The Kimchi-ite: Gyeongbokgung, Seoul’s Grandest Palace

The largest of the ancient palaces in the South Korean capital, Gyeongbok Palace is one of the best sights to see Seoul. The ornate buildings within the complex have amazing colors and contain poetic murals and carvings. The huge grounds are spectacular with calming ponds and modest pavilions. It is also one of the most historically significant sites in Korea, built in 1395 and destroyed twice by the Japanese. Best of all, it’s located right in the middle of the city in the downtown Jongno district.

Entering through its main gate, Gwanghwamun takes you into a large square where you can see a fantastic view of the beautiful backdrop of Bukhan Mountain. Inside this square, a musical changing of the guard ceremony is held every hour. Once inside the main complex, there are many amazingly restored palace buildings, each with something uniquely beautiful about them.
Gwanghwamun, the main entry gate to the palace and a symbol of Seoul.

The palace served as the seat of the Korean government during a time of prosperity. It’s a bit ridiculous how many different kinds of buildings and gates one king seemed to require: seven gates and 12 separate buildings.

The changing of the guard ceremony is held every hour.

The palace grounds are actually quite huge with a lot to offer. Wandering around can be very relaxing during off-peak times (non-holiday weekdays) and surprisingly informative given that there are two museums on site. Additionally, immediately behind the palace is the Blue House, the presidential residence. But if that’s too much productivity for you, there are plenty of picnic tables on which you can relax and enjoy all the beautiful trees.

The throne hall, seen here on a rare occasion when the palace is open at night.

Gyeongbok Palace is one of the best palaces to visit in Seoul and also one of the easiest to access. Simply take Seoul Subway Line 3 to Gyeongbokgung Station or the nearby Gwanghwamun Station on Line 5. Admission is cheap at 3,000 won (US $2.74), but keep in mind the palace is closed on Tuesdays. Best of all it’s walking distance from a lot of other amazing places, such as Chyeonggye Stream, the Bukchon Hanok Village and Seoul Plaza.

Children play on the palace grounds, a great place to see the trees change in fall.

For more on South Korean culture, food and eccentricities, check out more of “The Kimchi-ite” here!

[All photos by Jonathan Kramer]