Unhyeongung was the first of the Seoul palaces I visited and, after seeing quite a few of them, it still is one of my favorites.
It gives a special feeling of peace, quiet and tranquility that is hard to find in the other palaces, usually filled with tourists. Here you have enough space to just contemplate and walk around without too much interference. Since it was just across the street, opposite the apartment building where I stayed, it was easy for me to go there and just relax, while admiring the very simple yet incredibly elegant and beautiful buildings that make up the complex. It has neither the vivid red and green colors, nor the huge area so specific for the Korean palaces. Yet, the beauty of this simplicity stays with you and it’s striking in its own way.
It is opened from 9 AM to 6 PM from November until March, and from 9 AM to 7 PM from April to October. The entrance is free, but you have to be there at least 30 minutes before the closing time. Also, there various events taking place on the premises, so if you are lucky enough you can catch one. They have a hanbok rental office which is pretty cheap, and you can even rent a Joseon guard costume from there, for 3000 KRW/20 minutes. Renting a hanbok is a must while in Seoul, so this could be a nice option if you don’t feel like spending too much for this activity.
Unhyeongung was initially built in 1864 and restored in 1996. Gojong, the 26th Joseon king, lived here before taking the throne. It was owned by his father, Regent Heungseon, who ruled the country for about 10 years from this palace. The complex consists of Noandang, Norakdang and Irodang.
The T-shaped Noandang was the main residence of Regent Heungseon in Unhyeongung, where he took care of the state affairs, and was also known as the men’s quarters. Norakdang is the central place of Unhyeongung and the only building in the complex that boasts decorated column tops, a proof of its importance within the house. In this building, Emperor Gojong and his wife, Empress Myeongseong, had their wedding ceremony. The square shaped Irodang functioned as the inner quarters of the palace.
You can also see the guards’ quarters (Sujiksa), located in the first courtyard, right after the entrance through the main gate; and a small exhibition hall that displays relics related to Unhyeongung.
If you are around and have more time to spare in Insadong, it is definitely worth taking a look at this little gem, conveniently located right between Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung palaces. It is easily accessible by subway (Line 3, Anguk sation).