Seoul,  South Korea,  Travel in Wanderland

Seoul Family Travel: Gyeongbokgung and National Folk Museum

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If you only have time to visit one Royal Palace while in Seoul, Gyeongbokgung Palace should be it.

Gyeongbokgung or Gyeongbok Palace is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces in Seoul and it was the Main Royal Palace of the Joseon Dynasty. Established in 1395, Gyeong-Bok which means “brilliance and fortune”, signifies the dynasty’s vision to thrive and prosper.

Gyeongbokgung was burnt to the ground during a Japanese invasion in 1592 and it wasn’t until 1867, 270 years later, that the restoration process began.

It was once again damaged during the Japanese occupation in Korea (1910-1945) and restored in the 1990s. It now stands as one of the most important landmarks in Seoul, visited by millions of tourists per year.

I remember visiting Gyeongbokgung on my first winter trip to Seoul and coincidentally, it was the coldest day during our trip. Much like our visit to Insadong, I barely remember what happened. We had a tour guide with us but I can only remember snippets of what she said. It was just too cold to process anything!

Seoul Family Travel Gyeongbokgung Palace

We started our day with an early lunch inside the Lotte Department Store’s Basement Food Hall in Myeongdong. The concept is synonymous to a depachika, a massive food hall located under Japan’s luxury department stores.

Imagine, a rotary sushi in a food hall?! I had to stop myself from asking my husband to eat here.

Seoul Family Travel Lotte Department Store Basement Food Hall rotary sushi

We instead chose to eat a classic Korean dish, the Dolsot Bibimbap. Yum!

Seoul Family Travel Lotte Department Store Basement Food Hall bibimbap

Taking the subway from Seoul Station, we got off at the Gwanghwamun Station. But instead of using Exit 2, we went out using Exit 9 which is right on Gwanghwamun Square. There was a local culinary event and there were a few food and craft stores open.

Seoul Family Travel Gyeongbokgung Palace Gwanghwamun

Sejong the Great, a renowned King of the Joseon Dynasty, created the Korean alphabet called Hangul. The Hangul was designed in such a way that any person, even with little or no education can easily learn it.

Seoul Family Travel Gyeongbokgung Palace Gwanghwamun Sejong

Seoul Family Travel Gyeongbokgung Palace Gwanghwamun Gate

Yes, you can take a photo with the Palace Guard. There was even a helpful tour officer who can take the photo for you!

Seoul Family Travel Gyeongbokgung Palace Palace Guard

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Address
161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul 서울특별시 종로구 사직로 161 (세종로)

Operating Hours (Closed on Tuesdays)
November-February 09:00-17:00
March-May, September-October 09:00-18:00
June-August 09:00-18:30
* Last admission: 1 hr before closing. Operating hours are subject to change

Admission Fees
Adults (ages 19-64): ₩3,000 / ₩2,400 (Groups of 10 or more)
Juniors: (ages 7-18): ₩1,500 / ₩1,200 (Groups of 10 or more)
Seniors (over 65) and Children (under 6): Free
*Admission is also free for tourists wearing Hanbok. You still need to get a free admission ticket from the ticket office.

How to get there:
By subway: Gyeongbokgung Station (Line 3), Exit 5 / Anguk Station (Line 3), Exit 1 / Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5), Exit 2

Suggested Activities:
Seoul City Sightseeing Bus
Palace and Temple Guide
Seoul’s Palaces, Temples and Markets
Hanbok Rental Voucher near Gyeongbokgung

Seoul Family Travel Gyeongbokgung Palace ticket brochure

We did not book any tours because we wanted to enjoy the day on our own sweet time. However, if you are interested, Free Guided Tours are available for visitors. You just need to plan your day to coincide with the tours and if you also want to see the Changing of the Palace Guards Ceremony and Gate Guard Duty Performance.

FREE Guided Tours (Duration: 1.5 hrs):
English : 11:00, 13:30, 15:30
Japanese : 10:00, 12:30, 14:30
Chinese : 10:30, 13:00, 15:00
Meeting Point: Standing signboards in front of Gyeongbokgung Information Office at Heungnyemun Gate.

Changing of the Palace Guard Ceremony:
10:00 and 14:00 (Square inside of Gwanghwamun Gate)

Gate Guard Duty Performance:
11:00 and 13:00 (Outside of Gwanghwamun Gate)

The tricky part about joining the free guided tour is that it conflicts with the Changing of the Palace Guard Ceremony and Gate Guard Duty Performance. The performances usually last about 10-15 minutes. There is no way you can do all three without waiting for at least 30 minutes in between. The palace grounds are huge, walking back and forth will be tiring so it’s really up to you how much of it you want to see. The best option is to join the 11:00 guided tour and come back to the Gwanghwamun Gate for the performances (13:00 and 14:00) but that would also mean walking the palace grounds again towards the National Folk Museum of Korea (if you want to visit the museum, and I highly suggest that you do!).

You can always book a private tour if you want, so you can specifically choose which Seoul highlights you want to prioritize and have more control over your schedule.

As always, check the official website before your visit for the most accurate information.

Seoul Family Travel Gyeongbokgung Palace

The Bihyeongak Hall is part of Donggung, which is the official residence of the Crown Prince of the Joseon Dynasty.

Seoul Family Travel Gyeongbokgung Palace

Seoul Family Travel Gyeongbokgung Palace

The main kitchen of the palace is the Sojubang. The current Royal kitchen buildings were restored in 2015. Visitors can now have a taste of what it feels to be served confections and tea fit for Royalty by dining at the Saengmulbang (Refreshment Room).

Gyeonghoeru Pavillion was where various state events were held such as royal banquets, receptions and religious rituals. This was also destroyed by the fire during the Japanese Invasion of 1592 and wasn’t rebuilt until 1867.

Gyeongbokgung, National Folk Museum of Korea, Seoul, Seoul Korea, Seoul travel, Seoul travel tips, Seoul travel guide, things to do in Seoul, must see in Seoul #seoultravel #travelwithkids

Located within the grounds of Gyeongbokgung is the National Folk Museum of Korea. I would never have thought of going here if not for the helpful people from TripAdvisor who said that my child would enjoy going to this museum. And yes, she did!

Seoul Family Travel National Folk Museum

National Folk Museum of Korea

Address
37, Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul 서울특별시 종로구 삼청로 37 (세종로)

Operating Hours
March-May, September-October: 09:00-18:00
June-August: 09:00-18:30
November-February: 09:00-17:00
* Last admission is 1hr before closing.
* Last Wednesday, Friday & Saturday of each month open until 21:00

Admission Fees
Free *Fees apply to Gyeongbokgung Palace (Purchase ticket from Gyongbokgung Ticketing Booth).

How to get there:
By subway: Gyeongbokgung Station (Line 3), Exit 5 / Anguk Station (Line 3), Exit 1 / Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5), Exit 2

Seoul Family Travel National Folk Museum outside

There is a Special Exhibition on everything about Salt, from production to different types. It is an interactive exhibition that includes a touch screen wall displaying the many ways salt is used in our daily lives, some I don’t even know about!

Seoul Family Travel National Folk Museum painting

There are three permanent Exhibition Halls inside the Museum. The 1st Exhibition Hall’s main theme is the History of the Korean People which includes historical materials used in everyday life.

The 2nd Exhibition Hall is the Korean Way of Life. Korea has four distinct seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. This exhibition shows the differences in the way of living in each season including how they adapt their diet, job, clothing and housing.

The 3rd Exhibition Hall depicts the major life events in a Korean’s life. On display are scenes from birth to their first education, coming-of-age rituals, marriage and family life, careers, the celebration of old age and the eventual death. The Exhibition also shows how an Ancestral Ritual is observed, a filial duty of every family member.

Seoul Family Travel National Folk Museum marriage ritual

The Children’s Museum is located beside the Permanent Exhibition Halls. Admission is free (included in your Gyeongbokgung/National Folk Museum ticket). There was a Special Exhibition about Animals in Korean Mythology but I think it will end this coming September.

Seoul Family Travel National Folk Museum Children Museum

Seoul Family Travel National Folk Museum Outside Children's Museum

There’s a play area outside the Children’s Exhibition Hall where you can relax and let kids be kids.

Seoul Family Travel National Folk Museum Play area

Seoul Family Travel National Folk Museum play area

My favorite part of the National Folk Museum of Korea is its Open Air Exhibition. It’s fascinating to see a reproduction of Korean rural life. There’s a barber shop, restaurant, comic shop, etc.

Seoul Family Travel National Folk Museum comic books

Seoul Family Travel National Folk Museum

Seoul Family Travel National Folk Museum

This is the main entrance of the National Folk Museum of Korea but again, entrance to the museum would require you to purchase the Gyeongbokgung admission ticket.

Seoul Family Travel National Folk Museum entrance

Visits to Gyeongbokgung and the museum are usually followed by a walking tour of Samcheongdong, Bukchon Hanok Village and Insadong. This road will lead you to these three places.

Seoul Family Travel Gyeongbokgung Palace National Folk Museum

Families with little kids (and strollers) may find navigating Gyeongbokgung a bit challenging because of the rough ground but you won’t encounter this problem in the museum grounds, including the Open Air Exhibition. I saw a lot of tourists on a group tour donning their hanboks, parents and kids! It’s cute, just make sure that the kids are comfortable and cool, especially with all the walking and picture-taking you will all be doing.

I highly suggest visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace and the National Folk Museum of Korea on your first trip to Seoul. It is a great way to learn and appreciate Korea’s culture, history and traditions. An educational but incredibly fun time for the whole family!

Check out the rest of my trip using the links below. I have also listed some Seoul Travel Essentials you can book in advance for a better travel experience.

4G Wifi Rental (Airport Pick up)
Seoul Hotels
Seoul Hop-On Hop-Off City Sightseeing Bus Tour
AREX Incheon Airport Express Train to Seoul Station (One Way)
Discover Seoul Pass
T-Money Card (Pre-loaded with KRW5,000)
Korean Rail Pass

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Seoul Travel Diary Series:

Seoul in 7 Days: An Itinerary for First Time Visitors
K-Guesthouse Myeongdong 3 Review
Korean Skincare Shopping Haul
Bukchon Hanok Village and Insadong
N Seoul Tower
Myeongdong Street Food
Everland Theme Park
Namdaemun Market and Kalguksu Alley
Eland Han River Cruise
Dongdaemun Toy Market
30+ Best Activities to do in Seoul with Kids
Photo Gallery: Seoul, South Korea

Helpful Links:
Gyeongbokgung Official Site
National Folk Museum of Korea
Children’s Museum
Visit Seoul
Visit Korea


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