Gyeongbokgung In the Light of the Night
People young and old, families and couples meandered at their leisure along the cobbled pathways that make up the Gyeongbok Palace complex late into the night this past week.
The hours had been extended until 10PM (last admission was at 9PM) and some of the main buildings were lit to the delight of many. Friday was no exception. One of the most beautiful and serene places in Seoul lit up in the night coupled with cultural performances at 5PM and 8PM in front of Sujeongjeon Hall meant people from all around would be headed to the same place. This only happens twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, meaning the limited time offer makes it even more of a must see.
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The areas lit for viewing pleasure included Gwanghwamun Gate, Heungnyemun Gate, Geunjeonghmun Gate, Geunjeongjeon Hall, Sujeongjeon Hall and Gyeonghoeru Pavilion.
Gwanghwamun Gate is the main entrance into the palace complex. The central arch was the entrance for the king while the arches on either side were for the crown princes or other officials entering the complex. The original gate had been moved to just north of the east gate of the palace when the Japanese government came in and took over in the 1920s. This gate was later bombed and destroyed during the Korean war. Rebuilt in 1968, it was most recently restored in 2010.
After entering through Gwanghwamun Gate, the path leads to Heungnyemun Gate(pictured above). In this area tickets can be purchased for the normal rate of W3,000. It being a Friday, the crowds were massive, yet navigable. Everyone moved with ease, in most cases, as we all had the same goal, enjoying the concert and taking pictures. Not only were the pictures of the beautiful architecture, but also of children playing in the lamp light and dancers in hanbok on stage.
Reaching the illustrious throne hall, or Geunjeongjeon Hall, was deemed a feat not worth fighting the crowds for this time. Standing back a bit though, the light mixed with all of the people strolling the grounds made the immensity of the building quite a sight. One could imagine how many people once filled this space when the king would receive foreign envoys and preside over official ceremonies here.
The only entrance open from the main throne hall led to the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion. This seemed to be one of the biggest draws and for good reason. Situated in the middle of a pond, this pavilion is a true beauty seemingly floating on water. The reflection of the building and the lights and the moon in the water made for a spectacular photo opportunity certainly not missed by anyone in attendance. This building was built for feasts and joyous affairs. The name means that the king is capable of handling national affairs only when he has the right people around him and in a setting like this the right people would definitely be the cherry on the ice cream. This building has remained intact on the grounds since being rebuilt in 1867 and is a must see for any visitor night or day.
Sujeongjeon Hall was the final area lit up to showcase not only the building but those playing music and dancing to the audience’s delight. The chairs provided were filled to capacity and those still hoping to watch took their seats on the nearby lawn, any ledge space found, or a simple piece of newspaper on the dusty ground. The show started off with a rendition of Arirang followed by some traditional and not so traditional remakes. About half way through, dancers in hanboks took to the stage to give the music a visual partner.
All in all, the night was a lit up success. Friday, Saturday or Sunday would probably not be the most recommended days to go, but this event is, nonetheless, recommended to anyone and everyone with time to spare.
Planning a trip to Korea? I’m always asked about places to stay. Check out Ramada Hotel & Suites Seoul, Royal Hotel Seoul or Lotte Hotel Seoul. All three are located downtown close to the palace and numerous other can’t miss locations.
종로구 세종로 1-1
1-1 Saejong-ro Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea
Bus: 103, 109, 150, 162, 171, 272, 401, 402, 406, 408, 601, 606, 700, 704, 706, 707, 1020, 1711, 7016, 7018, 7022, 7025, 7212
Gyeongbukgung Station, exit 5. Exits right directly into the palace complex.
For the main gate view before you enter the palace, take Gyeongbukgung Station, exit 6. Make a u-turn and you’ll see the palace main gate across the street.
Gwanghwamun Station, exit 2. Walk straight.
Anguk Station, exit 1. Walk straight.
Monday & Wednesday – Sunday: 9:00am – 6:00pm. (Last entrance permitted at 5:00pm)
Closed on Tuesdays
Youth & Seniors: W1,500
Website: Gyeongbokgung Palace