Besides visiting places with beautiful natural landscapes, historical places are really interesting to me. There are five palaces that can be found here in Seoul. With limited time here, I only had time to visit two. The biggest and grandest, Gyeongbokgung Palace and the beautiful Changdeokgung palace which I did on a different day. They are actually within walking distance from each other but due to the time spent to get my hanbok, walking around the huge palace grounds of Gyeongbokgung and dropping by Bukchon Hanok Village which was on the way, I couldn’t make it in time to Changdeokgung Palace on the same day.
Before we go to Gyeongbokgung Palace, I need to get my hanbok. Hanbok is the Korean traditional costume. I rented a hanbok to wear to explore the palace. I thought that it would be a great experience and I could get memorable and unique photos. Just so you know, admission to all the palaces are free if you wear a hanbok.
I rented my hanbok from OneDay Hanbok. I emailed them and made a reservation online a week before. I strongly recommend making a reservation because there are a lot of people who will be there. If you don’t have a reservation, you will have to wait really long to be served and get to choose and rent one. They will attend to those with reservations first.
It is easy to get to the rental office. I’ll list the directions below in the details section. Once you get to the office, they will let you choose from the many beautiful and colourful hanboks available. This took quite some time for me since there were so many beautiful ones that its just too difficult to decide. You are only allowed to try two or there will be additional charges if you try on more hanboks. Once you decided on the hanbok, its time to choose accessories. There are hairbands and ribbons and bags to choose from. There is a huge dressing table with hair pins and hair ties where you can style your hair. When I was there, it was so crowded with so many people vying for the mirror. Just so you know, it is quite popular. There will be a lot of other people who does this too, so no need to be embarrassed. I saw a lot of hanbok wearing people in the palaces and other tourist places.
Let them know once you have chosen the hanbok you wanted and they will give you another inner wear you will have to put on before wearing the hanbok. The hanbok is worn on top of your clothes, so make sure you are not wearing anything thick like sweaters. The friendly and helpful staff will help you put it on. Once you’ve put on your hanbok and styled your hair, you pay for the rental and deposit and you are ready to go. If you need a bag for your jackets or belongings, let them know and they will lend you one. You can rent the hanbok for 4 hours or 24 hours. I chose 24 hours since I think 4 hours for me is a bit too rushing. Its up to you to decide.
So, hanbok rental done, its off to the subway station to get to Gyeongbokgung Palace which is just four stops away.
Gyeongbokgung Palace, the “Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven” or commonly known as the Northern Palace was built in 1395. It was built three years after the Joseon Dynasty was founded and its the first royal palace built by them. It was home of the Kings of the Joseon dynasty, the King’s households and the government of Joseon. This palace is huge! Being the biggest, it is also the most visited and crowded with visitors.
The palace, like most palaces, had been through a lot. The palace was abandoned for two centuries when it was destroyed by a fire in 1553 during the Imjin War. The palace was then restored under the leadership of Prince Regent Heungsun during the reign of King Gojong. Four decades later, it was burnt to the ground again during the Japanese invasions of Korea and much of it was destroyed. The court then moved to Changdeokgung Palace and this site was left in ruins for the next three centuries. It was then reconstructed in the 19th century. Then, some were demolished again during the 20th and 21st century during the Japanese occupation of Korea. In 1989, the Korean government started to rebuild and restore it again to its former status.
There is a reenactment of the changing of Royal guards but sadly, I missed it as I was already wondering inside. It happens three times per day at 10am, 1pm and 3pm at the main gate. However, it can be cancelled in bad weather conditions.
You can take a walk around the vast grounds and see the buildings, halls, pavilions and gardens and get a feel of how the royals used to live. Most of them are intact and in a good condition considering its been there for centuries. One of the things I like about visiting historical places is seeing the architecture and learning more about the history and culture of a different time. Its interesting how the people live and manage to survive during their time and realize the differences with the way we live now. Everything was so simple back then. Looking at and walking around the palace grounds, I can only imagine what it would be like during the time when kings and queens and even the people who serve them would be walking around and going about their lives here.
You can find the The National Palace Museum of Korea at the south of the Heungnyemun Gate and the National Folk Museum on the eastern side within Hyangwonjeong. If you were to stop at Gyeongbokgung Palace, The National Palace Museum of Korea would actually be the first thing you see.
Wearing a hanbok, I get stopped by some tourists asking to take a photo with them (makes me feel like a celebrity.. hahaha). I also get asked by some if I’m Korean although I really don’t look anything at all like a local. Some tourists stop me to ask where I rented them from. I met some nice people this way. There were a lot of people wearing hanbok there. Just like me, I guess they want a more memorable experience and photos. Its fun capturing photos in a hanbok here!
The palace is also a used as a filming location of for historical dramas like the “Moon Embracing the Sun”.
This is a nice place to visit to know more about the history of the royals in this country. I think everyone who comes to Seoul should at least visit one of the palaces here and you can’t go wrong with the biggest and grandest one, Gyeongbokgung Palace. Make it more memorable by wearing a hanbok!
OneDay Hanbok (一日韓服)
Address: In front of Exit 8 of Chungmuro Station (same building as KB Bank, KIA Motors). #303 Floor 3, 125-3 Chungmuro 4-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
在忠武路地鐵店8號出口前面 (和KB, KIA Motors同一座大樓）
#303 3樓，125-3 忠武路4街，中區，首爾
Nearest Subway Station: Chungmuro Station
How to get there:
- Get off at Chungmuro Station which is serviced by Line 3 and 4.Go out by Exit 8. The building is right in front of you. Look out for KB Bank, KIA Motors written on the building.
- Take the lift to the 3rd floor. There are 2 lifts. Take note of the sign on which lift to take you to the third floor to OneDay Hanbok office. The other lift does not stop at the 3rd level.
- 10.00am to 8.00pm (Rental is available until 7.00pm)
- 13,000 Won for 4 Hours
- 26,000 Won for 1 day (24 Hours)
- Minimum rental duration is 4 Hours.
- Additional hourly fee is 4,500 Won.
Some things to note:
- Make a reservation or booking in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org by filling in your details (Name, Date & Time and Number of People).
- 2 fitting chances are given per customer. For additional fitting, 2,000 Won will be charged.
- A copy of ID Card or passport and 50,000 Won rental deposit per hanbok is required.
- Or deposit the ID card or passport and 10,000 Won rental deposit per hanbok is required.
- In case of group booking (maximum 6 people), only 1 ID Card or Passport is required.
- Fitting is only allowed in the store and if you give up on the fitting, 3,000 Won per fitting will be charged.
- Photo taking in the store is only allowed with Hanbok Rental.
For more information, please refer to the website.
Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁)
Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 종로구 사직로 161 (세종로)
Nearest Subway Station: Gyeongbokgung Station or Gwanghwamun Station
How to get there:
- Choose the most convenient stop for you.
- Gyeongbokgung Station is serviced by Line 3, go out by Exit 5 to reach the palace.
- Gwanghwamun Station is serviced by Line 5, go out by Exit 2 to get to the palace.
- 9.00am to 5.00pm (January to February & November to December)
- 9.00am to 6.00pm (March to May & September to October)
- 9.00am to 6.30pm (June to August)
- Last admission is 1 hour before closing time.
- Closed on Tuesdays
- 3,000 Won for Visitors (19-64 years old) or 2,400 Won for Visitors (19-64 years old) in a Group
- 1,500 Won for Visitors (7 to 18 years old) or 1,200 Won for Visitors (7 to 18 years old) in a Group
- Free for children 6 years old and under and seniors 65 years old and above.
- Group rate is for 10 people or more.
- There is a Combination ticket for admission to all five palaces which should be visited within 3 months inclusive of the Secret Garden at Changdeogung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine. It costs 10,000 Won for Adults and 5,000 won for Youth.
- There is a guided tour in English at 11.00am, 1.30pm & 3.30pm. The duration of the tour is about 1 hour to 1hr 30 mins.
Up next, Bukchon Hanok Village. This place is within walking distance from the palace. Come back to read about it in the next entry.