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Changdeokgung Palace: Korea’s Must-See Palace

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East of Gyeongbokgung Palace is the grand royal home of Changdeokgung Palace. It is the best-kept palace left from the Joseon era. The palace is the second oldest building in Seoul, after Gyeongbokgung. When it was first built, it was used as a secondary palace.

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Image Courtesy: visitkorea

The palace called “the palace of illustrious virtue” was built between 1405 and 1412. It all started around the reign of King Taejong. From 1400 to 1418, Taejong was the third king of the Joseon Dynasty.

The grounds have a public area, a building for the royal family to live in, and Huwon, a large, beautiful garden in the back where the royal family goes to rest and relax. Taejong also made the garden. It was a place for the royal family to rest.

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Image Courtesy: visitkorea

The way the buildings are set up goes well with the mountains and other natural features around them. This strange design style is only found in Korea, but it has influenced how other royal homes are set up.

Several kings lived here until 1592, when the Japanese invaded Korea and burned the palace down. Around 1610, King Gwanghaegun and King Seonjo began to fix up the country. In 1623, political uprisings and a military coup d’etat destroyed it again. In 1647, after 24 years, it was put back together again.

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Image Courtesy: visitkorea

Changdeokgung was the main palace of the Seoul royal family for over 270 years. Sunjong is the the second and last emperor of Korea, lived here until he died in 1926. He ruled from 1907 to 1910.

Because of its garden and natural surroundings, Changdeokgung is thought to be one of the most beautiful palaces in Seoul. In 1997, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site, which wasn’t a big surprise.

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Image Courtesy: visitkorea

What to see at Changdeokgung Palace


Changdeokgung Chinese Juniper

Because of their smell, these kinds of trees were often burned as incense during ceremonies. During ceremonies, people who went to the nearby Seonwonjeon Shrine often burned incense made from Chinese juniper trees.

If you tour the Huwon Secret Garden, the tree is on the left as you leave the garden and head back to the palace.

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Donhwamun Gate


The main gate to Changdeokgung is called the Donhwamun Gate. It was built in 1412, during the 12th year of King Taejong’s rule. From 1400 to 1418, Taejong was the third king of the Joseon Dynasty.

Gwolnaegaksa


There were several government offices in Gwolnaegaksa. These offices were in charge of political and royal family matters. There was also a library, a pharmacy, an office for royal decrees, and a bureau for the royal council committee. There were so many buildings in such a small area that it looked like a labyrinth.

Gyujanggak, Geomseocheong, Hongmungwan, Naeuiwon, and Yemungwan are the main pavilions here. When Japan ruled this area in the early 20th century, all of the buildings were destroyed. In 2005, Gwolnaegaksa was rebuilt according to the way it was first made.

Huijeongdang Hall


Huijeongdang Hall was first home for women and then a place for the king to work and rest. Here is where the king would meet with other important people. The king and his officials would handle royal business and talk about political issues at this place.

The new building was made in a different way than the old one. The building looks like traditional Korean architecture, but the inside is made in a western style. The new interior’s east-meets-west style had many features that weren’t common in Korea in the early 1800s. In the front, there was a place for cars to wait. There were also glass windows, wooden floorboards, electricity, lights, a chandelier, bathrooms, and curtains.

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Injeongjeon Hall and Injeongmun Gate


Changdeokgung Palace’s main hall is called Injeongjeon Hall. It was where the king and his officials met with visitors and held meetings. Foreign envoys would meet the king when they got to the palace.

Jinseonmun Gate


Jinseonmun Gate is the middle and smallest of the three gates. You must go through three gates to get to the main throne hall. Jinseonmun is one of those gates. Dowamun and Injeongmun are the other two.

In front of the building is Geumcheongyo, a large stone bridge. Similar bridges are often found in royal buildings, and crossing them signifies cleansing.

Nakseonjae Complex


The Nakseonjae Complex is a place where people live. It was built in 1847 when King Keonjong was in charge. Heonjong’s wife, Queen Myeongheon, couldn’t give birth to a child for him. So, Heonjong took Gyeongbin as a concubine so that she could have his child. In a quiet corner of Changdeokgung Palace, Gyeongbin had Nakseonjae built for him.

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The building style doesn’t have the bright, colorful royal decorations common in other royal homes.

Seonjeongjeon Hall and Seonjeongmun Gate


At Changdeokgung Palace, the king would meet with high-level officials in Seonjeongjeon Hall to talk about political, state, and palace matters. The king and his officials would hold seminars and meet in the morning when it was convenient for the king. He would talk about the king and other national issues.

The area around the building with the columns was used for storage and secretarial work. A narrow corridor leads to Seonjeongmun Gate. When Seonjeongjeon Hall was a royal shrine, this corridor was used for royal funerals. The building has the only blue-tiled palace roof that still stands. The main throne hall at the palace, Injeongjeon, is to the east of Seonjeongjeon Hall.

Seonwonjeon Hall


At Changdeokgung Palace, past kings’ portraits were displayed in Seonwonjeon Hall, where ancestral rites were also held. At one time, portraits of King Taejo, King Yeongjo, and King Jeongjo were all kept here.

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Image Courtesy: visitkorea

In 1656, the first building was moved here from the nearby Gyeongbokgung Palace. The building was called Chunhuijeon at the time and until 1695. In 1921, when the Japanese ruled Korea, a new hall was built in the Huwon Secret Garden. Rituals honoring the dead were now done at this spot. The valuables of the court were kept in the simple building we see today. In 2005, the Jinseolcheong and Naechaldang buildings, which are to the left and right of, were fixed up.

Changdeokgung Palace

Address: 161 Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Operating Hours:
November-February 09:00-17:00
March-May 09:00-18:00
June-August 09:00-18:30
September-October 09:00-18:00

Jacque is a travel, food and lifestyle blogger. At the age of 20, she started exploring instagrammable places, discovering fascinating cultures, trying various cuisines, and taking amazing photos from local and international travel destinations. Alongside her adventures, she passionately creates Hallyu content.

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