Gyeongbokgung and Bukchon Hanok Village - South Korea
Author: Tyas Wahyu Pramesti "Weps Gallery"
This is my very first post on the Food and Travel Guides website and I’m directly taking you on a journey to South Korea! I was staying in the ginseng country for about four months as an exchange student and I have visited some of the most famous tourist destinations in Seoul and Busan. And in this opportunity, I would like to tell you my adventures as I traveled back through time to Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village, two of the most “must-visit” places in Korea.
Gyeongbokgung Palace is a royal palace built in 1395 and served as the main palace during the Joseon Dynasty. According to the VisitSeoul website, it was the first and the largest palace out of the Five Grand Palaces. The others are Gyeonghuigung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, and Changdeokgung Palace. It is located in Jongno-gu, Seoul, and is the furthest north of the other palaces. Some parts of the palace were destroyed during the Japanese invasion in 1500s but were later rebuilt in 1800s.
The palace is listed among the popular tourist destinations in Korea, along with the Bukchon Hanok Village. And the good news is, they are located in the same area, so it is close to travel back and forth between these two places! It was a good decision to explore both Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village in a day.
Bukchun Hanok Village
Oh, right, I haven’t given you a hint of what Bukchon Hanok Village is! My bad, my bad. So, this village is a neighborhood of Korean traditional houses, also known as “hanok”. There are many hanok houses in the area and the architectures are similar to those of the houses back in the Joseon Dynasty, or so I think, from what I saw in historical Korean dramas. I’m not sure about the interior design, though! But if you are curious, there are several hanok homestay in the village, where you can spend the night there while experiencing the traditional Korean house. The interesting thing about this village is, there are people who actually live in the houses. The houses are not empty! And as a result, visitors are expected to keep their voices low in order to not disturb the residents.
I went to Gyeongbokgung and Bukchon Hanok Village on 27 May with my roommate, my friends from Thailand, a friend from Hong Kong, and another friend from Peru. We had planned the trip one or two weeks before and inside the plan was to try wearing Korean traditional clothes, the hanbok! I personally think it should be in every tourist’s list of things to do in Korea, since the hanbok are beautiful clothes.
Us in Hanbok!
I researched a little bit about hanbok rental places in Jongno and found a lot of information about them. There are indeed many hanbok rentals you’ll find in the surrounding areas, so you might want to know which is the best place to rent a hanbok. Fortunately, one of my friends had already tried it before and she told me about the hanbok rental place. It’s called the “One Day Hanbok”.
One Day Hanbok is located just a few minute walk from Anguk Station. It has a Facebook page that you can check out if you want to know what kind of hanbok they have. It’s not that hard to find the place, since they have a big “One Day Hanbok” sign written on the wall of their building’s second floor and you can see it from the streets. I attached a map here just in case you need it!
I had made an online reservation in advance by sending an email to One Day Hanbok (it’s on their Facebook page), to avoid queues. The hanbok are super pretty and you get to rent it for 4 hours for only 15,000 won. That’s a good price, I can say, for in other rental places you have to pay 10,000 won for only 1 hour, or around 20,000 won for 4 hours and so on. However, you will need to pay an additional 2,000 won for each accessory you wear, such as the small handbag, hair ornaments, or a crinoline slip to make the gown poofy. I added a crinoline slip and did not regret it since the poofy hanbok gown looked adorable! Before we set our adventures down the streets, we paid the amount of money for the hanbok plus an additional 10,000 won for deposit. Don’t worry, you can get the deposit money back after you’re done! Just keep in mind to not damage the hanbok!
We were finally all dressed up and ready for the journey back through time to Joseon Dynasty. And in no time, off we went and bid our farewell to 2018!
Okay, before that, one more thing, I’d like to tell you that it’s best to plan the routes carefully so that you won’t waste any time. I had the routes in mind, with an assistance from a tourist information center nearby. She gave me a map of Bukchon Hanok Village and Gyeongbokgung Palace and suggested that we went around the village first and finally the palace. But I changed the routes, since the hanbok rental place is closer to the village, I thought it’d be best to explore the village at the end, just before we returned the hanbok.
Our time travel machine dropped us off at the Eastern part of Gyeongbokgung Palace, where there is a gate to get into the National Folk Museum. It then connects to the palace’s entrance gate. Since we were wearing hanbok, we got into the palace for free! I don’t remember the exact amount of the ticket fee, but it should be around 3,000 – 4,000 won. Well, even though it’s not necessary to wear hanbok to enter the palace, I still think that wearing one can make people blend in and feel like they are part of the palace. I did feel that way! Like a maiden or a noble lady playing around in the palace grounds.
The first few places that I saw were medium-sized buildings with several rooms inside, with the same architecture. I wonder if there are any slight differences in the architecture though, since each building had its own purpose in serving the King’s orders.
In the middle of the Gyeongbokgung Palace lies the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion on a peaceful man-made pond. It was built and once used for entertainment when important foreign visitors visited the palace. First built in 1412, the pavilion was burnt down by the Japanese in 1592 during the Imjin War. Later, it was rebuilt in 1867 and is still standing until today. On the railings of the bridge that leads to the pavilion, there are stone animal sculptures, which were created to keep the evil spirits away. Today, visitors can go inside the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion by making an online reservation in advance.
After taking enough pictures of the pavilion, we walked further inside and managed to find the Geunjeongjeon Hall, which stood grandly in the middle of a vast courtyard. Geunjeongjeon Hall is the main throne hall of the palace. It was also rebuilt in 1867 as a result of destruction by the Japanese. I tried to take a look inside the hall and saw a throne seat, most likely for the King, just like what I saw in Korean dramas. This hall was indeed used for special ceremonies such as the King’s coronation and political affairs such as meetings, managing state affairs, and holding receptions for foreign visitors and dignitaries.
Surrounding the Geunjeongjeon Hall are the tall red pillars, one of the most popular spots for taking pictures in the palace! We took a lot of pictures there and the results turned out lovely. It looked as if we were the princess’ friends just playing around and having fun, while waiting for our “noble parents” who were attending a meeting with the King.
We decided that it’d be best to end the palace exploration and to start exploring the Bukchon Hanok Village. With a map in hand, I led my small group (of my roommate and my Peruvian friend, since we were separated from the others). The map was helpful as it showed some spots of the village that are perfect for taking pictures. It also provided a recommended route of the main streets of the village. You can get this map at the Bukchon Tourist Information Center!
Starting off from the furthest north part of the village, we walked down to the South, following the instructions on the map. We could already see the hanok houses from above. It was a magnificent view and feeling, to think that there was a place like the village as a part of the metropolitan city of Seoul. After walking for 5 to 10 minutes, we eventually arrived at the main street. Many people were already there taking pictures with the hanok houses as the background. Most of them were wearing hanbok, which made it seem like we were actually traveling back through time.
I couldn’t resist not taking pictures of the stunning main street, with hanok houses standing on its sides. My roommate and my Peruvian friend also helped me take pictures on the street and in front of the houses. Two Korean girls approached us and asked for help to take their pictures and eventually asked for a picture together. They were also wearing hanbok and they looked super lovely! And even though there were many tourists there, they maintained to keep their voices low to respect the residents. That’s the spirit!
Not only hanok houses, you can also find ice cream shops and cafes in the village! They all looked delicious, not to mention refreshing, since the day was hot and dry. However, at that time I was still fasting so I could only imagine the taste, hah! Next time I go there; I’d be sure to try the ice cream!
If you’re like me, who is fond of collecting postcards and keychains, the souvenir shops just near the Bukchon Tourist Information Center will definitely satisfy your needs. I stopped and bought two postcards, which feature drawings of the hanok houses in Bukchon Hanok Village. They are indeed lovely!
Three hours and a half went by quickly and I just realized it when I felt that my legs could not walk anymore. It was rather exhausting because the weather was hot and I was a bit dehydrated. However, the journey was worth the time and money! Trust me. You will not regret renting the hanbok, walking around the palace grounds, and exploring the beauty of Bukchon Hanok Village.
We returned to the One Day Hanbok place half an hour before our time limit was over. After returning all the clothes and accessories and getting our deposit money back, we had dinner and went back home!
How to get to Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village:
Take the subway line 3 and get off at Anguk Station.
Take the exit no. 1 or 2 and go straight for about 300m.
Turn left and you will find the Bukchon Tourist Information Center where you can get a map of the village, or go straight from there to find the entrance to Bukchon Hanok Village.