Walking the Five Joseon Palaces of Seoul

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

If you are a Korean drama fan like myself, you should be familiar with Joseon Dynasty, the last and longest-lived imperial dynasty of Korea. What I like about Korea's historical drama is that it is based on real events of Joseon Dynasty. Some stories are also derived in that said era. You may be familiar with Dae Jang Geum, Dong Yi, Deep Rooted Tree, The Princess' Man, to name a few. Watching these dramas started my growing fascination with Korea's history.

The Gung word means 'Palace' so you need not include Palace after the name. 
 There are five palaces built duing the Joseon Dynasty namely: Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung, Gyeongbokgung and Gyeonghuigung. Most tourists would only want to see one or two palaces, but because I love historic walks, I decided to visit all five. Good thing, my friends Jett and Maki agreed to go with me :) Visiting all five palaces can be done in one day, but if you think it is too much to digest, then you can visit other palaces on different days just like what we did.
No other tourists aside from us :)
The walking tour starts at Changgyeongung.. This palace served as royal residence and and as a secondary palace for queens and the king’s father. During the Japanese Occupation from 1910-1945, the palace became a park with a zoo and a botanical garden. The cheapest way to get to the starting point is to take subway Line 4 (Blue Line). The palace is around 10 minute walk from Exit 4 of Hyehwa Station. 
English guided tour
Jett and Maki
The second stop is Changdeokgung which is located just beside Changgyeongung. This palace is known as “the palace of illustrious virtue” and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. It is also famous for its secret garden which was reserved for the royal family and guests of the king. This palace compound can be accessed through Hamyangmun gate(rear entrance) of Changdeokgung. 
amazing gopro hero 3+
The third stop is Gyeongbokgung which was the main and largest palace built during the Joseon Dynasty. To get to Gyeongbokgung, you can either walk or take a cab. If you fancy walking, then you can start from the main gate of Changdeokgung and then just walk straight to Anguk Station. When in Gyeongbokgung, do not miss the Changing of the Royal Guards Ceremony which is being performed three times daily except Tuesdays (10:00, 13:00 and 15:00 20 minutes per ceremony). 
this ahjussi looks like an actor in present joseon dramas!
The fourth stop is Gyeonghuigung which is located west of the main Palace Gyeongbokgung. To get to Gyeonghuigung, walk south of Gwanghwamun Square where you will see the statues of King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sunshin. Turn right at Jongno-gu and walk straight for about 2km. 
Photo taken at Deoksugung

The last stop is Deoksugung which  stands directly opposite Seoul City Hall. This should be the last stop because it is open later than the other palaces. Deoksugung is just a stone's throw away from Gyeonghuigung. Walk straight to Jung-gu for about 15 minutes. Changing of the Royal Guards Ceremony is also being performed here three times daily except Mondays (11:00, 14:00 andd 15:30)

Transportation Guide
If visiting palaces through the subway system, then follow the instructions below.

Changgyeonggung: Ten-minute walk from Exit 4 of Haehwa Station, Subway Line 4. Pass through National University Hospital.
Changdeokgung:  Ten-minute walk from Exit 6 of Jongno 3-ga Station, Subway Lines 1, 3 and 5; Five-minute walk from Exit 3, Ahngook Station, Subway Line 3
Gyeongbokgung:  Exit 5 of Gyeongbokgung Station, Subway Line 3; 10-minute walk from Exit 2 of Gwanghwamun Station, Subway Line 5
Gyeonghuigung:  Ten-minute walk from Exit 4 of Seodaemun Station, Subway Line 5
Deoksugung: Exit 2 of City Hall Station, Subway Line 1; Exit 12 of City Hall Station, Subway Line 2

click the picture to enlarge
 Travel Notes:
- I  recommend purchasing the integrated tickets to gain access into four of the palaces - Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung and Deoksugung as well as Jongmyo Shrine. This costs KRW 10,000. Gyeonghuigung is free admission. If you wish to visit just one or two palaces, then buying individual admission ticket would be the better option. 

- Closed on Mondays: Changdeokgung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace
- Closed on Tuesdays: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Jongmyo Shrine  

- If you are a solo traveler, taking the subway is a good option to get to your destination. But if you are traveling with friends, say 3-4 people in total, then taxis are more affordable. When we took a cab from Changdeokgung to Gyeongbokgung, we only paid 4,000 KRW. But still, walking is the cheapest way to visit the palaces. <-We only took a cab because it was extremely cold! ^_^
Jett and I wearing traditional hanbok
Why see all Five Joseon Palaces? To understand the present, it is essential that we look back at the past. CLICHE. I. KNOW. But I believe, seeing all five palaces can give you(us) glimpse on what happened during the Joseon Dynasty. Who knows it might give you more than what you will see on a fancy Korean drama ^_^ 

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