Complete Guide To Visiting The Jongmyo Shrine In Seoul

The Jongmyo Shrine is one of the most unique things to see in Seoul because it features the spirit tablets of the deceased kings and queens of South Korea.

Jongmyo is considered to be the supreme state shrine and it is still widely used today to perform royal ancestral rites multiple times a year.

In our Seoul travel guide, we will show you:

  • Where to find Jongmyo Shrine and how to purchase tickets
  • 7 best things to see on the complex grounds
  • Tips for your visit to make the most of your time
  • Our personal photos of Jongmyo Shrine

Now, let’s visit Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul!

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Our Seoul Experience

Man standing at the gate for Yeongnyeongjeon Hall
Mark standing at a gate in Jongmyo Shrine

We spent two weeks exploring Seoul in March 2023 after the covid lockdowns. Our goal is to bring you the best up to date information so you can plan the perfect trip.

During our time in Seoul, we personally visited Jongmyo Shrine. This guide features everything we learned and tips for your visit including what you should not miss.

The Jongmyo Shrine is included in the Royal Palace Pass so you can even save a little money if you plan well. We will discuss the Royal Palace Pass in our guide below.

What Is The Jongmyo Shrine?

The Jongmyo Shrine an important part of South Korean history because is it one of the oldest and most authentic Confucian royal shrines that has been preserved.

This shrine is home to over 80 spirit tablets for deceased kings and queens which is symbolic for the legitimacy of the royal family in South Korea.

Completed in September 1395, Jongmyo Shrine contains two royal memorial halls. The original main hall is known as Jeongjeon while Yeongnyeongjeon was built in 1421 as the auxiliary hall.

To this day, royal ancestral rites are still performed on the property which helped Jongmyo Shrine secure a spot on the UESCO World Heritage List in 1995.

During the Joseon Dynasty, a ritual known as Jongmyo Jaerye was held on the first month of a seasonal change as well as the twelfth month of the lunar year.

However, these rituals were not performed during the Japanese colonial period. But now, the rituals take place on the first Sunday of May.

Jongmyo Jaeryeak is the royal ancestral ritual music otherwise known as the musical part of the ceremony with instruments, dances and songs that originated over 500 years ago.

Stone pathway with numerous trees leading to a building
A stunning stone walkway at the Jongmyo Shrine complex

How To Get To The Jongmyo Shrine

The Jongmyo Shrine is located on the eastern side of Seoul directly next to Changdeokkgung Palace. Here is the best subway station for visiting the Jongmyo Shrine:

  • Jongno 3-ga Station (line 1 exit 11, line 3 exit 8 and line 5 exit 8).

Jongmyo Shrine is open every day of the week except Tuesdays and it opens at 9:00am. But depending on the month of the year, the shrine closes at different times.

Here are Jongmyo Shrine opening times throughout the year:

  • Feb to May + Sep to Oct: 9:00 – 18:00
  • Jun to Aug: 9:00 – 18:30
  • Nov to Jan: 9:00 – 17:30

Travel Tip: The last admission to the shrine is one hour before closing so make sure you give yourself enough time when visiting.

Jongmyo Shrine Entrance Fee

Admission tickets for the Jongmyo Shrine cost:

  • KRW 1,000 (US$ 0.75) for adults
  • KRW 500 (US$ 0.38) for youths ages 7-18

Visitors over the age of 65 and children under 7 will gain free entry into the Jongmyo Shrine. You can also get free admission on Culture Day which is the last Wednesday of every month.

A free guided tour is offered on weekdays in numerous languages. Here are the guided tour times for Jongmyo Shrine:

  • Korean: 9:20, 10:20, 11:20, 12:20, 13:20, 14:20, 15:20, 16:20, 16:40 (Mar to Sep)
  • English: 10:00. 12:00, 14:00, 16:00
  • Japanese: 9:40, 11:40, 13:40, 15:40
  • Chinese: 11:00, 15:00

Additional Korean tours are also offered on Saturdays and national holidays.

A Royal Palace pass to visit the Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul
Our Royal Palace Pass for Jongmyo Shrine

The Royal Palace Pass

We visited the Jongmyo Shrine with our Royal Palace Pass which we recommend if you plan to visit multiple palaces in Seoul.

The Royal Palace Pass costs KRW 10,000 and it is valid for three months from the date of purchase. This pass can only be purchased onsite at any of the 4 palaces or shrine listed below:

  • Gyeongbokgung
  • Changdeokgung
  • Changgyeonggung
  • Deoksugung
  • Jongmyo Shrine

This pass is a great option for those who want to visit numerous palaces in Seoul as well as the Jongmyo Shrine.

Interested in the Seoul royal palaces? Don’t miss our comparison of the best palaces in Seoul to figure out which ones you should visit.

7 Best Things To Do At The Jongmyo Shrine

There are a few key buildings you should see inside the Jongmyo Shrine to fully understand the importance of this complex.

Here is what to see at Jongmyo Royal Shrine:

Construction at Jeongjeon Hall
Construction at Jeongjeon Hall blocking most of the main building

1. Jeongjeon Hall

Jeongjeon is the main hall of the Jongmyo Shrine.

After a king or queen passed away, a three year mourning period was observed at the palace, but then the deceased was brought to Jeongjeon to be enshrined.

It was believed that spirits would enter through the south gate while the king and dancers entered through the west gate.

This building was heavily under construction during our visit, but we were still able to view the exterior of Jeongjeon. There is an an expansive stone yard with Gongsindang and Chilsadang houses nearby.

Gongsindang is home to the spirit tablets to the meritorious subjects who served the king and Chilsadang is home to the seven gods of heaven spirit tablets.

Woman walking along the path to the Hall of Eternal Peace at the Jongmyo Shrine
Kristen walking up to Yeongnyeongjeon Hall 

2. Yeongnyeongjeon Hall 

The Yeongnyeongjeon Hall is also known as the Hall of Eternal Peace. It was built as an annex to the main hall and enshrines four generations of King Taejo’s ancestors.

Yeongnyeongjeon literally translates to “may the ancestors and descendants of the royal family live long in peace.” Today, there are 16 chambers housing 16 kings and 18 queens.

A red pavilion positioned in a peaceful setting
A beautiful pavilion located among the trees at Jongmyo Shrine

3. Akgongcheong

This building served as the court musician’s pavilion and dressing room. It was a place where musicians could rehearse songs that would be played during the rituals at Jongmyo Shrine.

Both Jeongjeon and Yeongnyeongjeon have their own pavilion.

Informational board about the history of the Jeonsacheong Area
Informational sign about the Jeonsacheong Area

4. Jeonsacheong Area

This is a kitchen where food was prepared for the royal rituals. Here you will find a raised stone table, known as a Chanmakdan, which was used to inspect food for festivities.

After being inspected, food was then placed on the alters around the shrine.

A spirit preservation room at Jongmyo Shrine
Spirit preservation room at the Jongmyo Shrine

5. Hyangdaecheong

This building was used as a storage room for ritual papers, offerings and incense. But today you will see a replica of the spirit preservation room.

There is a model food offering and three spirit tablets. One interesting thing to note is the spirit tablets are placed in order of importance with the king’s tablet placed on the western side of the table.

Small red building inside a shrine in Seoul
One of the buildings in the Jaegung Area

6. Jaegung Area

The Jaegung Area consists of three main buildings including Eojaesil, Sejajaesil, and Eomokyokcheong. These were often used by the king and crown prince in order to purify their bodies for upcoming rituals.

Here are the functions of the buildings inside the Jaegung Area:

  • Eojaesil – This building is where the king remained prior to a ritual and inside you will find a portable throne next to a folding screen showcasing a beautiful peony.
  • Sejajaesil – This building is where the crown price remained prior to a ritual and inside you will find a ten piece folding screen with numerous ritual pictures.
  • Eomokyokcheong – This bath facility was used by both the king and crown prince before royal rituals.

Travel Tip: The peony is a flowering plant meant to symbolize wealth and power.

Front view of Jejeong Well at the Jongmyo Shrine
Exterior view of the Jejeong Well

7. Jejeong Well

The Jejeong Well originally supplied the water during the entire ritual process. It was used to prepare food and animals as well as clean those who took part in the ceremonies.

Is Jongmyo Shrine Worth Visiting?

Yes, the Jongmyo Shrine is worth visiting because it is one of oldest and best preserved Confucian royal shrines in all of Asia.

This shrine offers visitors the chance to learn about the history of the Joseon Dynasty as well as the royal family of South Korea. If you are a history buff, this shrine is a stop you should not miss in Seoul.

Our Jongmyo Shrine Photos

We enjoyed our visit to the Jongmyo Shrine and took many photos. Here are a few of our favorites:

Visitor walking towards a large red wooden gate
Kristen walking up to a gate on complex grounds
Informational exhibits at Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul
Numerous exhibits at the Jongmyo Shrine
A small wall and entry way at a shrine in Seoul
Sections of the shrine are separated by walls
The Yeongnyeongjeon Hall or Eternal Hall of Peace at Jongmyo Shrine
Front view of Yeongnyeongjeon Hall 
Woman walking to Hyangdaecheong at Jongmyo
Kristen exploring a section of the complex
Large bronze statue of Wolnam Lee Sang-Jae in Seoul
Large statue of Wolnam Lee Sang-Jae found near Jongmyo Shrine
Bright purple flowers blooming in Seoul, South Korea during spring
Vibrant flowers in bloom during spring in Seoul
Small red and wooden pavilion with roof
A smaller pavilion inside near the large halls
Jongmyo Shrine sign about royal ancestral rituals
Brown wooden sign discussing the rituals that still take place on the grounds
Small island with a tree growing in the middle inside of a pond
Beautiful gardens can be found throughout the area
Visitors exploring the Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul, South Korea
There were very few visitors at the Jongmyo Shrine during our trip
Woman walking up to the gate for Jeongjeon Hall
Kristen walking up to the gate of Jeongjeon Hall
Jongmyo Shrine admission gate
Admission gate for the Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul
Red building with green roof and windows
A red building and green building with an intricate roof
Stone walkways lead the way at the Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul
Stone walkways lead the way around the entire complex

Jongmyo Shrine FAQ’s

Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about the Jongmyo Royal Ancestral Shrine:

Why was the Jongmyo Shrine created?

The Jongmyo Shrine is a symbolic structure that helps to support the legitimacy of the royal family in South Korea. There are over 80 spirit tablets from descendants of the royal family found within the complex grounds.

How long does it take to tour the Jongmyo Shrine?

You can expect the guided tour of Jongmyo Shrine to last 60 minutes or you can easily visit the grounds yourself in about an hour.

Who built the Jongmyo Shrine?

Jongmyo in Seoul was built by the Taejo of Joseon in 1394. It is a place where the Korean royal families performed rituals to honor their ancestors.

Want more Seoul content? Head over to our South Korea Travel Guides to explore the very best of Seoul and beyond.

We hope this guide featuring things to do at the Jongmyo Shrine helps with planning your visit to Seoul!

Please let us know if you have any questions about visiting Jongmyo Shrine in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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