27 Incredible Places to Visit in Korea during Winter
Winter in Korea is TOUGH. Gale force Siberian winds, freezing temperatures and super dry, sometimes polluted 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 Seoul winter days.
You definitely shouldn’t hibernate till the cherry blossoms bloom though, (no matter how tempting it is). There’s plenty of cold weather activities and interesting places to visit in Korea during winter, so throw on your long padding coat and vogmask and venture forth bravely into the frostiest of Korea’s seasons.
Expand to see the contents of this article.
- 1 PLACES TO VISIT IN KOREA DURING WINTER FOR SPARKLING LIGHTS
- 2 FESTIVALS TO VISIT IN KOREA DURING WINTER
- 3 WELCOME THE NEW YEAR, KOREAN STYLE
- 4 RING IN THE NEW YEAR AT THE BOSINGAK BELL RINGING CEREMONY
- 5 WINTER SPORTS IN KOREA
- 6 PLACES TO VISIT DURING A KOREAN WINTER TO ESCAPE THE COLD
- 7 WHERE TO REJUVENATE YOURSELF DURING WINTER IN KOREA
- 8 SPREAD HOLIDAY LOVE THIS KOREAN WINTER
- 9 Did you find this post about winter in Korea helpful? PIN IT!
PLACES TO VISIT IN KOREA DURING WINTER FOR SPARKLING LIGHTS
If bright, sparkling bulbs are your thing, you’re in luck. Because the winter holiday season in Korea guarantees a country illuminated with twinkling Christmas lights from top to bottom. Here’s the best places to see them during winter in Korea.
6th E-WORLD STARLIGHT FESTIVAL IN DAEGU
Festival dates: November 17th – December 31st, 2018.
If you want to get blitzed out by brilliant lights right now, head down to Daegu for the 6th E-World Starlight Festival. The entire 430,000 m² area will be covered in luminous decorations, under the theme of “Queen of Flowers.”
Check out their website for more info.
THE GARDEN OF MORNING CALM (아침고요수목원 오색별빛정원전)
Festival dates: December 5th, 2018 – March 24th, 2019.
The Garden of Morning Calm is one of the best places in Korea to see a lighting festival during winter. It’s the biggest one in the whole country! Prepare to be wowed by the sight of tens of thousands of glowing lights in every possible colour covering acres and acres of land.
View this post on Instagram
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.
BOSEONG GREEN TEA PLANTATION LIGHT FESTIVAL (보성차밭 빛축제)
Festival dates: December 14th, 2018 – January 13th, 2019.
Located in the south of the country, the Boseong Green Tea Plantation is wonderful to see in every season. During winter in Korea though, the entire plantation gets a festive facelift with twinkling lights adorning its pleasing symmetrical bushes.
If you arrive before dark, take in views of the tall cedar trees and nearby bamboo forest while sipping a green tea, or matcha latte (of course).
Find more info on their website (Korean only).
PETITE FRANCE KOREA LIGHTING FESTIVAL
If you want a little taste of Christmas in Europe, Petite France is definitely the place to be during a Korean winter. Starting near the beginning of December, it will do its best imitation of Montpellier, with fairy tale lights strung throughout the village.
Ticket prices range from 5,000 (child) – 8,000KRW (adult). Find more performance and transport info on their website.
LED ROSE GARDEN AT THE DDP
Sure, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza’s LED Rose Garden isn’t technically just a holiday thing, but you should still check out this selfie hotspot. You’ll be glad you did.
The roses were initially planted as a promotion for OMEGA watches in 2014, but 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.
If traveling out of the city is a distant dream for you, add the Hyundai and Lotte Department stores to your list of places to visit in Seoul during winter. Each winter in Korea, their Christmas displays seem to get more and more extravagant.
The huge Christmas Tree is already up outside the Hyundai Department store near Coex Mall, along with a gorgeous festive installation of books inside the Starfield Library.
Last winter, the Lotte World Tower next to Jamsil subway station had an over-the-top display with literally thousands and thousands of bulbs, a huge Christmas tree, and lights strung up over a full 2 block length… and I would expect nothing less this year.
FESTIVALS TO VISIT IN KOREA DURING WINTER
There’s no doubt Korea loves its festivals and during winter, there’s a huge variety to choose from. Attending one of these outdoor events is undoubtedly one of the most popular things to do during a Korean winter, for residents and travellers alike.
32nd BUSAN POLAR BEAR SWIMMING FESTIVAL (북극곰 수영대회)
If you’re just a little bit crazy, you can become one of 5,000 Busan Polar Bears, by diving into the icy cold waters off Haeundae Beach, during the 32nd 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.
Dates have not been set for 2019 yet, but watch out for registration and detailed information HERE.
HWACHEON SANCHEONEO ICE FESTIVAL (화천산천어축제)
Festival dates: January 5th – 27, 2019.
Hwacheon is the first place to freeze over in Korea during winter each year, with Hwacheon stream becoming a thick sheet of ice perfect for fishing, skating, hockey, bobsledding and much more. If you’re brave enough, you can even try bare-handed fishing.
View this post on Instagram
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 Hwacheon Ice Festival is the Sancheoneo fish. Full of vitamins, amino and fatty acids, it only survives in super clean, super cold water.
Sign up for ice fishing, and find all the details and transport info on their website.
OTHER ICE FISHING FESTIVALS DURING WINTER IN KOREA
If you can’t make it out to Hwacheon though, don’t stress – there are several different places to visit in Korea during winter, for ice fishing. Former winter Olympics site, Pyeongchang has a trout festival taking place from December 22nd, 2018 until January 27th, 2019.
We checked out the Inje Icefish Festival last year, where the tiny bingeoho fish is the main catch. This year, it takes place from January 19th – 27th, 2019. For a tasty treat, be sure to try it twiggim (battered and deep fried) style at one of the vendors near the ice field.
SNOWMAN FESTIVAL AT NAMI ISLAND
Nami Island is a hotspot during every season, but during winter in Korea, it will be transformed into a Snowman Village. At this Festival, visitors will be able to sled, bobsleigh, curl and slide their way across the island. With an icebreaker crossing the frozen Bukhangang, an ice carving competition and an ice-wall photo zone planned, you’re sure to find something to entertain you.
TAEBAEKSAN SNOW FESTIVAL (태백산 눈축제)
Festival dates: January 18th – February 3rd, 2019.
This festival takes over tiny former coal boom town Taebaek City, and its namesake mountain Taebaeksan, with non-stop winter activities.
This is the winter festival to go to in Korea for large scale snow sculptures, sledding, and hiking.
Visit their website HERE. (Korean only)
WELCOME THE NEW YEAR, KOREAN STYLE
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. Welcoming a new year this way, is one of the most popular things to do in Korea in winter, because Koreans believe that wishes made while witnessing the first sunrise of the year, are more powerful.
GANJEOLGOT SUNRISE FESTIVAL (울산 간절곶 해맞이축제)
The Ganjeolgot Sunrise Festival (울산 간절곶 해맞이축제) in Ulsan is the place to be if you want to witness the earliest sunrise of the year in Korea. More details can be found HERE.
ACHASAN SUNRISE FESTIVAL (아차산 해맞이축제)
If you’re in Seoul, and want to avoid traffic congestion out to the East Coast, you can attend 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, this is one of the more popular places to visit for NYE in Korea during winter due to its proximity to Seoul – last year, 40,000 visitors attended.
More details and transport info can be found HERE.
HOMIGOT SUNRISE FESTIVAL (호미곶 한민족 해맞이축전)
If it’s the first sunrise of the year you’re after, the place to be in Korea on NYE is Homigot Village. It’s the furthest east you can get in the ROK.
At this festival, you can witness cultural performances, a sunrise concert, kite-flying and the launching of hope balloons with wishes attached. Be sure to have a free bowl of tteokguk – a traditional New Years Day dish.
Visit their website for more info.
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.
WINTER SPORTS IN KOREA
Don’t turn into a couch potato watching Pyeongchang Winter Olympics re-runs when there’s tons of sporting options you can get involved in yourself. Winter in Korea is the perfect time to try out something new!
PLACES TO VISIT IN KOREA DURING WINTER FOR ICE SKATING
Last year, the new ice rink opened up at Seoul’s very own spaceship in the city, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, was definitely the big draw. Unfortunately, no dates have been released for it’s use so far this winter, which is a real shame.
While we wait for news about its possible opening, you can take your pick from a huge range of municipal, university, indoor, or hotel skating rinks that open during winter in Korea. Prices range from totally free to upwards of 40,000 KRW for admission (skate rentals not included).
There are a plethora of options for sledding, snowboarding and skiing in the country, and even a basic online search will yield a million results. But how about trying ice climbing for something new. With its mountainous terrain, Korea has climbs for all levels where you can try this challenging sport.
Sanirang offers beginner ice climbing courses for individuals who have never climbed before. It’s pricey, but it might start you on a lifetime of adventure, scaling heights you never thought possible.
PLACES TO VISIT DURING A KOREAN WINTER TO ESCAPE THE COLD
If you’re one of those people who can’t get warm, no matter what, here’s a few places to visit in Korea during winter, that are 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 escaping winter in Korea in a super warm greenhouse.
View this post on Instagram
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 during winter.
SEE THE “ESSENTIAL DUCHAMP” AT MMCA
Exhibition Dates: December 22nd, 2018 – April 7th, 2019.
If you haven’t made it out to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art yet, here’s your chance. To honour the 50th anniversary of the death of pioneering conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp, the museum will have the most comprehensive exhibition of his work in the Asia-Pacific region so far, with over 150 pieces on display.
Have no idea who he is? It doesn’t matter, because you’ll be escaping the bitter cold of a Seoul winter in one of the city’s most interesting museums.
VISIT A VR GAME CAFE
It’s no surprise that virtual reality game cafes are popping up left, right and centre in a country hell-bent on technological advancement. Yes, you might look like a fool while playing, but you definitely won’t be cold.
View this post on Instagram
. 브리즈브이알카페 잠실새내점 . . 🎉 HAPPY BIRTHDAY🎉 빠밤 생일맞이 기념으로 어트랙션 2인 무료이용 혜택을 공룡 때찌때찌하지말고 신나게 즐겨주세요 🎶 내년 생일도 꼭 들려주세요 🤦 . . #HBD #생일 #축하 #🎉 #브리즈브이알카페 #건대점#vriz #vrizvrcafe #vr#건대#건대데이트#데이트#이색데이트#이벤트#😊#건대vr카페#브리즈vr카페 #잠실새내점 #잠실새내#잠실#신천#데이트#이색데이트#이벤트#😊#잠실새내vr카페#vriz_vr #커피 #에스프레소 #캔음료 #스무디 #에이드 #어트랙션
There’s a lot of VR game places to choose from all over Korea, but if you want a little privacy while fighting demons, chopping fruit (yes, Fruit Ninja in VR), or kart racing, try the VRIZ VR Game Cafe, which has locations all over the city.
There, you can book private rooms for 20,000 -30,000KRW/hour, depending on the number of people playing.
EAT AT A FOOD COURT WITH A VIEW AT SKY31 FOOD AVENUE
If you’ve wanted to get inside Korea’s tallest building and the Seoul Sky Observatory, but can’t stomach the 27,000KRW ticket price to go all the way to the top, you can head up to the new Sky31 Food Avenue instead.
Sure, its 31st floor location is a long way down from the 124th, but you’ll still get incredible winter views of Seoul and the Han River, totally free of charge. Just visit the information desk on the first floor of the Tower, and obtain a pass card that allows you access to the building and the 31st floor.
View this post on Instagram
@lotte_worldtower's Sky31 Food Avenue is a food court with a view. * Located on the 31st floor of the 124 story super tower, anyone can visit by getting a pass card on the ground level at the Info desk. Don't expect any fancy food though… despite its super cool location and views of the city and Han River, it is is still JUST a food court. Think Lotteria and Natuur. 😂 * * * * * #iseoulu #visitkorea #ig_korea #photogsinkorea #seoulkorea #visitseoul #seoul_korea #southkorea #imagineyourkorea #seoulite #seoulinspirit #seoullife #seoullovers #lifeinkorea #travelasia #seoulsnap #koreanwinter #송파 #송파맘 #sky31foodavenue #sky31 #foodcourt #lotteworldtower #jamsil ##잠실
WHERE TO REJUVENATE YOURSELF DURING WINTER IN KOREA
The changing of seasons in Korea is so definitive, it’s violent. And the transition from autumn’s crisp, blue skies, warm days, and gorgeous leaves to the freezing winds and negative temperatures of Korea’s insanely cold winter might be the worst of all.
Here’s what you can do to rejuvenate mind and body from the brutality of winter.
GO FOR A KOREAN FACIAL
The dry air and freezing winds of Seoul’s winter are seriously bad for the skin. There’s no better time to hop on the K-beauty bandwagon and pamper yourself with a super moisturizing facial than now. Added bonus: the heated bed you get to lie on while your skin is getting spoiled.
View this post on Instagram
Have you ever had a facial massage? Well they're an important component of any Korean facial, hitting acupressure points, shaping the face and boosting circulation. * If I could find someone to do this for me for an hour, I'd sign up right away 😂, but usually it's about 10 minutes of utter relaxation. * * * * * #kbeauty #koreanbeauty #koreanskincare #facialmassage #kspa #jamsil ##잠실 #seoulite #seoullife #lifeinkorea #kbeautyskincare
See where I go for a super affordable facial in Seoul.
VISIT A JJIMJILBAND OR MOGYOKTANG
A weekly visit to the humble neighbourhood mogyoktang or bath house is on most Koreans’ agendas, for relaxation, revitalization and a skin-bruising scrub. Consisting of hot tubs, saunas and a cold plunge pool, it’s an ideal way to recharge the body and spirit in the depths of a winter in Korea.
A visit there is not for the faint of heart though, since the entire experience is enjoyed completely in the buff. If that thought is too much for you, you can check out a jjimjilbang, which offers both the naked bath house area PLUS a clothed area with various dry saunas and entertainment areas.
Be sure to get your Korean sheep head on (양머리) and try some sikhye (식혜) while there. You’ll blend right in. 😉
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.
View this post on Instagram
😌🛀🏻💎🛌 [소금동굴힐링센터 체험권증정 이벤트] 한 해 열심히 달려온 자, 쉬어라! . Q. 내가 가장 휴식이 필요한 때는 ______ 할 때다! 댓글을 남겨주신 팔로워 5분을 추첨해 힐링도 하고, 건강도 챙길 수 있는 곳, 사방이 천일염으로 이루어진 소금동굴힐링센터 체험권을 드립니다. . <당첨자 발표> 12월 19일 17시 / 5명 (1인 2매) * 당첨 Tip. 함께 가고 싶은 친구 많이 태그할수록 당첨 확률 Up! #timeoutseoul #타임아웃서울 #소금동굴 #천일염 #소금동굴힐링센터 #healing #힐링
Get there by taking Exit 3 at Hoehyeon Station.
SPREAD HOLIDAY LOVE THIS KOREAN WINTER
For me, the winter holiday season 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.
SPONSOR AN UNWED MOTHER AND HER CHILD IN THE 2018 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.
Detailed information about this year’s holiday gift drive has not been released yet, but in the meantime, you can DONATE HERE.
FEED THE HOMELESS WITH PLUR
Sadly, the homeless population in Korea continues to rise… with little social safety net in place yet to help them make it through the long, bitterly cold winter.
You can help out just a little bit by volunteering with PLUR to hand out some food to the homeless congregated around Seoul Station. They meet each and every Sunday evening.
Join each week by signing up on their Meetup page.
KOREA’S CARDBOARD HALMONIS (Grannies)
If you walk the streets of any Korean city, you will inevitably see a “cardboard granny.” These elderly women (AND men), pick up used cardboard and other recyclable materials to earn a little bit of money to survive.
Often bent in half from malnutrition and osteoporosis, these old women push huge and heavy carts up and down streets in the bitter cold and wind. Every time I see one, my heart literally feels like it’s being ripped out of my chest, but I always feel powerless and frankly a little shy to approach them with help.
One day though, I came across a halmoni who’s cardboard boxes were being blown off her cart by the wind, and stopped to help her pick them up. The total gratitude and humbleness with which she received this simple help sent me to the nearest bathroom in painful tears. I realized in that moment, that ANY help is appreciated and my shyness was not only silly, but totally selfish.
If you see a cardboard granny on the street this winter in Korea, just walk up and lend a hand. Help push her cart, give her a pair of warm gloves, a hot drink, or cash if you feel inclined to do so. Whenever I have approached a granny with money, she inevitably refuses saying my daughter needs it more than she does, but persist, and she will accept, because she truly needs it.
Are there any other worthwhile activities or great places to visit in Korea during winter that I missed? Add your tips in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you! <3
Did you find this post about winter in Korea helpful? PIN IT!