Of Seoul’s five Great Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty, Gyeongbukgung Palace is the most important — and arguably the most beautiful — of them all. The northernmost of the five palaces, Geyongbukgung sits at the end of Sejongro Street with green rolling hills as its backdrop.
The palace was originally constructed in 1395 to serve as the primary seat of power for South Korea’s first Joseon Dynasty kings. It has since been destroyed and rebuilt several times, first after the Japanese invaded in the late sixteenth century and reduced the entire complex to ashes, and again in the early 1900s with the occupying colonial Japanese government tore down several of the restored buildings to make room for exhibitions. The main gate of the palace was completely destroyed during the Korean War, but efforts to restore both Gwanghwamun Gate and Gyeongbukgung Palace to their original grandeur have been ongoing since 1989.
If you can only visit one of the Five Great Palaces, Gyeongbukgung offers the most bang for your buck, as you’ll find the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum both located within the palace gates. The Gyeongbukgung Palace staff host English language tours three times a day, except for Tuesdays when the complex is closed. You could easily dedicate a half day to strolling the palace grounds, exploring its gardens and pavilions and learning about Korean history and culture in the two on-site museums.