We decided to head to Gwanghwamun Square then to Gyeongbokgung Palace on our 4th day in Seoul…
We took the Seoul Metro /subway to Gwanghwamun Station Line 6 and took exit 3 (you can also take exit 4, alternatively, you can also head to City Hall Station Lines 1 and 2, then take exit 2, then a short 5minute walk.
Gwanghwamun Square or 광화문광장 has six sections. Right at its center is a statue of King Sejong the Great, and a statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin…then there are other interesting things to see that includes the popular 12.23 Fountain, a sculpture of Haechi (the symbol of Seoul), a flower carpet, and Yeoksamulgil ( or the “Waterway of History”) on either side of the square.
Admiral Yi Sun-Sin /이순신 (1545 to 1598) stands atop a plinth at the square’s southern side.The Koreans revere him as their greatest and most famous naval commander, famed for designing new type of metal-clad warships called geobukseon (turtle boats), and used them to help achieve a series of stunning victories over the much larger Japanese navy that had attacked Korea at the end of the 16th century..
This second statue is of King Sejong the Great / 세종대왕 (1397 to 1450) who sits majestically on a throne in the middle of the square. This 3rd king of Joseon Dynasty has a revered history because of his support of the Hangeul Alphabet, and his powerful leadership which at the time maintained Joseon rule. He can also be seen on both the ₩10,000 banknote.
There is also an entrance at the base of the King Sejong statue that leads down to an underground exhibition with sections on both the men….
Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is also known as the Northern Palace because its location is furthest north when compared to the neighboring palaces of Changdeokgung (Eastern Palace) and Gyeonghuigung (Western Palace) Palace. Gyeongbokgung Palace is arguably the most beautiful, and the largest of all five palaces.
The palace was destroyed by fire during the Imjin War (Japanese Invasions, 1592-1598). However, all of the palace buildings were later restored under the leadership of Heungseondaewongun during the reign of King Gojong (1852-1919).
Geunjeongjeon Hall is the Throne Hall, where the king granted audiences to his officials, presided over large official functions and met foreign envoys. Geunjeongjeon is the largest and most formal hall in Gyeongbokgung. The two-tier edifice stands on a high platform reached by stone steps. There is a spacious courtyard in front, where important events were held
Gyeongbokgung is said to mean Palace of Shining Happiness.
However what that most excited me here was the changing of guards ceremony….This was something I did soooo want to see, being an avid history lover…
Back in those Joseon times, the royal guards of Joseon Dynasty guarded the Gwanghwamun Gate, the entrance of Gyeongbokgung Palace where the king ruled the country. Since 1469, the ceremony has taken place and that record was consulted for the present reenactment ceremony.
The reenactment of the original ceremony began from 1996. The gate guardsmen serve their sentry, perform the changing of the guards with some breathtaking pomp..
The guards’ uniforms, weapons, and accessories as well as their strict ceremonial procedures are definitely eyecatching… when guardsmen perform the changing of guards in traditional costumes at the main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace in downtown Seoul.Considering it is not easy to experience this kind of traditional events simply anywhere, it is a must see….This ceremony takes place every day except Tuesday.
Performance Times: Sumunjang (Royal Guard) Changing Ceremony 10:00, 14:00 ( 20 minutes per ceremony )
Gwanghwamun Gate Guard-on-Duty Performance 11:00, 13:00 (10 minutes per ceremony)
Sumungun (Gatekeeper) Military Training (outside Hyeopsaengmun Gate) 09:30, 13:30 (15 minutes per ceremony)
* Please note that the schedule is subject to change.
* Event may be cancelled in case of rain.
Of course, if you are lucky or in this case fast and willing to wait, do not miss out on the Sumungun (Gatekeeper) Costume Experience as well… it is totally FREE and it is so much fun pretending to get recruited or instantly promoted to head guard (if you so desire)
This happens at the Sumunjangcheong Building (on the left at the main entrance to Gyeongbukgong ). This happens before and after the Guard Changing Ceremony and the Guard-on-Duty Performance (closed on Tuesdays) and is only limited to 5 people per hourly session. They will dress you up and let you take photos with the costume for about 5 minutes before you have to return the costume back….
We then continued a little sightseeing of Gyeongbukgong… but did not cover the whole area as Gyeongbukgong is even bigger then Changdeokgung and my girls did not really feel like spending the whole day just at the palace….
While you are there, do not miss out visiting The National Palace Museum of Korea which is located south of Heungnyemun Gate,or/and the National Folk Museum which is located on the eastern side within Hyangwonjeong
* Last admission: 1 hr before closing
Adults (ages 19-64): 3,000 won / Groups (10 people or more): 2,400 won
Children (ages 7-18): 1,500 won / Group (10 people or more): 1,200 won
Integrated Palace Ticket
– Four Palaces (Changdeokgung Palace (including Huwon, Secret Garden), Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace) and Jongmyo Shrine
– Ticket is 10,000 won and is valid for use for three months after purchase.
– Non-refundable upon visiting at least one place.
* Visitors may take a combined tour of Changdeokgung Palace and Changgyeonggung Palace. (Additional ticket must be purchased at Hamyangmun Gate)
* The Jongmyo Shrine tour will be offered only at specific times during the day, except on Saturdays, when visitors may tour at their leisure. The passage connecting Jongmyo Shrine and Changgyeonggung Palace will be closed to the public.
* Closed Mondays: Changdeokgung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace
* Closed Tuesdays: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Jongmyo Shrine
Getting there: Gyeongbokgung Palace Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 5 or Gwanghwamun Station (Seoul Subway Line 5), Exit 2
For more pictures, check out here