Seoul's royal palaces open to visitors from April

Nighttime view of Changdeokgung.
Nighttime view of Changdeokgung. PHOTO: CULTURAL HERITAGE ADMINISTRATION

(THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - As blossoming flowers herald the arrival of spring, the Cultural Heritage Administration is running several programmes related to the royal palaces in Seoul.

Changdeokgung Moonlight Tour, an annual event that kicked off in 2010, will be held from Thursdays to Sundays, from April 5 to the end of May, and from Aug 23 to Oct 28. There is no tour on May 6.
 

 Visit Changdeokgung at night. PHOTO: CULTURAL HERITAGE ADMINISTRATION

 
While visitors can freely roam the palace every day from 9am to 6pm, this programme allows visitors to stroll around the palace in the nighttime, with guides providing commentaries and other programmes available to experience Korean traditional culture.
 
Foreign nationals can visit on Sundays, although those accompanying a Korean citizen can do so on other days as well. English, Chinese and Japanese commentaries are available on Sundays.
 
Up to two tickets can be bought per person and a maximum number of 100 visitors are allowed a day for the programme.
 
Tickets are available at ticket.auction.co.kr, or via phone at 1566-1369. The programmes for the first half of the year went on sale online on March 21. For more information, go to www.chf.or.kr or call 02-2270-1243.
 
For those who want a look at the inner sanctum of the palace, Injeongjeon of Changdeokgung will be open for viewing.
 
The building, a national treasure, was where important state affairs such as welcoming foreign envoys and the coronation of the king took place. The statue of the imaginary beast Fenghuang on the ceiling symbolises the authority of the royal throne.
 
The programme runs from April to October, Thursdays to Saturdays, with commentaries at 10.30am, 11am, 2pm and 2.30pm. The first tour is available to foreign visitors.
 
Those who wish to visit can apply on the spot, free of charge. There is a 3,000 won (S$3.70) entrance fee to Changdeokgung. Up to 30 people can participate in each tour.
 
Tours are cancelled on rainy days to protect the facility. For more information, go to www.cdg.go.kr or call 02-3668-2300.
 
Deoksugung is offering daytime tours of its major buildings till April 5. The tours are provided twice a day, at 10 am and 4pm. 
 

A view of Deoksugung. PHOTO: CULTURAL HERITAGE ADMINISTRATION 

Buildings open for tours include Hamnyeongjeon, where King Gojong died. He was also known as Emperor Gwangmu, the last king of Joseon and first monarch of the short-lived Korean Empire. The building served as the king’s bedroom and contains replicas of royal furniture used at the time.
 
Each tour lasts for 80 minutes and the commentary is provided in Korean. Each tour takes up to 15 visitors and is free.
 
Applications for the tours can be made at www.deoksugung.go.kr. For more information, call 02-751-0740.
 
If you want a peek at how Korean royals kicked back and enjoyed flowers in bloom, visit Gyeongbokgung for a special tour of the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion. 
 
The pavilion was built on an artificial island surrounded by a pond and was used to host important events such as state-level banquets during the Joseon era. It is usually inaccessible to the public.
 
Special tours with Korean commentaries will be held from April 1 to Oct 31. They are held three times a day on weekdays  - 10am, 2pm and 4pm - and four times a day on weekends, at 10am, 11am, 2pm and 4 pm. The tour lasts between 30 and 40 minutes. Up to 70 people - 60 Koreans and 10 foreigners - are allowed per tour. 
 
 

Views of Gyeonghoeru Pavilion inside Gyeongbokgung. PHOTO: CULTURAL HERITAGE ADMINISTRATION 

 
Those who wish to visit can sign up at www.royalpalace.go.kr. One person can book up to four tickets. 
 
Step into Changgyeonggung between April 1 and Nov 25 for a walk in the forest, royal style. 
 
Tours of the palace’s forest will be held on Saturdays and Sundays at 2.30pm, with commentaries on the history of ancient trees and the story of Joseon’s royal family offered.
 

Visitors listening to a guide at Changgyeonggung forest. PHOTO: CULTURAL HERITAGE ADMINISTRATION 

 
Changgyeonggung currently has 48,000 trees, including those that have stood there since the beginning of Joseon’s 500-year history. 
 
The programme is free. Entrance fee for the palace is 1,000 won. The tour lasts 90 minutes.