Nestled in the middle of ultramodern skyscrapers, Seoul's royal palaces are a perfect refuge from the stress of city life.
Shrouded in history, the five grand palaces of Korea's last ruling dynasty of Joseon (1392-1910) seem almost unnaturally hushed, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The ambience of peace and tranquillity is not all one can experience at the historic sites.
A variety of cultural programs take place there, aimed at taking visitors a step back in time to when people lived a slow and simple life, appreciating art, nature and life, in other words, enjoying "pungnyu." ― "Pungnyu" is the Korean word for spending leisure time tastefully.
Complimentary concerts that combine classical Korean music, dance and other performances would be a rare chance for modern-day viewers to get a taste of "pungnyu."
Two separate programs are being run by different authorities.
One is "Music at the Royal Palace," which presents events mostly on weekends but not necessarily regularly from late May through October. The other is "Pungnyu at Deoksugung," a programme taking place at Deoksugung every Thursday evening from June until September.
"'Music at the Royal Palace' has returned every spring and autumn since 2008, offering an opportunity to feel the depth of Korean culture at historic places," the Korea Traditional Performing Arts Foundation, the programme's organizer, said in a press release. This year, it runs from May 24 to Oct. 12.
Masters of Korean traditional culture appear on the programme, which takes place at Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung and Deoksugung palaces and Jongmyo Shrine, all built in central Seoul during the Joseon era.
Hwang Byung-ki, a player of gayageum (a 12-string Korean zither), and Ahn Sook-sun, a singer of "pansori," a genre of traditional Korean music, are just a few names to check out.
A highlight of this programme is a concert-plus-walking tour at the rear garden of Changdeokgung, a UNESCO-designated World Cultural Heritage site, on calm Sunday mornings.