The Joseon Dynasty ruled the Korean Peninsula for over 500 years, with 27 generations of kings. It’s had so much influence on Korean culture, it has been featured countless times in popular media. Naturally, as the Joseon Dynasty’s main palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace remains one of the biggest attractions in Seoul today. So if South Korea is in your plans, don’t miss out on the trend! Dive into this blog post to learn all you need to know about visiting Gyeongbokgung… in a Hanbok (traditional Korean attire), if you will. Why not do it when everybody else does, right?
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How to Get There
Getting to Gyeongbokgung is amazingly easy if you’re already in Seoul. You can either take the metro line 3 (orange) to Gyeongbokgung station or line 5 (purple) to Gwanghwamun station.
From Incheon Airport
There are airport shuttle buses that go directly into different parts of Seoul, including Gyeongbokgung (Line 6011). It costs from 9,000-16,000 KRW depending on whether you choose the normal or deluxe option. The only difference between them is the deluxe version does fewer stops.
You can learn more about where their ticketing offices are HERE.
There’s no need to reserve your tickets in advance. The buses are never ever full and each line runs regularly.
Gyeongbokgung Palace: Visitors’ Information
- Wednesday-Monday: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
- Wednesday-Monday (summer hours): 9:00 am – 6:30 pm
- Tuesday: Closed
- Adult: 3,000 KRW (Approx. 2.24USD)
- Children (Ages 7-18): 1,500 KRW
- Children (Age 6 and under): Free
NOTE: Entry is FREE if you arrive wearing a rental Hanbok regardless of age.
Guide to Hanbok Rentals
There are countless (and I mean COUNTLESS) Hanbok rental shops around Gyeongbokgung Palace. If anything, you’ll have to worry about which one you should choose!
I highly recommend Daehan or Hanboknam as they have countless varieties for you to choose from, including premium Hanboks, which are made with high-quality fabrics. If you’ve seen fairytale-like transparent-looking Hanboks in pastel colors, those are the premium ones. The skirts are bigger and are cut into strips. So, if you’re dreaming of your dress flying like a Disney princess inside the palace, the premium one is the way to go.
Keep in mind that if you’re going the premium route with Hanboknam, plan to arrive an hour or so early to make an appointment, then come back at your appointment time. They will dedicate an entire team to get you dolled up!
Either way, when renting a Hanbok, you’ll choose the skirt first, as the pattern and color will define which jacket you wear. Once you’ve decided on a skirt, then the store staff will usually help you pick out a few jacket options that fit best with your skirt of choice.
The stores also get your hair done for you. Each store usually provides several styling options, some free and some at an extra cost. If you’re renting a premium Hanbok with Hanboknam, the cost you pay will cover everything including ANY hairstyle you choose.
You have a few different options for guided tours. I’ve listed them all below.
Free Guided Tours
You read it correctly! Gyeongbokgung Palace offers FREE guided tours. Once you’ve bought your ticket (or not if you’re in a Hanbok), head straight into Heungnyemun gate (the second gate inside where they check your tickets) and look for a guided tour standing sign.
- English Tours: 11:00 AM, 1:30 PM, 3:30 PM
- Duration: 60-90 minutes
Only 30 people are allowed on each tour and it’s on a first-come, first-serve basis. So arrive a bit early to make sure you get a spot for the tour time you want.
Just a heads up, these tours are packed with so much historical and cultural information, you will be dizzy by the end. And they also have to move fast, so don’t worry about taking photos yet. I suggest you pay attention to the best of your ability during the tours. You can always retrace your steps to take the photos later.
Requesting a Volunteer Guide
You can also request a private volunteer guide… for free! But please keep in mind that they might take time to find a match and get back to you. Make your reservation HERE.
For the private guided tours, you will meet your guide in front of the ticketing booths in the Gwanghwamun courtyard.
Other Tour Options
Below are some paid options that I think are worth your money.
- Gyeongbokgung Palace History Walk is the most economic option for you at less than $30. Get ready to have all sorts of historical information crammed into you during the 2-hour tour.
- Morning Palace and Temples Walking Tour is another good one at a very reasonable price. On this 3-hour tour, you get to visit a temple, Gyeongbokgung Palace, AND the presidential Blue House, which is now a museum.
- Or take it up a level on this 4-Hour Walking Tour and add the vintage neighborhood of Insadong and the traditional Tongin food market to your itinerary.
- Lastly, did none of the listed options suit your needs? Check out this Private Tour of Seoul with a local guide where you can customize your own itinerary.
Important Sights in Gyeongbokgung Palace
In case it helps relieve you of the information attack on tours when you visit, I’ll briefly list out each of the most important buildings inside and what they are as an intro.
Changing of the Guards
Don’t miss out on the most important performance of the palace! Unlike other Changing of the Guards that I’ve seen in other places, you’ll actually get narrations in 4 different languages explaining what’s going on.
- Time: 10:00 AM, 2:00 PM
- Duration: 15-20 minutes
Or the “South Gate,” is Gyeongbokgung’s main gate, which ironically was left in ruins and abandoned for over 200 years between the 16th-18th centuries after an Imperial Japanese attack in 1592.
The current gate was last renovated in 2010. With mountains in the background, it looks quite majestic from the outside when you take a walk along Gwanghwamun Square.
The palace’s inner gate stands directly inside Gwanghwamun and acts as the last layer of defense before you reach the throne hall. From 1925 to 1997, Heungnyemun was replaced by the Japanese General Government Building, which was intentionally built inside the palace to destroy the Korean spirit during the annexation.
This is the main throne hall where the Joseon kings used to conduct important state businesses, receive foreign envoys, and hold royal court meetings.
Notice the painting behind the throne of 5 mountain peaks and the moon and sun… This exact drawing will follow the king anywhere and it symbolizes the mythical role the royal family played in the Joseon era.
One level deeper into the palace is the King’s Executive Office. Here, the Sojeon kings would study Chinese classic literature and hold routine cabinet meetings.
Another level past the Executive Office, Gangnyeongjeon was the king’s private quarters where he spent his nights and resting periods here. Sometimes he would summon cabinet members over for private meetings here as well.
Behind the king’s quarters is the queen consort’s quarters. Whenever candidates for the crown princess consort position are in the final round, the queen will summon them here to be tested intellectually.
There is also a nice little garden behind this building. Because the women of the palace usually weren’t allowed outside, they would usually take relaxing walks there.
This is probably the most famous sight inside the palace. Gyeonghoeru was a banquet hall where the kings hosted foreign envoys. The pavilion is surrounded by a beautiful pond and is a very popular photo spot.
Around Gyeongbokgung Palace
- The National Folk Museum of Korea
- Statue of King Sejong: The 4th king of the Joseon dynasty who invented the Korean alphabet
- Deoksugung Palace
- Bukchon Hanok Village
- Chandeokgung Palace
- Changgyeonggung Palace
- Jongmyo Shrine
- Cheongwadae (Presidential Blue House)
- Economical Option:Ramyeon Ttaenggineun Nal
- This place is literally 4 little tables squeezed in facing the wall. If you want privacy, this is where you get it. If you want amazing Ramyeon (Korean ramen), this is where you will get it as well! Priced at around $3 a bowl, you’ll sure get your money’s worth. And it’s FAST.
- Address: 82, Yulgok-ro 3-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Mid-Range Option:Onmaeul Soft Tofu
- Gotta love Korean hot pot! This place has all kinds of hot, cozy stews you can think of when in Seoul, from Soft Tofu to Soybean Paste.
- Address: 127, Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Upper Mid-Range Option:Man Jung
- Even though I’m calling it the upper mid-range option, I managed to have a very filling meal at only $20, which is considered reasonable for someone from LA… And the service here is amazing!
- Address: 124-2, Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Premium Option:Maple Tree House
- Imagine the sleekest, cleanest Korean BBQ place you can think of, and it’s probably Maple Tree House. Even Angelina Jolie has come here before! The cost may cut you deep though… Best to come with friends and split the bill.
- Address: 130, Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Both are in Korean traditional buildings so you’ll get the whole Gyeongbokgung vibe. And both have amazing coffees. The milk soft serve at Baekmidang is to die for.
- Flash Coffee – by Exit 4 of Gyeongbokgung Station
- Address: 127-6, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Baekmidang – Samcheong Branch
- Address: 48, Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
The area around Gyeongbokgung Palace is easily the richest part of Seoul, culturally and historically speaking. I would dedicate a day or more to exploring everything. But thankfully, because it’s so easy to get to via the metro, you can always return another day.
Useful South Korea blog posts
- Where to Stay in Seoul: Guide to the City Neighborhoods
- Seoul at Night: How to Make it Count in this Delightful City
- The Ultimate Step-by-step Guide to Jjimjilbang: The Korean Spa
- 15 Wonderful Things to Do in Seoul