Seoul is the capital of South Korea, and it is home to many historical palaces. Gyeongbokgung Palace is the most well known and visited palace in Seoul.
There is a lot to see and do at Gyeongbokgung Palace, and you can easily miss things as a first-time visitor if you don’t know about them beforehand. This guide aims to help you plan your trip to Gyeongbokgung Palace and give you all the information you need to get the most out of your visit.
Changing of the Guards
The changing of the guards is probably the most well known things about Gyeongbokgung Palace. The ceremony takes place at the top of every hour at 10am and 3pm.
It reacts the traditional changing of the guards ceremony that was performed daily when it was an active palace. There is narration in both English and Korea that explains the ceremony and the importance of each step, so you will be able to understand the history of what is taking place.
The changing of the guards takes places in the courtyard inside the main entrance where you purchase tickets. The ceremony is free to watch, so you don’t need to purchase a ticket to tour Gyeongbokgung Palace if you just want to watch the changing of the guards.
The ceremony takes approximately 10 minutes from start to finish. It is a popular tourist attraction, so I recommend getting to the palace 5-10 minutes before the ceremony to get a good viewing location. You can show up right before it begins, but you risk having to stand on the side and not getting a full view of the ceremony.
The changing of the guards ceremony features a lot of bright colours, and it is always fun to watch no matter how many times you’ve seen it before. You should definitely plan to watch the ceremony when you’re at Gyeongbokgung Palace.
You can’t purchase tickets to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace online. Tickets have to be purchased when you get to the palace. You don’t have to worry about standing in line too long to purchase a ticket because the queue moves quickly, and there are a lot of ticket windows.
The price for an adult to enter the palace is 3,000 won. This is approximately $2.50 USD. It is an incredible deal, so there is no reason not to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace while in Seoul.
The ticket booths are located on the right-hand side of the courtyard if you’re entering the palace from the main gates. If you are using the side entrance that is closest to Insadong, the ticket booths are directly to your left when you enter.
You will easily be able to find the ticket counter no matter what entrance you use.
Integrated Ticket of Palaces
You have the option to purchase the Integrated Ticket of Palaces when you visit Gyeongbokgung Palace. This ticket costs 10,000 won (approximately $8.75 USD), and it gives you access to all of the major palaces in Seoul.
You will save 4,000 won ($3.50 USD) if you purchase the Integrated Ticket of Palaces rather than tickets to each individual palace.
It is a great deal if you are interested in visiting all the sights included in the ticket. All the sights included in the tickets are located in central Seoul and are walking distance from one another.
The Integrated Ticket of Palaces is valid for 3 months after the date of purchase, so you don’t have to visit every sight in a single day.
Sights Included in the Integrated Ticket of Palaces
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
- Jongmyo Shrine (be sure to check times before you arrive as you have to take a guided tour, and they are only offered at certain times each day)
Hours of Operation
The palace is open every day of the week except for Tuesdays.
It is open from 9am to 6pm Wednesday through Monday, and it is busiest in the afternoon when a lot of tour groups show up.
Free Guided Tour of Gyeongbokgung Palace
You are able to take a free guided tour of Gyeongbokgung Palace. The tour is offered in English at 11am, 1pm, and 3:30pm. The tour takes approximately 1 hour.
You are guided through the main parts of the palace, and the guide explains the importance of the buildings as well as the history of the Korean royal family. You do not go through every building, but you will be shown the most important ones.
The tour moves quite quickly because there is a lot of information. I recommend you soak in all the information the guide gives you rather than worrying about taking pictures. You will be able to go back and take pictures once the tour is over, but you will not have access to the guide after the tour is over.
The guide will give you lots of information about the palace but feel free to ask any questions you have as you are walking from building to building.
The tours are often huge. You should try to stick to the front of the group as much as possible. The guide doesn’t always have time to wait for the entire group to show up to the next location, so you could miss parts of the tour if you are a straggler and not keeping up with the group.
The free guided tour of Gyeongbokgung Palace is a must-do for me whenever I am at the palace. You learn so much more than you do by just reading the information cards. Korea has an incredibly interesting history, and this tour is a great way to learn a little bit of it.
Gyeonghoeru Pavillion is one of the most famous and beautiful pavilions in Gyeongbokgung Palace. It opened to the public in 2018 after it was restored.
Gyeonghoeru is a banquet hall that was used when foreign visitors visited the royal family. It is a two-story pavilion located on a man-made lake, and it is absolutely gorgeous.
You are able to visit Gyonghoeru every year from April 1st to October 31st. The only way to tour the palace is on a guided tour, and you have to reserve a spot on the tour via the Gyeongbokgung Palace website. The tour takes approximately 30-40 minutes.
There are extremely limited spots on each tour, so it is quite difficult to get a spot on the tour. Each tour has spots for 60 Korea citizens and 10 foreigners. The tour is only offered in Korean, so you won’t be able to understand what is being said. You will, however, get to go inside the beautiful pavilion, so there are pros and cons.
Museums at Gyeongbokgung Palace
There are two museums located at Gyeongbokgung Palace: The National Palaces Museum of Korea and The National Folk Museum of Korea.
Both museums are free to enter and are worth spending some time wandering around after you’re done touring Gyeongbokgung Palace.
The National Palaces Museum of Korea
The National Palaces Museum of Korea is a museum dedicated to the royal palaces of Korea. It is located on the other side of the main courtyard as the ticket booths.
It is a two-story museum that gives you a lot of information about the traditions of the royal family and the history of Korea. This museum is a great way to gain additional information about Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Korean royal family after you have toured the palace and gone on your free guided tour.
You can easily spend 3 or 4 hours in the museum if you read everything and watch all of the videos. I would recommend budgeting about an hour in the museum.
The National Folk Museum of Korea
The National Folk Museum of Korea is free to enter as well. It is partially outdoor with exhibits showing old building and stores and partly indoors.
It is closer to a children’s museum than an adult museum. The museum showcases a lot of the cultural and folk aspects of Korean culture, and children seem to enjoy it. There are a lot of interactive exhibits for children to engage with.
There is a lot to see and do at Gyeongbokgung Palace. You can easily spend an entire day on the property and not run out of things to do.
Gyeongbokgung Palace is an important part of Korean culture and history, and you should make time to visit it during your trip to Seoul. You will learn a lot about Korean culture and have a better understanding of the country and its people.
The palace is extremely reasonably priced, and I always feel like I’m not paying enough to visit the historic sight. It is the perfect tourist attraction for people travelling on a budget because you get a lot more than what you pay for. You will not be disappointed when you spend money to tour Gyeongbokgung Palace.
Gyeongbokgung Palace is constantly undergoing restoration. In fact, less than half of the original palace is rebuilt! You will have a new experience every time you visit Gyeongbokgung Palace, and that is one of my favourite things about it.
The first time I visited the palace, Gyeonghoeru was under restoration. I was able to see the pavilion through a small window in the construction walls, and I fell in love. I knew I needed to go back and see it once it had been restored, and I was not disappointed when I went back. The entire experience was new and wonderful.
Gyeongbokgung Palace is a very special part of Seoul, and your visit to the city would not be complete without visiting it.