The most iconic attractions in Seoul that will take you back a few hundred years
This is -Korea- all in one big place. The name Gyeongbokgung means ‘The new dynasty will be greatly blessed and prosperous,’ according to the leaflet. I’d say this is a must-visit place while in Seoul. There are lots of little sections of “offices” or Halls, pavilions, ponds, green space, and it feels like it just goes on and on! Most of the buildings here are replicas/restorations of buildings tragically destroyed and re-buit and destroyed in wars with the Japanese over the last 500 years, but they are many and are beautiful. You step back in time in the heart of one of the world’s biggest cities.
We loved walking over to Gyeongbok Palace and Bukchon while we were living 2 blocks away. The boys could run around the spacious, beautiful grounds, and we got the most beautiful pictures taken with a photographer. It will feel a few degrees hotter while walking around from the reflecting white dirt, so go early in the morning when it’s not too busy. Make sure to visit all the free museums surrounding the palace!
Bukchon Hanok Village was stretched out over a pretty large area, so get a map to know exactly where to go to find the clusters of hanoks. It’s very touristy and a lot of the shops are on the more expensive end, so another option is to see other hanoks in a more low-key area with a wider selection of shops in Seochon/Sejong Village on the west side on Gyeongbokgung.
Gyeongbokgung (Jongno-gu, Blue Line Bus, Gyeongbokgung Stn)
- Rent a hanbok and hire a photographer for the most memorable photos you’ll ever take. Most open at 9:00am, so you can get ready by the time the palace opens. You choose what you want to wear and what accessories you would like to add. The ladies there will help you choose a hanbok and tell you how to properly dress, then do you hair and give you purses to make the look perfect! My friend (@laurahales on Instagram and FB) is an American photographer in Seoul that took these for us, so get in contact with her! There are handbook rental shops all over to the west and east of Gyeongbokgung and you get free admission and discounts at restaurants for wearing one! Read Antique Alive‘s great post on history and meaning of the Hanbok
- The Palace is W3,000 for adults and W1,500 for kids 7 yrs+. Give yourself at least an hour to see the entire grounds, opens at 9:00am, closed Tuesdays, guided tours available
- Changing of the Guard Ceremony at 10:00am and 2:00pm
- The National Folk Museum of Korea (free) that has exhibits such as History of Korean People, Korean Way of Life, Life Cycles, and then the Children’s Museum of Korea (free) with exhibits like Animals in Korean Mythology, east side of the palace
- National Palace Museum of Korea (free), exhibits of hanbok, protective animals, architecture, things of traditional daily life, etc., west side of the palace
- Cheongwadae Sarangchae (Korean Presidents and Korean Regional Culture Museum) one block north-west of the palace (free)
- See the President’s House (The Blue House), north side of Gyeonbokgung gates
- Small cafe + gift shop
- Jagyeongjeon Tea Ceremony May-June, also visit the traditional tea house inside the palace
Bukchon Hanok Village (Jongno-gu, #11 Maeul Bus and Blue Lines, Anguk Stn)
- Get Info on Bukchon-ro to see where everything is located in the neighborhood
- DON’T MISS THIS! Cafe Bora’s Purple Sweet Potato Desserts. This was my favorite place to visit in Seoul! Their desserts are excellently done, flavorful, but not too sweet. The Purple Sweet Potato is mild in flavor, and delicious as the ice cream or the bingsu, shaved milk ice with toasted barley and a little tower of extra topping and a sweet potato chip flower. The Peanut Ice cream tastes like Peanut Brittle, and their sparking waters were inspiring, I loved plum the best but they have other flavors like green apricot
- Go to Ccomaque, the “Casual Hanbok” clothing store for something special. New designers are trying to make the hanbok something for all occasions, also see Leeslie’s Modern Hanboks. At Ccomaque, I purchased a Jegori-style top, some belts, and skirt tassels, so now I can turn any outfit I have into a hanbok-look! This is a place you’ll have to save your money for, but the pieces are so unique and stunningly beautiful
- Unique independent clothing designers and other shopping like sunglasses, jewelry, shoes, etc.
- Restaurants, cafes, and eateries of all sorts
- Streets of Hanoks for beautiful photos, make sure to be courteous to those living there (If I’m honest, I didn’t even make it to the hanoks in Bukchon. By the time we walked there, our little legs were too tired to keep going up into the neighborhood. This is a picture of the hanoks in Seochon!)
- Beopryeonsa Buddhist Temple, courtyard, and gift shop, across from Gyeongbokgung (east). Each Buddha represents something different, and people will leave offerings for them, like whole trays of rice cakes, fruit, and alcohol
- National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
- Dozens of smaller art exhibits of Korean artists
- Beautiful street art everywhere!
Check out The Soul of Seoul‘s post on Bukchon
Need more advice on Seoul or traveling? I’ve got you covered with my posts:
Need Korean recipes to get you through until the next time you’re in Korea? I’ve got you covered with Korean and other Asian recipes on my Recipe Index: Team Korea
WHAT ELSE HAVE YOU DONE AT GYEONGBOKGUNG AND BUKCHON? WHAT LOOKS THE MOST ENJOYABLE TO YOU? LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS!