For our Korea trip, we stayed in a cozy guesthouse in Insa-dong, The Insa Guesthouse (guesthouse is already closed now unfortunately). The area is very accessible, just behind the main street and believe it or not, we went through Insa-dong, Bukchon Hanok Village and the Gyeongbokgung Palace on foot! It was one whole day of walking, taking photos and getting lost!
From our guesthouse, we went out for breakfast in a small bakery-café. As it was still early, most shops are closed except for some cafes serving breakfast, and there are no tourists! You will not believe that it is the same street that you walk through on the busy part of the day. We went to Insa-dong the night before and you cannot walk through the street full of vendors and tourists. But in the morning it was empty and the weather was perfect!
After breakfast we started walking towards the Bukchon Hanok village. Along the way we saw some teenage girls and boys in uniform who, we later found out, were there as “concierge” to help tourists find their way. How thoughtful! There are numerous small local shops along the way and it is good to see that local business is thriving. Moreover, a number of businesses were not traditional but rather contemporary niche businesses. After around 30 minutes of walking we reached the village and there is already quite a crowd. There are still people residing in the area and if I remember correctly, there are some streets off-limits to tourists.
After going up the village and going down again on the other end, we reached the Geonchunmun Gate of the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Before visiting the palace, we decided to go through the National Folk Museum of Korea. Different from the usual museum, the National Folk Museum has both indoor and outdoor displays which shows the culture and way of living of the early Korean people. There is a mock-up of a small village showcasing housing, education, transportation, religion, farming and even fashion.
Near the exit of the National Folk Museum is the ticket station for Gyeongbokgung palace. The main gate of the palace is the Gwanghwamun Gate entrance and most people would start their palace tour from there.
The Gyeongbokgung Palace, also referred to as the Northern Palace, is located at Jongno-gu in Seoul, South Korea. It was built in 1935 under the Joseon Dynasty and its name means “Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven”.
All I can say about the palace is that it is very spacious. I have never seen a so huge a space enclosed by walls such as this! Going inside the palace quarters can give you a weird feeling of being inside a Korean drama especially that some tourists especially the teenagers would go around wearing hanbok. Some other tourists would even take photos with them. I can just imagine how awful it must be for the ladies back then to walk through a lot of space in their hanboks especially in winter.
There are a number of buildings comprising the palace and sad to say, I cannot identify which is which. I just get confused with the names and all. The Royal Palace website gives very detailed information on the different areas of the palace. The buildings do have very intricate and classy details as evident in the photos below.
We exited through the Gwanghwamun Gate and there we found the palace guards who everyone are taking photos with. Directly opposite is the Gwanghwamun square with the imposing Statue of King Sejong looking over his jurisdiction.
This post is the third part of Exploring South Korea series, I made a simple 4-day itinerary for visiting Seoul. You can view it here.