Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung is one of five palaces located in Seoul and is one of the most visited ones in the city. Originally built in 1395, it’s had portions of the palace and buildings rebuilt over the years.   

Gwanghwamun Gate- The south and main gate to Gyeongbokgung

Getting to Gyeongbokung is fairly easy by public transportation with the closest subway stop being Gyeongbokgung Station on Line #3. You can also take the bus or taxi with relative ease as well. 

Nearby, you’ll find a wide range of shops that offer hanbok rentals. A hanbok is a traditional Korean dress and most places also have outfits for guys to wear as well. Not only does it get you free admission into the palaces, but it also makes for a good photoshoot day with a palace backdrop. 

If you’re a fan of historical Korean dramas, I’d recommend renting a hanbok. Prices range up to 15,000 won ($12.65~ as of 12/9/19) and let you wear the outfit for 2-4 hours depending on the shop. They’ll even fix up your hair and put in accessories to add to the look. 

For those that just want to enter Gyeongbokgung without a hanbok, ticket prices are just 3,000 won for adults and 1,500 won for children. 

Visitors enter for free when wearing a hanbok (traditional Korean dress)

Tours are available three times a day and are conducted in English, Japanese, or Chinese depending on your needs, and typically last between one to two hours. 

Inside the palace, you can see parts of the palace such as the Throne Hall and Gyeonghoeru Pavilion. You’ll find a lot of other visitors at these locations, but with some patience and creative photography, you can get some good shots. I recommend bringing along a friend so that you can take turns taking pictures for each other. 

There’s a lot you can see at Gyeongbokgung; we ended up staying just under two hours and there was still a lot of places we missed due to a large amount of picture taking. 

We had to get back to the hanbok shop before the two hours were up (my sister had opted for a shorter rental time) but we made our way back to the palace to go to the National Folk Museum of Korea. Admission is free to the museum and is also attached to a children’s museum next door. 

Exterior of National Folk Museum of Korea located inside Gyeongbokgung. Free admission to visitors.

A lot of the artifacts inside the museum deals with the daily life of Koreans in the past. Some of the exhibits dealt with schools, farming, fishing, and there was even a sizable exhibit on a traditional Korean wedding. 

If you want an audio guide, you can rent a unit for 1,000 won (~$1) in Chinese, English, and Japanese to give yourself a self-guided tour, but you can easily navigate without one. If you’re already at the palace and need something else to do, the museum can help you spend an hour or two without having to leave the area. 

I don’t know if I just didn’t notice cafes as much in the US or if Korea just has a lot more. The nearby neighborhood of Insa-dong has a wide range of restaurants, shopping, cafes, and teahouses. 

Most teahouses have a range of teas to choose from along with snacks such as rice cakes that pair well with the tea. We arrived early enough in the morning where we were the only customers. We ended up spending about 15,000 won for two people, and it can vary depending on where the teahouse is located. 

Lunch with sister consisting of bulgogi (Korean beef), rice, soup, and side dishes

Restaurants can vary as well in Insa-dong; prices tend to be higher since the area is known as a tourist area but you can try a wide range of food. Many of the meals come with soup and various side dishes such as tofu, lotus, and kimchi along with the rice and main dish. 

On the way to the hanbok rental shop, we came across an art gallery. Insart/Gallery Insa Art hosts various Korean artists in their exhibition hall and consists of three floors and basement space. Artists can also rent space in one of their exhibition halls. If you can’t make it to the art gallery or want to see some of their past exhibits, you can take a look at their website as well. 

There’s definitely more to see in Insa-dong and Gyeongbokgung and I’ll have to make a second or third trip back to the area, and each time I take a trip to Seoul, I manage to find something new. If there’s something in Seoul that you want to see in a future blog or a different part of Korea, let me know in the comments. 

entrance of Insa-dong

I’ll be making a shorter post on hanboks later in the week and be on the lookout for the Sapphire Kitsu Travels youtube channel shortly where you can get a close-up look at Insa-dong and Gyeongbokgung Palace. 

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