The Five Royal Palaces in Seoul are Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace and Gyeonghuigung Palace.
Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace, was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. Built in 1395, it is located in northern Seoul, South Korea. The largest of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon dynasty, Gyeongbokgung served as the home of Kings of the Joseon dynasty, the Kings' households, as well as the government of Joseon.
Changdeokgung Palace or Changdeok Palace, is set within a large park in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It was the most favored palace of many Joseon princes and retained many elements dating from the Three Kingdoms of Korea period that were not incorporated in the more contemporary Gyeongbokgung. One such element is the fact that the buildings of Changdeokgung blend with the natural topography of the site instead of imposing themselves upon it. It, like the other Five Grand Palaces in Seoul, was heavily damaged during the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910–1945). Currently, only about 30% of the pre-Japanese structures of the East Palace Complex (Changdeokgung together with Changgyeonggung) survive.
Changgyeonggung palace was built in the mid-15th century by King Sejong for his father, Taejong. It was originally named "Suganggung," but it was renovated and enlarged in 1483 by King Seongjong, at which time it received its current name. Many structures were destroyed during Japan's multiple late 16th century attempts to conquer Korea and invade China. It was rebuilt by successive Joseon Kings but was once again largely destroyed by the Japanese in the early 20th century, but this time torn down methodically to make room for a modern park, a showplace for the empire, akin to Tokyo's Ueno Park.
During the Japanese colonial period, the Japanese built a zoo, botanical garden, and museum on the site. After independence in 1945 and the turmoil and destruction of the 1950-53 Korean War, the zoo was restocked through donations of wealthy Koreans as well as gifts from foreign zoos. In 1983, the zoo and botanical garden were relocated to present-day Seoul Grand Park.
Gyeongun-gung, Deoksugung Palace, or Deoksu Palace, is a walled compound of palaces in Seoul that was inhabited by members of Korea's royal family during the Joseon monarchy until the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910.
The buildings are of varying styles, including some of natural cryptomeria wood, painted wood, and stucco. Some buildings were built of stone to replicate western palatial structures.
In addition to the traditional palace buildings, there are also forested gardens, a statue of King Sejong the Great and the National Museum of Art, which holds special exhibitions. The palace is located near City Hall Station.
Deoksugung, like the other "Five Grand Palaces" in Seoul, was intentionally heavily destroyed during the colonial period of Korea. Currently, only one third of the structures that were standing before the occupation remain.
Deoksugung Palace is special among Korean palaces. It has a modern and a western style garden and fountain. The Changing of the Royal Guard, in front of Daehanmun (Gate), is a very popular event for many visitors. The royal guard was responsible for opening and closing the palace gate during the Joseon Dynasty. Outside of the palace is a picturesque road with a stone wall.
The Deoksugung Stonewall walkway is at the heart of a popular urban myth in Seoul, as it is said that all couples who walk down this road are fated to break-up.
Construction began in the 1600s during the reign of King Gwanghaegun. In the latter Joseon period, Gyeonghuigung served as the secondary palace for the king, and as it was situated on the west side of Seoul, it was also called Seogwol (西闕,a palace of the west). The secondary palace is usually the palace where the King moves to in times of emergency.
From King Injo to King Cheoljong, about ten kings of Joseon dynasty stayed here at Gyeonghuigung. This palace was built using the slanted geography of the surrounding mountain, has traditional beauty in its architecture and a lot of historical significance. For a time, it was of a considerable size, even to the point of having an arched bridge connecting it to Deoksugung palace. For the king's royal audience, there were the Sungjeongjeon and Jajeongjeon buildings, and for sleeping, Yungbokjeon and Hoesangjeon buildings.
Most of Gyeonghuigung was lost to two fires that broke out in the 19th century, during the reigns of King Sunjo and King Gojong. The Japanese dismantled what remained of the palace during their occupation of the Korean peninsula, and a school for Japanese citizens was built on the site. Two major structures of the former palace - the Sungjeongjeon throne hall and the Heunghwamun gate - were disassembled and moved to other parts of Seoul. Reconstruction started in the 1990s as part of the South Korean government's initiative to rebuild the "Five Grand Palaces" that were heavily destroyed by the Japanese. However, due to urban growth and decades of neglect, the government was only able to reconstruct around 33% of the former Palace.