For a good cultural experience in Seoul, you must visit Gyeongbok Palace! It is located in the, as the locals would say, “Government” part of town so there is always plenty going on.
The palace is located directly in front of a large Federal Square called Gwanghwamun Plaza and some Federal buildings. It is also less than a mile away from the presidents house, the Blue House (their equivalent of our White House). On our particular visit, elections were preparing to take place and there were many demonstrations. Some of the demonstrations were to highlight culture and entertainment such as the Taekwondo Performance team. Other demonstrations were more political and called for reform or separation from westerners. It was obvious that we needed to be quiet and respectful to stay out of trouble here.
After checking out the political rally, we moved toward the palace tour. You can enter the main gates for free but to get to the gardens and walk the palace grounds, you’ll need to buy a ~$3 ticket (3,000 Wan). But, its totally worth it!
The palace sits on huge grounds with acres of beautiful blooming cherry blossoms and other colorful trees. In the background, you’ll find the most lovely mountain range back drop. The architecture of each building is decorated with ornately carved rooftops painted with bright colors. You’ll also find plenty of young Korean’s in traditional formal wear visiting the palace as well. We learned from friends that it has become in style to wear more traditional clothing. So much so that some restaurants and cafe’s offer free drinks or desserts if you dine there in your traditional wear.
It takes at least an hour and a half to really see the palace grounds. And, if you wish to continue, there is also the National Folk Museum of Korea in the same park. Its included in the price of your ticket to visit the Palace and is definitely worth checking out! Check out my post on the Museum to find out more!
The “Changing of the Guards” ceremony happens every day except Tuesdays at 10AM & 2PM