Spring in Korea | The Best Festivals, Food & Things to Do
Spring in Korea is absolutely one of the most magical times to visit the ROK. The streets are lined with cotton candy pink, spring blooms burst with colour, temperatures are comfortable, and the mood is one of buoyant optimism.
In this complete guide to visiting Korea in spring, you’ll discover:
- the climate and weather from March to May
- which public holidays or special events happen in spring
- the best festivals to attend across the country
- which food is freshest to eat
Jump to what you want.
- 1 What to expect during Spring in Korea
- 2 When is Spring in Korea | Spring Weather
- 3 Planning a trip to Korea?
- 4 Public holidays during Spring in Korea 2021
- 5 Best Festivals to Attend during Spring in Korea
- 5.1 March | Fire & Flower Festivals in Korean Spring
- 5.2 April | Cherry Blossom Festivals in Korea in Spring
- 5.3 May | Festivals during Spring in Korea
- 6 Best foods to eat during Spring in Korea
What to expect during Spring in Korea
In Korea in spring, the crazy cold climate of winter beats a steady retreat, and fresh shoots begin to colour the country with the most delicate of greens. The tea plantations around Boseong are ready for harvest, the sea magically parts in Jindo, and flowers burst with colour. It really is a lovely time of year to explore Korea.
The spring months of March to May are one of Korea’s top travel seasons for good reason. From mid-March, temperatures start to improve across the country, the sun starts to shine, and the greys of winter become a distant memory.
Within these months, April is the tourism peak. Travellers from all over the world flock to Seoul for a chance to gawk at cherry blossoms, and go to various spring flower festivals.
If you’re planning your travels to Korea for the first 2 weeks of April, it’s wise to book accommodation and any spring tours far, far in advance, since the most popular places get booked up right away during this peak tourism season.
When is Spring in Korea | Spring Weather
Spring in Korea starts in March and ends in May. There’s a rapid rise in temperature from the deep freeze of winter to the balmy climates we enjoy over the course of 3 months, but also fine dust pollution to contend with.
Here’s what to expect in each month.
Weather in Korea in March
March is still a relatively cool, dry month in Korea. Temperatures range from 1 – 10°C on average, and get progressively warmer as the month continues. It’s warmer in the south of the country, and gets cooler the further north you go. It’s still possible to find places to ski and snowboard at during this month.
You’ll want to keep multiple layers on hand – especially for evenings, when it can still feel downright cold.
Weather in Korea in April
The weather in April has a little bit of everything. The transition from winter to spring continues with daytime temperatures getting increasingly comfortable. In April, average daily temperatures in Korea range from 7 to 18°C across the country.
Towards the end of the month, there can even be days that reach into the low 20s. There’s little humidity, but you can expect some rainfall. Keep in mind that it can still get cold in the evenings, with temperatures falling as low as 5°C, so bundle up!
Weather in Korea in May
The warming trend of spring continues in Korea during May, with day time temperatures reaching as high as the mid-20s by the end of the month. Some would say this is one of the best times to visit Korea climate-wise, with ideal temperatures, little humidity, and sunny days.
Fine dust pollution in Korea in spring
Unfortunately, fine dust pollution is at its worst in Korea during spring. Called hwangsa in Korea, this yellow dust blows in from the Gobi Desert, picks up pollution along the way, and sits squarely on top of Korea due to wind currents.
You’ll want to be prepared with fine dust pollution masks during this time. Fortunately, you don’t need to buy these in advance. They’re easy to purchase in pharmacies, groceries, and convenience stores for just a few thousand won or less. For the most protection, look out for masks labeled KF94. These filter out 94% of pollutants.
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Public holidays during Spring in Korea 2021
There are 3 major national public holidays, and several observances in Korea, during the spring of 2021.
The holidays you need to concern yourself with as a tourist, are Independence Movement Day on March 1st, Children’s Day on May 5th, and Buddha’s Birthday on Wednesday, May 19th. These holidays are days off for all Koreans, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have trouble finding things to do.
Typically (like when there isn’t a pandemic), all tourist sites and restaurants will be open to the public, and there’ll be a ton of special events planned… especially for Buddha’s Birthday.
TIP | Celebrate Buddha’s birthday and take a break from busy city life, with a Templestay. You’ll explore Seon Meditation, the 108 prostrations, and try delicious Buddhist temple cuisine. There are many gorgeous temples to choose from, in or near Seoul. Here’s some popular ones to check out:
Best Festivals to Attend during Spring in Korea
From ice fishing, to music, to gastronomic, there’s always a festival happening somewhere in the country. And while cherry blossom festivals are the undeniable highlight of visiting Korea in April, there are plenty of other festivals to amuse yourself at during spring, if pinkness isn’t your thing.
IMPORTANT! Not all events and festivals are being held this year, but it’s still possible to visit cherry blossom locations and other event sites. QR Code check-in, masking, and social distancing are standard behaviours to follow wherever you happen to go in Korea this year. Stay safe and be sure to confirm before you travel anywhere.
March | Fire & Flower Festivals in Korean Spring
In March, everyone in the country is ready to celebrate the beauty of the colourful spring flowers that burst forth after a gloomy winter. Here’s a few major festivals to check out.
Gwangyang Maehwa Plum Blossom Festival | 광양매화축제
It’s easy to mistake plum blossoms for cherry blossoms, but plum blossoms (or maehwa) bloom almost a full month earlier than their more famous cousins. You can recognize them because they’re uniformly round on each petal (cherry blossoms have a small split on the end of each petal).
The Gwangyang Plum Blossom festival is definitely the place to check out these gorgeous blooms. You’ll find nearly 200,000 square metres of plum trees near the Seomjin River, in an area known as Maehwa Village (매화마을).
At the festival – which takes place every March, you can try maesil (plum) ice cream, alcohol, and more.
TIP | We visited Gwangyang last year, and even though the festival was cancelled (due to social distancing measures), the Maehwa Village was still open for exploration. It is however, extremely difficult and time-consuming to get there by public transport, so your best option is definitely to drive yourself (like we did), or join a tour that includes round-trip transport. Book a convenient tour to the Gwangyang Maehwa Village and Jeonju Hanok Village here.
Jeju Fire Festival | 제주들불축제 | March 8th – 14th, 2021
This dramatic festival sees the night sky lit with red flames and fireworks, when huge bonfire structures called daljip (moon houses) are set aflame. It was believed that these fires would bring good fortune, protection from evil and a bountiful harvest. The location of the event is the Saebyeoloreum Volcanic Cone.
In regular years, there are food trucks, torch shows, and performances, but in 2021, this festival is being held on a limited drive-through reservation basis only. All face-to-face activities are cancelled, and cars are limited to 400 vehicles. Get more info and make a reservation here.
Everland Tulip Festival | 에버랜드 튤립가든
Starting in mid-March and continuing throughout the month of April, Everland is the place to be if you want to see tulips during spring in Korea. At this festival, you can gawk at 1.2 million tulips, from 100 different strains.
When you’re done admiring the colourful bulbs, try riding the T-Express – South Korea’s first wooden rollercoaster, see the giant pandas at Panda World, or visit one of 5 themed zones in the park.
TIP | Foreign passport holders can get huge discounts on 1 day attraction passes to Everland by booking in advance online. Score discounted tickets (up to 46% off) to Everland Theme Park by booking in advance here (with QR code direct entry) .
April | Cherry Blossom Festivals in Korea in Spring
Cherry blossom festivals cover Korea from top to bottom in April. The biggest and most famous of these is the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival, but there’s plenty of others.
In Seoul, these include (but are not limited to):
- Yeongdeungpo Yeouido Spring Flower Festival
- Seokchon Lake Cherry Blossom Festival
- Yangjaecheon Cherry Blossom Festival
- Seoul Grand Park Cherry Blossom Festival
In other parts of Korea:
- Cherry Blossom Marathon and Festival in Gyeongju
- Jeju Cherry Blossom Festival
- Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival
- Gyeongpo Cherry Blossom Festival
- Cheongpung Lake Cherry Blossom Festival
Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival | 진해군항제
Many travellers visit Korea in April, with the sole intention of attending the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival. Typically, this festival takes place in the first 10 days of April. However, since 2021 isn’t a typical year, there’s no guarantee that there will actually BE a festival. That said, there’s nothing stopping you from heading down to Jinhae to check out the blooms sans festival. Be sure to mask up!
If you’re heading there on a day trip from Seoul, I recommend booking a tour that includes round-trip transport (54,000 won) and a guide as soon as possible. These tours cost literally the exact same amount as doing the whole trip independently (54,000 won just for transport), but are a whole lot more convenient, so they sell out incredibly fast.
Jindo Miracle Sea Road Festival | 진도 신비의 바닷길
Every spring in Korea – usually in April (but could be in early May) – a miracle occurs in Jindo. The Yellow Sea parts in true Moses style, and forms a 3-km long pathway between Jindo Island and Modo Island.
You can actually WALK through the sea between the 2 islands, searching for abandoned clams, shells, and abalone. This is a truly spectacular natural event you can’t experience anywhere else in the world.
TIP | A Korea Rail Pass is one of the fastest, easiest ways to travel around the country. You can access over 600 stations on 80 different routes via high-speed rail. Unlimited rides! Reserve a KR Rail Pass and get an instant ticket to travel around Korea right here.
May | Festivals during Spring in Korea
Cherry blossom and flower festivals are not the only game in town during spring in Korea. Here’s what to watch out for in May.
Lotus Lantern Festival | Yeon Deung Hoe (연등회) | May 15, 2021
The Lotus Lantern Festival is one of the most brilliant spectacles in Korea. On the weekend before Buddha’s Birthday (which changes every year based on the Lunar Calendar), a massive lantern parade takes over the streets of Jongno District in Seoul.
In 2021, the lantern parade and all related events take place on May 15th (though lanterns will be on display throughout the month of April). You can find all the details here.
Picture 100,000 people walking with glowing lanterns, the steady beat of drummers, and colourfully lit floats, and you have a small idea of what to expect. Be sure to head to Jogyesa Temple in Insadong at the conclusion of the parade, for more dancing, drumming and festivities. If you’re in Korea in spring, this is a can’t miss event!
Boseong Green Tea Festival | 보성다향대축제
If you’re looking for calm, green views to welcome spring in Korea, head down to Boseong for the Aromatic Tea Festival. You can explore the largest tea plantation in Korea and see green tea leaves at their lovely peak.
There’s something incredibly calming and rejuvenating about wandering through these symmetrical bushes. So, grab a green tea ice cream, pick your own tea leaves, and learn everything you ever wanted to know about green tea.
Damyang Bamboo Forest Festival | 담양대나무축제
Juknokwon or the Damyang Bamboo Forest is a vast forest of serene bamboo trees, walking paths, and even a hanok village. It’s full of oxygen, cool temperatures and the majesty of nature.
Held every May, the Damyang Bamboo Forest Festival is the only bamboo themed festival in the world. You’ll be treated to traditional art and culture performances, as well as bamboo-related programs, such as riding bamboo rafts, catching fish with bamboo baskets, and making bamboo water-guns.
TIP | The Jeonju Hanok Village, Damyang Bamboo Forest, and Metasequoia Road are 3 of the most gorgeous sites in Korea. Visit them on a single day with a day tour from Seoul. Reserve a day trip to Jeonju Hanok Village, Damyang Bamboo Forest, and the Metasequoia Road here.
Best foods to eat during Spring in Korea
Spring Namul | 나물
Namul refers to a variety of edible grasses or leaves, that are commonly served as banchan or side dishes in Korean cuisine. In spring time, namul are super fresh, packed with vitamins and incredibly tasty. Look out for mugwort, gondre, fernbrake, and wild chives.
Jjukkumi | 쭈꾸미
Jjukkumi are webfoot octopus that are freshest and tastiest from March to May. Whether you have it stir-fried, grilled, or in a shabu shabu, you’ll love it’s chewy texture and delicious flavour.
King Crab | 왕게
From February until mid-March, king crabs are at their freshest in Korea. They’re generally steamed whole, so you can enjoy the creamy meat at its purest. There are specialized seafood restaurants in major cities like Seoul and Busan to eat this, but head to Uljin or Yeongdeok in Gyeongsangbuk-do for entire streets dedicated to the king of crabs.
Sweet, sweet strawberries | 딸기
Korean strawberries are incredibly sweet, smell amazing, and are an excellent source of vitamin C. Strawberries are grown in greenhouses from December to June, but they’re at their flavour peak from February to April, so be sure to indulge during spring in Korea.
Did this guide to spring in Korea help you? What do you have planned for your visit?