:00PM (last admission 5:00PM) , June to August 9:00AM to 6:30PM (last admission 5:30PM), November to February 09:00 -5:00PM (last admission 4:00PM). CLOSED ON TUESDAYS.

Admission for Filipinos and Non Koreans: 
Adults 19-64 years old – KRW3,000 (KRW2,400 for group of 10 and more)
Junior 7-18 years old   – KRW 1,500 (KRW 1,200 for groups of 10 and more)
Children under 6 years old are free.

Changing of Palace guard ceremony (Square inside of the Gwanghwamun Gate): every 10AM and 2:00PM
Gate Guard Duty Performance (Outside Gwanghwamun Gate): every 11:00AM and 1:00PM

Going to Gyeongbokgung Palace: Alight at Gyeongbokgung Station and take Exit 5 on Subway Line 3, or at Gwanghwamun Station and take Exit 2 on Subway Line 5.
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SECOND DAY: EAST PALACES

4. Changgyeonggung 
Primarily designed as a residence for elders of the royal family. It is also where Korea’s first modern conservatory is – The Grand Greenhouse.

Operating Hours: March to May and September to October 09:00AM to 6:00PM (last admission 5:00PM) , June to August 9:00AM to 6:30PM (last admission 5:30PM), November to February 09:00 -5:00PM (last admission 4:00PM). CLOSED ON MONDAYS.
Admission for Filipinos and Non Koreans: 
Adults 19-64 years old – KRW3,000 (KRW2,400 for group of 10 and more)
Junior 7-18 years old   – KRW 1,500 (KRW 1,200 for groups of 10 and more)
Children under 6 years old are free.

How to get there:
From Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 3.
– Walk straight from the exit (east) along Yulgok-ro for about 1 km.
– Turn left (north) onto Changgyeonggung-ro.
– Walk about 300m to find the palace entrance on the left.

 

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5. Changdeokgung 
The Palace was constructed in 1405 as a secondary palace of the Joseon Dynasty. Changdeokgung was a favorite among the royals because of the spacious and beautiful Secret Garden. It was intended as a place of kings and royal family members to relax.

Operating Hours: March to May and September to October 09:00AM to 6:00PM (last admission 5:00PM) , June to August 9:00AM to 6:30PM (last admission 5:30PM), November to February 09:00 -5:00PM (last admission 4:00PM). CLOSED ON MONDAYS.
Admission for Filipinos and Non Koreans: 
Adults 19-64 years old – KRW3,000 (KRW2,400 for group of 10 and more)
Junior 7-18 years old   – KRW 1,500 (KRW 1,200 for groups of 10 and more)
Children under 6 years old are free.
How to get here:
Changgyeonggung and Changdeokgung are just situated side by side, and separated by a wall. From Changgyeonggung main entrance walk about 10 minutes towards the west and you’ll see the main gate of Changdeokgung. 

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Changgyeonggung Palace is my personal favorite because it has beautiful spacious gardens and a stunning greenhouse. I missed out on swinging by Changdeokgung Palace’ Secret Garden though, which many has reviewed to be exquisitely relaxing. I’ll make sure I can squeeze in a tour on my next Autumn visit, the most recommended season to visit the secret garden.

Here’s a sample of the two day Seoul Grand Palace itinerary. My bestfriend and I did the walking tour the entire 2 days, but some may not be comfortable with walking so I had jotted the instructions on which line to take and corresponding exits for your reference.

Day 1: West and North Palaces
6:30AM – Wake up
7:00AM – Breakfast at the Hotel
8:00AM – Leave Hotel to Seoul Museum of Hostory/Gyeonghuigung Palace
 Take Subway Line 5 and alight at Gwanhwamun Station Exit Number 7, or at Seodaemun Station and take Exit No. 4. ENTRANCE is FREE!
8:45AM -Arrive at Seoul Museum of History
9:45AM- Now at Gyeonghuigung Palace (10 minute walk from the museum)
10:45AM – Leave for Deoksugung
Alight at City Hall Station and take exit 2 on Subway Line 1 or Exit 12 when taking Subway Line 2
11:15AM – Arrive at Deokguksung Palace
12:15AM – Roam around City Hall and Seoul Library
1:00NN- Lunch
2:00PM – Leave for Gyeongbokgung
Alight at Gyeongbokgung Station and take Exit 5 on Subway Line 3, or at Gwanghwamun Station and take Exit 2 on Subway Line 5.
3:30PM: Arrive at Gyeongbokgung
4:30PM Walk to Bukchon Hanok Village
5:00PM Arrive at Bukchon Hanok (shop around for knick knacks or have some refreshments)
6:30PM – Go to Station and ride a train to Myeong-dong
7:30PM – Dinner
8:30PM – Shopping
9:30PM -Ride train back to hotel
10:30PM -Hotel
11:30PM – Sleep

Day 2: East Palaces
7:00AM Wake up
8:00AM Breakfast
9:00AM Leave for Changgyeonggung Palace
From Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 3.
– Walk straight from the exit (east) along Yulgok-ro for about 1 km.
– Turn left (north) onto Changgyeonggung-ro.
– Walk about 300m to find the palace entrance on the left.
9:30AM -Arrive at Changgyeonggung Palace
11:00AM -Have lunch
1:00PM – Go to Changdeokgung Palace
2:00PM- Changdeokgung Palace Secret Garden Tour
3:30PM – Leave for Ehwa University
4:30PM – Arrive at Ehwa (Roam around)
6:00PM- Dinner
7:00PM Check out shopping stores at the Area
8:00PM Grab a train back to the hotel
9:00PM Hotel
10:00PM Sleep

Hope this sample itinerary will help you plan your next trip to Seoul. If you have questions about the itinerary, do not hesitate to drop a comment below. 😉

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