Posted by: Matt Kelley | 1 September 2008

Gyeonghuigung: A Summer Palace in Seoul


Seoul’s Gyeonghuigung Palace with Gwanghwamun’s skyscrapers in the background.

On the way between my home and central Seoul’s City Hall, is Gyeonghuigung Palace (경희궁), which is also known as Gyeongdeokgung Palace. As one of the “Five Grand Palaces” of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), about ten Korean kings visited here during their daily excursions.

It’s my understanding that Gyeonghuigung Palace wasn’t actually a palace, but a royal villa. Construction occured between 1617-23, and once upon a time, the entire complex comprised some 100 different structures. A rendering of the compound circa 1820 shows an elaborate and extensive series of walls, homes and gardens that were connected by an arched bridge to Deoksugung Palace (덕수궁), which is quite a ways to the southeast. Sadly, virtually the entire palace was razed by the Japanese during their colonial occupation of Korea (1910-1945). 


An aerial shot of Gyeonghuigung Palace. The parking lot in the foreground belongs to the Seoul Museum of History.

In the 1990s the government used the original foundation stones to rebuild several palace buildings. Today, the complex includes Sungjeongjeon (숭정전) (the main hall) and Heunghwamun (흥화문), which is currently the palace’s front gate. Originally, the gate faced east, but it was moved to its current location in 1932 by the Japanese to honor their first resident-general in Korea. The palace’s original front gate is now the Shilla hotel’s main entrance and another major building from the original palace is currently on the campus of Dongguk University. It’s interesting to me how often (and relatively easily?) these grand structures are moved around.


A close up of Gyeonghuigung Palace’s roof tiles.

The current complex is fairly modest but definitely worthy of a look around. An hour is sufficient to take a lesiurely walk admiring the architecture and reading the info plaques. When I visited, I virtually had the place to myself, and there were several places both in the palace or in the grounds where it might be nice to bring a book. Or, head to the back of the palace for a nice view. The symmetrical and serene grounds of this former royal villa are a nice counterweight to the busy chaos of nearby Gwanghwamun. And, once you’re had your fill, the Seoul Museum of History is next door.

Getting There:
→ Take Seoul Metro Line 5 to Gwanghwamun Station (Exit #7) and walk west 400 meters. It’s free. Open 09:00-18:00. Closed on Mondays.

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Responses

  1. Thank you for this information. I look forward to visiting it.

  2. […] Seoul’s five grand palaces, Gyeonghuigung (경희궁) is sometimes called the “forgotten palace.” First built in the early 17th century, it was […]


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