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Palaces in Seoul

By Viator, September 2014

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Expats familiar with the South Korean capital will tell you that one of the most rewarding (and affordable) recreational activities in the city is to simply strike out in a random direction and explore the sprawling metropolis on foot. Travelers on a tighter schedule, however, should tackle Seoul in a more organized manner. The following itinerary should help get you started.

Day 1: Gyeongbokgung

Originally constructed in the 14th century, Gyeongbokgung Palace was once the largest of the so-called "five grand palaces" from the Joseon era. Though less than fifty percent of the original palace complex remains intact (the palace's many buildings, bridges, gates, and other facilities were bombed or otherwise demolished during the Japanese occupation in the early 20th century), what remains is nonetheless impressive, and resotration efforts are advancing every day. With a name that translates as "Palace of Shining Happiness", the extensive grounds easily constitute a full day's investment.

Day 2: Changdeokgung and Deoksugung

If your first day out whetted your appetite for all things palatial, these two palace complexes are an excellent fix. Boasting UNESCO World Heritage Site status, Changdeokgung Palace was erected shortly after Gyeongbokgung in the year 1405. It also suffered extensive damage during several invasions by the Japanese over the centuries, but it has retained much of its original appeal, including a beautiful stone road, a pond and pavilion, and a massive tree that is over 300 years old located in the rear garden.

The walled compound of palaces that is Deoksugung features forested gardens, multiple palace buildings, an art museum, and a noteworthy statue of the late King Sejong.

Day 3: Changgyeonggung and Gyeonghuigung

Working your way in, as it were, to the heart of Seoul, you'll find Changgyeonggung Palace, which was constructed in the mid-15th century and served as the summer palace of the Goryeo Emperor. It's easy to see why. Converted into a zoo and botanical garden by the Japanese, the palace grounds have been restored to their original glory in recent years, complete with ancestral shrines, ornate arched bridges, and arresting mountain views.

The last of the aforementioned five, Gyeonghuigung Palace suffered a similar fate at the hands of colonial invaders, and has since been similarly restored. Today it is home to the Seoul Museum of History and the Seoul Museum Annex of Art.

Tours & Tickets

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Korean Palace and Market Tour in Seoul Including Insadong and Gyeongbokgung Palace

4 star rating: Recommended 66 Reviews

Spend a full day discovering the beautiful architecture and landscape of Seoul while learning about its history, culture and traditions. With your guide, visit ...  Read more

Location: Seoul, South Korea
Duration: 8 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $75.99

Korean Heritage Tour: Palaces and Villages of Seoul Including Gyeongbokgung Palace

4.5 star rating: Recommended 6 Reviews

This immersive experience in Seoul will give you an in-depth look at traditional Korean culture. With your knowledgeable guide, wander through grand palaces, ...  Read more

Location: Seoul, South Korea
Duration: 8 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $87.99

Best of Seoul Tour in the Morning

4 star rating: Recommended 2 Reviews

Learn about Seoul’s royal and religious history as you sightsee with a knowledgeable local guide. Travel by coach to several stunning landmarks in the capital, ...  Read more

Location: Seoul, South Korea
Duration: 3 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $34.00

Korean Palace and Temple Tour in Seoul: Gyeongbokgung Palace and Jogyesa Temple

2.5 star rating: It was OK, but could have been better 4 Reviews

Get a glimpse of Korean culture and heritage on this tour of Seoul. Explore vast Gyeongbokgung Palace, learn about Korean history at the National Folk Museum, ...  Read more

Location: Seoul, South Korea
Duration: 3 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $32.99

Morning Cultural Tour: UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Seoul

Spend your morning at two UNESCO World Heritage sites in Seoul with a local guide. This 3.5-hour coach tour reveals the highlights of Changdeokgung Palace, a ...  Read more

Location: Seoul, South Korea
Duration: 3.5 hours (approx.)

From USD $43.00

4-Night Private South Korea Tour: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Hwaseong Fortress, Folk Village and DMZ

You’ll see the best of South Korea while visiting sites in and around Seoul on this 4-night private tour with an expert local guide. Tour historic sites from ...  Read more

Location: Seoul, South Korea
Duration: 5 days (approx.)

From USD $892.94

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