Originally built in 1395 by the first Joseon king, Gwanghwamun is the main gate to Seoul’s Gyeongbokgung Palace, the largest of the five Joseon Dynasty palaces. After being destroyed twice by fire and war, the gate that stands today was rebuilt in 1968 using concrete and steel instead of the original granite.
As one of Seoul’s most prominent landmarks, Gwanghwamun Gate is featured on most sightseeing tours of the city, along with Gyeongbokgung Palace, the Blue House, Insadong, Bukchon Hanok Village, Myeongdong, and Jogyesa Temple. Korean and foreign visitors alike come to Gwanghwamun Square to see the gate with Inwangsan Mountain in the backdrop, as well as the imposing statue of King Sejong the Great, inventor of the Hangul alphabet, seated on his throne.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Gwanghwamun is a must-see for history buffs, families, and first-time visitors.
- Both the gate and the changing of the guard are free, but Gyeongbokgung Palace charges an entrance fee.
- The gate and palace are wheelchair accessible, and wheelchairs are available for rent.
How to Get There
The gate’s central location in the heart of Seoul makes it easy to reach via public transportation. The most convenient way to get there is to take the metro to City Hall Station (Lines 1 and 2), Gyeongbokgung Station (Line 3), or Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5). Several public buses also stop nearby.
When to Get There
Plan your visit to Gwanghwamun to coincide with the changing of the guard, a ceremony that occurs hourly from midmorning until mid-afternoon. If you’re visiting during the summer, plan to visit early in the day to avoid the heat.
Gwanghwamun Gate and the Japanese Occupation
For many Koreans, Gwanghwamun represents a tragic chapter in Korean history. In 1926, during the Japanese occupation of South Korea, the gate was destroyed to make way for a Japanese government building. The gate was rebuilt in a different location in 1968, then moved to its original spot as part of a $24 million renovation in 2006.