161 Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Right smack in the heart of the hustle and bustle of Seoul is the Gyeongbokgung Palace, a 14th century royal residence that is known for its striking architecture, charming pavilions, and kaleidoscopic changing of the guard ceremony.
In contrast to the calm and serene atmosphere surrounding the palace, everything else from the structures to the attire of its guards is intensely and spiffingly filled with color. The palace is so massive with each building having its own story to tell that we ended up putting in more hours than we had expected. We would’ve probably spent a couple more had it not been our last day in Seoul.
Unfortunately, most of what can be seen are merely restorations and there are still a number of repair works going on as Gyeongbokgung had been repeatedly reduced to ashes by the Japanese in the past. Also, signs or plates explaining what was in front of us were infrequent and brief, so I imagine it’d be better to hire a guide to genuinely appreciate everything by getting insights into things you wouldn’t otherwise pick-up on your own or from your guidebook.
Admission is very reasonable at 3,000 KRW (for aged 19+) or 1,500 KRW (18 and below). While the guard-change ceremony takes place every top of the hour from 10 AM to 3PM.
Top tip: Make sure to have some water in hand before going inside!
Only a stone’s throw away from the palace, Insadong is the best place to find art galleries, street food, teahouses, and a myriad of quirky and typical tourist shops for your overpriced souvenir items. Unlike Seoul’s other shopping districts, Insadong has a wide main road paved with cobblestones and lined with trees which makes everyone walk at a slow and leisurely pace, taking in the sights and sounds of the busy quarter.
It’s a bit of a tourist trap, but somehow a likable one as there’s just too many interesting things there to ignore. Try to venture off into the side streets or alleys where you could find less commercialized shops and little old-worldish restaurants that serve a fine selection of teas.
Just about to head back to our hotel, we also bumped into a fun bunch of students and professors from UST Manila