Tradition & History

Royal Palaces

The Royal Palaces of South Korea are a sight to behold, allowing visitors to stroll through the beauty of Joseon-era architecture and see the unique contrast between centuries-old hanoks and modern skyscrapers just outside the palace walls.

Some of the best ways to experience the palaces are through the changing of the guard ceremonies, Hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) experience or moonlight tours. There are five Grand Palaces in Seoul:

Seoul

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is arguably the most beautiful, and remains the largest of all five palaces.  It is also commonly referred to as the Northern Palace.

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Seoul

Changdeokgung Palace

Changdeokgung Palace was the second royal villa built following the construction of Gyeongbokgung Palace in 1405. It was the principal palace for many kings of the Joseon dynasty, and is the most well-preserved of the five remaining royal Joseon palaces.

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Seoul

Deoksugung Palace

Deoksugung Palace was not originally a royal palace but was a grand home and is considered special among Korean palaces. The Changing of the Royal Guard, in front of Daehanmun (Gate), is a very popular event for many visitors.

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Seoul

Changgyeonggung Palace

Located in the heart of Seoul, Changgyeonggung Palace was originally built as Suganggung Palace and it often served as residential quarters for queens and concubines.

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Seoul

Gyeonghuigung Palace

Gyeonghuigung Palace was originally called the large palace by Saemun Gate, or the Western Palace, for its location within the city.  The palace grounds currently hold the Seoul Museum of Art, walking paths, as well as a restoration of Heunghwamun Gate, the main gate of the palace.

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Hanoks

Traditional Korean houses, Hanoks can still be seen today in cities and regional areas. Walking through traditional Hanok villages is like travelling back in time as these houses are made from natural materials without the use of nails.

Some of the best-preserved examples of Hanok villages include: the Namsangol Hanok Village in Seoul, Hahoe Village in Andong (UNESCO World Heritage Listed), Jeonju Hanok Village in Jeonju, Yangdong Folk Village in Gyeongju and the Naganeupseong Folk Village in Suncheon.

Hanoks are also available to stay in and they provide an authentic insight to the traditional culture of South Korea. Demonstrating a harmonious mixture of Korean architecture and nature, they are usually found surrounding the palace and were often the former homes of powerful aristocrats, noblemen or high-ranking government officials.

Temples

Temple stays are another way to combine accommodation with an authentic cultural experience.

Korean temples are infused with the history and spirit of more than 1700 years of Korean Buddhism. By following the instruction of Buddhist monks residing on the temple grounds, guests can practice meditation, tea ceremonies, monastic meals, chanting and the age-old search for inner peace.

Traditional Markets

Traditional markets have long been an integral part of the daily life of ordinary Koreans and are now regarded as an important element of their culture and so are highly sought after by visitors.

Popular traditional markets in South Korea included Namdaemun Market (Seoul), Tongin Market (Seoul), Mangwon Market (Seoul) and Gukje Market (Busan).

There are many other ways to experience traditional Korea. Some of the best ways to have hands-on experiences are through pottery classes, traditional dance classes and watching or participating in a traditional wedding ceremony.

Videos

Hanoks: How to spend your day at a Korean Folk Village

Hanoks: Traditional Hanok Village Experiences

Hanoks: Hanok Boutique Hotel Stay in Seoul

Hanoks: A Hanok Stay – what you might do…

Markets: Traditional Korean Markets

Markets: Tongin Market Travel Tips

Traditional Culture Experiences: Mesmerizing Korean Craftmanship

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