Gyeongbokgung Palace Tour: Then and Now

When my family and I landed in Seoul for the first time 11 years ago, my husband asked me this:

“What is the most interesting tourist attraction in Seoul in your opinion?”

I promptly answered: “The palaces. Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, and Deoksugung.”

It was my second time in Seoul. The first time was when I was still studying in Tokyo and my next-door neighbor in the dorm, a Korean girl, invited me to visit her family home in Daegu.

I spent several days in Seoul, wandering around the palaces, absorbing the metropolitan vibes, enjoying the grand mixture of modern and traditional in everything I encountered: architecture, fashion, food, you name it.

So, during our trip as a family we spent the first few days in Seoul visiting the palaces, before we traveled to Busan where we’d stay for a few weeks due to my husband’s work. Gyeongbokgung, or Gyeongbok Palace since the word “gung” is loosely translated to the word “palace”, was at the top of our list.

Gyeongbokgung served as the home of Kings of the Joseon dynasty, the Kings’ households, as well as the government of Joseon. It had undergone war and fire during the 16th century, and was later abandoned for two centuries.

The gradual restoration is taking place since the 1990s. Gyeongbokgung is arguably the most beautiful and grandest of all palaces. The palace complex also houses the prominent National Palace Museum and the National Folk Museum.

We passed Gyeongbokgung by on our way from the airport to our hotel near Samseong Station. It’s hard to miss out the long white wall and the impressive main entrance, the Gwanghwamun Gate, which stood majestically with mountains and city skyscrapers as the background.

Despite of the cold weather, we arrived in Seoul in one freezing January afternoon by the way, we spent the remaining of our first day in Seoul touring the Gyeongbokgung until it was closed.

Gyeongbokgung covered in snow, approximately the same scene we encountered during our first visit there.
Photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/koreanet

The memory was so beautiful that when I saw an advertisement on http://www.kite2021.com for virtual Gyeongbokgung Palace Walking Tour, I immediately signed up.

On July 1st, I got an email from Hanbok Nam, the organizer, that I was accepted. They also sent a tour guide map that I could read before the virtual tour took place.

On the day of the virtual tour, I joined the Zoom link with my eldest daughter. She wanted to participate too because Gyeongbokgung meant a lot to her during her early childhood, and it holds a special place in our family’s heart.

Until my eldest daughter was two years old, we had been traveling to Seoul back and forth for my husband’s work. Every time we’re there, roughly a few weeks per visit, we always visited the four palaces I mentioned earlier, plus the Jongmyo Shrine.

One of the first times she stood on her feet without any help was on the bench in front of Gyeonghoeru Pavilion. When she was able to walk and run, she had fun touring the ground of the palace on her own wobbly feet.

We spent a lot of time chasing after her because she had her own itinerary in mind!

Gyeonghoeru Pavilion in the background. Photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/koreanet

We took part in the virtual tour with such fondness and deep, lingering yearning in our hearts. Gyeongbokgung was still as beautiful as we remembered.

It had so much less crowd and everybody was physical distancing, thanks to Covid-19, but the buildings and the surroundings were still very well preserved. The virtual tour was more than enough for us to plan our comeback to Korea once this pandemic is over. Please wait for us with your heart open.

The tour guides took us to several sites as shown on the Gyeongbokgung Palace map, which are:

  1. Gwanghwamun Gate
  2. Heungryemun Gate
  3. Geunjeongmun Gate
  4. Geunjeongjeon Hall
  5. Sageongjeon Hall (where they filmed the popular drama “Kingdom”)
  6. Sujeongjeon Hall (where they filmed the historical drama “Tree with Deep Roots”)
  7. Gyeonghoeru Pavilion
  8. Gangnyeongjeon Hall
  9. Gyotaejeon Hall
Gyeongbokgung Palace Map from Hanbok Nam Tour Guides

Below are some pictures we took during the virtual tour.

It was a great joy to see the palace we favor so much through the lens of Hanbok Nam tour guides. I hope this kind of virtual tour will continue to be offered until cross-countries traveling is deemed safe like it used to be.

경복궁, 보고 싶어요!

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