Photo: Seoul Global Cultural Center
While traveling throughout Korea, there are many ways to get a glimpse of the nation’s traditions and culture; trying the food, visiting the ancient buildings to name a few, but nothing compares to trying on the traditional clothing. Visit cultural centers like the one’s featured in this column for the chance to try on some of the prettiest hanbok, the traditional clothing of Korea!
Hanbok expresses Korea’s true characteristics in terms of culture and history. Just like chipao from China and kimono from Japan, Korea also boasts its own traditional garb, though people nowadays wear them only on special occasions or during national holidays. However, positive changes have been seen as many young couples and foreign nationals have shown increasing interest in the garments. They often pay a visit to hanbok experience centers to enjoy these beautiful garments. You’ll be surprised to see how well the elegant curves suit you! Please note that most of these programs include a rental fee. Find more about these places offering the fun hanbok programs as you read on.
Photo: Insa-dong PR Center is perfect for taking souvenir photos
Opened to the public in October 2006, the Insa-dong PR Center is considered to be a living museum of modern history and Korean culture. The hanok was originally built by Prince Uichin (1877-1955), the fifth son of Emperor Gojong (1852-1919), as a private residence where he often came to enjoy solitude and enjoy its views, which have been maintained to this day. Newly added features include on-site commentated tour guides and tourist assistance in multiple languages (English, Japanese and Chinese) in order to promote the understanding of Korean traditions and history among locals and international visitors alike. In addition, tourism leaflets, diverse cultural events such as trying on traditional clothing and musicals are offered, as well as wireless internet access provided free of charge for all visitors. The center has a particularly wide selection of hanbok designs and materials, including ones that were worn at the royal court, which feature colors favored by high-level officials, as well as lines representing various social classes of Korea’s past.
Photo: Seoul Global Cultural Center offers various hanbok designs
The most popular place for foreign visitors to partake in the hanbok fitting experience is the Seoul Global Cultural Center located in the heart of Myeong-dong. The staff members speak English, Chinese, and Japanese, making it easy to enjoy the variety of activities available. Once you have decided what to try on from the large selection of traditional clothes to choose from, the staff will help you get yourself fitted into the elegant garments.
In addition, the walls of the center are adorned with large-scale photographs of traditional buildings, such as palaces and hanok houses with open wooden floors, which serve as backdrops for customers to take realistic-looking snapshots as souvenirs. Before these photos, you can become a great king from the Joseon Dynasty, an ambitious general on duty at the Deoksugung Palace Royal Guard-Changing Ceremony, or a gracious lady of the court. Mix and match traditional accessories such as flower-dotted shoes, bridal crowns, earrings, and more on top of your favorite outfit.
Photo: Participants in the hanbok experience at Deoksugung Palace’s Daehanmun Gate
Every day of the week, excluding Mondays, a traditional changing of the guards ceremony takes place in front of Daehanmun Gate at Deoksugung Palace, a palace of the Joseon Dynasty located in Seoul’s Jung-gu. As you take in the fascinating progression of the changing of the guard, visit the hanbok rental booth in front of the main gate, where you can try on traditional guard uniforms and other hanbok for free. Just sign your name on the list and wait your turn, then the staff at the booth will help you try on the item of your choice. Given the opportunity to both witness the changing of the guard ceremony and pretend you’re a guard as well, it’s a popular attraction among foreign visitors.
Photo: Unhyeongung Royal Residence buildings (left) / Participants posing in hanbok (right)
Just a short walk from Anguk-dong is Unhyeongung Royal Residence, which functioned as the residence of the Heungseon Daewongun, the noble class of politicians that existed during the end of the Joseon Dynasty (1820-1898). As you enter the palace, you’ll find an exhibit building on the opposite side of the tourism information booth. Step into the building to find the hanbok experience office. You can try on gwanbok, which was worn by officials, dangeui, a formal dress for women, or even hanbok for children. There is a plethora of gorgeous places for photo ops within the grounds of the palace. Customers can choose whatever clothing item they’d like to try, or ask for recommendations from the staff, and get about 20 minutes of wearing the clothes before they need to be returned for the next customer. Check on the center’s website to find more information about seeing performances and reenactments of the traditional wedding ceremony of King Gojong to his queen, Myeongseonghwanghu.
Photo: Entrance to Hanok Homestay Information Center (left)/ Posing in hanbok (right)
If you wander up the road a little from Anguk Station, you’ll come to Bukchon Hanok Village, a peaceful little neighborhood of traditional Korea houses. It’s here that you will find Hanok Homestay Information Center. The neighborhood surrounding the center is one of the best places to experience the real traditional culture of Korea through the warm and cozy hanok architecture. Just opening the door and setting foot into the cozy entryway, beautiful flowers and pots greet visitors into the classically decorated front courtyard. It’s a great means through which foreign visitors can comfortably get to know this exotic architecture. At the center, sign your name on the register and when it’s your turn, you can pick the style of hanbok you’d like to wear from a special scrapbook. Don’t worry about the language barrier as there are staffs who can speak English.
Photo: Buildings at Namsangol Hanok Village (left) / Headbands with a traditional design (right)
Namsangol Hanok Village is home to a variety of experiential programs and events offered to promote traditional Korean culture. One of the more popular programs for taking gorgeous photos of traditional residences is Hanpung Munhwa Masil (meaning “Korean Culture Town”), which takes place at the residence of Lee Seung-eop. You can get tickets for events at the ticket booth near the Lee Seung-eop residence, and you are allowed to take photos both inside and outside the building.
* This column was last updated in June 2016, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details from the official websites before visiting.
<Last updated on June 8, 2016>