The most famous palaces in Seoul, Korea

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The palaces in Seoul were built from the ancient dynasties, very majestic and magnificent, each palace carries a very different architecture and still retains its ancient beauty even when the time has gone through. If you are traveling to Seoul, do not miss the chance to visit the palaces below!

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Gyeongbokgung 경복궁

Gyeongbokgung Palace is also remembered as the Northern Palace because it is in the furthest north in comparison to Changdeokgung Palace (Eastern Palace) and Gyeonghuigung Palace (Western Palace).  Being built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace was the first palace under the Joseon dynasty, it was where the Joseon kings and his royal family lived during their reign.  This magnificent architectural complex is divided into separate areas, such as a work area for the kings and courtiers managing the country’s affairs, royal residences and recreational gardens.  Among the group of 3 palaces which are Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung, Gyeonghuigung the Gyeongbokgung Palace is still considered the most beautiful, and remains the largest of all.  Until the present day, tourists still find the delicacy elegant demeanor in every detail, every highlight of its architect.

The palace was destroyed by fire during the Imjin War (Japanese – Korea War). Fortunately, all of the palace buildings were reconstructed under the  Heungseondaewongun dynasty during the reign of King Gojong.

Gyeongbokgung palace via Seoulistic

Changgyeonggung 창경궁

This palace was built to expand the housing of Changgyeonggung. The buildings are located close together, creating a beautiful close-up view. Under Japanese colonialism, this royal complex contained more botanical gardens and zoos turning the palace into a sightseeing park. Today, the palace has been restored and only the botanical garden is retained.

Located in the heart of Seoul, Changgyeonggung Palace was built by the 4th Emperor of the Joseon Dynasty, King Sejong, for his father, King Taejong. It often served as private palaces or residential houses for the Queens and the King’s concubines. Under the King Seongjong’s rule, the palace was reconstructed and named as Changgyeonggung Palace. Under the Japanese colonial period, Changgyeonggung was turned into a park with zoos and botanical garden.

Going through the Changgyeonggung Palace’s passageway, the Honghwa Gate, you will discover Okcheongyo Bridge. All royal residences of the Joseon Dynasty have lakes with a bridge connect over them, much the same as Okcheongyo Bridge. Crossing the Okcheongyo bridge, passing the oldest Myeongjeongmun Gate, and you will see the Myeonjeongjeon palace. This was the workplace of the King, and Myeongjeongjeon is the oldest palace of the Joseon Dynasty. All the buildings confront southwards, apart from, Myeongjeongjeon faces east. Since the royal ancestor shrine place of the imperial family is situated toward the south, the door couldn’t confront the south, as is required by Confucian custom. There are stones with the status of the authorities cut on the yard, behind Myeongjeongjeon on the upper left side is Sungmundang. The ancient architect utilized the slant of the mountain to build up this Gate. If you look at Myeongjeongjeon and Munjeongjeon, the combination of the high and low roofs offers a beautiful view.

Changgyeonggung 창경궁 via PhotoSeoul.com

Deoksugung 덕수궁

Being the last palace of the Joseon Dynasty, which was used in the chaotic modern period of Korea, Deoksugung was more influenced by the Occidental culture than the other great palaces. Every day, except Mondays, the royal Guard Mounting takes place at the front gate, where people can see the guards being extremely dignified. In addition, Deoksugung is also the only palace open until 21pm in Seoul. Deoksugung Palace is the only palace standing alongside a series of western style buildings that create the uniqueness of the surrounding scenery. It has been famous for its elegant stone-wall road. Situated at the Seoul’s busiest downtown, Deoksugung Palace was originally built for Wolsandaegun, the older brother of King Seongjong under the Joseon Dynasty. It later became a palace when Gwanghaegun King gave this royal residence the name in 1611.  Over decades, the palace alternated between being an official palace and a temporary residence. The name Deoksugung Palace means the “palace of virtuous longevity”. The current palace grounds are just a small shadow of the prior splendor, with only a few structures remaining.

Gyeonghuigung 경희궁

This palace was built when the founder of the Joseon Dynasty, King Taejo was alive. Although there were about 100 buildings, many of the buildings were either removed or disappeared during the Japanese occupation. Currently, the remaining limbs of Sungjeongjeon Hall, Heunghwamun Gate and some other surviving still works. Seoul Museum of History neighboring is also an attraction to visit while visiting the palace.

Gyeonghuigung Palace situated on the west side of Seoul capital so it is also called Seogwol meaning “a palace of the west”. During the latter half of the Joseon dynasty, the palace was used as a secondary palace for the royalty. It is where the king moved to in case of emergency. In the past, there were about 100 both small and large buildings on the palace campus. But when Japan began the invasion of Korea in 1908, the Japanese school, Gyeongseong Middle School moved into the palace, and as a consequence, most of the palace was got rid of or eliminated. Currently, Gyeonghuigung’s front gate, Heunghwamun, is being used as the front gate for Shilla Hotel’s main entrance, and Sungjeongjeon is at Dongguk University. 

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