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Jongmyo Shrine picture in Seoul
Kevin Sato / Flickr

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  • Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing Type
  • 1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
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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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