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Changgyeonggung Palace in Seoul (from royal palace to zoo)

We take you to visit one of the “Five Great Palaces”, Changgyeonggung Palace in Seoul, which was transformed from a royal palace into a zoo.

On this occasion, we went to visit a place that, if it could speak, would have a lot to tell us, it could tell us about the greatness of being a royal palace or about the humiliation of having become a zoo, or also tell us about what it means to regain greatness and be admired by visitors from all over the world who travel to South Korea capital. We are talking about the Changgyeonggung Palace in Seoul. We are going to show it to you here, we’ll see a time machine that takes us back to the times of the Joseon Dynasty.

Information for visiting Changgyeonggung Palace in Seoul

How much is it?
Admission is 1,000 won.

Which are the schedules?
Every day, except Monday, from 9 AM to 9 PM

Can you take photos?

Remember that to enter the rooms you have to take off your shoes, in any case you will see when this is requested. But in any case, if you find that the wooden floor is very clean, it is probably because you do not have to wear shoes.

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Our visit to Changgyeonggung Palace

We entered through one of the four main doors to the palace, and we found what we had seen before, a path in the center that was higher. Although here, we did not see a sign that said that it was forbidden to step on it. As we already knew, we did not put feet there. An indication that we had already followed, for example, in the Changdeokgung Palace.

As had happened to me in other Korean palaces, for example during our night visit to the Deoksugung Palace in Seoul. I loved the detail of the doors, those metal inlays that looked like little bells attached to the door in a row. I don’t know why, but I liked them a lot.

Upon entering we realized that a guide was waiting for people, in this as in other palaces guided tours are offered. In fact, we did it at the Changdeokgung Palace, but we had arrived there just at the time of the tour in English since the other foreign languages they offer are Chinese and Japanese. I don’t remember the reason anymore, probably the language, but this time we didn’t take it.

In fact, if you have just arrived in Seoul and don’t know where to start with your visits, you can take a Free tour of Seoul or Tour of Seoul complete with tickets.

How did it end up being a zoo?

This place was the summer palace of Emperor Goryeo, later became one of the five great palaces of the Joseon dynasty. Its construction dates back to the year 1104 when King Sejong wanted to leave his father Taejong, who had abdicated in his favor, a place where he could live comfortably.

It is no longer a zoo, but we can still find little animals like this cute kitten that was prowling in the Palace

And how did I go from that splendor to becoming a zoo? This happened during the Japanese occupation, which was from 1910 to 1945, the Japanese decided to build a zoo and a botanical garden. With this, the name of the place changed from Changgyeonggung to Changgyeongwon, or rather it must be said that it was degraded, with the damage that this implied.

It was not until 1983, when the zoo was moved and the palace was completely restored, that it was renamed Chaggyeonggung again.

Changgyeonggung Palace regains its splendor

Now that the Changgyeonggung Palace has regained its splendor, we were able to tour it and observe its details on the ceilings as we had already seen in palaces such as Gyeongbokgung Palace, and here we did not see a changing of the guard, but we met people walking through the buildings dressed in ancient costumes. A bit like transporting ourselves to the times of the Joseon dynasty.

During our tour, we came across sculptures of turtles, this one had a board on its shell. Vincent couldn’t resist taking a picture as if the turtle were biting his hand, even though she was actually very calm and collected.

Of course, the gardens with colorful flowers and a lake in Changgyeonggung Palace could not be missing.

Chongmyo Shrine

That day we would take the train to get to Jeonju, but we still had a few hours left, so we went to Chongmyo Shrine, which was built in 1394 and was intended to be one of the longest buildings in Asia. The main hall, called Jeoingjein, had seven rooms which were reserved for a king and his queen.

Information to visit the Chongmyo Shrine

How much is it?
Admission is 1,000 won.

Which are the schedules?
Wednesday to Monday from 9 AM – 5:30 PM (outside the months of November to January it may close at 6 or 6:30 PM)

Can you take photos?

It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995.

Jongmyo Daeje

The day we arrived there was an event taking place, which we didn’t really know what it was, it looked like something like an award ceremony. People passed to the front and the attendees were animated. We put ourselves at a discreet distance, since not knowing what it was about we did not want to bother, but I did immortalize the event with some photos.

Later we realized that they were most likely preparing the details of the Jongmyo Daeje ritual that takes place in the shrine, a Confucian ritual that includes music and has been celebrated since the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty. This with the aim of honoring members of the royal family.

It was a shame not to have been able to witness the ritual that has been part of the World Heritage Site since 2008.

Living in the surroundings

On the outskirts of the sanctuary, we find numerous gentlemen sitting placidly in the park playing go. The game, which is about strategy and has its origins in China.

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Olga Grijalva

Olga is a traveler and travel content creator with 17 years of experience. Her goal is to share useful information to help you plan your adventures. She has visited more than 40 countries and is excited to share her experience with you.