A trip to Seoul will not be complete without visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace, the first royal palace built by the Joseon Dynasty which is the most beautiful and grandest among the five royal palaces (the others being Changdeokgung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Unhyeongung Palace and Changgyeonggung Palace. Gwanghwamun Gate is the main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace. On both sides of the gate, there are mythical statues called Haetae which is said to protect the palace from fire. On the entrance of the gate, there are royal guards whose expressionless features and gallant stance portray the importance of their role in protecting the palace.
Gyeongbokgung literally means “a wish for your blessing and prosperity” and this has perfectly depicted the palace through its architectural details and vastness. Both the interior and exterior were designed and painted elaborately. Each part of the palace including the stairs, the stone pathways, the corners of each hall, the sculptures, the ceilings, the tower and various other objects were designed and built to serve a certain purpose and to symbolize a certain meaning.
The Geunjeongjeon (Imperial Throne Hall) is the place where the king met with his officials to discuss various matters and the courtyard in front of it is where various ceremonies were held. Behind the king’s throne is a wall screen painted with the sun, moon and a five-peak mountain which represents the power and authority of the king.
While I was busy taking pictures of its exterior, an ajeossi (middle-aged Korean male) called my attention. I thought he might have mistaken me as part of a group of Chinese tourists so I ignored him at first but then he patiently repeated what he was saying and pointed something inside, so I nodded and followed his upward gaze and saw a pair of gold dragons on the ceiling. Dragons are legendary creatures in Korean mythology because they symbolize power and strength.
The Sajeongjeon Hall is the reception hall of the palace. There are two auxiliary buildings within its vicinity, the Manchunjeon Hall and Cheonchujeon Hall. There are also small rooms in front of this area which served as storage. Other notable areas of Gyeongbokgung Palace are Gyeonghoeru Pavilion which is situated in the middle of a rectangular lake and Hyangwonjeong which is a hexagonal pavilion built on an artificial island in a lake. The National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum are also located within the palace.
Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul (Sejongno) 서울특별시 종로구 사직로 161 (세종로)
Directions (Subway): A) Gyeongbokgung Palace Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 5. B) Gwanghwamun Station (Seoul Subway Line 5), Exit 2.
Operating Hours: January-February 09:00-17:00 / March-May 09:00-18:00 June-August 09:00-18:30 / September-October 09:00-18:00 November -December 09:00-17:00
*Closed on Tuesdays. Last admission: 1 hr before closing. Operating hours are subject to change
Admission Fees: Adults (ages 19-64): 3,000 won / Group (over 10 years): 2,400 won Children (ages 7-18): 1,500 won / Group (over 10 years): 1,200 won
Visit the following websites for more information: