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Gyeongbok Palace

This royal palace has been destroyed on more than one occasion, but today it stands as one of Seoul’s finest examples of classic Korean architecture.

Seoul is a relatively modern city, but Gyeongbok Palace is one of the exceptions. The palace was originally built in 1395 and, as home to the Joseon Dynasty, was one of the most important places in the country. Today, almost half of it has been restored to its former glory and serves as an example of traditional Korean culture.

The complex has been through hard times. It was first destroyed during Japanese invasion in the late 16th century, and demolished by the Empire of Japan again in the 20th century. Work is still ongoing to restore the 300 or so buildings that made up the original palace.

Gwanghwamun is the complex’s main gate to the south, and where most visitors enter from. It’s also where you can catch the changing of the guard, which happens hourly throughout the day. Other highlights of the palace complex include Gangnyeongjeon Hall (where the kings once lived), the Royal Banquet Hall, and the picturesque Hyangwonjeong, one of the only surviving 19th-century structures. 

You’ll need at least an hour to stroll the palace grounds. Learn about Gyeongbok in depth on one of the free guided tours, which depart from the information office inside Heungnyemun Gate a few times a day. Learn more about Korean history at the National Palace Museum to the south of Heungnyemun Gate, and the National Folk Museum, which is in Hyangwonjeong itself. Both museums contain extensive collections of Korean artifacts and cater to English speakers.

A short stroll to the north of Gyeongbok Palace brings you to South Korea’s current seat of power, the Blue House. This is where the head of state resides. Though you’ll need to book well in advance for a tour, the exterior alone is worth seeing. The traditional-style blue-tiled pavilions and mountainous backdrop make for a superb photo opportunity.

Gyeongbok Palace is best reached from the Gyeongbokgung or Gwanghwamun subway stations. The palace complex is open every day, except Tuesdays. Consider buying an integrated ticket, which includes access to three other Grand Palace complexes and the Jongmyo Shrine.


Guide to Exploring around Gyeongbok Palace


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Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun CA $81
Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun

Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun

71, Sambong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
     
    4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    Located in Jongno, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Jogyesa Temple, Sejong Cultural Center and Gwanghwamun Plaza. Cheonggye Plaza and Gyeongbok Palace are also within 15 minutes. Jonggak Station is 6 minutes by foot and Gangwhamun Station is 6 minutes.

    LOTTE City Hotel Myeongdong CA $75
    LOTTE City Hotel Myeongdong

    LOTTE City Hotel Myeongdong

    362, Samil-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul
       
      4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Located in Myeongdong, this hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Seoul City Hall, Namdaemun Market and Gwanghwamun. Gyeongbok Palace is 1.3 mi (2 km) away. Euljilo 3-ga Station is 6 minutes by foot and Euljiro 1-ga Station is 8 minutes.

      ENA Suite Hotel Namdaemun CA $76
      ENA Suite Hotel Namdaemun

      ENA Suite Hotel Namdaemun

      36, Sejong-daero 11-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, Seoul
         
        4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        Located in Jung-gu, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Sungnyemun Gate and Deoksugung Palace. Cheonggye Plaza and Dongdaemun History and Culture Park are also within 3 mi (5 km). City Hall Station is 6 minutes by foot and Seoul Station is 11 minutes.

        Four Seasons Hotel Seoul CA $380
        Four Seasons Hotel Seoul

        Four Seasons Hotel Seoul

        97, Saemunan-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
           
          5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

          Located in the centre of Seoul, this family-friendly hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Seoul Finance Center, U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Korea and Gwanghwamun. Seoul City Hall and Deoksugung Palace are also within 15 minutes. Gwanghwamun Station and Gangwhamun Station are within a 5-minute walk.

          Lotte Hotel Seoul CA $210
          Lotte Hotel Seoul

          Lotte Hotel Seoul

          30, Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, Seoul
             
            5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

            This family-friendly Seoul hotel is located in the business district, within a 5-minute walk of Seoul City Hall and Lotte Department Store. Myeongdong Street and Cheonggyecheon are also within 10 minutes. Euljiro 1-ga Station is only a 2-minute walk and City Hall Station is 5 minutes.

            Nine Tree Premier Hotel Insadong CA $75
            Nine Tree Premier Hotel Insadong

            Nine Tree Premier Hotel Insadong

            49, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Seoul
               
              4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              Located in Jongno, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Jogyesa Temple, Gwanghwamun and Cheonggyecheon. Bukchon Hanok Village and Gyeongbok Palace are also within 15 minutes. Anguk Station is only a 4-minute walk and Jonggak Station is 8 minutes.

              Somerset Palace Seoul CA $147
              Somerset Palace Seoul

              Somerset Palace Seoul

              7, Yulgok-ro 2-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Seoul
                 
                4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                Located in Jongno, this family-friendly Seoul aparthotel is within a 10-minute walk of Jogyesa Temple, Gyeongbok Palace and Gwanghwamun. Bukchon Hanok Village and Seoul City Hall are also within 15 minutes. Anguk Station is 5 minutes by foot and Gangwhamun Station is 9 minutes.

                Millennium Hilton Seoul CA $168
                Millennium Hilton Seoul

                Millennium Hilton Seoul

                50, Sowol-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, Seoul
                   
                  5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                  This family-friendly Seoul hotel is located in a regional park, just steps away from Seven Luck Casino Millennium Seoul Hilton Branch and Namsan Park. Namdaemun Market and Lotte Outlets - Seoul Station Branch are also within 10 minutes. Hoehyeon Station is only a 5-minute walk and Seoul Station is 10 minutes.