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5 Best Palaces In Seoul, South Korea (with Pros + Cons)

5 Best Palaces In Seoul, South Korea (with Pros + Cons)

If you are looking for one of the best things to do in Seoul, look no further than visiting the royal palaces in South Korea’s Capital City. But what are the best palaces in Seoul if you don’t have enough time to see them all?

In our Seoul travel guide, we will show you:

  • How to use the Royal Palace Pass
  • Detailed information about each individual palace
  • Tour recommendations and important tips
  • Pros and cons for each royal palace

Now, let’s explore the best palaces in Seoul!

Our Seoul Experience

Two people visiting a royal palace in Seoul
Mark and Kristen visiting one of the best palaces in Seoul, South Korea

We spent two weeks exploring Seoul in March 2023 after the covid lockdowns. Our only goal is to help you plan the best Seoul itinerary with the most up to date information.

Often referred to as the Grand Palaces, there are five royal palaces in Seoul and they are each unique in their own way. If you can fit it into your Seoul itinerary, we highly recommend exploring all the palace complexes.

During our time in Seoul, we personally visited all 5 royal palaces listed in this guide.

We will tell you the highlights of each complex including pros and cons based on our personal experience. But if you are short on time, we will tell you which palaces you should visit with tips for your trip.

Since we will discuss Seoul’s palaces individually, this will help you figure out which ones to prioritize. So even if you only visit one palace, you will know exactly what to expect.

Heading to South Korea? Don’t miss the best things to see in Seoul for your trip.

Combination tickets for the best Seoul palaces and royal shrine
Our Seoul Royal Palace Pass (or Combination Ticket)

How To Save Money In Seoul

Before we get into all the details about Seoul’s best palaces, we want to show you how you can save money on entry fees.

There are a few different ways to save money and it’s important you consider these options prior to your visit.

The Royal Palace Pass

If you plan to visit all the palaces in Seoul, we recommend you purchase a Royal Palace Pass. We visited the 4 main palaces and Jongmyo Shrine with this pass.

The Royal Palace Pass costs KRW 10,000 and it is valid for three months from the date of purchase. This pass can only be purchased onsite at any of the 4 palaces or shrine listed below:

  • Gyeongbokgung
  • Changdeokgung
  • Changgyeonggung
  • Deoksugung
  • Jongmyo Shrine

This pass is a great option for those who want to visit numerous palaces in Seoul, but if you want free admission there is another choice.

Two visitors walking around Seoul wearing hanboks
Two visitors wearing a hanbok inside a Seoul Palace

Rent A Hanbok For Free Entry

Admission to Seoul’s main palaces are free for any visitors wearing a hanbok, the traditional clothing of Korea.

Hanboks can be rented per hour or for the entire day. It is also common for women to have their hair styled to wear along with their hanbok. Here are popular hanbok rentals in Seoul to peak your interest.

If you are visiting in peak season (during cherry blossoms), we recommend you reserve your hanbok rental online because we did see many hanbok shops with sold out signs when we visited.

Depending on the palace you plan to visit, you should look for a hanbok rental location in that part of Seoul. We will include links to popular hanbok rentals in each section of our guide.

Additional Attractions In Seoul

If you plan to visit many of Seoul’s unique activities, you can also consider purchasing a Klook Seoul Pass or a Go City Seoul Pass.

However, these passes won’t include entry into all of Seoul’s Royal Palaces. For visitors wanting to save the most bang for your buck, purchase the Royal Palace Pass and one of these passes listed above.

5 Best Palaces In Seoul

As we mentioned earlier, if you don’t have enough time to visit all of the palaces in Seoul, at least try to make time for one because these palaces give you an amazing glimpse into Seoul’s past history.

Here are the palaces you should not miss in Seoul:

Tourist standing outside Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea
Kristen standing in front of the main gate at Gyeongbokgung Palace

1. Gyeongbokgung Palace

The Gyeongbokgung Palace was the main royal palace established for the Joseon Dynasty built in 1395. This is the oldest and most popular palace in Seoul.

Unfortunately, Gyeongbokgung Palace has been destroyed several times since it was originally built by numerous Japanese invasions.

But the palace has since been rebuilt thanks to an extensive restoration project in the 1990’s.

Admission tickets for Gyeongbokgung Palace cost KRW 3,000 for adults (US$ 2.30), and KRW 2,400 (US$ 1.86) with groups of 10 or more. Visitors 65+ or children under 6 have free entry into the palace.

When you visit Gyeongbokgung Palace, you can join a free one hour guided tour offered in numerous languages. You can check guided tour times here.

Subway Stop: Gyeongbokgung Palace Station (line 3, exit 5) or Gwanghwamun Station (line 5, exit 2)

>> Hanbok Rental: Get Your Guide | Klook | Viator

>> Best Gyeongbokgung Palace Tours: Get Your Guide | Klook | Viator

Pros + Cons For Gyeongbokgung Palace

If you are still unsure about visiting this palace in Seoul, here are a few pros and cons to help you decide.

Pros for Gyeongbokgung Palace:

  • Most popular palace in Seoul
  • Ability to see changing of the guard
  • Beautiful pavilions make this palace unique

Cons for Gyeongbokgung Palace:

  • Crowds can be very large
  • The complex is big so you need a few hours to see it all
  • Expect to walk a lot because the grounds are expansive

Want to see the best places to visit at this palace? Don’t miss our popular guide on how to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Small pavilion and intricate wall in a royal building
A small raised pavilion inside the walls of Changdeokgung Palace

2. Changdeokgung Palace

While Gyeongbokgung Palace was the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty, Changdeokgung Palace was created as a secondary palace in 1405. It is the second oldest palace in Seoul.

Changdeokgung Palace also served as the main palace in Seoul for 270 years after Gyeongbokgung was destroyed by the Japanese invasion. So it’s safe to say this palace has some serious clout.

Another highlight of Changdeokgung Palace is Huwon Secret Garden. This garden was loved by numerous kings and queens so it makes this palace the most unique in Seoul.

Admission tickets for Changdeokgung Palace cost KRW 3,000 (US$ 2.30) for adults, KRW 1,500 (US$ 1.15) for youths ages 7-1 and KRW 2,400 (US$ 1.86) with groups of 10 or more

>> Hanbok Rental: Klook

>> Best Changdeokgung Palace Tours: Palace + Shrine | Afternoon Tour

Pros + Cons For Changdeokgung Palace

If you are still unsure about visiting this palace in Seoul, here are a few pros and cons to help you decide.

Pros for Changdeokgung Palace:

  • Arguably the best preserved palace in Seoul
  • Blue glazed roof tiles you won’t see anywhere else
  • Ability to visit Huwon Secret Garden
  • Close proximity to the Korean Folk Museum

Cons for Changdeokgung Palace:

  • Second most visited palace in Seoul so it can be very crowded
  • Smaller palace complex with limitations if you don’t visit the gardens

Want to see where to go in this palace? Read our popular guide on how to visit Changdeokgung Palace next.

Man posing for a photo at Changgyeonggung Palace
Mark posing for a photo at Changgyeonggung Palace

3. Changgyeonggung Palace

Off all the palaces in Seoul, Changgyeonggung Palace also has one of the most colorful histories. It was destroyed many times by the Japanese, but it has also been a zoo and botanical garden.

This was the third palace complex built adjacent to Changdeokgung Palace during the Joseon period. We like this complex because it is a smaller palace that can be easily visited if you are short on time.

Originally constructed to be an additional residence for the royal family, this palace is different compared to Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung.

Admission tickets for Changgyeonggung Palace cost KRW 1,000 for adults (US$ 0.76), but only KRW 800 (US$ 0.61) with groups of 10 or more.

>> Hanbok Rental: Klook

>> Best Changgyeonggung Palace Tours: Night Tour | Ghost Tour

Pros + Cons For Changgyeonggung Palace

If you are still unsure about visiting this palace in Seoul, here are a few pros and cons to help you decide.

Pros for Changgyeonggung Palace:

  • Smaller palace complex and it can be seen in a few hours
  • Chundangji Pond and the Grand Greenhouse are unique
  • Admission for this palace is very affordable
  • This palace is located directly next to Changdeokgung

Cons for Changgyeonggung Palace:

  • Not one of the most popular palaces in Seoul
  • Large gardens require lots of walking
  • The gardens can be very crowded with visitors taking photos

Interested in this palace? Read our popular guide on how to visit Changgyeonggung Palace next.

A tourist exploring buildings within a royal palace
Mark exploring the grounds of Deoksugung Palace

4. Deoksugung Palace

Located directly across the street from Seoul City Hall, Deoksugung was originally built as a residence for descendants of the royal family, but it become an important palace throughout the years.

As the smallest palace in Seoul, Deoksugung has been significantly downsized which makes it a great option for those visitors short on time.

Highlights of the palace complex include numerous museums and a unique hall with romanesque features which is the first royal palace in Seoul to include European architecture design elements.

Admission tickets for Deoksugung Palace cost KRW 1,000 for adults (US$ 0.76), KRW 800 (US$ 0.61) with groups of 10 or more and KRW 500 (US$ 0.38) for students aged 7-18.

>> Best Deoksugung Palace Tours: 2 Hour Night Tour | Three Hour Walking Tour

Pros + Cons For Deoksugung Palace

If you are still unsure about visiting this palace in Seoul, here are a few pros and cons to help you decide.

Pros for Deoksugung Palace:

  • Smallest place complex in Seoul so it’s easy to visit
  • Ability to see changing of the guard
  • Great location downtown near other attractions

Cons for Changgyeonggung Palace:

  • One of the lesser known palaces
  • Some museums in this palace cost an additional entry fee
  • Many of the buildings have been moved from their original location

Want to visit this palace? Read our popular guide on how to visit Deoksugung Palace next.

Gyeonghuigung Palace with Seoul city buildings in background
Modern day buildings can be seen inside Gyeonghuigung Palace

5. Gyeonghuigung Palace

Known as the western palace due to it’s location west of Gyeongbokgung the main palace, Gyeonghuigung was built in 1620 during the reign of the 15th Joseon king.

It is believed the original palace contained 190 buildings and gates, but it has unfortunately been destroyed by fires and the Japanese occupation. Today, visitors will see three main palace buildings.

Admission to Gyeonghuigung Palace is free for all visitors making this the only free royal palace in Seoul. Since admission is free, you do not need to worry about the Royal Palace Pass.

>> Best Deoksugung Palace Tours: Evening Ghost Walk

Pros + Cons For Gyeonghuigung Palace

If you are still unsure about visiting this palace in Seoul, here are a few pros and cons to help you decide.

Pros for Gyeonghuigung Palace:

  • Free admission
  • Located close to the Seoul Museum of History
  • Can be easily visited in an hour

Cons for Gyeonghuigung Palace:

  • Less visited palace in Seoul
  • Only a few of the original buildings have been renovated
  • No guided tours offered (when we visited)

Want to learn about this palace? Read our popular guide on how to visit Gyeonghuigung Palace next.

What Are The Best Palaces In Seoul?

If you are having trouble deciding which palace you should visit in Seoul, we can help you decide depending on what you want to see.

Here is the quick conclusion for the best palaces to see in Seoul:

  • Gyeongbokgung: Largest and most popular palace with lots of history
  • Changdeokgung: Most unique palace with Huwon Secret Garden
  • Changgyeonggung: Best preserved buildings with a beautiful greenhouse
  • Deoksugung: Smallest palace complex with numerous museums
  • Gyeonghuigung: Least visited and the only free palace in Seoul

Keep in mind, all Seoul palaces are closed on Mondays. We try our best to keep this guide updated, but always check on closures prior to your visit.

Our Seoul Palace Photos

We enjoyed our visit to the gorgeous palaces in Seoul, South Korea and took many photos. Here are some of our favorites:

Numerous buildings displayed on small tiles
Seoul’s palaces as seen from an intricate floor tile
Light pink cherry blossoms and an old palace building in Seoul
Vibrant cherry blossoms on display in a Seoul Palace during spring
Changing of the guard at one of the best palaces in Seoul
Changing of the guard ceremony at one of Seoul’s most popular palaces
Cherry blossoms in Seoul during spring
It is common to see Japsang perched on buildings to help ward off evil spirits

Palaces In Seoul FAQ’s

Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about beautiful royal palaces in Seoul.

What is the biggest palace in Seoul?

The largest palace complex in Seoul is Gyeongbokgung. This was the main palace for the Joseon Dynasty so it is also the most popular palace in Seoul.

Which Korean palace has the secret garden?

Changdeokgung Palace is home to Huwon Secret Garden. Visitors will need to purchase an additional ticket for a guided tour of the garden grounds.

What are the 5 Grand Palaces of Seoul?

The five royal palaces in Seoul are Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung and Gyeonghuigung. Each palace is unique in its own way and these beautiful complexes showcase an enormous amount of South Korean history.

Want more Seoul content? Head over to our South Korea Travel Guides to explore the very best of Seoul and beyond.

We hope this guide featuring the best palace to visit in Seoul helps with planning your trip!

Please let us know if you have any questions about visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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