Top Five Grand Palace of Seoul – Palace at Seoul [FULL GUIDE]

5 must visit palace in seoul

Seoul is famous not just for it’s traveling, korean drama spot, shopping, entertainment and beauty industry, but Seoul is also famous for it’s inheritance from it’s ancestors in which one of them is Grand Palace from Joseon Period.

In this article we will share to you the top five Grand Palace of Seoul that you can find as you visit Seoul for your first travel in South Korea or as you visit for whatever reasons are. Make sure you read all of this article to keep you informed about the top five Palace at Seoul that you can go and must visit as you come to visit Seoul, South Korea. Let’s dive right to it.

The sites of this top five grand palace of Seoul that we are about to share to you are mostly date back to the 1300s – 1500s with all the majority of the buildings standing on them today are actually recent reconstructions. Because the real and the original structures were destroyed by Japanese invasion on 16th century. 

The reconstructions then destroyed by Japanese occupation again on 20th Century by fire. The East Palace (Changdeokgung & Changgyeonggung) is the only one with a decent number of surviving pre-20th Century structures (around a third), but the reconstructions have been done very well to keep the history alive.

1. Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁)

gyeongbokgung palace of seoul

Gyeongbokgung Palace is the most and the must visit Royal Grand Palace of Seoul that you can never miss especially if you visit Seoul for the first time. Gyeongbokgung Palace is the most favourite palace for tourist to come when they visit Seoul, because Gyeongbokgung Palace is the icon of Seoul as well as South Korea.

Other than that, Gyeongbokgung palace (known as Northern Palace), is located near Cheonggyecheon and Gwanghwamun areas, one of the must visit destinations at Seoul too, so you can just come by as you pass around cheonggyecheon and Gwanghwamun areas. You will easily spot this palace as you will see many guard doing their ceremonies with unique uniform at the main entrance Gwanghwamun entrance.

Gyeongbokgung Palace is the most beautiful and largest compare to all other palace such as Changdeokgung and Gyeonghuigung and located at the furthest north among the others. This Palace was built by King Taejo, the founder of Joseon dynasty. If you don’t get enough of this palace, you can also go to National Folk Museum of Korea inside of Gyeongbokgung Palace to learn more of historical stuff. 

Useful Informations:
Opening Hours: 09.00-17.00 (last admission 16:00), closed on Tuesday.
Admission Fee: 3,000 won.

How to get here:
[Subway]
Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul subway line 3) and exit 5.
Anguk Station (Seoul subway line 3) and exit 1.

[Bus]
Take Bus no. 1020, 7025, 109, 171, 172, 601 or 606 and get off at Gyeongbokgung Palace Bus stop.

2. Changdeokgung Palace (창덕궁)

The second next famous royal palace of Seoul that we all must visit is Changdeokgung Palace. Changdeokgung Palace was the second royal villa built following the construction of Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Changdeokgung Palace is located within a large park in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. You can just walk east from Gyeongbokgung through the beautiful Bukchon Hanok Village. Afterwards, you’ll arrive at Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul’s second most important palace.

Changdeokgung was constructed as a secondary royal residence by King Taejong. The palace came in handy when the Japanese invasion laid Gyeongbokgung to waste almost exactly 200 years after its founding.

Changdeokgung is the second oldest among all of this top five palace of Seoul, Changdeokgung palace was the main one from 1592 – 1868 (between Gyeongbokgung’s first destruction & reconstruction), and is the only one to have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just to let you know, the UNESCO listing is both due to the fair number of surviving older structures, and the way this palace was designed to be in harmony with its surroundings.

Anyway, the biggest attractive factor to Changdeokgung Palace is its magical secret garden, known as Huwon. Secret Gardens strictly regulate visits with tours to keep it remains peaceful eventhough being right in the middle of one of the most hustle and bustle downtown hi tech city.

If you visit in the off season, you’ll easily be able to show up and buy a tour to the garden. However, if you try going in peak seasons (like during Spring cherry blossoms seasons or autumn in Korea when the fall foliage is at its peak), it’ll be sold out for the day by mid-morning.

Tour Course Information:
1. General Tour:
Donhwanmun Gate – Palace Chambers – Geomcheongyo Bridge – Injeongjeon Hall – Seonjeongjeon Hall – Huijeongdang House = Daejojeon Hall – Nakseonjae.

2. Huwon (secret garden) tour:
Huwon Entrance – Buyongji pond – Bullomun gate & Aeryeonji pond – Jondeokjeong – Pavilion & Pyeomusa house – Ongyucheon Stream – Yeonggyeongdang House.

Useful Informations:
Opening Hours:
[Palace Tour] : 09.00-18.00 (Last admission 1 hour before closing)
[Huwon Tour]: 10.00-18.00 (Last tour 2 hour before closing)
Huwon tour has limited space and must travel with a guide.

Admission fee:
[Changdeokgung Palace]: 3,000 won
[Huwon tour / Secret garden]: 8,000 won

How to get here:
[Subway]
Anguk Station (Seoul subway line 3), exit 3

[Bus]
Take any of the following bus and get off at Changgyeonggung Palace Bus stop.
Blue bus no.100, 102, 104, 106, 107, 108, 140, 143, 150, 151, 160, 162, 301.
Airport Bus no. 6011

3. Changgyeonggung Palace (창경궁)

Changgyeonggung Palace of Seoul

The next palace you must visit in Seoul is Changgyeonggung Palace. I guess you must’ve already seen this on South Korea Landscape pictures since many of photographer in South Korea usually take a picture of this palace from higher point of view to make it looks even more beautiful.

What makes Changgyeonggung Palace is attractive and a real must especially if you plan to visit Changdeokgung is because Changgyeonggung Palace actually shares the grounds next to Changdeokgung. So It’s a quick detour away from Seoul’s second most important palace.

Changgyeonggung’s storied past paints an interesting picture for travellers enthralled by Korean history. In 1483, King Sejong renovated the palace as a gift to his father, King Taejong, who was stepping down from the throne. It was often used for secondary royal residences while Changdeokgung was the main royal residences. Many concubines, princesses, etc stayed here before.

The palace was destroyed multiple times over the centuries by the Japanese, and the most recent was under occupation in the 1900s. It was changed from a palace to a garden, and the Japanese also added a zoo and botanical garden around this place makes it even more beautiful.

Useful Informations:
Opening Hours: 09.00-21.00 (Last admission 1 hour before close)
Admission Fee: 1,000 won.

How to get here:
[Subway]
Anguk Station (Seoul subway line 3), exit 3. Walk straight along Yulgok-ro for 1km and turn left unto Changgyeonggung-ro and walk 300m to find the entrance on the left.

[Bus]
Changgyeonggung Palace, Seoul University Hospital Bus stop.
– Blue bus no. 100, 102, 104, 151, 171, 272, 301, 601.
– Airport Bus no. 6011

4. Deoksugung Palace (덕수궁)

The other palace you can find in Seoul is Deoksugung. Deoksugung is the smallest palace in Seoul, Deoksugung Palace is famous for its elegants stone wall road that sits alongside a series of western style buildings that just make it stands out around surrounding scenery.

If you compared Deoksugung Palace to other Seoul grand palaces, Deoksugung was less important among Korean rulers. During Japanese occupation, the palace escaped much of the fiery fate of others. Along with the reconstructions at Deoksugung, a handful of pre-20th-century buildings remain. They’ll give you a rare authentic glimpse of Seoul’s past.

Deoksugung is located right across the street from Seoul City Hall. It was originally built as a temporary palace for Prince Wolsan but it became the main place after the 1592 Japanese invasion. All the other palaces like Gyeongbokgung and Gyeonghuigung had burned down, so King Seonjo used it as his main residence.

The other reasons why this palace is significant eventhough it’s small is because the last king and second to last emperor of Korea, name Gojong, lived here until His death in 1919, with rumors telling us that he was poisoned. Other than that, Deoksugung is the only palace in Seoul that looks outside of traditional Asian design at that time.

Useful Informations:
Opening Hours: 09.00-21.00 (Last admission 1 hour before close)
Admission Fee: 1,000 won.

How to get here:
[Subway]
City Hall Station (Seoul subway line 1, 2), exit 1, 2 or 3.

[Bus]
Get off in front of city hall, Deoksugung palace bus stop.
– Green bus: 1711,7016,7022.
– Blue bus: 103, 150, 401, 402, 406, 604, N16

5. gyeonghuigung palace

gyeonghuigung palace of seoul

Gyeonghuigung Palace is the least popular of the five grand palaces of Seoul. Like Deoksugung, Gyeonghuigung’s history began as a secondary royal residence. 

Gyeonghuigung Palace was originally built in the 1600s under King Gwanghaegun, it was used as a detached palace during a time when Changdeokgung was the main one.

It starts get it’s fortune after the japanese devastated the main Joseon Palaces in 1623. For about two centuries, Joseon royalty used the palace. In the 19th-century, a fire ripped through spoiling its heyday and gave them no place to recover again.

However, Gyeonghuigung Palace used to be home to over 100 halls and even had a bridge that connected to Deoksugung, but much of it was destroyed. Even after restoration, only about a third of the palace grounds have been restored.

Gyeonghuigung is located in the same areas as Seoul Museum of History and heunghwamun Gate, which makes it easy to visit while you pass by Seoul Museum of History or Heunghwamun gate.

Useful Informations:
Opening Hours: 09.00-18.00 (Last admission 1 hour before close)
Admission Fee: FREE

How to get here:
[Subway]
– Seodaemun Station (subway line 5), exit 4. Walk for 500m
– Gwanghwamun Station. Exit 1, 8 and 7. If you use exit 7, look for Seoul Museum of History first.

Bonus: Unhyeongung Palace (운현궁)

unhyeongung palace of seoul

I called it bonus because unhyeongung palace wasn’t one of the “grand” palace of Seoul. However, Unhyeongung Palace occupies an important place in the history both of Seoul and of South Korea because it still has ties with the royal family.

This small palace was the former home of Heungseon Daewongun. His son, Gojong, was the last Joseon king and the first Korean emperor. He was born at Unhyeongung and lived here until ascending to the throne at the age of 12.

Other than that, Unhyeongung is located right near Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung, so it makes you can easily and conveniently visit as you pass by this place. Just like any other palace of Seoul, Unhyeongung is also one of the shadow of its former history as most, if not all, of the buildings were damaged or destroyed over the years. What destroyed it most is the 20th-century Japanese occupation and Korean War.

These days, Unhyeongung Palace is a hotspot for cultural activities with the most famous activities is the yearly reenactment of the marriage of Emperor Gojong and his bride Empress Myeongseong.

Useful Informations:
Opening Hours: 09.00-18.00 (Last admission 1 hour before close)
Admission Fee: FREE

How to get here:
[Subway]
– Anguk Station (Subway line 3). Exits 4

Palace in Seoul

Which of this 5 Royal Palace of Seoul that you love the most? have you visited one of them? Let us know in the comment below!

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