Of the ‘Five Grand Palaces’ built by the Joseon Dynasty in what are now the Jongno and Jung Districts of Seoul, Gyeongbokgung, the ‘main’ palace, is arguably the grandest, even with centuries of rebuilding after destruction through war and occupation.
Gwanghwamun is the main and largest gate of the palace, located at a three-way intersection at the northern end of Sejongno (or Sejong-ro), a street named after King Sejong the Great.
I walked to Gyeongbokgung after checking out of our Hanok Stay and arrived shortly after 11am. There were steady crowds of visitors, but I was able to enjoy most of my time through the grounds alone. I did snap a handful of Hanboks, though, which has become a thing—remember the gorgeous one at Bukchon Hanok Village, or the perfectly timed selfie at Deoksugung?
Despite the dead-of-winter cold, I spent over an hour wandering, chasing light, and being in awe of the history and splendor before realizing how much time had passed. I’m always inspired by beautiful places, but it holds different meaning when it’s the country where your parents were born, from which your grandparents renounced their citizenship to start a new life in the States.
Gyeongbokgung is open every day except Tuesday, from 9am to 6pm. The exit from Gyeongbokgung Station, off of Line 3, leads directly to the palace. The entrance fee is 3,000 KRW (just under $2 USD), or waived if you’re wearing the traditional Hanbok (local rental shops charge about 10,000 KRW).