We made our way over to Gyeonbokgung Palace last week as well on our touristic safari of Seoul. This palace is probably 10 times bigger than Doksugung where I ventured to on my own on my first weekend in the city. Some cool things about this place is the changing of the guards that takes place every hour, on the hour from 10:00 to 16:00 and the free English tours which take place at 11:00, 13:30 and 15:30 every day. I love the fact that you can find free English tours here at almost every tourist site. Anyway, in the photo above, you can see some of the guards at the entrance into the palace. Not quite as rigid as the soldiers in London or at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
A quick history of the palace before I show some photos. This was the main palace during the Joseon Dynasty in the year 1395. It was destroyed by the Japanese in 1592, and was not rebuilt until 1868 during King Gojong's reign. During the Japanese ocupation in the first half of the 20th century, most of the palace was yet again torn apart by the Japanese, save for only a few buildings. The booklet that I recieved upon entering the palace describes the restoration effort as "ongoing".
Gyeonghoeru: This building was generally used for events held to entertain foreign emissaries because of the wonderful views that you can't really see in this photo.
Figures on the top of Gyeonghoeru
Geoncheonggung: Described as a palace within a palace, this was a place where the royal family might go to relax or drink tea. The Empress was assasinated here by the Japanese in 1895.
The National Folk Museum. This museum is right next to the palace, and has free admission for the next few months, and has some very interesting exibits of Korean culture and history. You can see what kings and queens wore in various dynasties, see 20 different kinds of kim chi and view some old skool cars.. and anything in between. And its free right now, so it makes it even more worthwhile. :-)
This was outside the museum, but it shows something that we saw within the palace. Before they had things like clocks, people used the sun to tell the time (duh), but instead of saying a number representing the time of day, they used animals of the Chinese zodiac. Each animal represented a position of the sun, so for example, midnight would be mouse time, and... some other time of the day would be monkey time. (Haven't you ever wanted to shout that it was monkey time?) This shows it in a sort of sun dial the animals. I think two of the animals were left out of the Korean time system, but I don't remember which ones....
Anyway, if you want to check out Gyeongbokgung and/or The National Folk Museum, take subway line 3 to Gyeongbokgung Station and use exit 5, and you will find yourself right in front of the palace.