The Jongmyo Shrine is one of the most unique things to see in Seoul because it features the spirit tablets of the deceased kings and queens of South Korea.
Jongmyo is considered to be the supreme state shrine and it is still widely used today to perform royal ancestral rites multiple times a year.
In our Seoul travel guide, we will show you:
- Where to find Jongmyo Shrine and how to purchase tickets
- 7 best things to see on the complex grounds
- Tips for your visit to make the most of your time
- Our personal photos of Jongmyo Shrine
Now, let’s visit Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul!
Our Seoul Experience
We spent two weeks exploring Seoul in March 2023 after the covid lockdowns. Our goal is to bring you the best up to date information so you can plan the perfect trip.
During our time in Seoul, we personally visited Jongmyo Shrine. This guide features everything we learned and tips for your visit including what you should not miss.
The Jongmyo Shrine is included in the Royal Palace Pass so you can even save a little money if you plan well. We will discuss the Royal Palace Pass in our guide below.
What Is The Jongmyo Shrine?
The Jongmyo Shrine an important part of South Korean history because is it one of the oldest and most authentic Confucian royal shrines that has been preserved.
This shrine is home to over 80 spirit tablets for deceased kings and queens which is symbolic for the legitimacy of the royal family in South Korea.
Completed in September 1395, Jongmyo Shrine contains two royal memorial halls. The original main hall is known as Jeongjeon while Yeongnyeongjeon was built in 1421 as the auxiliary hall.
To this day, royal ancestral rites are still performed on the property which helped Jongmyo Shrine secure a spot on the UESCO World Heritage List in 1995.
During the Joseon Dynasty, a ritual known as Jongmyo Jaerye was held on the first month of a seasonal change as well as the twelfth month of the lunar year.
However, these rituals were not performed during the Japanese colonial period. But now, the rituals take place on the first Sunday of May.
Jongmyo Jaeryeak is the royal ancestral ritual music otherwise known as the musical part of the ceremony with instruments, dances and songs that originated over 500 years ago.
How To Get To The Jongmyo Shrine
The Jongmyo Shrine is located on the eastern side of Seoul directly next to Changdeokkgung Palace. Here is the best subway station for visiting the Jongmyo Shrine:
- Jongno 3-ga Station (line 1 exit 11, line 3 exit 8 and line 5 exit 8).
Jongmyo Shrine is open every day of the week except Tuesdays and it opens at 9:00am. But depending on the month of the year, the shrine closes at different times.
Here are Jongmyo Shrine opening times throughout the year:
- Feb to May + Sep to Oct: 9:00 – 18:00
- Jun to Aug: 9:00 – 18:30
- Nov to Jan: 9:00 – 17:30
Travel Tip: The last admission to the shrine is one hour before closing so make sure you give yourself enough time when visiting.
Jongmyo Shrine Entrance Fee
Admission tickets for the Jongmyo Shrine cost:
- KRW 1,000 (US$ 0.75) for adults
- KRW 500 (US$ 0.38) for youths ages 7-18
Visitors over the age of 65 and children under 7 will gain free entry into the Jongmyo Shrine. You can also get free admission on Culture Day which is the last Wednesday of every month.
A free guided tour is offered on weekdays in numerous languages. Here are the guided tour times for Jongmyo Shrine:
- Korean: 9:20, 10:20, 11:20, 12:20, 13:20, 14:20, 15:20, 16:20, 16:40 (Mar to Sep)
- English: 10:00. 12:00, 14:00, 16:00
- Japanese: 9:40, 11:40, 13:40, 15:40
- Chinese: 11:00, 15:00
Additional Korean tours are also offered on Saturdays and national holidays.
The Royal Palace Pass
We visited the Jongmyo Shrine with our Royal Palace Pass which we recommend if you plan to visit multiple palaces in Seoul.
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:
- Jongmyo Shrine
This pass is a great option for those who want to visit numerous palaces in Seoul as well as the Jongmyo Shrine.
Interested in the Seoul royal palaces? Don’t miss our comparison of the best palaces in Seoul to figure out which ones you should visit.
7 Best Things To Do At The Jongmyo Shrine
There are a few key buildings you should see inside the Jongmyo Shrine to fully understand the importance of this complex.
Here is what to see at Jongmyo Royal Shrine:
1. Jeongjeon Hall
Jeongjeon is the main hall of the Jongmyo Shrine.
After a king or queen passed away, a three year mourning period was observed at the palace, but then the deceased was brought to Jeongjeon to be enshrined.
It was believed that spirits would enter through the south gate while the king and dancers entered through the west gate.
This building was heavily under construction during our visit, but we were still able to view the exterior of Jeongjeon. There is an an expansive stone yard with Gongsindang and Chilsadang houses nearby.
Gongsindang is home to the spirit tablets to the meritorious subjects who served the king and Chilsadang is home to the seven gods of heaven spirit tablets.
2. Yeongnyeongjeon Hall
The Yeongnyeongjeon Hall is also known as the Hall of Eternal Peace. It was built as an annex to the main hall and enshrines four generations of King Taejo’s ancestors.
Yeongnyeongjeon literally translates to “may the ancestors and descendants of the royal family live long in peace.” Today, there are 16 chambers housing 16 kings and 18 queens.
This building served as the court musician’s pavilion and dressing room. It was a place where musicians could rehearse songs that would be played during the rituals at Jongmyo Shrine.
Both Jeongjeon and Yeongnyeongjeon have their own pavilion.
4. Jeonsacheong Area
This is a kitchen where food was prepared for the royal rituals. Here you will find a raised stone table, known as a Chanmakdan, which was used to inspect food for festivities.
After being inspected, food was then placed on the alters around the shrine.
This building was used as a storage room for ritual papers, offerings and incense. But today you will see a replica of the spirit preservation room.
There is a model food offering and three spirit tablets. One interesting thing to note is the spirit tablets are placed in order of importance with the king’s tablet placed on the western side of the table.
6. Jaegung Area
The Jaegung Area consists of three main buildings including Eojaesil, Sejajaesil, and Eomokyokcheong. These were often used by the king and crown prince in order to purify their bodies for upcoming rituals.
Here are the functions of the buildings inside the Jaegung Area:
- Eojaesil – This building is where the king remained prior to a ritual and inside you will find a portable throne next to a folding screen showcasing a beautiful peony.
- Sejajaesil – This building is where the crown price remained prior to a ritual and inside you will find a ten piece folding screen with numerous ritual pictures.
- Eomokyokcheong – This bath facility was used by both the king and crown prince before royal rituals.
Travel Tip: The peony is a flowering plant meant to symbolize wealth and power.
7. Jejeong Well
The Jejeong Well originally supplied the water during the entire ritual process. It was used to prepare food and animals as well as clean those who took part in the ceremonies.
Is Jongmyo Shrine Worth Visiting?
Yes, the Jongmyo Shrine is worth visiting because it is one of oldest and best preserved Confucian royal shrines in all of Asia.
This shrine offers visitors the chance to learn about the history of the Joseon Dynasty as well as the royal family of South Korea. If you are a history buff, this shrine is a stop you should not miss in Seoul.
Our Jongmyo Shrine Photos
We enjoyed our visit to the Jongmyo Shrine and took many photos. Here are a few of our favorites:
Jongmyo Shrine FAQ’s
Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about the Jongmyo Royal Ancestral Shrine:
The Jongmyo Shrine is a symbolic structure that helps to support the legitimacy of the royal family in South Korea. There are over 80 spirit tablets from descendants of the royal family found within the complex grounds.
You can expect the guided tour of Jongmyo Shrine to last 60 minutes or you can easily visit the grounds yourself in about an hour.
Jongmyo in Seoul was built by the Taejo of Joseon in 1394. It is a place where the Korean royal families performed rituals to honor their ancestors.
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We hope this guide featuring things to do at the Jongmyo Shrine helps with planning your visit to Seoul!
Please let us know if you have any questions about visiting Jongmyo Shrine in the comments below.
Mark and Kristen
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Mark and Kristen Morgan are travel, hiking and photography experts. Over the last 6 years traveling full time, they have explored more than 40 countries and 30 US states.
Their work has been featured in USA Today, Gestalten, Get Your Guide, CityPASS and Condé Nast Traveler along with various other publications.