Seoul Day 2 – the palaces

As we had a ‘kid’ day yesterday today we got to do more adult things. So we headed off to visit the grand palaces just a few minutes walk from our hotel. The plan was to go to Gyeongbokgung, which is the biggest of the five, and see the changing of the guard at 11o’clock. Unfortunately it was a Tuesday and this palace is closed on Tuesdays.

But the other, very nearby palaces were opened so we headed over to Changdeokgung palace, which is the only one to be on the UNESCO world heritage list. Originally built in 1405 (I have the guide book so can give accurate details) it suffered various mishaps throughout the ages, destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed again and the restoration is still ongoing.

It is a very visually impressive place, but also very peaceful, the noise and bustle of Seoul is kept firmly outside the main gates. Talking of which, here they are:

The Main gate – Donhwamun. This was built in 1412 rebuilt in 1608

 

There is a stunning tree just inside the gates, very popular for photos, so we had to join in.

 

The palace is made up of a series of beautiful buildings, set around courtyards and walkways, and harmonising with the natural setting was an important part of it’s construction.

Injeongjeon is the main throne room, used for coronations and other important ceremonies. It has been rebuilt three times; 1418, 1610 and 1804.

Although the throne room looks two stories, inside it is a large double height room.

Along side the palace complex there is the Secret Garden, which was a forbidden retreat for the royal family. The pictures in the guide book are very impressive but we didn’t get to go in ourselves. You have to do the tour, rather than just wander round, and at an hour and a half we thought it was just too long. Something saved for another day maybe?

The queue to enter the Secret Garden.

Instead we went to the adjacent palace of Changgyeonggung, this is a much smaller complex but has a large park area, which enabled Katrine and Gregor to have a run and burn up some energy. It was built in 1484 when the larger palace became too crowded and was built for three dowager queens, it too has been rebuilt many times due to fire and occupation and is still under restoration after being used as a zoo from 1907 till 1983.

This pond used to be rice paddies that the king would plough and pray for a good harvest, but was converted to a boating pond in 1909 by the Japanese.

 

This is the oldest main hall of all the Seoul palaces (1616) and was originally built as living quarters.

 

These are the steps linking the two palaces, showing how the design followed the natural topography.

After visiting the palaces the plan had been to explore the traditional buildings in the surrounding area but the weather turned colder so we headed back to the hotel for the afternoon, then in the evening we headed out to explore the lantern festival.

I am going to finish with this photo, which I really like as it shows how the modern city and historic buildings interact.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Heidi
    Nov 16, 2012 @ 21:32:31

    Lovely photos Esther – you look really beautiful in the one of you and Katrin under the tree x

    Reply

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