SEOUL, South Korea—If you are looking for sights in Seoul that are representative of the Korean tradition and culture, there is nothing higher up the list than the Changdeokgung Palace in the heart of this bustling metropolis.
The palace, considered one of the most historically significant attractions that represent the beauty of Korea, was built in 1405, the fifth year of the 3rd King Taejong’s reign.
No wonder some 200 visitors come and see the place everyday. It is frequented not only by tourists from foreign countries but by many Koreans themselves.
The complex comes to life even more when visitors to the complex come garbed in the colorful Korean national costume called the hanbok. They do it for photo shoots for weddings or for just plain fun, reliving the age of Korean dynasty and as an ode to their roots.
According to the Korea Tourism Organization, the best time to visit the palace is in autumn, when the leaves start to fall. During winter, the palace’s roof is powdered with white snow.
The palace grounds has a public palace area, a royal family residence building, and the rear garden—which boasts a gigantic tree that is over 300 years old, a small pond, and a pavilion.
Despite the complex buildings’ looking the same, there are delicate differences with the intricate designs especially the paintings that decorate its posts, walls, and roofs. In ancient times, each building also had their own rules for the occupants and servers to follow.
All the palace buildings were actually destroyed by fire during the Japanese invasion of 1592. Changdeokgung was restored in 1610 and served as the main palace for 270 years including the dynasty’s last king, Sunjong.
It is referred to as the “east palace” together with the Changgyeonggung Palace, since it was to the east of the main palace, Gyeongbokgung which is in the west. Changdeokgung is secondary only to the main palace.
Changdeokgung is laid out in harmony with the area’s topography and has a dissymmetric beauty unique to Korea. It is also in perfect harmony with its natural background as it was built with the mountain backdrop in sight.
The palace, as well as the entire complex with its gardens, is on the 1997 list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage due to its outstanding architecture and design.
Despite a fire that destroyed the queen’s residence called Daejojeon, it is still said to be relatively well preserved. It is also recognized as a representative of Korean palace architecture.
A tour at the Changdeokgung costs 3,000 won or roughly $3 for adults, and 1,500 won for kids or about $1.50.