There are 9 cultural sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, and 3 of them are located in Seoul. These sites are: Jongmyo Shrine (1995), Chandeokgung Palace (1997), and Seonjeoungneung Royal Tombs (2009).
We visited the first two to kick off our Pilgrimage to Korea’s World Heritage Sites…
Korea Tourist Information Center
Before visiting the World Heritage Sites in Korea, make sure you visit the Korean Tourism Organization’s Tourist Information Center first.
Address: 40, Cheonggyecheon-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul 서울특별시 중구 청계천로 40 (다동) 한국관광공사 지하 1층 1330 Travel Hotline: +82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese) Telephone: +82-2-729-9497~9 Operating Hours: Open everyday with some sections closed on weekends and/or holidays
The Korea Tourism Organization will be glad to explain how to join the pilgrimage to Korea’s World Heritage Sites. There’s a ranking system based on the number and location of the sites you visit.
Check out the step-by-step guide on how to participate in the pilgrimage.
You’ll get a passport with different color options, a visa, and a World Heritage Site Korea map.
Once you complete a certain group of sites like the 3 sites in Seoul, you’ll get a commemorative stamp as a pilgrimage souvenir. 🙂
Of all the palaces of the Joseon Dynasty (the last royal dynasty in Korea), Changdeokgung Palace is the most beloved by the royal family, constructed in 1405.
It was used as a royal residence longer than any other palace because of the harmonious blend of nature and Korean architecture.
“The Changdeokgung Palace complex was inscribed in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List in 1997 for its outstanding architecture and a design that is in harmony with its landscape.”
The guide introduces the history of the palace and walks you toward the most significant building.
The walkway at the center is elevated and reserved only for the royal family to walk on.
This is the entrance to Jeongjeon, the Main Building for the King.
The guide explains why the floor is unevenly laid out and what the different markers are for.
Jeongjeon (main building) is the highest structure to show the authority and prestige of the king.
The number of animal guardian sculptures on the roof symbolizes how important that building is.
This is the Chongjon Hall (Main Hall) where the King’s Coronation and other grand ceremonies are held.
Make sure to get a souvenir photo at this angle, which is the most photogenic angle of the building.
The blue tiles are the most expensive tiles used and signifies the importance of that structure.
Check out the beautiful roof tile design.
The next stop is at the royal rooms, the seperate bedrooms of the king and the queen.
Here’s a look at the bedroom of the king with traditional Korean furniture.
Opposite the king’s bedroom is the queen’s, which is connected by a bridge.
Here’s a peek into the queen’s bedroom. A little imagination is needed to appreciate it.
The guide explains the floor heating system for all the buildings in the palace.
Here is a look at the chimney that supports the heating system.
At this point, you need to decide if you want to visit the secret gardens, which requires a separate fee.
There’s a mini-cafe where you can relax and have some snacks.
This was the living quarters for a royal concubine and was used as a royal residence. Make sure to stamp your pilgrimage passport near the ticket area with the Korea World Cultural Heritage sticker.
If you are into World Cultural Heritage Sites, this is a must-see place to appreciate Korean Palace Architecture.
Budget for the regular tour is KRW 3,000 (allot 1 hour) and KRW 8,000 with the secret garden tour (allot 2 hours).
Best to get your passport stamp immediately after buying the ticket.
CHANGDEOKGUNG PALACE Changdeokgung — also known as Changdeokgung Palace or Changdeok Palace — is set within a large park in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It is one of the “Five Grand Palaces” built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty.Wikipedia Address: 99, Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Jongmyo Shrine is a Confucian Shrine to honor the spirits of the kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty. It is the oldest preserved royal Confucian shrine.
You can get your WHS stamps at the start while waiting for your tour schedule.
The royal descendants perform a ritual ceremony established in the 14th century to honor the spirits on the 1st Sunday of May and 1st Saturday of November.
(Note: If you visit on an ordinary day, there’s really nothing happening in the area.)
The shrine has 4 buildings, and the first building houses a replica display of the ‘sinju’ mortuary tablets and the offerings for the spirits.
Building #2 is a preparation building for the ritual.
Here’s an exhibit hall of the king’s wardrobe during the ceremony…
…and the prince’s wardrobe in his preparation room.
This is the walkway leading to the main building #3.
Jeongjeon, the main hall of Jongmyo Shrine, is the longest wooden building built during that time.
Its symmetrically constructed with 19 chambers for the 19 memorial tablets of great kings and 30 of their queens.
You can see the number of animal sculptures on top of the room to signify its importance.
Here are the photos from the traditional ritual that happens in the shrine to honor the royal ancestors.
Building #4 is the Yeongnyeongjeon (Hall of Eternal Peace).
This is the annex to accommodate 16 chambers to house the memorial tablets of 15 kings and a crown prince.
The center section is elevated and was initially built to just accommodate 6 chambers.
The dark center walkway is reserved for the spirits. It is prohibited to step on it.
The guided tour takes about an hour. Take the English tour at 10.00am, 12.00nn, 2.00pm, or 4.00pm.
The Koreans believe that to honor and respect the spirits of the ancestors is a core foundation for national survival. The Jongmyo shrine is a living testimony to their Confucian shrine traditions.
The actual bodies of the kings are not buried here. The chamber contains the mortuary tablets that house the spirits. You need to have a lot of imagination to appreciate the guided tour of Jongmyo.
JONGMYO SHRINE Jongmyo is a Confucian shrine dedicated to the perpetuation of memorial services for the deceased kings and queens of the Korean Joseon Dynasty. Wikipedia Address: 157 종로 Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea Telephone: +82 2-765-0195 Website: http://jm.cha.go.kr/