I went to Jongmyo Shrine last Thursday after 8 years. This cultural site itself has not been changed at all. It was still serene and tranquil, the reason why I loved this place so much. But! there was one big change which made me quite disappointed.
Once, Jongmyo Shrine was my favorite historic site in Seoul. It was simply because Jongmyo was very close to my university and it was pretty much empty all the time. I love urban life but many times I feel Seoul is way too big, and I have the urge to escape from too many people, too many cars, and too many of everything. Jongmyo was the ideal place of retreat for me. Back when I was at university, Jongmyo was connected to Changgyeonggung palace, which is only 15 minutes away on foot from my university. Furthermore, it is located in the very center of Seoul, so after I spent enough quiet quality time in Jongmyo Shrine, I could easily be back to the city life.
Sadly for me, the visiting rule was changed in 2010. A walking bridge between Jongmyo and Changgyeonggung was closed and free tours are not possible on weekdays anymore. So, last Thursday, I could visit the place only in a guided tour. I arrived at 16:50, and luckily it was the right before the last Korean tour of the day. The admission fee was only 500 won (last week, everyone was benefited from 50% discount), and there were about 30 people in the group. There were a few foreigners who did not seem to understand Korean at all, but English/Chinese/Japanese tours were all finished before, so they did not really have any other option other than joining the Korean tour.
Good news is if you visit here on Saturdays, you can explore the place on your own. However, I guess, it won’t be as empty as it was when I used to come here long ago.
The cultural asset commentator who guided the group was very helpful and nice. But, still most of the times, I was some steps away from the group and tried to enjoy the moment on my own. Ah, I missed the time when I could really enjoy this place on my own or with my date (well, yes. I found this place romantic too).
Jongmyo is a royal shrine for the deceased kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty. It is the oldest royal Confucian shrine preserved and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Jongmyo is less known than other historic sites in central Seoul, but I think it is worth visiting if you are into Korean Confucian culture, architecture or history.
I hope Jongmyo will open up to free tours on weekdays too. Then, this place will be my favorite attraction in Seoul again.
Address : 157, Jong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Telephone : +82 (0)2 765 0195
Webpage : jm.cha.go.kr
Operating Hours: 09:00~18:00
Korean Guided Tour: 09:20, 10:20, 11:20, 12:20, 13:20, 14:20, 15:20, 16:20, 17:00 (March ~ September)
English Guided Tour: 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00
* Free tour every Saturday
Admission : 1,000 won