>  Asia   >  Korea   >  Winter in Korea | 33 Incredible Places to Visit in Korea during Winter [UPDATED FOR 2023 / 2024]
snow and a temple in korea

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 winter days in Seoul.

winter in korea | gyeongbokgung palace

Winter in Korea is especially stunning at Gyeongbokgung Palace.

You definitely shouldn’t hibernate till the cherry blossoms bloom though, (no matter how tempting it is). There’s plenty of snowy weather activities and interesting places to visit in Korea during winter.

So, throw on your long padding coat, equip yourself with hot packs, and venture forth bravely into the frostiest of Korea’s seasons.

winter in south korea | sangsodong forest park daejeon

Gear up and explore Korea’s wonderful winter landscapes.

In this complete guide to Korea in winter, you’ll discover:

  • the climate and weather in Korea in December, January, and February
  • perfect activities to take advantage of in Korea in winter
  • the best festivals to attend across the country during winter in South Korea
  • the best foods to eat to fortify your body for the difficult climate
  • what to pack and wear to survive a Korean winter

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In this guide

What to Expect during Winter in Korea

In the Koreas winter months of December, January, and February, the colourful vistas and cobalt skies of autumn transform into snowy landscapes, barren trees, and freezing temperatures. Ski resorts open across the country, festivals light up the night sky, and juicy strawberries are in season.

winter in korea | hanok village in snow

Winter in Korea lasts for 3 months © Lee Hong-sang, Korea Tourism Organization

From mid-December onwards, it gets REALLY cold, at exactly the same time that masses of visitors descend upon Korea for Christmas vacations. If you’re planning to travel at this time, it’s important to book hotels and other accommodation in Seoul as early as possible.

Unique activities like riding the Tornado sled at Snowy Land sledding park, ice fishing at one of Gangwon-do’s snow festivals, or taking in the gorgeous sparkling lights at the Garden of Morning Calm, only take place during winter in Korea, so be sure to check those out.

winter in korea | inje ice fishing festival

Gangwon-do has a number of ice and snow festivals during winter in Korea.

When is winter in Korea?

Winter in South Korea lasts for approximately 3 months, spanning the months of December, January, and February. Typically, cold weather starts in late November and begins to taper off by the end of February.

winter in korea | yongpyong ski resort

Skiing and snowboarding are popular winter sports in Korea ⓒ Korea Tourism Organization

All of Korea experiences the chill of winter, but Gangwon-do Province in the NE corner is typically the coldest part of the country. That’s where you’ll find the most snowfall, the best ski resorts, and the typical wintry scenes you’re dreaming of.

Not surprisingly, as you head further south on the Peninsula, winter in Korea gets shorter and ever so slightly warmer.

winter in korea | hallasan in jeju

Count on snow at the top of Hallasan on Jeju Island © kangbch (Pixabay)

Winter Weather in Korea | December

December is the first and warmest month of winter in Korea, with average temperatures ranging from -3°C | 26°F to 4°C | 40°F.

winter in south korea | seoul lantern festival

The Lantern Festival is one of December’s biggest events © Live Studio, Korea Tourism Organization

The first few weeks of the week can feel reasonably comfortable during daylight hours, but you’ll need to reach for warm winter clothing the moment the sun goes down. The nights feel significantly colder than the thermometer reading would suggest.

The first snow of Korean winter usually happens this month, but doesn’t tend to stick around long – particularly in Seoul.

Winter Weather in Korea | January

January is the coldest month of winter in Korea, with average temperatures ranging from 1.5°C | 35°F to -6°C | 21°F. Nightfall comes to Korea early in January, with the latest sunset occurring around 6:00PM.

winter in korea | snowfall at yangyang

That time I was snowed in unexpectedly in Gangwon-do – yeah, that’s my stranded car in the distance.

If you’re planning a winter wonderland trip, hoping to see blankets of snow – this is the month to do it! Historically, January is the month with the most snowfall in Korea, with 7 snowfall days over the course of the month, accumulating about 11-cm of snow.

Winter Weather in Korea | February

February is the last month of Korean winter. It gets ever so slightly warmer with temperatures falling in the -3°C | 26°F to 5°C | 41°F range. There isn’t as much snowfall in February, but still enough for a quality day of skiing at resorts like Yongpyong and Alpensia.

winter in korea | yongpyong ski resort

Yongpyong and Alpensia Ski Resorts typically stay open into early March.

The days get a bit longer in February, with the sun setting around 6:30PM. The balmy temperatures and pretty flowers of Korea’s spring season are finally within sight.

How cold is Korea in winter REALLY?

In Seoul, average winter temperatures range from a low of -7°C | 19°F in January to a high of 5°C | 41°F in February. It’s colder in Gangwon-do, and warmer near Busan. And while those temperatures might not seem TOO cold from a strict degrees point of view, I must warn you that it feels a heck of a lot colder.

snow in seoul during winter in korea

Best to cover as much exposed skin as you can during winter in Korea

I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Yes, that’s the land of 6 month winters, colossal piles of snow and temperatures as low as -40°C | -40°F. Yet I found winter in Korea with its much milder temperatures to be insanely cold.

There’s a brutal wind that blows in from Siberia, and the cold just seeps into your bones. It’s totally unexplainable and painfully shocking. You definitely need to be prepared with appropriate winter gear.

Does it snow in South Korea?

It snows all over Korea in winter, but more in certain regions. If you’ve got your heart set on experiencing snow, head northeast for the best chances of catching it. Look to late December or January for a better chance to see snow in Korea.

winter in korea: snow in seoul

It definitely snows in Seoul, but it’s usually short-lived.

VIVA SNOW FESTIVAL  | Looking for something really special? This exclusive winter festival takes place just 3 times in 3 months, and includes transport, meals, accommodation, admission to attractions at Vivaldi Park, AND cultural activities. This is an intimate event capped at just 200 visitors, that’s well worth checking out. Check full details here.

Does it snow in Seoul?

If you’re staying in Seoul, your timing will have to be absolutely perfect to catch snow. Because snowfall is actually a pretty rare occurrence in Seoul. If you’re lucky, and happen to be here when it DOES snow, get outside as fast as possible to enjoy it. Because it melts just about as fast as it appears.

snow in seoul during winter in korea

Snowy scenes like this are few and far between in Seoul.

Where to see snow in Korea

You’re guaranteed to see snow at any of the ski resorts around Korea. And even if you don’t ski, many of them have wintry activities, like sledding to participate in.

sledding on frozen ice during winter in korea

Sledding is a popular activity for families in Korea during winter.

Another popular destination for seeing snow near Seoul, is Nami Island. They even have a snowman festival every winter in Korea, that you can check out!

It takes a long time to get to Nami Island by public transportation, so it’s worth looking into all-inclusive tours from Seoul to make it a super convenient day trip out of the city. I don’t know about you, but standing outside in the freezing cold, waiting for public transport isn’t really my idea of fun.

winter in korea | nami island winter sonata

You can get all Winter Sonata on Nami Island © .angels. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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bukchon hanok village in seoul

Winter in Korea | What to Wear

I can’t reiterate this enough. The winter months in Korea are freezing cold. If you live in a hot climate like Singapore or Thailand, you will feel like an icicle twice frozen. Guaranteed.

daegwallyeong sheep farm during winter in korea

Gangwon-do Province usually gets the most snowfall during winter in Korea.

You need to be extra prepared with super warm clothes, thermals, thick socks, a hat and gloves. There’s a rush on Uniqlo heattech products during winter in Korea for good reason.

Winter in Korea | Lighting Festivals

If bright, sparkling bulbs are your thing, you’re in luck. Because the cold season guarantees a country illuminated with twinkling Christmas lights from top to bottom. Here’s the best places to see them during winter in Korea.

south korea in winter | myeongdong

Korea is covered in sparkling lights during winter.

Shinsegae Magical Winter Fantasy | 신세계 크리스마스

Festival dates: November 9th, 2023 – January 31st, 2024

Address: Shinsegae Department Store Main Branch, 63 Sogong-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul | 신세계백화점 본점

Christmas has come early to the Shinsegae Department’s Store’s main branch in Myeongdong. This stunning light display is projected onto the exterior wall of the building, and it’s something that everyone looks forward to every winter in Korea.

Do not underestimate the crowds on the sidewalk – especially on weekend evenings. The show runs in a rotating loop from 5:30 – 10:00PM.

The Garden of Morning Calm | 아침고요수목원 오색별빛정원전

Festival dates: December 1st, 2023 – March 17th, 2024

Address: 432, Sumogwon-ro, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do | 경기도 가평군 상면 수목원로 432

The Garden of Morning Calm is one of the best places to see a lighting festival during winter in Korea. 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.

During winter in Korea, the Garden of Morning Calm has extended evening hours, so visitors can enjoy the spectacle after dark. The lights come on at sunset, and the Garden stays open until 9PM on weekdays, and 11PM on Saturdays.

ALPACA WORLD + THE GARDEN OF MORNING CALM LIGHTING FESTIVAL  |  Pet fluffy alpacas and see the Garden of Morning Calm’s stunning Starlight Festival on this day tour designed with plenty of time to explore. Check full details and availability here.

Haeundae Light Festival | 해운대 빛축제

Festival dates: December 2nd, 2023 – January 31st, 2024

Address: Haeundae Beach, U-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan |해운대해수욕장, 해운대광장, 해운대시장, 온천길 일원

While Haeundae Beach in Busan is known more for sand, sun, and surf, every winter in Korea, it gets a brilliant makeover.

korea in january | haeundae light festival busan

Lights, lights, lights! ⓒ Kim Jiho, Korea Tourism Organization

This unique lighting festival adorns the road from the beach, up to Haeundae Market and Hot Spring Road in a long line of sparking lights. Special activities include a Carolling Competition, 100 Santa Ceremony, and Wishing Tree Festival.

VISIT BUSAN PASS  |  With free admission to 31 top attractions + discounted admission to 77 more, the Visit Busan Pass is an excellent way to see the city. Use it in combo with with Busan City Tour Bus for the ultimate affordable DIY trip. Check full details here.

Seoul Lantern Festival | 서울빛초롱축제

Festival dates: December 15th, 2023 – January 21st, 2024, 6 – 10PM

Address: Gwanghwamun Square | 172, Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul | 서울특별시 종로구 세종대로 172

The annual Seoul Lantern Festival will light up Gwanghwamun Square, with gorgeous light installations, a market, massive Christmas tree, and fun photo zones.

winter in korea | seoul lantern festival

The Seoul Lantern Festival takes place at Gwanghwamun Square.

This is definitely a can’t miss event if you’re visiting South Korea in winter. Best of all, it’s free! Get full details here.

Seoul Winta Festival | 서울윈터페스타

Festival Dates: December 15th, 2023 – January 31st, 2024

Address: Various locations including DDP, Sejongdaero, Gwanghwamun Square, Cheonggyecheon, Seoul Square and more

This is a brand new festival that will run for the first time this winter in Seoul. Taking place at 7 main attractions across the city, this festival promises to be huge.

There are some incredible events planned that will light up the city during the festive season, including a 12m-diametre midnight sun, several light festivals. There aren’t a ton of details out about this Winta yes, so keep your eyes peeled for more details.

Herb Island Light Festival | 허브아일랜드 불빛동화축제

Festival Dates: November 1st, 2023 – March 31st, 2024

Address: 35, Cheongsin-ro 947beon-gil, Pocheon-si, Gyeonggi-do | 경기도 포천시 신북면 청신로947번길 35

Celebrate winter in Korea at Herb Island in Pocheon, with a huge lighting festival. If seeing snow is high on your agenda, Pocheon is one of the regions in Korea that’s known for getting quite a bit of it. It’s very cold though, so be sure to bundle up if you plan to visit.

winter in korea | herb island lighting festival

Pocheon has snow AND sparkling lights.

Get there independently by taking Seoul Subway Line 1 to Soyosan Station and then transferring to bus #57, bound for Sinbuk Oncheon. If you prefer your transport handled for you, book a day tour that includes stops at Pocheon Art Valley, a Strawberry Farm, and the Herb Island Lighting Festival.

Pinocchio & Little Prince Lighting Festival of Petite France | 피노키오 & 어린왕자 별빛축제

Festival dates: TBA for 2023 / 2024, but usually December to mid-March

Address: 1063, Hoban-ro, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do | 경기도 가평군 청평면 호반로 1063

If you want a little taste of Christmas in Europe, Petite France is definitely the place to be during winter in Korea. This year, they’re holding a Starlight Festival with Pinocchio and Da Vinci Village.

petite france in winter

Would you believe this “European Village” is in Korea??

Highlights will include a Starlight Photo Zone, and fairy tale lights imported directly from Europe that will be strung throughout the village.

TIP  |  Traveling with a large group? It might be more affordable and convenient to book a private car to take you where you want to go, with no limitations. Check prices to reserve a chartered car for up to 10 people.

Boseong Green Tea Plantation Light Festival | 보성차밭 빛축제

Festival dates: TBA for 2024, but usually starts in late November

Address: 763-65, Nokcha-ro, Boseong-gun, Jeollanam-do | 전라남도 보성군 보성읍 녹차로 763-65

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 and covering the entire grounds.

christmas in korea at boseong lighting festival durig winter in korea

Boseong Green Tea Plantation has a lighting festival during winter in Korea.

If you plan on visiting this festival, be sure to take extra warm clothing. I can tell you from personal experience, that it’s incredibly cold in Boseong. Much colder than in Seoul.

Department Stores

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 Korea in winter. Every year, their Christmas displays just seem to get more and more extravagant.

There’s always a huge Christmas Tree set up outside the Hyundai Department store near Starfield Coex Mall. And you can count on some type of festive holiday installation inside the Starfield Library, if prior years are any indication.

The Starfield Library has a festive facelift for winter in Korea

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.

Miracle Winter at Lotte World Adventure | 롯데월드

Festival Dates: November 25th, 2023 – February 25th, 2024

Address: 240, Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul | 서울특별시 송파구 올림픽로 240

Lotte World Adventure is a popular theme park in the middle of Seoul. With both indoor and outdoor spaces, it’s the perfect place to visit in Korea in winter with kids, if you need somewhere to escape the cold.

winter in korea | lotte world

Miracle Winter at Lotte World promises to be full of sparkle.

You can enjoy a special Christmas parade and performance, white winter village, special photo zones, and a ton of thrilling rides and attractions.

Full festival details on their website (Korean only).

DISCOUNTED LOTTE WORLD PASSES  |  Foreign passport holders can get Lotte World passes at a discounted price in advance. Book a combo ticket with the Lotte World Aquarium, or a Magic Pass to skip long lines at the rides of your choice. Check full details here.

Snowman World at Everland | 에버랜드

FESTIVAL DATES: TBA for winter 2024, but December 1st, 2022 – March 1st, 2023 last year

Address: 199, Everland-ro, Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do | 경기도 용인시 처인구 포곡읍 에버랜드로 199 (포곡읍)

Everland is one of the biggest and best theme parks in Korea. It’s full of heart stopping rides and 5 amazing themed zones. It even has one of the steepest wooden roller coasters in the world. Ride it if you dare.

Everland pulls out all the stops during winter in Korea. Photo by phploveme@Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

During Korea’s winter season, Everland really pulls out all the stops. There’s a towering Christmas tree, several special parades, a Magic Garden and brilliant fireworks to enjoy. Everland has over 40 rides and attractions to explore, so you could easily spend an entire day and night there, without seeing it all.

EVERLAND SHUTTLE BUS and DAY TRIP PACKAGES  |  It’s possible to use public transit to get to Everland by heading to Jeondae∙Everland Station, Exit 4, then walking for a few minutes to the shuttle bus station. A much better option though, especially during the cold winter in Korea, is to book either a round-trip shuttle bus to Everland, or all-inclusive package.

Limited Edition Winter Tours in Korea

Sure, winter in Korea might feel downright frosty, but there’s still plenty of fun things to do to help you forget the cold. Don’t miss these special events and activities that are only available for 2 or 3 months of the year.

winter in korea | tornado sled at snowy land vivaldi park

The Tornado sled at Snowy Land is a total blast!

winter in korea | garden of morning calm

These gorgeous lighting festivals only take place during winter in Korea.

Best Winter Festivals in South Korea

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 winter in Korea, for residents and travellers alike.

winter in korea | sanjeong lake sledding festival

There are so many fun festivals (like the Sanjeong Lake Sledding Festival) to go to during winter in Korea,

36th Busan Polar Bear Swimming Festival | 북극곰 수영대회

Festival dates: December 15th – 16th, 2023

Address: 47, Dalmaji-gil 62beon-gil, Haeundae-gu, Busan

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 36th Polar Bear Swim.

winter in korea | busan polar bear swim

You can become a crazy polar bear too! © Busan Metropolitan city (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Considered one of the best festivals to participate in for winter in Korea, it costs 30,000KRW, and it looks like you get some really cute souvenirs out of it.

Registration is open from November 8th – 24th, 2023. Get more details here.

Pyeongchang Trout Festival | 평창송어축제

Festival Dates: December 22nd, 2023 – January 28th, 2024

Address: 3562, Gyeonggang-ro, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do | 강원도 평창군 진부면 경강로 3562

If you can’t make it to Hwacheon’s famous ice fishing festival, don’t stress – there are several different places to visit during South Korean winter, for ice fishing. Former winter Olympics site, Pyeongchang in Gangwon-do also has a popular trout and ice fishing festival where you can spend some time on the ice.

TIP  |  It’s cold on the ice! Stop by any convenience store, pharmacy, or Daiso and buy hot packs to keep your hands warm throughout the day.

Sanjeongho Lake Sledding Festival | 포천 산정호수 썰매축제

FESTIVAL DATES: December 30th, 2023 – February 9th, 2024

Address: 104, Sanjeongho Lake-ro 411beon-gil, Yeongbuk-myeon, Pocheon-si, Gyeonggi-do | 경기도 포천시 영북면 산정호수로411번길 104 

I have to say that the Sanjeong Lake Sledding Festival is probably one of my all-time favourite winter festivals in Korea. We easily spent hours and hours on top of that frozen lake, with breaks for fresh odeng and hot chocolate to warm up.

winter in korea | sanjeong lake sledding festival

The cutest festival happening during winter in Korea.

With super-cute ducky sleds, penguin bicycles, a nearby amusement park, and enough snow to build a massive snowman, this is the perfect festival for families looking for a wonderful winter day out.

Be sure to gear up with parka, snow pants, warm gloves, hats, and boots to fully enjoy your time, without feeling too cold. Check out my full guide to visiting the Sanjeong Lake Sledding Festival for all the details.

ULTIMATE WINTER DAY IN POCHEON |  Want to feel some real snowy, winter in Korea vibes? Then Pocheon is the place to go! This excellent day tour takes you to the top of frozen Sanjeong Lake AND the Herb Island Lighting Festival. Check full details here.

Chilgapsan Ice Fountain Festival | 칠갑산얼음분수축제

Festival dates: January 1st  – February 18th, 2024

Address: 175-11, Cheonjangho-gil, Cheongyang-gun, Chungcheongnam-do | 충청남도 청양군 정산면 천장호길 175-11

Every winter in Korea, Alps Village near Cheongyang holds an ice fountain festival with fantastical sculptures made out of ice. Aside from the huge ice sculptures, there’s also snow sledding, ice fishing, bobsleigh, ice sledding, a zip line, and more.

Winter in Korea | Chilgapsan Ice Fountain Festival at Alps Village

You can channel your inner Elsa at the Alps Village Chilgapsan Ice Fountain Festival

For ideal conditions, I recommend visiting when it’s really cold out, so that all the ice and snow sculptures are completely intact. Bundle up!

ICE FOUNTAIN FESTIVAL OR EOBI ICE VALLEY |  Need to see a wall of ice? Choose between the Cheongyang Ice Fountain Festival or head to Eobi Ice Valley, along with Nami Island, and the Garden of Morning Calm Lighting Festival on one of these convenient day tours. Check full details and availability here.

Edelweiss Swiss Village | 에델바이스 테마파크

Address: 226-57 Darakjae-ro, Seorak-myeon, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do | 경기도 가평군 설악면 이천리 304

There isn’t an actual festival at Edelweiss Swiss Village, but it’s definitely an excellent place to feel some winter in Korea vibes. Nestled in the gorgeous mountains of Gapyeong, you can hear yodelling, eat Swiss fondue, and roast marshmallows over an open fire!

winter in korea | yodelling performance at edelweiss swiss theme park in korea

This yodeling performance is a definite highlight!

The yodeling performance starts at 2, and includes cowbells, singing and more. Don’t miss it!

Sangso-dong Forest Park | 상소동 산림욕장

Address: San 1-1, Sangso-dong, Dong-gu, Daejeon | 대전 동구 상소동 산 1-1

Sangso-dong Forest Park is another place to visit in cold weather, that doesn’t have exact festival dates. Come December however, this totally FREE park in Daejeon transforms into an icy wonderland, with amazing ice towers, and snowy landscapes.

Trust me – this place is an Instagram dream come true.

winter in korea | sangso-dong forest park

An incredible wall of ice at Sangso-dong Forest Park in Daejeon.

Aside from the fantastic ice sculptures, there are unique stone pagodas throughout Sangso-dong Forest Park that are incredibly photogenic. Add a stone and make a wish!

Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival | 얼음나라 화천산천어축제

Festival dates: January 6th – 28th, 2024

Address: 137, Sancheoneo-gil, Hwacheon-gun, Gangwon-do | 강원도 화천군 화천읍 산천어길 137

Each year, Hwacheon is the first place to freeze over in Korea in winter, 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.

ice fishing winter in korea

Ice fishing scenes like this are common during winter in Korea

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.

HWACHEON ICE FISHING FESTIVAL  | This is probably the biggest and most popular ice fishing festival happening during winter in Korea, but it’s definitely challenging to get to using public transit. Here are a few tour options to consider:

Inje Ice Fishing Festival | 인제빙어축제

Festival Dates: January 21st – 29th, 2024 (TBC)

Address: 555-2 beon-ji, Bupyeong-ri, Inje-gun, Gangwon-do | 강원도 인제군 남면 부평리 555-2번지

We checked out the Inje Ice Fishing Festival a few years back, and had a total blast. The tiny bingeoho fish is the main catch there. For a tasty treat, be sure to try it twiggim (battered and deep fried) style at one of the vendors near the ice field.

The Inje Ice Fishing Festival is a great family activity during winter in Korea

There’s a ton to do at the Inje Ice Fishing Festival, besides catching fish though – including a snow village, sledding, food street, and performances. Check their website for full details (Korean only).

WONDAE-RI BIRCH FOREST |  Inje is home to a wondrous birch forest with 70,000 white-barked trees. It’s popular with locals, but virtually unvisited by travellers because it’s so difficult to get to – but no longer. This tour takes you to its snowy landscapes easily. Check full details here.

Daegwallyeong Snow Festival | 대관령 눈꽃축제

Festival dates: TBA for 2024, but January 20th – 29th in 2023

Address:135-5, Daegwallyeong-ro, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do | 강원도 평창군 대관령면 대관령로 135-5 강원도 평창군 대관령면 대관령로 135-5

With rolling hills 700-m above sea level, the Daegwallyeong is known as the “Asian Alps.” The popular Daegwallyeong Snowflake Festival is in its 28th year and features a winter wonderland of snowflakes and ice.

winter in korea | daegwallyeong snowflake festival

Snow sculptures at the Daegwallyeong Snowflake Festival © Kim Jiho, Korea Tourism Organization

Check their website for more details (Korean only).

Taebaeksan Snow Festival | 태백산 눈축제

Festival dates: TBA for 2024, but January 27th – 31st in 2023

Address: 168, Cheonjedan-gil, Taebaek-si, Gangwon-do | 강원도 태백시 천제단길 162 (소도동)

After 3 long years, the Taebaeksan Snow 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. Learn more on their website.

Winter in Korea | Sports and Activities

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 something new!

winter in korea | welli hilli ski resort

There are winter sports galore in Korea ⓒ Lee Beomsu, Korea Tourism Organization

Skiing and Snowboarding

Many people don’t realize that Korea is absolutely covered in mountains. Once snow blankets the ground in Gangwon-do Province, snowboarding and skiing become super popular activities during winter in Korea.

winter in korea | yongpyong resort

Skiing is one of Korea’s best winter activities © Lee Beomsu, Korea Tourism Organization

The best thing is that many of these ski resorts are super accessible from Seoul, so it’s easy to visit on a day or overnight trip.

If you don’t know how to ski, not to worry. You can sign up for lessons easily at any of the ski resorts in Korea. You can also rent equipment and any gear you need at the same time.

My daughter first learned to ski at Yongpyong Resort, and steadily progressed in skill and confidence over the years. All her instruction has been in english, all gear was rented, and she’s absolutely adored all her teachers. Check out a video of her first day of ski instruction here.

SKI RESORTS NEAR SEOUL  | If you want to ski during winter in Korea, there are a ton of convenient ski and snowboard packages to various resorts around the country. Most include transport, accommodation, lift passes, gear and clothing rental, and even lessons!

Snow Sledding

If you don’t ski or snowboard, you can still visit a ski resort or snow park for sledding. There are sledding hills located throughout Korea, but one of the most popular is Snowyland at Vivaldi Ski Park.

snowyland rafting sled hill at vivaldi park

Never sledded in a boat? You’re in for a treat.

With several different sledding hills for ages 36 months and up, this is a great winter activity for families, friends and anyone else who wants to spend the day in the snow.

Ice climbing

There are a plethora of options for sledding, snowboarding and skiing in the country, 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.

Korea has lots of places to ice climb in winter ⓒ Jeong In-jeong, Korea Tourism Organization

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.

Ice Skating

In Seoul, 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).

starfield coex mall ice rink

There are ice skating rinks all over Seoul. This one is at Starfield Coex Mall.

Here’s a few popular ice rinks in the city to check out:

  • Seoul Plaza Ice Rink: admission fee + skate rental for just 1000 won
  • Lotte World Indoor Skating Rink: admission + skate rental for 13,000 won (discounted tix here)
  • Olympic Park Ice Rink: admission + skate rental for 3,000 won

Winter in Korea | Rejuvenation

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 in Korea.

snow and a temple in korea

Oh winter in Korea – why you gotta be so pretty, and so brutal at the same time?

Get 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.

sulwhasoo flagship store

The Sulwhasoo Balance Spa at the flagship store in Gangnam is GORGE.

If you’re looking for customised skincare analysis, and facial treatments in Seoul that are guaranteed to work, be sure to check out the foreigner-friendly Individuel Geneve Clinic in Gangnam. I recently had a few treatments there and couldn’t be happier with the results.

FACIALS IN SEOUL  |  If you’re into skincare, you cannot leave the country without indulging in a Korean facial. Avoid language barriers and get exactly what you want by booking in advance. Choose from tailored spa packages ranging from 60 -180 minutes at Whoo Spa in Myeongdong or try a one-of-a-kind traditional experience at Yeo Yong Guk Spa.

Visit a Jjimjilbang or Mogyoktang

A weekly visit to the humble neighbourhood mogyoktang or bathhouse 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.

traditional korean kiln sauna at a jjimjilbang

A traditional Korean sauna you’d find at a jjimjilbang.

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.

If you’re looking for something really special, the newest jjimjilbang on the block is Cimer at Paradise City. Expats and Seoulites are raving about the incredible saunas and photo-friendly scenes at this modern jjimjilbang near Incheon Airport. It’s sure to heal your aching winter bones.

winter in korea | aquafield jjimjilbang - himalayan salt room

Soothe your aching bones in the Himalayan Salt Crystal Room at Aquafield Spa.

If you’re in Seoul, try out Aquafield Spa, and Spa Land Centum City if you’re in Busan. Both are foreigner-friendly jjimjilbangs that are worth a visit.

Relax in a Korean Oncheon

If your idea of winter in Korea relaxation is soaking in a steaming pool in the great outdoors, head to one of Korea’s oncheon or hot springs. The water in these springs is usually full of body soothing minerals, from deep below the surface of the earth.

winter in south korea | icheon termeden

Soaking in a mineral-rich pool sounds about right.

Some popular oncheon around the country include:

  • Onyang Hot Springs | 온양온천지구: Onyang Hot Springs was founded over 1,300 year ago, and is the oldest hot spring in Korea. Its alkaline water has a temperature around  57℃, and is known to be helpful for treating many diseases, including arthritis, skin problems, liver disease, and high blood pressure. There are over 120 hotels and motels in this area, but the Onyang Hot Spring Hotel is the original.
  • Hurshimchung Grand Spa in Busan is said to be the largest spa in Asia. Its waters have high levels of magnesium, which is great for smooth skin. There are also a number of different pools of varying temperatures, as well as 40! seasonal baths.
  • Termeden Spa in Icheon is a 30,000 square metre German-style spa resort located about 70-km south of Seoul. It features a ton of different outdoor pools, hot springs, jjimjilbang style saunas, Korean-style bathhouse, and much more. Be sure to find the jets shooting strong sprays of water for a revitalizing underwater massage.
winter in korea | termeden spa icheon

Termeden Spa has underwater jets for massage.

Winter in Korea | Places 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 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. It also happens to be the perfect family-friendly activity.

girl in strawberry greenhouse in korea

Korea has strawberry seasons in both winter and spring.

We visited the 대가농원 farm in Namyangju, and ate a ton of delicious strawberries, but there are tons of greenhouses all over the country. It’s worth booking an all-inclusive tour that includes transport, because most of these farms are not exactly in public transit friendly locations. Here’s a few options to check out.

Spend the day at the Aquarium

Don’t turn into a penguin yourself! Head into one of Seoul’s aquariums to admire them instead. There are several aquariums to choose from in Seoul, but the Lotte World Aquarium in Jamsil (discounted tix), and the Coex Mall Aquarium (discounted tix) are 2 of the most popular.

winter in korea | lotte world aquarium

It’s warm and cozy inside Lotte World Aquarium.

I’ve personally spent a ton of time at Lotte World Aquarium, and definitely recommend it – especially if you have children. However, the Aquarium at Starfield Coex Mall is also excellent, with the added bonus of being in the same mall as the Starfield Library.

See an indoor performance

Seeing an indoor performance is undoubtedly one of the best ways to escape the cold during winter in Korea. Whether it’s the longest running show in Korea, or a traditional gugak concert, you’re sure to enjoy your time.

winter in korea | national gugak centre

See a traditional folk arts performance © National Gugak Center, Korea Tourism Organization

Here are some popular options:

  • Nanta: an energetic show filled with acrobatics, comedy, and percussion using kitchen utensils! It’s non-verbal, so anyone can enjoy this show.
  • The Painters: combines live action drawing with 3D visual effects, dance performances, and comedy. It’s been one of the top 5 most popular attractions in Korea for the last 5 years running.
  • Saturday Gugak Performance: a traditional folk arts performance at the National Gugak Centre is a great way to learn about Korean culture, while staying warm. It’s incredibly affordable too!

Head to the top of Korea’s Tallest Building

For incredible views of Seoul as far as the eye can see, there’s no other place to go than Lotte World Tower and the Seoul Sky Observatory. This gorgeous 123 story tower is Korea’s tallest building and an iconic landmark of the city.

lotte world tower and seoul sky observatory korea

Lotte World Tower is Korea’s tallest building.

LOTTE WORLD TOWER DISCOUNTED TICKETS  |  Lotte World Tower is the tallest building in Korea, with epic views of Seoul from the top. A visit to the Seoul Sky Observatory on floors 117 – 123 is well worth your time, especially with discounted tickets. Check full details here.

Winter in Korea | Watch a sunrise

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.

winter in korea sunrise

Watching the first sunrise of the year is a popular activity for New Years Eve

Yeosu Hyangiram Sunrise Festival | 여수향일암일출제

Hyangiram Hermitage in Yeosu is one of my favourite places to visit during autumn in Korea, but it’s probably just as worthy for New Year’s Eve.

winter in korea | hyangiram hermitage yeosu

You can watch both sunset and sunrise from the stunning Hyangiram Hermitage in Yeosu.

Hyangiram actually means “hermitage facing the sun,” and its annual Sunrise Festival celebrates that fact. This is an awe-inspiring place to take in the first sunrise of a new year, as it peeks over the horizon and lights up the sea.

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.

winter in korea | homigot sunrise festival

The sunrise at Homigot near Pohang is stunning.

Spending New Year’s Eve in Seoul? Learn about all the best parties, events and fireworks in this complete guide to celebrating the New Year in Seoul.

Winter in Korea | Give Back

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.

2023 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.

Every winter, the Korean Unwed Mothers Foundation (KUMFA) holiday gift drive allows you to sponsor a family by buying 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

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 in Korea.

A lot of homeless congregate around Seoul Station

There are organizations that meet up on weekends to provide food to the homeless congregated around Seoul Station, which you can find with a quick online search. However, you might find more value doing this independently, with ALL of your money being used to buy food and support the homeless – rather than collected as “administrative fees.”

Korea’s Cardboard Halmonis (Grannies)

If you walk the streets of any Korean city, you’ll 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 the streets in the bitter cold and wind of winter in Korea. 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.

winter in korea

Winter in Korea can be bitterly cold. Help out if you can!

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, but persist, and she will accept, because she really truly needs it.

Best Foods to Eat during Winter in Korea

No big surprise that some of the best Korean dishes for winter are designed to warm you up from inside out. Here are the best meals to chase down in December, January, and February.

Dolsot Bibimbap | 돌솥 비빔밥

Dolsot bibimbap takes your basic mixed rice bowl, and elevates it into a winter in Korea classic. The bibimbap is served in a hot stone bowl that keeps all the ingredients toasty warm. The best part is the scorched rice stuck to the sides of that hot bowl. Yum!

winter in korea foods | dotsot bibimbap

Scorched, crispy rice is such a satisfying winter treat © Sous Chef (CC BY 2.0)

Tteokguk | 떡국

Come January 1st, nearly every Korean household is enjoying a bowl of hearty and satisfying tteokguk, or rice cake soup. Consisting of a beef-based broth (usually), and sliced garaetteok, it’s customary to eat this on New Year’s Day for good luck. Incidentally, you also age a year from eating it…. apparently.

winter in korea | tteokguk rice cake soup

Nothing like a hearty bowl of tteokguk to start a new year © Jeon Han, (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Kimchi Jjigae | 김치 찌개

Kimchi jjigae or Korean kimchi stew is one of my personal comfort foods. It will forever remind me of my mom’s kitchen on cold winter days, growing up in Canada. Made with ripe kimchi and pork belly, in its most classic version, this spicy, fortifying and truly delicious stew is sure to keep the sub-zero temps of winter in Korea at bay.

winter in korea foods | kimchi jjigae

Spicy, satisfying kimchi jjigae © Dgram, Korea Tourism Organization

Hotteok | 호떡

Sweet, cinnamon-y, doughy pancakes pan-fried to crisp, golden perfection. There’s a reason why hotteok is one of the most popular street foods to grab during winter in Korea. This treat warms you from inside-out.

winter in korea foods | hotteok

Hotteok is one of Korea’s most popular street foods © Alexbundo, Korea Tourism Organization

Contrary to popular belief, hotteok isn’t just a winter street food. You can find it year round, and it’s always delicious… though maybe just a little bit more delicious in cold weather.

Roasted Chestnuts | 군밤 (Gun Bam)

The second cold weather hits Korea, roasted chestnut vendors make their appearance. Not only are Korean chestnuts incredibly flavourful, they’re usually fully peeled for you to enjoy. No annoying shells to deal with.

winter in korea foods | gun bam roasted chestnuts

Roasted chestnuts make their appearance during winter in Korea © Kim Jiho, Korea Tourism Organization

Added bonus: Standing next to the fire used to roast chestnuts on the street.

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Winter in South Korea: Essential Info and FAQs

What months are winter in Korea? The winter months in Korea are December, January, and, February.
What month is the coldest during winter in Korea? January is typically the coldest month, with an average mean temperature of -2.4 °C | 27 °F. With the wind chill, it can feel much colder than that.
Does it snow a lot in Seoul? There's not actually that much snowfall in Seoul, but we definitely get a few dumps of snow every winter. It doesn't tend to stick around long though. Gangwon-do to the northeast of Seoul experiences the most snow in the country.
What do Koreans do during winter? Skiing, snowboarding, sledding are the most popular winter sports. People also hike, ice climb, and go ice skating. There are a ton of winter light festivals around the country to attend to.
How do Koreans stay warm in winter? A long padding jacket, UNIQLO heattech products, and hot packs are all part of a Koreans winter arsenal. The icy winds are often the coldest element of winter in Korea, so a hat or earmuffs are essential.

Are there any other worthwhile activities or great places to visit in Korea during winter that I missed? Share your tips below.

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