The most absolute way to indulge in South Korea’s complex social and cultural landscape is to hit it straight in the face, in the most traditional way — a fashionable tour into South Korea’s history. Gyeongbokgung Palace is finally open to the public with its third round of special late-night hours, an annual and very popular summer spectacle.
If you missed the Palace’s April and June, make sure to check it out this mid-summer from July 16th to August 19th. Hours are from 7:30 PM~10:00 PM, with tickets going at 3,000 won for Gyeongbokgung Palace. The tour is actually free for people dressed in hanbok, Korea’s traditional garb, which can be rented from 10,000 won to 30,000 won depending on how long each item of clothing will be rented for (information below). Starting from the beautifully lit Gwanghamun Gate, the tour will lead a capped audience of 2,800 all the way into the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion.
The reason why Gyeongbokgung Palace’s night tour is extremely popular amongst both tourists and non-tourists is because of how amazingly beautiful the palace is at night. The palace, built in 1395, was the main dwelling place for royal individuals and their associates during the Joseon Dynasty. It brags more than 700 years of history and culture, and is officially designated as Historical Site No.117 since January 1965.
It’s located in Jongno-gu, Seoul — Jongno, a city that arguably represents the culture and history of modern Seoul. With Insadong and Myeongdong right near by, it is definitely a popularly recommended, one-stop-see-all.
Now, for the free tickets. The purpose of free entry into the Palace is not because of its price — 3,000 won is a very cheap price (approximately 3.00 USD) — but the experience that is required to receive free entry. The Palace administration recommends visitors to wear Korea’s traditional garb, hanbok, to raise cultural awareness.
Hanbok is easy to rent, and although it is pricier than the plain ticket (approx. 10,000 won~30,000 won), it is a gorgeous statement piece with countless colorful designs for each social hierarchical roles that existed during Joseon Dynasty. Fun pieces include kisaeng (high-end prostitute), jungjeon (queen), wang (king), and seonbi (virtuous scholar). So, try it out. I mean, when else can you strut around a 700 year old historical artifact in some high-end prostitute’s silk dress from an extinct dynasty?
And while you’re there, make sure to check out the Changgyeonggung Palace (1,000 won or 1 USD) and the National Palace Museum of Korea (free!) as well.
Just some additional facts to remember:
Must bring some form of identification (license, state identification card, passport, etc.) for entry. Foreigners must present their passport or alien registration card.
The palace is not open for Tuesdays. Don’t go that day.
Look for hanbok rentals that are holding sale events. (Links below)
One person can buy up to 4 tickets, either online or at the box.
Tickets for the night tour can be bought from 6:00 PM (plus, minus 30 minutes).
Link to Gyeongbokgung Palace’s Homepage (English available)