If Korea’s history was a puzzle, the Gyeongbokgung Palace is a critical piece. The Gyeongbokgung Palace, the largest of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon dynasty, has become one of Korea’s top tourist destinations. The rest of the big puzzle comes from the other palaces in Seoul that can also take you on an evocative journey through Korea’s past. Here are palaces in Seoul that you can visit aside from the Gyeongbokgung Palace:
If you take a walk east from the Gyeongbokgung Palace, you’ll come across the second most important palace in Seoul, the Changdeokgung Palace. This used to be the secondary royal residence of King Taejong and the principal palace of many kings during the Joseon Dynasty. The palace grounds cover a royal family residence building, public area, and the rear garden. You can find a small pond and a pavilion here. You may also notice a gigantic tree that is over 300 years old. The palace is recognized as a World Cultural Heritage site by the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Committee in December 1997.
99, Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
The Changgyeonggung Palace is a little bit more modern than Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung because it consists of buildings built before the 20th century. This used to be the Suganggung Palace, built under the 4th ruler of the Joseon Dynasty, King Sejong, for his father, King Taejong. When you see the Okcheongyo Bridge, cross it to see Myeonjeongjeon, the office of the king and the oldest of the Joseon Dynasty palaces. In the yard, you will spot stones with the status of the officials carved on them as well as a botanic garden above a pond.
185 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Head to the Deoksugung Palace if you need a break from the busy roads of Seoul. You won’t miss its elegant stone-wall road and its presence alongside Western-style buildings. Originally built by Grand Prince Wolsan, King Seongjong’s older brother, the Deoksugung Palace alternated between being a palace and a residence. It was in 1907 when the palace was officially named Deoksugung Palace, which means the “palace of virtuous longevity.”
99, Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul
The Gyeonghuigung Palace may be considered the least popular among the Grand Palaces, but you’ll be delighted to know that it is saturated in history. The Gyeonghuigung Palace is also known as Seogwol, which means “a palace of the west.” It became a secondary palace for the king especially in times of emergency in the final half of the Joseon period. It used to have a bridge that connects to the Deoksugung Palace. The Sungjeongjeon and Jajeongjeon buildings were dedicated to the king’s royal audience, while the Yungbokjeon and Hoesangjeon buildings are for the sleeping quarters.
Not far from the Gyeonghuigung Palace is the Seoul History Museum. You can also easily access Jeongdong Street and Jongno Street from the palace. After you have been to Gyeonghuigung, you can cross to Jeongdong Street and walk to Deoksugung Palace.
55, Saemunan-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Discover the explosion of culture and history in this small palace. Unhyeongung Palace, also known as Unhyeongung Royal Residence, used to be the home of the Heungseon Daewongun, a prince regent of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. Another important figure who lived in Unhyeongung Palace was Emperor Gojong. He grew up in the palace until age 12, when he took over the throne.
Today, the Unhyeongung Palace is a museum open to the public for free and a popular venue for various cultural activities, such as the re-enactment of the marriage of Emperor Gojong and his bride Empress Myeongseong.
03131 464 Samil-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul
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*Featured image from Korea Tourism Organization