Bundled up in a heavy wool coat, furry snow boots, and my Banana Republic teal beanie, I stepped off the metro in search of Deoksugung Palace. It was brisk Mid-December morning in Seoul, and there was a sheet of powdery snow on the ground. This was my first time in Seoul, as well as my first day in the city. I was staying in a flat by the airport, and was taking the metro to and from, so I had not technically been in Seoul until this day.
When I exited the metro station, I looked at my map and started walking in the direction of the palace. Every now and then I would look up with glances of a clean and sleek city, modern buildings, well dressed people, and random Dunkin’ Donut stores. My curiosity for that American sweet treat did steer me into one of the stores, and I tried I a couple of Dunkin’ Donuts not available in the States- they were delicious!
When I had finally reached my destination, Deoksugong Palace, I had approached the Daehanmum Gate and paid my admission. Since it was a weekday morning and a frigid December day, I had the palace to myself. There were a couple people here and there, which was great because I asked them to take my picture. Other than that, it was nice to have an empty palace to walk through.
Daehanum Gate – The Changing of the Royal Guard Ceremony occurs directly in front of the gate everyday at 11:00, 14:00, and 15:30.
Deoksugung, which is translated to the Palace of Virtuous Longevity, is one of five royal palaces in the city of Seoul. It can be dated back to the 15th century (1469-1494) when it was the residence of Grand Prine Wolsan, who was the older brother of King Seongjong.
The history of Deoksugung as a palace begins with this walled compound not starting off as being a palace. During the Imjin War, the 1592 Japanese invasions, many of the palaces in Korea were severely damaged. King Seonjo had returned to Seoul, and to his primary palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace which had burned to the ground, as well as other palaces.
A temporary palace was needed and chosen from his family’s royal houses. This site of royal family homes was renamed the palace of Gyeongungung, which formalized it as a royal palace. It was then renamed in 1907 as Deoksugung, after it was expanded with modern buildings by Emperor Gojong,
What I found intriguing while visitng the palace were the different styles of architecture. There is a mixture of Hanok architecture, which is traditional Korean houses, and Western style architecture. Inside the palace are houses, halls, and gates that date back several centuries, while other buildings were constructed last century.
Visiting Deoksugung Palace was a wonderful first morning spent in South Korea. It allowed me to study traditional Hanok architecture while in the middle of modern Seoul. It is a great place to spend an hour or two while kicking it around Seoul.
- Address – Deoksugung Palace, 100-120 99 Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul
- Hours: Daily 9:00 – 21:00 (Last entry 20:00) *Closed Mondays*
- Entrance Fee:
Adults (19-64) – KRW 1,000
Youth (7-18) -KRW 500
Gwangmyeongmun Gate – Inside the gate bell that was forged in 1492 during the Joseon Dynasty. There is also a water clock, known as a Jagyeokru, which strikes automatically.
But it is the journey that matters, in the end…– Ernest Hemingway
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