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Visit Joseon palaces during royal culture festival

Four royal palaces and Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul to open to public day and night, presenting various cultural programs

Royal life will unfold at Seoul’s four historic palaces during the first Royal Culture Festival in May.

From May 2-10, the Joseon-era palaces ― Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung and Deoksugung ― and Jongmyo Shrine invite locals and foreigners to immerse themselves in all things royal.

“The Cultural Heritage Administration has held programs that would bring citizens and foreign tourists closer to royal palaces such as the night tour program at Changdeokgung Palace. This festival brings the separate programs under one roof,” said Kim Jong-jin, deputy administrator at the CHA, at a press conference on Monday. 

Performers dressed in Joseon-era costume walk in Changgyeonggung Palace. (Cultural Heritage Administration)
Performers dressed in Joseon-era costume walk in Changgyeonggung Palace. (Cultural Heritage Administration)

At Gyeongbokgung Palace, a day at a royal kitchen will be reenacted. Sojubang, the well-known setting for the popular periodic drama “Jewel in the Palace,” will open its gates to visitors on May 2 for the first time in 100 years. The restored kitchen building, which was destroyed during the Japanese colonial era, will begin the day with actors demonstrating daily meal preparations for a king at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. The event is open to 50 people through online reservations.

Lectures on royal cuisine will be offered by experts from May 4-10 at 2 p.m. at Sojubang. The classes are open to 30 guests. Online reservation is required.

Open events will be held throughout the festival at various venues in Gyeongbokgung Palace. A dynamic media show will play on the exterior of Heungryemun Gate, the entrance to Gyeongbokgung Palace, at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. from May 2-10. Just before the media show, there will be a dance performance themed with the creation of “Yeongbieocheonga,” the first book written in Hangeul.

On May 5, Changgyeonggung Palace will set its clock back to March 27, 1750, when King Youngjo greeted scholars who passed the “gwageo” national exam to serve in the government. Actors in old Joseon costumes will revive the footsteps of King Youngjo and his servants in the palace from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

A media installation show will take place on the lake of Chundangji, featuring the history of Changgyeonggung Palace on a moon-shaped ball from 7 to 9 p.m. during the festival.

Deoksugung Palace will open an outdoor coffee shop and welcome visitors as King Gojong greeted foreign delegations in the early 1900s.

The opening of the coffee shop is inspired by King Gojong’s love for coffee (called “gabicha,” the tea of gabi) and the spread of popularity of coffee among the public who called it “yangtangguk,” or Western soup. The temporary coffee stall will be located near the fountain and in front of Seokjojeon Hall 1 to 9 p.m. throughout the festival.

Meetings and parties for foreign delegations to the palace will be restaged at 2:30 and 4 p.m. at Jeonggwanheon Hall. Traditional Korean music and dance performances designated as intangible cultural assets will be held in the courtyard of Hamnyeongjeon at 4 p.m. from May 6-10.

Changdeokgung Palace holds various storytelling events throughout the festival. Storytellers will guide visitors to various spots in the palace, unveiling little-known stories about royal families and historical events.

Jongmyo Shrine will also greet visitors at night to the performance of music and dance for royal memorial services at 8 p.m. from May 8-9.

For more information about programs, visit Online booking and payment for selected events is available at from 2 p.m. Wednesday for both locals and foreigners.

By Lee Woo-young (