Seoul: One Pass to See Them All

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The capital city of Seoul was also the capital of the Joseon Dynasty from 1392-1910. Within Seoul’s city walls are five main palace compounds. Each of the palaces are affordable to visit on their own (₩1,000 – ₩3,000 each), but you can save even more with the Royal Palace Pass.

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For ₩10,000, the Royal Palace Pass includes admission to 4 palaces and 1 shrine:

  • Gyeongbokgung Palace (normally ₩3,000)
  • Deoksugung Palace (normally, ₩1000)
  • Changgyeong Palace (normally ₩1,000)
  • Changdeokgung Palace and Gardens (normally ₩3,000 and ₩5,000 respectively)
  • Jongmyo Shrine (normally ₩3,000)

The fifth of the Five Grand Palaces of Seoul, Gyeonghuigung Palace, is free to enter, and therefore not included in the pass.

The visits must be completed within three months of purchase.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

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Gyeongbokgung Palace was built in 1395 as the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty. It’s a sprawling site composed of several ornate buildings against the backdrop of Bugaksan Mountain.

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At the height of its splendor the compound had over 500 buildings. Most of the palace was destroyed during the Japanese occupation.

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The site today features reconstructions of a few of the most important buildings.

Hyangwonjeong Pavilion

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Gyeonghoeru Pavilion

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The Royal Kitchen, where you can partake in a tea ceremony.

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Reenactments of the changing of the guard ceremonies take place at Gwanghwamun Gate.

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  • Changing of the guard ceremony:
    • Sumunjang: 10:00am, 2:00pm
    • Gwanghwamun: 11:00am, 1:00pm
  • Guided tours in English: 11:00am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm
  • Hours: Closed on Tuesdays
    • Mar-May, Sep.-Oct. 9:00am-6:00pm
    • Jun.-Aug. 9:00am-6:30pm
    • Nov.-Feb. 9:00am-5:00pm
  • Regular admission fee: Adults ₩3,000, Youth ₩1,500
  • Nearest station: Exit 5 of Gyeongbokgung Station

Changdeokgung Palace and Garden

Changdeokgung Palace was constructed in 1405 as a secondary palace of the Joseon Dynasty.

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It contains residences for the king and queen, as well as buildings where state affairs and coronation ceremonies were conducted.

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Behind the throne in Injeongjeon Hall is the folding screen that is depicted on the 10,000 won note.

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One of the most unique buildings is Seonjeongjeon Hall for its blue-glazed roof tiles.

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The garden at Changdeokgung Palace is known as the Secret Garden.

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It was created as a place for the king and royal family members to relax, but it was also a venue for various outdoor activities. Military exercises, royal banquets and horticulture also took place here.

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Visiting the Secret Garden requires an additional ticket and is only permitted with a guided tour.

  • Guided tours in English:
    • Palace: 10:30am, 2:30pm
    • Secret Garden: 11:30am, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm (Feb.-Oct.)
  • Hours: Closed on Mondays
    • Feb.-May, Sep.-Oct.: 9:00am – 6:00pm
    • Jun.-Aug.: 9:00am – 6:30pm
    • Nov.-Jan.: 9:00am – 5:30pm
  • Regular admission fee:
    • Palace: Adults ₩3,000, Youth ₩1,500
    • Secret Garden (Must also purchase a palace admission ticket): ₩Adults 5,000, ₩Youth 2,500
  • Nearest station: Exit 6 of Jongno 3-ga Station (Subway Line 1 or 5) or Exit 3 at Anguk Station (Subway Line 3)

Changgyeong Palace

Changgyeong Palace was the third palace to be built in the Joseon dynasty.

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As the king was only 13 when he assumed the throne, the palace served as a residence for the three dowager queens: his mother, grandmother and aunt. It was only intended for residential use, and the design of the palace reflects that.

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Within the palace compounds is the Great Greenhouse, Korea’s first modern conservatory built in 1909.

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You can also step inside one of the court halls and view artwork and calligraphy.

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  • Guided tours in English: 11:00am, 4:00pm
  • Hours: Closed on Mondays
    • Feb.-May: 9:00am – 6:00pm
    • Jun.-Aug.: 9:00am – 6:30pm
    • Sep.-Oct.: 9:00am – 6:00pm
    • Nov.-Jan.: 9:00am – 5:30pm
  • Regular admission fee: Adults 1,000, Youth 500
  • Nearest station: Exit 3 at Anguk Station (Subway Line 3)

Deoksugung Palace

It is the most modern of the four palaces, and the only one to have a western style garden, fountain and royal palace.

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Seokjojeon Hall is a Western-style building completed in 1910.

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The three story building contains a kitchen and staff area on the first floor, the official workplace and audience chamber on the second floor, and the private living area of the royal family on the third floor.

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The building is only open to visitors through a guided tour. Reservations can be booked in advance online, but a limited number of spots are also available to foreigners at the scheduled time on a first-come, first-served basis.

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Another unique building within the palace grounds is the Jeonggwanheon Pavilion. Designed by a Russian architect, the building features a mix of Korean and Western styles.

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  • Guided tour of Seokjojeon Hall (Korean with English audio guide): 10:00am, 11:00am, 12:00pm, 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 3:00pm, 4:00pm, 5:00pm
  • Changing of the guard ceremony: 11:00am, 2:00pm, 3:30pm
  • Hours: 9:00am – 9:00pm (closed on Mondays)
  • Regular admission fee: Adults ₩1,000 Youth ₩500
  • Nearest station: Exit 2 or 12 of City Hall Station (Subway Line 1 or 2)

Jongmyo Shrine

Jongmyo Shrine is a Confucian shrine where the spirit tablets of past kings and queens of the Joseon dynasty are enshrined.

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It is their belief that the ancestor’s spirits are held inside these tablets. The six holes each tablet allows the spirit to enter.

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The main hall, Jeongjeon, is the largest wooden structure in Korea. When the king or queen died, a three year mourning period was observed. Afterwards, the spirit tablet of the deceased was brought to Jeongjeon and enshrined. A total of 49 spirits tablets are enshrined in this building.

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Entrance to Jongmyo Shrine is only permitted with a guided tour, except on Saturdays and the last Wednesday of the month, in which entrance is permitted without a guide.

  • Guided tours in English: 10:00am, 12:00pm, 2:00pm, 4:00pm
  • Hours: Closed on Tuesdays
    • Feb.-May, Sep.-Oct.: 9:00am-6:00pm
    • Jun.-Aug.: 9:00am-6:30pm
    • Nov.-Jan.: 9:00am-5:30pm
  • Regular admission fee: Adults ₩1,000, Youth ₩500. Free admission on the last Wednesday of every month.
  • Nearest station: Exit 11 of Jongno 3-ga Station (Subway Line 1)

Is the Royal Palace Pass worth it?

If all of these palaces has your head spinning, I don’t blame you. Admittedly, they all start to look the same after awhile. If your time in Seoul is limited, it may make more sense to just pick one or two palaces to visit.

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If I had to choose only one palace to visit, I would choose Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is the largest of the four palaces, with several unique buildings and scenery and the approach from Gwanghwamun Square is impressive.

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However, if your schedule permits, it is worth taking the time to visit each of these palaces, along with the National Palace Museum of Korea. But perhaps mix up the palace visits with one of Seoul’s many other things to do, like the N Seoul Tower, Olympic Park or Dongdaemun Design Plaza.

2 COMMENTS

    • Hi Denise –
      You can purchase the Royal Museum Pass at any of the palaces included in the pass (Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine). Just tell them you want the pass versus the individual ticket.

      Enjoy!

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