Finally! We visited the big palace in Seoul. We wanted to before, but it was closed when we arrived. Beware, everyone! Unlike all the other palaces, the Gyeongbokgung Palace is closed on Tuesdays instead of Mondays. The Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty and is located in northern Seoul. It was originally built in 1395 but has been destroyed more than once and was later restored to its original form. There are three ways to enter the palace. We came in through the East gate, then walked out again through the Gwanghwamun gate, the ‘official’ entrance to the palace.
In front of the Gwanghwamun gate, guards are guarding the palace. It is just like with the guards at Buckingham Palace. On certain times, the Royal Guard-Changing Ceremony takes place. Due to our perfectly
planned timing, we arrived just when the ceremony was about to start!
After the Royal Guard-Changing Ceremony, we re-entered the palace. Ina went to buy tickets and found out that the entry to the palace was free today. Lucky us!
Upon entering the palace, it soon became clear how large it is. If you count the Gwanghwamun gate as well, there are 3 gates before you reach the throne hall named: Geunjeongjeon.
In the throne hall, kings were crowned and affairs of state were conducted. The painting in the back of the throne is called “Irworobongdo” which literally means Painting of the Sun, Moon, and the Five Peaks. The painting displays the majesty of the Joseon royal court and can be found in all the other palaces of the Joseon royal court. Behind the throne’s hall are the reception hall and the king’s residence. These buildings are all standing in a straight line.
After the first few buildings, it becomes quite hard to keep track of what you can find where. There are a lot of buildings that more or less look ‘the same’. We did not know which way would be the most convenient to take. The further you get inside, the harder it becomes to find your way around- That is if you are not good in orientating yourself… *raises hand.*
In the yard, we came across a map which we used for planning the rest of our walking route.
The palace has a Royal Banquet Hall, the Saengmulbang (a kitchen for royal desserts) and another compound which was used for cooking. The perimeter of these buildings easily surpasses that of an average house. However, inside there’s always a court and the actual rooms are relatively small.
It is not just the rooms of the palace that are relatively small. The entire place, although it’s very big, gives you the impression that it wasn’t built for the size and height of today’s population. You can clearly notice this in the size of the doors.
To give you a point of reference; I’m 163 cms tall and Ina is around 180 cms tall. Even though it might be hard to imagine that people from back then were a lot shorter, it is not hard to imagine how people must have lived here. Tthe castle enfolds you in its size and surrounding and makes you forget about the world outside of these walls. Although the palace is surrounded by the city and modern buildings, you do not hear any city sounds. Inside the palace, it is peaceful. If you manage to avoid other tourists, all you will hear is the sound of nature.
After discovering the compounds for the servants, we left the main buildings behind and followed a path that led us to the museum. Neither one of us is interested in museums so we only stopped by to get something to drink and eat. The zodiac circle outside of the museum did catch our attention. In case you were wondering, yes my zodiac sign is a pig and Ina’s zodiac is a rabbit.
Further on we discovered that this palace has an entire compound designated for a single painting, as well as a building for graves and, ‘of course’, there is an entire library.
Do you recognize the Painting of the Sun, Moon, and the Five Peaks? This image appears to be very important!
Yes, the picture below is the library. Can I have a library like this too in my backyard?
In my opinion, the what I believe to be the centre of the garden is the real jewel of this palace. I have made… way… too… many… pictures of this little pavilion. This building is called “Hyangwonjeong”. It is surrounded by a pond that gets filled by a natural spring.
This is not where the garden ends. It is hard to believe the garden is bigger than all the main buildings of the palace together. You can keep on walking and walking and walking… The royal children must have had a great childhood in this backyard!
As we indeed kept on walking and walking we found another, very remarkable pavilion: Gyeonghoeru. It is two storeys high and was once used for entertainment when important foreign visitors visited the palace.
There were even more buildings further on. Once we saw everything we went back to the entrance. This palace is one of the best places you can visit in Seoul; it is very inspirational and eases your mind. I absolutely love walking through places like this.