Ancient Korea was ruled by three kingdoms, namely Goguryeo (37 B.C. – AD 668), Baekje (18 B.C. – AD 660) and Silla (57 B.C.- AD 935).
During the Goguryeo Dynasty (918 to 1392), Gaeseong in North Korea was chosen as the nation’s capital. Goguryeo was later named Goryeo, known in modern times as Korea.
In 1392, Goryeo Dynasty was overthrown by Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). King Taejo, founder of Joseon, then built his grandest palace called Gyeongbokgung in Hanyang, later known as Seoul. Surrounded by mountains, Seoul is a strategic location and has become South Korea’s capital up to present times. There was only one Korea, with Seoul as its solid center, before WWII.
Gyeongbokgung Palace was burnt down during the Imjinwaeran War in 1592. In 1865, after laying in ruins for 300 years, this grand palace, with 330 buildings and 7,700 rooms sitting on an approximately 410,000 square meter lot, was rebuilt by Heungseon Daewongon and in 1868, his son King Gojong, moved in. There were 3,000 staff serving the royal family. In 1896, months after his wife Quin Min was killed, King Gojong fled from the palace and never came back.
Years of strife damaged the palace again and it took decades to restore it to its former glory.
You can walk through the site and there is an available free daily guided tour offered by the City of Seoul.