Jongmyo Royal Shrine Seoul
The gate to Jeongjeon - Chris Backe Overall Rating

Jongmyo is a shrine containing 83 members of royalty, nestled within downtown Seoul. Originally constructed in 1395, it was designated a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995, and sports the longest wooden building in the world. If that’s not enough reason to go, it contains plenty of nature to provide a relaxing start to your day.

Jongmyo is more than your average royal shrine (not that there are many of those around to begin with). This place serves as the shrine for the Joseon Dynasty, which lasted from 1392-1910. Here, spirits are kept for any number of auspicious reasons, and once a year (the first Sunday in May) a ceremony of ritual food and drink is offered to them, hoping for their blessing.

A little history lesson takes us back to 1395: Yi-Seong-gye, also known as King Taejo, chose Seoul as his new capital to begin what is today referred to as the Joseon Dynasty. The original shrine (Jeongjeon, or the Main Hall) took about nine months to build, and was expanded and repaired to accomodate the spirit tablets of more kings and queens. In 1421, a second shrine (Yeongnyeongjeon, or the Hall of Everlasting Peace) was built to handle even more spirit tablets, and was expanded again in 1546.