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Architectural Grandeur – The Great Palaces of Seoul

Architectural Grandeur ? The Great Palaces of Seoul

Deoksugung PalaceGyeongbokgung PalaceChangdeokgung Palace

It has often been said that Seoul remains a virtual outdoor museum of treasured relics – a historical playground of monumental appeal to both visitors and natives alike. Yet, amidst all the cultural signposts dotting the city, none are more frequently visited or greatly admired than the ‘Five Grand Palaces’. Built by Joseon kings, they all remain remarkably well preserved, idyllically located and very easy to get to. And although spring is arguably the most ideal time to visit as all the palace grounds are festooned with cherry blossoms and azaleas, the premises regularly remain a great getaway from the distant drones of city life that emanate from beyond the elegant enclosing stone walls.

No visit to Seoul would be complete without a stroll through the royal walkways of Deoksugung, Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung or Gyeonghuigung Palace. The chance to marvel at the magnificent architecture and beautiful framework, learning first-hand from a country so steeped in history, is an opportunity not to be missed.

Of particular interest are the secluded grounds of Changdeokgung, the large-scale grandeur of Gyeongbokgung and the architectural diversity of Deoksugung. Anyone wishing to get away from the hectic pace of urban living should consider a visit; it’s the perfect way to get out and enjoy the warm weather.


Deoksugung Palace

Comprised of several buildings, all varying in construction, the premises of Deoksugung Palace were once occupied by various Korean royalty until the Japanese took control toward the turn of the 20th century. From beyond the looming entrance of Daehanmun, architectural highlights include Junghwajeon, the throne and audience hall, and Seokjojeon, the building bearing the markings of Western design. Also marking the premises is an art museum that plays host to several commercial exhibitions, a nicely secluded forested garden, a statue of King Sejong the Great, and Jeonggwanheon, the attractive structure replete with European framework and home to where King Gojong held parties and entertained guests.

 Getting There  Take subway Line 2 to City Hall Station and get out at Exit 2 or 3. The palace is open from 09:00~18:00 (March ~ October) and 09:00~17:30 (November ~ February). On weekends and holidays the palace is open from 09:00~19:00. Deoksugung Palace is closed Mondays. Admission is 1,000 won.

  ⇒ For more info, click here!

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Constructed in 1394, Gyeongbokgung served as the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty (1392~1910) by its founder, King Taejo, and is often considered to be the grandest of all five palaces. Given its sheer enormity, visitors should note that scaling the entire grounds does take a little time. Yet, once reaching the imperial throne room of Geunjeongjeon or Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, which stands rested on forty-eight granite pillars towering over a lotus lake, such efforts will have proven all the more worthwhile. Other highlights include the skyscraping pagoda resting atop the National Folk Museum of Korea and Hwangwonjeong Pavilion, which sits centered in a beautiful pond.

 Getting There  Take subway Line 3 to Gyeongbokgung Station and proceed to Exit 5. The palace grounds are open from 09:00~18:00 (March ~ October) and 09:00~17:00 (November ~ February). Gyonegbokgung Palace is closed Tuesday. Admission is 3,000 won.

  ⇒ For more info, click here!

Changdeokgung Palace

Literally meaning ‘The Palace of Prospering Virtue’, the verdant grounds of Changdeokgung Palace are arguably the nicest of all five palaces. Set flush within a large park in Jongno-gu, it is at times referred to as the East Palace given its location in respect to Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Interestingly, it is reported that Changdeokgung was the favored palace among the many kings of the Joseon Dynasty and has since retained many traditional Korean elements dating from the Three Kingdoms Era – elements that were not taken into account during the construction of the neighboring buildings of Gyeongbokgung. One such notable difference is the fact that the architecture of Changdeokgung harmonizes beautifully with the surrounding nature without appearing intrusive or destructive in the process.

The treasured secret garden of biwon is particularly beautiful. Replete with pavilions, ponds and wooded areas, the palace grounds of Changdeoksugung are wonderfully infused with all things natural, tucked deeply away amidst trees and draping foliage that buffer out the noise and commotion of the city nearby.

 Getting There  Take subway Line 3 to Anguk Station and get out at Exit 3. Changdeokgung Palace is open from 09:15~17:45 (April ~ October) and 09:15~15:45 (November ~ February). In March, visiting hours are from 09:15~16:45. Entry is permitted every 15 and 45 minutes past the hour. The palace is closed Mondays. Entry to the palace is only permitted with a guided tour. Visitors do not have to join the tour on Thursdays. Admission is 3,000 won.

  ⇒ For more info, click here!

[Find out more!]
- A Stroll Through Changdeokgung Palace
- A Trip to Royal Palaces in Downtown Seoul -Gyeonghuigung & Unhyeongung
- Deoksugung Palace Royal Guard-Changing Ceremony

Written and photographed by Gregory Curley

Date 06/12/2008

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