Jongmyo Shrine picture
Kevin Sato/Flickr

Key Info

157, Jong-ro, Jongno-gu

Details

Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.1scorecard
  • 4.5Value
  • 3.5Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Jongmyo Shrine is one of the oldest and best-preserved Confucian royal shrines in the world. Built in the late 14th century, the Jongmyo Shrine served as a place of worship for kings part of the Joseon Dynasty. Here, royal family members would come to carry out ancestral rites for deceased king and queens as well as pray for the state and its people. The shrine was later destroyed during the 16th-century Japanese invasion of Korea but rebuilt during the 17th century. Little has been changed since. 

The structure is composed of multiple buildings, including the main shrine (Jeongjeon) and the Hall of Eternal Peace (Yeongnyeongjeon). To this day, people congregate around the shrine once a year for the "Jongmyo Jerye" ritual, in which they honor the ancestors of the Joseon dynasty. The ceremony, which takes place the first Sunday of May, includes songs and dances that date back 600 years, making it one of Korea's prized Important Intangible Cultural Properties, not to mention one of the world's oldest complete ceremonies in the world.

Recent travelers said the history of this site is definitely the most interesting aspect of the shrine. And visitors don't really have a choice when it comes to learning a thing or two about this place. The Jongmyo Shrine only admits visitors if they are accompanied on a guided tour, hours of which vary during the weekdays. The only time you can enter without a guide is on Saturdays, but most travelers say the only way to experience this attraction is with the knowledge of an expert by your side. Otherwise, you could run the risk of getting bored pretty quickly. Some visitors noted this attraction is not nearly as decorative as the nearby palaces, but has a palpable peaceful atmosphere, perfect for getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a couple hours. 

Admission hours vary by season, but generally, you can expect the Jongmyo Shrine to be open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 or 6:30 p.m. year-round, except Tuesdays. Last admission is one hour before closing. Tickets are 1,000 won (about 90 cents) for adults and 500 won (about 45 cents) for children; kids 6 years old and younger, as well as seniors, can enter for free. There are four guided tours in English per day, beginning at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. You can walk to the Jongmyo Shrine from the Jongno 3-ga metro station, located southwest of the shrine. For more information, visit the Korea tourism board's website.

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#1 Namsan Park and N Seoul Tower

Home to five warning beacons and a protective city wall during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Mount Namsan now hosts a park and a smattering of tourism sites like an aquarium, a library and a bevy of beautiful walking trails.

But most people visit Namsan Park for its panoramic views of Seoul. To scope it out for free, visit Palgakjeong, an octagon-shaped viewing pavilion that boasts alluring vistas of the city. For an even more breathtaking sight, shell out a few won to get to the observation platform atop N Seoul Tower, Namsan Park's real showstopper. Recent visitors said that on clear days, the view from 1,574 feet up is spectacular. Out on the sky deck, you can't miss the thousands of padlocks attached to the fence; couples lock them there as symbols of everlasting love (bring your own lock if you're feeling romantic). For an extra-special experience, reserve a table for dinner in the rotating French restaurant, n.GRILL, on the tower's top floor. 

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