11 Things to Do in Korea this Winter
Winter in Korea is TOUGH. Gale force Siberian winds, freezing temperatures and super dry air make it tempting to sit inside, binge-watch Netflix and drink coffee all day long. At least that’s what I want to do most winter days.
But that would be a waste of an entire season full of wonderful, wintry things to do, wouldn’t it? Here’s some ideas to get you through these bitter months.
SHOW YOUR OLYMPIC SPIRIT
In less than 50 days, the small city of Pyeongchang in the north of the country will host the 208th Olympic Winter Games. That makes this particular winter in Korea just a wee bit special, wouldn’t you say? 😀
There are just 50 days left until the Opening day of the Olympic Winter Games #PyeongChang2018. Time is flying. #2018평창 동계올림픽 개회식까지 남은 50일. 시간 참 빠르죠? ___________ #PyeongChang2018 #Pyeongchang #Olympics #Paralympics #50 #50daystogo #time #fly #fast #skijumping #ski #jump #2018평창 #동계올림픽 #올림픽 #패럴림픽 #동계스포츠 #스키 #점프 #50일
From February 9th – 25th, 3,000 athletes from 95 countries will compete in 102 separate events in 15 sports disciplines, including Apine Skiing, Biathon, Cross-country Skiing, Freestyle Skiing, Nordic Combined, Ski Jumping, Snowboard, Bobsleigh, Luge, Skeleton, Curling, Figure Skating, Ice Hockey, and Speed Skating.
Here’s a few ways you can get into the Olympic Spirit:
Follow the Olympic Torch Relay
The Olympic Torch arrived in Korea on November 1st, and it’s slowly being run across the country, marked by festive events in each of its relay locations, where you can cheer on the torch bearers.
On the Pyeongchang Olympic Torch Relay site, you can read about each of the runners, their motivation for applying to be a torch bearer, as well as find information about where and when you can see the torch being passed on to the next runner.
Never mind the celebrities and famous athletes though. I got pretty weepy-eyed reading about the average citizens and their reasons for running in the relay.
The torch is slated to be in Seoul from January 13 to 16, and will be run as a royal procession in Gyeongbokgung Palace.
Attend the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang (duh) 😉
Events will be held in Pyeongchang, Gangneug and Jeongseon, with the Opening Ceremonies slated for February 9th at the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium. Ticket prices range from 20,000 to 1,500,000KRW (for the Opening Ceremonies).
Check out Seoul’s Opening Ceremonies from the 1998 Summer Olympics!
전 세계를 놀라게 한 전설의 88올림픽 개회식 명장면 다시 보기! Highlights of the #Seoul1988 Olympics Opening Ceremony still catch people's eyes. 평창올림픽 개회식 입장권 판매 중! 👉 tickets.PyeongChang2018.com #Onthisday #Sept17 #1988 #Olympics #Korea #throwback #PyeongChang2018 #145daystogo #29년전오늘 #응답하라1988 #88올림픽 #서울올림픽 #개회식 #개막식 #오프닝 #명장면 #하이라이트 #손에손잡고 #코리아나 #굴렁쇠소년 #소오름 #다시보기 #2018평창 #145일남았습니다
Wow, the Olympic Rings are on the top of the speed skating venue for #PyeongChang2018!😲 오륜 마크가 선명하게 그려진 강릉 스피드 스케이팅 경기장! 여기서 퍼질 함성 소리에 벌써부터 두근두근💙 ______________ #PyeongChang2018 #PyeongChang #Olympics #Paralympics #Gangneung #passion #speed #skating #2018평창 #동계올림픽 #올림픽 #패럴림픽 #강릉 #스피드스케이팅 #이상화 #이승훈 #모태범 #박승주
A high speed KTX rail line has been completed for the event, and promises to get visitors from Incheon Aiport to the Olympic venues in under 2 hours. Full transport details can be found HERE, and tickets for events can be purchased HERE.
LIGHT IT UP
If bright, sparkling bulbs are your thing, you’re in luck. Because the holiday season guarantees a country lit with twinkling Christmas lights from top to bottom. Here’s where to see the best of them in Korea.
LED Rose Garden at the DDP
Dongdaemun Design Plaza’s LED Rose Garden was initially planted as a promotion for OMEGA watches in 2014, but it didn’t become a permanent installation until Korea’s 70th National Liberation Day in 2015. The 25,550 LED roses are symbolic of the number of days since liberation – 70 years (in 2015) multiplied by 365 days equals 25,550).
It’s free to check out, and can be seen every night of the week from 5:30 to midnight in the Grass Plaza area of the DDP. Get there by taking exit 1 at Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station.
Check out our full post about the LED Rose Garden HERE.
The Garden of the Morning Calm (아침고요수목원 오색별빛정원전)
Held from December 8th, 2017 until March of next year, the festival of lights at the Garden of Morning Calm is the biggest in Korea. Prepare to be wowed by the sight of tens of thousands of glowing lights in every possible colour covering acres and acres of land.
Even in winter night you still can enjoy the beautiful garden in Korea! Once the night falls in the Garden of Morning Calm, the place boasts colorful fairy lights, emitting exotic atmosphere throughout the light festival. The garden is well harmonized with trees and lights, showcasing spectacular views of photo zone. It is the top representative courses that must not be missed! Imagine your Korea! #ImagineyourKorea #KPlace #VisitKorea #SouthKorea #GardenofMorningcalm
Admission ranges from 5,500 (child) to 9,000KRW (adult). Visit their website for more information.
ATTEND A WINTER FESTIVAL
There’s no doubt that Korea loves its festivals and in winter, there’s a huge variety to choose from.
All across the country, from December 31st to January 1st, thousands of people are standing on high mountains or lined up on a coast in the bitter cold waiting for the sun to rise. Koreans believe that wishes made while witnessing the first sunrise of the year, are more powerful.
If you’re in Seoul, you can avoid traffic congestion out to the East Coast by attending the Achasan Sunrise Festival (아차산 해맞이축제). It’s easy to access using public transportation and it takes just 15 minutes to hike up to the viewing spot. Be warned though – last year, 40,000 visitors attended.
More details and transport info can be found HERE.
The Ganjeolgot Sunrise Festival (울산 간절곶 해맞이축제) in Ulsan is the place to be if you want to witness the very first sunrise of the year in Korea. More details HERE.
For a full list of lighting, sunrise and winter festivals, you can visit THIS LINK.
Ring in the New Year at the Bosingak Bell Ringing Ceremony
If you want to ring in the new year (literally), in the most traditional of ways, head over to Jongno and listen to the Bosingak Bell being rung 33 times by 16 different people, including the Mayor of Seoul, starting at the stroke of midnight.
The tradition of ringing the Bosingak Bell began way back in Joseon Dynasty times, when it was rung every day at the start and end of the day.
The closest subway station is Jonggak on Line 1. To accommodate the ceremony, Seoul metro will be kept running until 2AM on December 31st. Details HERE.
31st Busan Polar Bear Swimming Festival (북극곰 수영대회)
On January 6th-7th, 2018 you can become one of 5,000 (crazy) Busan Polar Bears, by diving into the icy cold waters of Haeundae Beach, during the 31st Polar Bear Swim.
Considered one of the best festivals in the country, participation costs 20,000KRW, and it looks like you get some really cute SWAG out of it.
Register and find more detailed information HERE.
Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival (화천산천어축제)
Hwacheon is the first area in Korea to freeze over each year, with Hwacheon stream becoming a thick sheet of ice perfect for ice fishing, ice skating, hockey, bobsledding and much more. If you’re brave enough, you can even try bare-handed fishing.
The playing and fishing area in Hwacheon Sancheonno Ice festival… it was really convenient that they separate local and foreigners coz as you can see the crowded place over there were the local area for fishing ㅋㅋㅋ and the middle is the playing area and the next is the fishing are for foreigners only… we need to wait in line before going in to this area so it is better to come early! #화천 #산천어축제 #hwacheonsancheoneoicefestival #winterfestival #winterinkorea #gangwondo #southkorea #icefishing #mountaintrout #japanesesalmon #happy
The prime catch at the Ice Festival is the Sancheoneo fish. Full of vitamins, amino and fatty acids, it only survives in super clean, super cold water.
This year, the festival takes place from January 6th -28th, 2018. Sign up for ice fishing, and find all the details and transport info on their website.
ESCAPE THE COLD
If you’re one of those people who just can’t get warm, no matter what, here’s a few winter activities designed just for you.
Go Strawberry Picking
Are Korean strawberries the most delicious ones in the world? Possible, I think. And what better way to eat them, then by picking them yourself, while staying super warm in a greenhouse.
Is picking strawberries the perfect wintertime activity for kids? 🍓 * Maybe. 😁 The inside of the greenhouse was super-warm, picking strawberries fun for little hands, and of course munching on them a healthy snack. 😋 * * * * * #iseoulu #visitkorea #ig_korea #iloveseoul #traveltokorea #ilovekorea #photogsinkorea #seoulkorea #visitseoul #seoul_korea #southkorea #imagineyourkorea #seoulite #seoulinspirit #seoullife #seoullovers #lifeinkorea #travelasia #seoulsnap #송파 #송파맘 #daddyandme #strawberrypicking #경기도 #딸기 #딸바보
We visited the 대가농원 farm in Namyangju, but there are tons of greenhouses located all over the country. Check out THIS BLOG for detailed information about where, how and when to pick strawberries in Korea.
Sun-kissed strawberries picked right from where they're grown. * Korea seriously has the most delicious strawberries I've ever tasted. 🍓🍓🍓We were able to eat the ones we picked at 대가농원 yesterday right off the bush, since they were organically grown and super-sweet! 😋 * * * * * #iseoulu #visitkorea #ig_korea #iloveseoul #traveltokorea #ilovekorea #photogsinkorea #seoulkorea #visitseoul #seoul_korea #southkorea #imagineyourkorea #seoulite #seoulinspirit #seoullife #seoullovers #lifeinkorea #travelasia #seoulsnap #송파맘 #namyangju #strawberrypicking #딸기 #남양주
Visit the Salt Cave Healing Centre
Breathing in tiny micrometre particles of salt at the Salt Cave Healing Centre near Namdaemun might just cure what ails you. Said to help with asthma, certain types of allergies and general fatigue – at the very least, it’ll get you out of the cold and surrounded by the womb-like warmth of a cave made entirely out of sun-dried Pacific salt.
Get there by taking Exit 3 at Hoehyeon Station.
SPREAD HOLIDAY LOVE
For me, this time of year is about connecting with those we love and being grateful for everything the year has brought and taught us. I’ve been incredibly blessed in my life, and it’s important to remember that not everyone is so fortunate.
Spread some holiday love by:
Sponsoring an unwed mother and her child in the 2017 KUMFA Holiday Gift Drive
Being a single mother in Korea can be incredibly difficult, not just financially, but because of outdated ideas and social stigma.
This holiday gift drive allows you to sponsor a family and buy a gift for the children of unwed mothers. There’s a list of wishes on their website, and most of the requests are so humble, that I couldn’t make it through the list without shedding a tear. Ok…a lot of tears.
*Update: Since I began writing this post, EVERY single one of the KUMFA families found sponsors. HOORAY! However, KUMFA supports families not just at Christmas, but throughout the year. Donate HERE.
Have you braved a winter in Korea? Do you have any must-do winter activities that should be added to the list? Share them in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you. <3
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