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.
Over the 13 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.
In this guide
- 1 When is Chuseok?
- 2 Things to do during Chuseok in Seoul
- 3 Planning a trip to Korea?
- 4 Just Released | Limited Edition Autumn Tours
- 4.1 See Seoul from Above
- 4.2 Dine in Style during Chuseok in Seoul
- 4.3 Take an easy day trip to the Garden of Morning Calm
- 4.4 Go hiking on one of Seoul’s Mountains
- 4.5 Try some Uzbek Food at Fortune Cafe
- 4.6 Escape to Southeast Asia at Coconut Box
- 4.7 Catch up on your reading at the Starfield Library
- 4.8 Enjoy a blissfully empty city during Chuseok in Seoul
- 4.9 Chuseok in Seoul: Essential Info and FAQs
When is Chuseok?
In 2023, Korean Thanksgiving or Chuseok, lands on Friday, September 29th. The public holiday dates for this year are Thursday, September 28th to Tuesday, October 3rd, meaning everyone will have a 6 day weekend.
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.
With COVID downgraded to basically a cold in Korea by the health authorities, Chuseok in 2023 is sure to be back full force. There’s no doubt that Chuseok in Seoul will return with all of its former glory this year.
Seoul during Chuseok is usually quiet and serene in a way that Korea rarely is, so enjoy it while you can!
If you do plan to wander around Seoul (and it’s hard not to because the weather is pretty much perfect), it’s still prudent to mask up if you have cold symptoms, and wash your hands often.
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.
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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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just Released | Limited Edition Autumn Tours
These autumn tours in Korea only take place for a few months each year, and they get booked up fast, because space and timing for them is limited. If the timing is right while you’re visiting Seoul during Chuseok, I recommend reserving a spot as soon as your travel dates are confirmed.
Here are the limited edition autumn day tours available in Korea for 2023.
- Hwadam Botanic Garden + Namhansanseong Fortress (UNESCO) | September 3rd – October 19th, 2023
- Nari Park, Pink Muhly Grass + Dumulmeori from Seoul | September 25th – October 13th, 2023
- Jangtaesan and Jeonju Hanok Village Day Tour from Seoul | September 25th – November 25th, 2023
- Seoraksan Maple Leaves Tour (optional Cable Car) | October 2nd – 20th, 2023
- Alpaca World + Hongcheon Ginkgo Tree Forest | October 10th – 24th, 2023
- Seoraksan National Park with Cable Car Day Tour from Seoul | October 16th – November 3rd, 2023
- Seoraksan (Osaek Autumn Foliage) + Nami & Garden of Morning Calm OR Alpaca World | October 16th – November 3rd, 2023
- Seoul City Autumn Tour (Gamaksan, Eunpyeong Hanok Village, Haneul Park + Jingwansa) | October 16th – November 24th, 2023
- Classic Naejangsan National Park Tour (VIP Bus Available) | October 26th – November 15th, 2023
- Naejangsan Autumn Foliage Maples Leaves Tour | October 30th – November 5th, 2023
- Naejangsan National Park + Jeonju Hanok Village from Seoul | November 1st – 13th, 2023, Wednesdays and Fridays ONLY
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 best things to do near Dongdaemun Design Plaza. 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.
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.
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. Grab tickets here.
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.
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.
Visit during Chuseok in Seoul or in the morning and you’re guaranteed a comfortable and inspiring spot to catch up on your reading.
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.
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Chuseok in Seoul: Essential Info and FAQs
Are you staying in Seoul for Chuseok? What are your favourite things to do during Korean Thanksgiving?