The sound of cameras clicking can be heard everywhere as families, friends and couples pose for photos at the entrance of Changgyeonggung Palace – one of the Five Grand Palaces of Seoul. For such a tourist attraction, the grounds are remarkably quiet and incredibly dark. The nighttime viewing hours are back and they’re here to stay for the rest of 2019.
Night-time viewing at the palace began in 2011 and took place seasonally for the next seven years as the event grew in popularity among locals and tourists. This year, for the first time, the Seoul city government has decided to make the extended hours a year-round experience. The palace, which is accessible from Tuesdays to Sundays, is now open from 9am to 9pm with last entrance at 8pm. Cheongsachorongs, traditional lanterns, are also rented out for free to the first 200 visitors.
In the springtime, guests particularly enjoy taking photos in front of the Okcheongyo Bridge where a row of pink cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Several professional photographers come especially for the late hours trying to capture the pavilions and pagodas in the glow of the night lights.
“It’s so much more beautiful to come here at night,” said Baek Eunju and Kim Hoon, a couple coming to the event after seeing a poster about it in the Daehangno neighbourhood. Lee Youngsuk, a resident from Jeonju visiting Seoul for her son’s birthday, says she overheard parts of a private tour of the palace. “It’s so much more meaningful to know the history of the place than blindly walk around,” Lee says.
For those unable to book a private tour at night, free hour-long tours of the palace in English are available during the day at 11am and 4pm and information about the palace is available on the Cultural Heritage Administration website.