If there is one thing I would most definitely recommend you do on your trip to South Korea's capital city is rent a traditional Korean hanbok, visit the royal palaces and stroll down one of the historic Hanok villages.
In this blog post you can find where and how to rent hanbok, what to wear underneath it and where to go to get the most out of your day in Seoul. And also - Is wearing a hanbok cultural appropriation?
(You can experience a day in hanbok in all seasons - rain or shine.)
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and I am not receiving any compensation for writing this. Any links included in this post are not affiliate links and I'm only including them for reader's convenience. I am simply writing this because I want to share my experience with you.
What is Hanbok?
Hanbok (literally translating into 'Korean clothing') is traditional korean attire from the Joseon period that used to be worn daily up to until 100 years ago. Nowadays, hanbok is worn on special occasions like weddings, festive occasions like Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) and Seollal (Korean New Year's), on special anniversaries and children wear it on their first birthday.
Women’s version consists of a blouse or jacket (jeogori) and princess like skirt (chima). Men’s hanbok also consists of jeogori in combination with loose fitting trousers (baji).
Hanbok is also worn by many tourists that want to experience exploring Seoul's palaces and historical sites dressed up in pretty traditional Korean outfits.
Where to Rent Hanbok?
There are many hanbok rental stores in Seoul and you will have no issues finding one near the palaces. You can rent them by the hour or by the days.
We have rented our hanboks via the KKday app.
Seohwa Hanbok have a KKday app special offer where you can rent the outfit for 6 hours. The rental includes free accessories like hand bags and hair accessories and they also offer hair styling services. They will store your bags as well.
Google Maps Address: B1, 11 Jeokseon-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Korean address: 서울시 종로구 적선동 11
Service hours: 9:00am - 7:00pm
How to get there: 50m away from Exit no.4 of Gyeongbokgung station
Service: Male(S - XL), female(XS - XXL), and also children sizes hanboks
Overall, I believe that they offer great variety of outfits in various sizes. Due to the way the hanboks are made for wear - the skirt is attached to straps that are adjusted to your height with a shirt over the skirt hiding the straps - they fit to all body types no matter if you are tinny or plus sized.
How to wear it: the skirt is fitted over your clothing so you can wear jeans underneath the skirt and long or short sleeved shirt underneath the jacket. I would suggest not to wear high neck shirts in case they peek out from underneath the shirt. You can wear trainers which cannot be seen on the photos as the length of the skirt will be covering them.
Tip: If, like me, you are visiting Seoul in colder months, do not forget to take your coat with you as late autumn and winter are really cold in Korea and you do not want to be freezing whole day.
When we compared our outfits to the others we have seen when walking around (and there were many), we did feel ours were slightly better quality and of a nicer design than most of the other ones.
Once you have been dressed and dolled up by the lovely ladies who are all fluent in English, it is time to go out and explore.
Where to go?
Wearing a hanbok grants you free entry to the palaces. Alternatively, combination ticket for 5 palaces and royal shrine can be purchased for 10 000 KRW (10 USD).
Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁)
Our first stop was Gyeongbokgung Palace ("Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven") which was originally built in 1395. It formed the heart of the capital city of Seoul and represented the sovereignty of the Joseon Dynasty.
Gyeongbokgung Palace was destroyed by fire during the Japanese invasion of 1592 and it was not reconstructed until 1867.
Ninety three percent of the restored buildings were dismantled during the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945 and an effort to fully restore Gyeongbokgung Palace to its former glory has been ongoing since 1990.
Restoration of the main entrance to the palace was only completed in 2010.
Google Maps Address: 161 Sajik-ro, Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Korean address: 서울특별시 종로구 세종로 사직로 161
Service hours: 9:00am - 6:00pm, Tuesday: Closed
Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌한옥마을)
A short walk away (make sure to check the closest exit) from Gyeongbokgung Palace you can find Korean traditional village Bukchon.
The village is dating all the way back to the 14th century and it is filled with narrow streets and restored traditional homes.
Please be respectful when visiting the village as the uprise of tourists has caused discomfort from some people who live there. Make sure to not trespass on private property and keep away from the places that ask of tourists to stay away.
Bukchon Hanok Village is filled with traditional guest houses (I really want to stay in one when I come back), tea houses and shops. You could spend a whole day just discovering every nook and cranny of this picturesque traditional Korean village in the heart of Seoul.
It is also very photogenic and offers multiple spots for snapping that perfect Instagram shot.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Google Maps Address: South Korea, Seoul, Jongno-gu, Gahoe-dong, 계동길 37
Korean address: 서울특별시 종로구 가회동 계동길 37
Jogyesa Temple (조계사)
Jogyesa Temple is a symbol of Korean Buddhism and one of the most important Buddhist temples in Korea.
The temple was first established in 1395 and then moved to the current location in 1937.
The courtyard is filled with flowers, vibrant lanterns and trees more than 500 years old which create a wonderful relaxing atmosphere.
Make sure to be quiet and respectful of people praying and remove your shoes when necessary.
Google Maps Address: 55 Ujeongguk-ro, Gyeonji-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Korean address: 서울특별시 종로구 견지동 우정국로 55
Is Wearing Hanbok Cultural Appropriation?
A quick Google search and a few blog reads later, conclusion can be that no, wearing hanbok as part of cultural experience whilst sightseeing the city and historical places is not cultural appropriation. Thus go ahead, dress yourself up and make yourself feel like a princess (or a prince) for a day!
Also as multiple people pointed it out on forums and blog posts - if people were not happy with foreigners wearing their traditional clothing - there wouldn't be hanbok rental shops on every corner next to historical sites.
Would you try and wear hanbok for a day? Or have you already done it? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram!