Changdeokgung Palace is a grand royal residence located east of Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is the best preserved of the remaining Joseon palaces. The palace is the second oldest in Seoul after Gyeongbokgung and was used as a secondary palace when first built.
Construction on the palace known as “the palace of illustrious virtue” began in 1405 during the reign of King Taejong and was completed in 1412. Taejong was the third king of the Joseon Dynasty who ruled from 1400 to 1418.
General admission ticket does not include the Huwon secret rear garden.
Changdeokgung, and the rear garden, is included with the Integrated Ticket Of Palaces.
Gyeongbokgung was located in the west. Changdeokgung, along with Changgyeonggung Palace, were located in the east and therefore they were known as the “East Palace.”
The grounds consists of a public area, residential building for the royal family, and Huwon, the beautiful large rear garden used by royalty for rest and relaxation. The garden, also built by Taejong, served as a resting place for the royal family.
Buildings are laid out in perfect harmony with the mountains and other natural surroundings. This unusual type of design is unique to Korea and has influenced the layout of other royal residences.
A number of kings resided here until it was burnt down and destroyed in 1592 during the Japanese invasion of Korea. Around 1610, reconstruction was started by King Gwanghaegun with help from King Seonjo. In 1623, it was destroyed yet again during political revolts and military coup d’etat. It was reconstructed 24 years later in 1647.
Changdeokgung served as the main royal residence of Seoul for 270 years. Sunjong, the second and last emperor of Korea who reigned from 1907 to 1910, lived here until his death in 1926.
Though damaged, destroyed, rebuilt, and replaced throughout its history, Changdeokgung Palace still remains one of the best preserved examples of Korean palatial architecture.
Changdeokgung is considered one of the most beautiful palaces in Seoul thanks to its garden and natural surroundings. Not surprisingly, it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.
What to see at Changdeokgung Palace
Huwon Secret Garden
Huwon Secret Garden is a rear garden at the palace that flows naturally with nature and was used as a place of leisure by members of the royal family. The garden, which has also been known as Bukwon, Geumwon, and Biwon. At 78 acres, the garden takes up about sixty percent of the palace grounds.
Changdeokgung Chinese Juniper
This tree that stands here, known as the Changdeokgung Chinese juniper, is thought to be over 750 years old. The tree measures in at 12 meters (40 feet) high and 5.9 meters (19 feet) in circumference.
Donhwamun Gate is the main gate at the entrance of Changdeokgung. It was originally built in 1412 during the twelfth year of the reign of King Taejong. Taejong was the third Joseon Dynasty king and ruled from 1400 to 1418.
Jinseonmun Gate is the small inner and middle gate. To reach the main throne hall, you must pass under three gates, one of which is Jinseonmun. The other two are Dowamun and Injeongmun.
Seonjeongjeon Hall and Seonjeongmun Gate
Seonjeongjeon Hall is where the king would meet with high ranking officials at Changdeokgung Palace to discuss political, state, and palace affairs. At his convenience, the king and his officials would hold seminars and have morning meetings. He would discuss royal issues and other national affairs.
Injeongjeon Hall and Injeongmun Gate
Injeongjeon Hall is the main hall at Changdeokgung Palace. It was used by the king and officials for conferences and as a meeting point with visitors. Foreign envoys would meet the king at this location when they arrived at the palace.
Seonwonjeon Hall was the location at Changdeokgung Palace where portraits of former kings were enshrined and where ancestral rites were performed. At a time, King Taejo, King Yeongjo, and King Jeongjo all had their portraits enshrined at here.
The Nakseonjae Complex is a residential compound built in 1847 during the reign of King Keonjong. Queen Myeongheon, the wife of Heonjong, was unable bear a child for the king. Therefore, Heonjong took a concubine by the name of Gyeongbin to bear his child. Nakseonjae was built for Gyeongbin in an isolated corner at Changdeokgung Palace.
Gwolnaegaksa was the location of a collection of government offices. These offices handled royal family and political affairs. Other buildings included a library, pharmacy, regal decrees office, and royal counsel committee bureau. The area here resembled a labyrinth since so many buildings were located in such a small area.
Huijeongdang Hall was used as a women's residence and later as a place of work and rest for the king. It was here where the king would meet officials. The king and his officials would handle royal affairs and discuss political issues at this location.