The Korea Herald


Stroll through royal palaces under moonlight

Royal palaces in Seoul to open in the evenings from March to October

By 이우영

Published : Feb. 17, 2016 - 17:23

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Nighttime at a royal palace in Seoul reveals the beauty of Joseon-era architecture and unique contrast between the centuries-old landscape and modern skyscrapers outside the walls.

Thanks to the growing number of visitors wishing to be immersed in the magical night view, royal palaces will remain open in the evening more frequently than it did last year. The state-run Cultural Heritage Administration, which manages public programs at royal palaces, announced it would increase the late-night opening days from 40 days last year to 120 days this year while offering various cultural programs such as concerts and plays. 
Night view of Gyujanggak and the pond at Changdeokgung Palace (Cultural Heritage Adiministration) Night view of Gyujanggak and the pond at Changdeokgung Palace (Cultural Heritage Adiministration)

The late opening will begin in March at Gyeongbokgung and Changgyeonggung palaces from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. A total of 2,500 visitors will be allowed in the two palaces in the evening hours each day. The nighttime stroll will be accompanied by soothing Korean traditional music during the Royal Culture Festival at Gyeongbokgung Palace from April 29-May 8. A series of royal palace concerts will also be held randomly from April to October at Gyeongbokgung and Changgyeonggung palaces. 
Night view of Geunjeongjeon at Gyeongbokgung Palace (Cultural Heritage Administration) Night view of Geunjeongjeon at Gyeongbokgung Palace (Cultural Heritage Administration)

Booking late-night palace openings has been ever more competitive than for some K-pop concerts. As soon as ticket sales start, tickets are quickly sold out online. Last year, more than 180,000 people visited royal palaces in Seoul during evening hours and 3,861 people participated in the popular Moonlight Tour at Changdeokgung Palace.

Tickets for the nighttime visit are 3,000 won ($2.45) for Gyeongbokgung Palace and 1,000 won for Changgyeonggung Palace. Tickets are available for purchase online, by phone and at the entrance. Online booking is available at Auction ( and Interpark ( Phone booking (1544-1555) is open for elderly citizens aged 65 and above.

Foreign visitors who can’t access the Korean websites can purchase tickets at the entrance to the palaces. A total of 200 tickets are available for foreign visitors at Gyeongbokgung Palace and 100 tickets at Changgyeonggung Palace each day. 

For more information, call (02) 3700-3900 at Gyeongbokgung Palace and (02) 762-9514 at Changgyeonggung Palace.

For those who want to enjoy the late-night visit without hassle, Deoksugung Palace remains open until 9 p.m. throughout the year, except Mondays.

Its evening hours will become vibrant with classical concerts scheduled for 7 p.m. on the last Wednesday of every month at the Western-style building Seokjojeon. The one-hour concert will run from Feb. 24 to Dec. 28. 
Classical concert at Seokjojeon at Deoksugung Palace (Cultural Heritage Administration) Classical concert at Seokjojeon at Deoksugung Palace (Cultural Heritage Administration)

The concert is to revive the old tradition of holding regular classical concerts for King Gojong. Historic records show that Korean pianist Kim Young-hwan played piano for the king in the 1910s. 

Changdeokgung Palace will run its popular Moonlight Tour program from March to June and August to October this year. The palace will only open during the full moon period -- approximately six or seven days a month.

During the two-hour tour, visitors will be guided to major buildings in the palace, including king’s official areas and residences and learn about the history of Joseon and anecdotes of palace life. Changdeokgung Palace had served as the king’s main office and residence longer than neighboring Gyeongbokgung Palace, the official palace of the Joseon era, which suffered frequent fire and violence.

Its architecture is considered extraordinary, revealing the sophistication of Joseon-era architecture and blending well with the surrounding natural landscape. With the minimal use of artificial light, the night tour offers a chance for visitors to enjoy its true beauty.

The first tour will begin from March 21-27. The palace will be exclusively open to foreign visitors on March 27. The palace will run foreign visitor-only tours two days a month -- April 19-20, May 23-24 and June 21-22 -- in the first half of this year.

The Moonlight tour reservation opens at 2 p.m. on Feb. 23 for the March-June programs on Interpark ( for locals and for foreign visitors). Tickets cost 30,000 won.

By Lee Woo-young (