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Seoul’s magnificent hanok houses and city laced with its prowling technology are the first things that come to your mind when you take a tour of Seoul. This capital city is so vast and exciting that you can never pull yourself away. The five major royal palaces in Seoul play an essential role in shaping the city even in the present times. There’s Gyeongbokgung, the main administrative palace, Changdeokgung, the pretty residential palace, Deoksugung, famed for its changing guard ceremony, and even Gyeonghuigung, a small but located behind Seoul Museum of History. But, amongst the five grand palaces, Changgyeonggung Palace is far overlooked by tourists and locals alike. It’s quite a pity as the palace is lovely and worth a visit.
Like all the other palaces in Seoul, it has its own share of tragic history, which adds to its heritage. As the palace is located east of the primary palace of Gyeongbokgung, it is also referred to as ‘Donggwol’ or the ‘East Palace.’
History of Changgyeonggung Palace
In the heart of this city lies the great Changgyeonggung Palace built by the 4th ruler of the Joseon dynasty, King Sejong, for his father, King Taejong. It was built as a sort of retirement palace, just next to Changdeokgung Palace for King Taejong.
Later, it became a residential place for queens and concubines because of its beautiful sprawling gardens. Initially, it was named Suganggung Palace but was renovated, enlarged, and renamed later during the reign of King Seongjong to Changgyeonggung Palace.
During the Japanese colonial rule, the palace was converted into a park with a zoo and botanical garden. It remained like this until 1983, and after that, its restoration returned the palace to its old grace.
Read more about Grand Palaces of Seoul:
- 5 Seoul palaces you must visit to add to your Royal South Korea Experience
- Gyeongbokgung Palace – Korea’s Magnificent Main Palace
- Deoksugung Palace (덕수궁), Seoul
- Changdeokgung Palace (창덕궁) and Huwon, The Secret Garden
Things to See in Changgyeonggung Palace
A unique feature about the houses in the Changgyeonggung Palace is that they all face east. It’s significant because, in all the other palaces, the houses face south. The reason is that the Jongmyo Shrine lies south of Changgyeonggung Palace. It is the ancestral shrine of the royal family.
Changgyeonggung Palace Honghwamun Gate (창경궁 홍화문)
It is the main gate of the Changgyeonggung Palace with three opening gates in the front and two on the side with a sophisticated locking mechanism. The word ‘Honghwa’ literally translates to ‘promoting harmony,’ in other words, ‘inspiring the public through the exercise of virtue.’ The gate was built along with the palace and was destroyed during the Japanese invasion in 1592-1598. It was rebuilt in 1616, and since then, it has served as a platform for the king to meet the citizens.
It was first built in 1484, and it means ‘a flowing river as pure as a jade marble.’ There is a goblin face carved under the arch of the bridge, which symbolizes protection for the palace from evil spirits coming from the river.
It is the main hall of the Changyonggung Palace that was rebuilt in 1616 after the Imjin War. It is the oldest main hall of all the Seoul palaces. The main throne hall also faces east and not south as Jongmyo Shrine is directly south of Changgyonggung. In this hall, the state affair was held like meetings with officials, reception of foreign envoys, etc.
Daeonshil or Grand Greenhouse
It is a leftover building from the Japanese colonial era. Most of the reconstruction in the palace grounds was removed during the restoration project except Daeonshil. Although it reminds locals of a bitter time, it is quite a pretty structure. It is an indoor botanical garden and a pretty lovely experience if you are looking to take an evening stroll inside. The interiors are ornate, and overall, it gives off a very ‘Secret Garden’ – kind of vibe.
Changgyeonggung Palace is an excellent place to visit where you can enjoy the beautiful gardens, wide-open spaces and even learn more about Korean royal life and their history.
Important Info About Changgyeonggung Palace
Where: 03072 185, Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Timings: Every Monday, the palace is closed, and the operating hours are from 09:00 – 21:00.
Entrance Fee: Adults (ages 19-64) – 1,000 KRW and Children (ages 7-18) – 500 KRW
There’s free admission for all preschoolers (ages 6 and younger), senior citizens (ages 65 and older), visitors wearing hanbok, all visitors on the last Wednesday of each month.