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chuseok in seoul

Chuseok in Seoul is undoubtedly one of the best times to be in the city. Seoul empties out and the weather is close to perfect. In fact, Chuseok is one of the rare times when I actually CHOOSE to stay in Seoul, rather than book a plane ticket to parts unknown.

chuseok in seoul | insadong

Chuseok is one of the best times to stay in Seoul.

Over the 12 years I’ve lived in Korea, I’ve discovered plenty of great things to do during Chuseok in Seoul. Read on and discover free, fun and unique options for what to do during Chuseok.

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When is Chuseok?

In 2022, Korean Thanksgiving or Chuseok, lands on Saturday, September 10th. The public holiday dates for this year are Friday September 9th to Monday, September 12th, meaning everyone will have a 4 day weekend.

nami island in autumn

You can enjoy traditional performances if you stay in Seoul during Chuseok.

Chuseok is an important time for family to gather together, so usually, that means gridlocked roads and a strangely empty city, as Seoulites head to their hometowns all over the Peninsula. It’s actually, strangely. the perfect time to plan a trip to Seoul from other parts of Korea, since traffic is going in the opposite direction.

It also means truly insane prices on flights out of the country, as more and more Koreans choose to take advantage of the extra days off by taking a vacation, instead of battling traffic.

chuseok in seoul | traffic jams

The drive to Busan can take 3 hours longer during Chuseok in Seoul © Doo Ho Kim (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Despite the recent relaxation of social distancing measures in South Korea, Chuseok in 2022 is still a bit of a crapshoot, due to increasing coronavirus numbers. Health authorities seem set on “living with the virus” though, so hopefully Chuseok in Seoul will return with some of its former glory this year.

seoul norimadang at seokchon lake

Chuseok in Seoul is a great time to look out for traditional performances.

Seoul during Chuseok is usually quiet and serene in a way that Korea rarely is, but with our current difficulties traveling out of country as normal, it’s hard to know exactly what Chuseok will look like this year.

If you do plan to wander around in Seoul (and it’s hard not to because the weather is pretty much perfect), be sure to mask up, wash your hands, and practice social distancing as much as possible.

chuseok in seoul | sunset

The weather is usually kinda perfect during Chuseok in Seoul.

Things to do during Chuseok in Seoul

This list of things to do during Chuseok is gleaned from over a decade of living in the city. Some are special events just for Korean thanksgiving, some are free, and some are just way more pleasant to do without all the crazy crowds around.

*Note: attractions may be closed or limited due to coronavirus, so be sure to check details before you go

chuseok in seoul | gyeongbokgung palace

Gyeongbokgung and other historic sites will be open for Chuseok in Seoul.

Visit a Korean Heritage site for free during Chuseok in Seoul

If you haven’t ventured into one of Seoul’s historical sites yet, Chuseok is the perfect chance to finally go. Major royal palaces like Gyeongbokgung and traditional tombs across the country will stay open during the entire Chuseok holiday. Best of all admission into all sites is free!

chuseok in seoul | jongmyo shrine

Jongmyo Shrine from the rooftop of Sewoon Plaza

You can also visit the UNESCO World Heritage Jongmyo Shrine, which is usually reservation-only. It will be totally open to the public for Chuseok in Seoul.

There’ll also be various special performances and events during Korean Thanksgiving, as well as traditional folk games, like yut-nori and juldarigi to play.

chuseok in seoul

Look out for traditional performances across Seoul during Chuseok

Rent a traditional hanbok

Renting a Korean hanbok when visiting these traditional sites is an excellent way to get into the Chuseok spirit in Seoul. This is one of the rare days when you might actually see locals, wearing their own hanbok out and about.

I recommend reserving your hanbok in advance because even though the city will be empty, these sites will be a hub of activity. This is a very popular activity for tourists and locals alike, especially on these types of holidays.

chuseok in seoul | bukchon hanok village

Renting a hanbok is a popular activity during Chuseok in Seoul.

Step Back in Time for Chuseok in Seoul

Chuseok traditions have evolved a lot over the years. Head to these places to learn about traditional Korean life and culture.

Korean Folk Village | 한국민속촌

Address: 90 Minsokchon-ro, Giheung-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do | 경기도 용인시 기흥구 민속촌로 90 (보라동)

Covering a vast 990,000㎡ space in Yongin, the Korean Folk Village is quite possibly one of the best places near Seoul to learn about the Joseon era. It’s made up of authentic houses that have been relocated from all over the country, so you can really feel what it must’ve been like to live back then.

chuseok in seoul | korean folk village

Step back into the Joseon Era at the Korean Folk Village © Live Studio, Korea Tourism Organization

You could easily spend an entire day at the Korean Folk Village, exploring its multiple museums, watching traditional performances, seeing K-drama shooting sites, and even riding amusement park rides.

During Chuseok in Seoul, there are traditional art performances, and a ton of special activities to take part in.

chuseok in seoul | traditional performances at Korean folk village

Enjoy traditional performances during Chuseok in Seoul © Live Studio, Korea Tourism Organization

Korean Folk Village & K-drama Set Tour  |  See where your favourite K-dramas were filmed at the massive MBC Dae Jang Gum Park, then enjoy a delicious traditional lunch. After lunch, head to the Korean Folk Village to be fully immersed in the Joseon Dynasty. Check more info here.

Namsangol Hanok Village | 남산골한옥마을

Address: 28, Toegye-ro 34-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul | 서울특별시 중구 퇴계로34길 28 (필동2가)

Every time I’ve visited Namsangol Hanok Village, it’s been relatively deserted, but this definitely won’t be the case during Chuseok in Seoul. Located right at the foot of Namsan Mountain, there’s sure to be crowds, and a ton of activities and outdoor performances, where you can learn about Korean Chuseok traditions.

chuseok in seoul | namsangol hanok village

Namsangol Hanok Village is a hotspot for Chuseok activities in Seoul.

See Seoul from Above

With its crisp blue skies, and clear air, autumn is the best season to see Seoul in all its mega-city glory.

Seoul Sky Observatory at Lotte World Tower

My pick for the best birds-eye view of the city is from the Seoul Sky Observatory in Korea’s tallest building – the Lotte World Tower. During Chuseok in Seoul, there’s a chance you could even get pictures without other people in them.

chuseok in seoul | south side view from the Seoul Sky Observatory in Korea

It’s impossible to find this breathtaking view anywhere else in Seoul.

There’s 7 different levels from which to take in the incredible views, but the 120th floor outdoor Sky Terrace is the highest outdoor observatory in the world. It sits at a whopping 486 metres high and you’re guaranteed a breathtaking unobstructed view of the city. Pick up advance tickets to Seoul Sky Observatory here.

Spend the day in Jamsil at 50% off |  Lotte World Aquarium, Lotte World Adventure, and the Seoul Sky Observatory are 3 famous attractions within walking distance of each other in Jamsil. The convenient Songpa L Pass lets you see all 3 at incredible value. Get more details here.

N Seoul Tower on Namsan Mountain

If the Seoul Sky Observatory is out of your budget, the Observatory at the N Seoul Tower also offers expansive views from its perch high atop Namsan Mountain, but at a much cheaper price.

namsan tower korea

Visit the N Seoul Tower during Chuseok – Photo by CYAN (CC BY-SA 4.0)

It’s not even necessary to go into the N Seoul Tower to get an excellent view. You can see all of Seoul from the top of Namsan, hang a love lock, and watch outdoor performances for free!

Dine in Style during Chuseok in Seoul

A fine dining experience in a Seoul restaurant at dinnertime can be pretty darn pricey, as it is in most major cities around the world. At lunchtime though, prices drop significantly, for almost the exact same thing.

petit fours at pierre gagnaire in lotte seoul executive tower hotel in myeongdone

Lunchtime is more affordable at restaurants like Pierre Gagnaire.

The problem is that most people are working during the week, and a lengthy lunchtime meal just isn’t in the cards. Not during Chuseok though. It’s a glorious day off for just about everyone, and the perfect chance to try out one of the city’s fancier food experiences, at a reduced cost.

Jungsik Seoul

Address: 11 Seollungro 158-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul | 서울특별시 강남구 선릉로 158길 11

Jungsik has locations in New York and Seoul, both with coveted Michelin Stars, and offers modern interpretations of Korean classics. 7 course lunch menus start at 155,000 won, which may seem expensive, but compare that to dinner which starts at 250,000 won for pretty much the exact same thing.

Incredible octopus at Jungsik in Seoul

ROYAL CUISINE OF THE JOSEON DYNASTY  |  The Royal Cuisine of the Joseon Dynasty was designated as National Intangible Cultural Property No. 38, and Jihwaja is THE place to try it. Choose from a variety of degustation menus and make reservations at Jihwaja here.

Take an easy day trip to the Garden of Morning Calm

The Garden of Morning Calm is a 30,000 square metre private garden, with 20 different themed sections, and 5000 different kinds of plants. It’s located just an hour away from Seoul in Gapyeong. It’s accessible by subway, meaning you won’t have to deal with potential Chuseok traffic jams.

garden of morning calm korea

Peaceful vibes at the Garden of Morning Calm

Nami Island, Petite France and the Gangchon Rail Bike are popular destinations in the same area. I’ve visited all but Petite France, and highly recommend a visit. Nami Island is particularly gorgeous in autumn, and riding the old train tracks on the Gangchon Rail Bike is a total blast.

gangchon rail bike tunnel

The Gangchon Rail Bike is simply stunning.

GOOD TO KNOW  |  If you plan to also see Nami Island and ride the Gangchon Rail Bike, it’s best to take a guided tour, because there’s a lot of distance to cover in a short period of time. This is the most popular day trip to take near Seoul with good reason. Book your all-inclusive day trip to Gapyeong here.

Go hiking on one of Seoul’s Mountains

Let’s face it, hiking the mountains close to Seoul is not always the peaceful communing with nature it should be. But during Chuseok, there’s a distinct possibility that you might have a mountain to call your own.

Both Bukhansan and Gwanaksan are reachable by subway and bus and may even be showing the first signs of autumn colour during Chuseok.

chuseok in seoul | hiking

Try a guided hiking and rock climbing tour of Bukhansan or Gwanaksan, or if you want to ensure yourself a solitary experience, head to one of the lesser known trails, like Hyangnobong Peak.

Try some Uzbek Food at Fortune Cafe

Address: 154, Mareunnae-roJung-gu, Seoul | 서울 중구 마른내로 154 2층

Visiting the Russian district and trying some Uzbek food is one of the top things to do in Dongdaemun. It’ll be full of workers from Central Asia with real time off and missing a taste of home. The area will be bouncing with life and for certain, nothing will be closed during Chuseok in Seoul.

chuseok in seoul | little russia

Uzbek restaurants are guaranteed to be open during Chuseok in Seoul

The restaurant my Uzbek friend Diana recommends as the best in the city, is Fortune Cafe. Make sure you try the samsa – a seasoned lamb and onion filled pie, and some shashlik (meat skewers).

Escape to Southeast Asia at Coconut Box

Address: 서울 마포구 홍익로3길 20 서교프라자 1층

Flights to the gorgeous beaches of Thailand might be too expensive, but you can still escape to southeast Asia for Chuseok in Seoul, at Coconut Box in Hongdae.

chuseok in seoul | coconut box hongdae

Escape to SE Asia in Hongdae.

At Coconut Box, there are 32 unique bungalows to relax in, fresh coconuts, an afternoon tea set, VR games, a media art room, and 2 absolutely massive ball pits for kids to play in.

There are various all-inclusive packages available that include a bungalow, all attractions, and an afternoon tea set. Be sure to reserve these in advance.

ball pit at coconut box hongdae

This is one of 2 massive ball pits at Coconut Box.

Catch up on your reading at the Starfield Library

Address: 513, Yeongdong-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul | 서울특별시 강남구 영동대로 513

If books are your thing, the Starfield Library in Starfield Coex Mall is not to be missed. It’s truly grand in scale, with 2,800 square metres of space spread over 2 stories. Without a doubt though, it’s most eye-catching feature is 3 gigantic bookshelves stuffed with over 50,000 books and magazines.

new art piece in starfield library

The Starfield Library is worth visiting

Visit during Chuseok in Seoul or in the morning and you’re guaranteed a comfortable and inspiring spot to catch up on your reading.

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Enjoy a blissfully empty city during Chuseok in Seoul

And finally, simply enjoy Seoul without gazillions of people in it. Wander the streets aimlessly without crashing into wayward Koreans. Eat in your favourite restaurants without waiting, and maybe, just maybe find silence in a cafe.

Are you staying in Seoul for Chuseok? What are your favourite things to do during Korean Thanksgiving?

Comments:

  • September 29, 2017

    such beautiful options. And that Coex mall looks simply incredible!

    reply...
  • September 28, 2017

    I’d love to come back to Seoul and do some of this stuff! I never got a chance to get an overall view of the city or do some urban hiking. It seems like much of Asia sees its best weather in the fall. I remember hearing horror stories about Beijing’s air quality and then I went one October and had three straight weeks of blue skies and fresh air! Seems like Seoul is very similar. Enjoy your fall and this break!

    reply...
    • October 3, 2017

      East Asia for sure has its best weather in late summer/fall. I’m not a huge fan of hot temperatures unless I’m on the beach, so October is pretty much perfect if you ask me. Come back so we can meet in person this time!!! ?

      reply...
  • September 28, 2017

    Works for me, Shells! Cos as you know we’re pretty much stuck in Seoul. lol. Great list and I’m going to try doing something from the list and not give in to Netflix! How’s the weather in Thailand? 🙂

    reply...
    • October 3, 2017

      Gahhh it’s raining again!!! ? It’s still gorgeous but kinda sucks when you’re on a beach vacay. I’m just hoping we get at least one more full day in the sun.

      reply...
  • September 26, 2017

    I had no idea that lunch prices are so much cheaper in Seoul! I’d thought it would have been on par with dinner and really eating out really is expensive in general. But maybe cheaper prices, smaller portions? The fancy food you tried does look very good 🙂

    That coffee gimmick latte art is hilarious. It really is a spitting image of Naia, and I’m guessing that top part was sweet, lol. That is one epic library indeed. It must be so hard to arrange those books the higher you go and I suppose there is some kind of glass over the front of the books to prevent them from tumbling down.

    reply...
    • October 3, 2017

      Honestly I don’t know how the heck anyone is supposed to get a book down from those shelves! They’re crazy high! Actually eating out in Seoul is super cheap, especially for Korean food. You can get a delicious soup with all the korean sides for $5-8! It’s mostly just foreign or western food that’s more expensive here…

      reply...
  • Sha

    September 26, 2017

    Happy travelling!! Hope you are enjoying your break overseas ??

    reply...
    • October 3, 2017

      Well I’m always glad to go to the beach, but it’s raining… ?

      reply...
      • Sha

        October 3, 2017

        I know….it’s been raining here everyday here too..I guess can’t be helped…I’ll try to send some sun to make up for it ??????????????

        reply...

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