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seollal in seoul | korean lunar new year

Traveling to Seoul during Korean Lunar New Year? Don’t worry! Seollal in Seoul is actually one of the best times to explore the city, with peaceful streets, and a ton of special events and activities to enjoy.

seollal in seoul | korean lunar new year

You won’t have trouble finding things to do during Seollal in Seoul.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • when Lunar New Year in Seoul is celebrated
  • the best things to do in Seoul for Seollal 2023
  • about special discounted activities to take advantage of

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When is Seollal in Seoul | 설날?

SEOLLAL: January 22nd, 2023 | PUBLIC HOLIDAY DATES: January 21st – 24th, 2023

The exact date of Seollal varies every year, because it’s based on the Lunar Calendar. It’s usually in January or February, and coincides with the second new moon, after the winter solstice.

seollal in seoul | korean folk village

Seollal is on the second new moon © Live Studio, Korea Tourism Organization

In the 2023 Year of the Rabbit, Korean Lunar New Year in Seoul falls on Sunday, January 22nd, with public holiday dates stretching from Saturday, January 21st to Tuesday, January 24th.

All Koreans have days off for this entire period of time, with many people tacking on a few extra days to the end or the beginning. Expect a mass exodus into and out of Seoul for Seollal, as people head back to their hometowns to reunite with their families.

It’s definitely a lot quieter in Seoul during Lunar New Year, with smaller, family-run restaurants and businesses shut down for the weekend. You won’t have trouble finding places to eat or shop though, with major malls, restaurant chains, and popular tourist sites mostly open to the public.

What is Seollal | 설날?

Along with Chuseok, Seollal is one of Seoul’s most significant traditional holidays, marking the first day of the Korean Lunar New Year.

seollal in seoul | charye table

A Charye Table pays tributes to ones ancestors.

The holiday is full of meaningful traditions, rites, and rituals. Most are performed to honour a family’s ancestors and prepare for a brand new year, but there’s also plenty of traditional games and fun too.

Check out my full guide to Seollal and its traditions if you’d like to learn more.

Seollal in Seoul

While Seollal itself is a centuries old celebration, full of important rites and sginificance, the days leading up to it are a buzz of activity… particularly in Seoul.

seollal in seoul | gift sets

Crazily priced gift sets are also a Seollal “tradition.”

Traditional markets are packed with people shopping for food and gifts to take back to their hometowns. Trains and long distance buses have been fully booked for weeks in advance, and traffic on highways is at a literal standstill, as people head out of Seoul for Seollal.

It’s definitely the chaos before the calm though, because once all the preparations are complete, it’s very quiet. During Lunar New Year in Seoul, you’ll be surprised by eerily empty subways, unhurried sidewalks, and silent cafes.

seollal | seoul subway during korean lunar new year

Yes! Subways really are this empty during Seollal in Seoul.

Things to do during Seollal in Seoul

If you’re traveling to South Korea or based in Seoul for Seollal, this is definitely one time when it’s nice to stay close to the city.

I’ve lived here for 13 years, and discovered plenty of excellent things to do during Seollal in Seoul. Read on to discover free, fun and unique options for what to do during Korean Lunar New Year 2023.

seollal in seoul | namsangol hanok village

I had a mini staycation in Myeongdong for easy access to tourist sites, like Namsangol Hanok Village.

Despite LIVING in Seoul, I’ve booked a hotel in Myeongdong for major Korean holidays, so I could get to all the special events and attractions up in that area of the city more easily. I’ve done this for the Lotus Lantern Festival, and also for Chuseok.

It would definitely be worth the saved transit time and easy access to Korean Lunar New Year activities too… especially with kids.

Limited Edition Winter Tours in Korea

If you’ve got days off for Seollal in Seoul, it might be a great opportunity to participate in one of Korea’s special winter festivals or activities. These limited edition winter tours and activities are only available for 2 or 3 months of the year.

seollal | hwacheoneo ice fishing festival

Ice fishing festivals are on during Seollal © Korea Tourism Organization

snow sledding

January is an excellent month for sledding and skiing ⓒ Lee Beomsu, Korea Tourism Organization

Namsangol Hanok Village | 남산골한옥마을

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

Namsangol Hanok Village is located at the base of Namsan Mountain, and walking distance from Myeongdong. During Seollal in Seoul, crowds descend upon its beautiful grounds to watch outdoor performances, play traditional games and try out different activities.

seollal in seoul | namsangol hanok village

Tons going on at Namsangol Hanok Village for Korean Lunar New Year in Seoul.

Activities and performances run from 11AM to 5PM from January 24th to January 26th. It’s possible to just show up and sign up for paid hands-on activities like hanji mirror making on-site, but line-up as early as you can to get a spot (that’s what we did at Chuseok).

Gyeongbokgung Palace & Other Historical Sites

Major royal palaces like Gyeongbokgung and traditional tombs like Jongmyo Shrine will stay open for Lunar New Year in Seoul. Best of all, admission into all sites is free!

seollal in seoul | gyeongbokgung palace

Gyeongbokgung is always worth a visit © Jeon Han, Korea.net (CC BY 2.0)

Gyeongbokgung promises to be a hub of activity come Seollal in Seoul. If you haven’t had a chance to stop into one of these majestic places yet, this is the perfect time to go to experience cultural performances, traditional folk games, and other fun activities.

HANBOK RENTAL NEAR GYEONGBOKGUNG PALACE  |  Get into a Seollal in Seoul mood by renting a traditional Korean hanbok. Hanboknam is walking distance to Gyeonbokgung Palace, and has a huge selection of beautiful hanbok to choose from. Check full details here.

Cheong Wa Dae | 청와대

Address: 1 , Cheongwadae-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul | 서울특별시 종로구 청와대로 1 청와대

The Presidential Residence, Cheong Wa Dae, was returned to the public on Chuseok last year. It’s commonly known as the Blue House, due to the 150,000 unique blue tiles that make up the beautiful curving rooftop of the Main Office.

seollal in seoul | Cheong Wa Dae, The Blue House

There are free performances at Cheong Wa Dae for Seollal © IR Studio, Korea Tourism Organization

Cheong Wa Dae is worth a visit under any circumstances, but during Seollal in Seoul, head there around 3PM for a free 40 minute performance of samulnori and lion dance.

There are 1,000 tickets available daily for foreign passport holders at Cheong Wa Dae, without reservation – 500 in the morning, and 500 in the afternoon. Make sure you bring ID.

Korean lunar new year in Seoul | cheong wa dae, the blue house

Bring your passport for entry into the Blue House © IR Studio, Korea Tourism Organization

National Folk Museum of Korea | 국립민속박물관

Address: 30 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu | 서울 종로구 삼청로 37

Located on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace, the National Folk Museum of Korea is one of the best places to learn about the daily lives of Koreans, from the Paleolithic Age to the 20th Century.

With a historically valuable and massive collection of over 310,000 relics and art pieces, you could easily spend hours and hours there. Be sure to stop into the excellent interactive Children’s Museum while there.

seollal in seoul | national folk museum of korea

Seollal at the National Folk Museum of Korea © Jeon Han, Korea.net (CC BY 2.0)

For Seollal in Seoul, check out their special exhibition dedicated to the Year of the Rabbit, or venture outside for Lunar New Year events and activities.

Korean Folk Village | 한국민속촌

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

Made up of authentic Joseon Era houses that have been relocated from all over the country, the Korean Folk Village covers a vast 990,000㎡ space in Yongin. During Seollal in Seoul, there are traditional art performances, and a wide variety of special activities to take part in.

seollal | korean folk village

Watch folk performances at the Korean Folk Village ©Jeon Han, Korea.net (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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

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.

National Gugak Center

The National Gugak Center is one of those places in Seoul that’s vastly under-visited by international travelers to South Korea. From dance to music to singing, this gorgeous space showcases the best of Korean folk arts in all its forms… at a ridiculously low price.

seollal in seoul | national gugak center

The Saturday Gugak Concert is worth watching © National Gugak Center, Korea Tourism Organization

The Saturday Gugak Concert is already sold out for Seollal in Seoul, but there’s sure to be lots going on in the area.

I’ve spent many an afternoon in this area, visiting both the Seoul Arts Center next door, and the excellent Gugak Center Museum, which is free, interactive, and perfect for families. Totally worth a visit.

seollal in seoul | national gugak center museum

Try out traditional instruments at the free National Gugak Center.

Namsan and North Seoul Tower

A lot of places are closed during Korean Lunar New Year, but not Namsan and N Seoul Tower. It’s always worth heading up Seoul’s mountain in the middle of the city, for expansive views and fresh air.

seollal in seoul | namsan tower

There are excellent views of Seoul from Namsan Tower.

During Seollal in Seoul, look out for outdoor performances and activities, hang a love lock as a souvenir, or watch the sunset. Namsan is undoubtedly one of the best places to see the glittering city come to life at night.

POPULAR DAY TOURS FROM SEOUL  |  Nami Island, Alpaca World, the Garden of Morning Calm, and the Gangchon Rail Bike are the most popular day tours from Seoul. Visit them in whichever combination you wish by customizing a day tour with exactly what you want to see. Check full details here.

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Connect with other travellers | Ask and get answers to all your travel questions | Learn about all the best things to do in Korea | Join our Korea Travel Planning + Guide Facebook Group now.

bukchon hanok village in seoul

Seollal in Seoul | Special Promotions

During Lunar New Year in Seoul, special promotions and discounts are offered at different attractions around the city. It’s a great time to take advantage of these offers, since many of them are aimed at non-Koreans, who don’t have the same family responsibilities for the holidays.

korean lunar new year in seoul | lotte world adventure

There are many special discounts to be found during Korean Lunar New Year in Seoul.

Seollal in Seoul is also a perfect time to visit popular places and attractions in the city, peacefully without the crazy crowds and long line-ups. Check out some options here.

Theme Parks

With 35 million Koreans on the road home for Lunar New Year, theme parks like Lotte World, Everland, and Seoul Land can be a little quieter than normal. Best of all, there are Seollal activities, parades, and light shows to enjoy at a discounted price.

seollal in seoul | lotte world adventure

Queues at Lotte World on Seollal should be shorter.

Lotte World Adventure

Lotte World Adventure is one of the easiest theme parks to access in Seoul, accessible by subway at Jamsil Station. There are both indoor and outdoor areas at Lotte World, so it’s easy to stay warm even during the depths of winter in Korea.

LUNAR NEW YEAR DISCOUNTS AT LOTTE WORLD  |  Klook’s already discounted tickets at Lotte World are discounted a further 15% for Lunar New Year. Enjoy thrilling rides, parades, and fun activities minus the crazy line-ups. Get the discount code here.

Everland | 에버랜드

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

Everland is a massive theme park located in Yongin. Queues for rides at Everland can be as long as a few hours on regular days, but during Seollal in Seoul, you can basically walk onto ride after ride, without waiting longer than 10 minutes.

seollal in seoul | everland resort

T-Express has a top speed of 104-km/hour © Jeremy Thompson [CC BY 2.0]

Be sure to check out extreme rides like the T-Express wooden rollercoaster, which has a top speed of 104-km/hour. Everland is mostly outdoors though, so I’d say this theme park is better for older kids and adults.

Check their website for special discounts, or book a hassle-free tour that includes transport, tickets, and visits to other attractions in the area..

Skiing, Snowboarding, and Sledding Resorts

Lunar New Year in Seoul usually falls in January or February. With the most snowfall of the year, these months also happen to be the best for skiing, snowboarding and sledding in Korea.

seollal in seoul | night skiing at Oak Valley Ski Resort

Ski resorts should be less crowded during Seollal in Seoul.

Head to the ski resorts near Seoul for faster queues at ski lifts, and more time on the slopes.

If skiing or snowboarding isn’t your thing, head to Vivaldi Park Snowyland for a super fun day of sledding and snow play.

seollal in seoul | vivaldi park tornado sled

The Tornado is a thrilling sled at Vivaldi Park Snowy Land.

BUILD YOUR OWN SNOWY LAND PACKAGE  |  Whether you just want a shuttle bus to Vivaldi Park, a Snowy Land sledding pass, or a full on package including winter clothing, ski pass and private lessons, it’s easy to customize the package perfect for your needs. Check full details here.

Other Attractions

Here are other attractions and day trips worth seeing that will remain open during Seollal in Seoul. Some even have extra discounts for Korean Lunar New Year.

lunar new year in seoul | play ocean zone at lotte world aquarium

The Play Ocean area at Lotte World Aquarium has hands-on activities for kids.

seollal in seoul | starfield library in seoul

Starfield Library and Coex Mall will be open during Seollal in Seoul.

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Seollal in Seoul: Essential Info and FAQs

1
Are places open for Seollal in Seoul? Many family run businesses are closed for Seollal in Seoul, but you'll still be able to find places to eat and things to do.
2
What do Koreans do for Seollal? Seollal is a family-oriented holiday, with many Koreans returning to their hometowns to pay respects to their ancestors through Charye, play traditional folk games, and eat a huge meal together.
3
Is Seollal the same as Chinese New Year? Seollal is celebrated in both North and South Korea, with dates based on the Lunar Calendar. It happens at the same time as Chinese New Year, but it's not the same holiday.
4.
How do you say ``happy new year`` in Korean? Koreans say 새해 복 많이 받으세요 | Saehae bok mani badeuseyo for both New Year's Day and Lunar New Year. It means - I wish you a lot of luck in the new year.

Korean Lunar New Year is a big deal! What do you have planned for Seollal in Seoul?

Comments:

  • January 20, 2023

    you always make Seoul look so colourful regardless of the time of year! Thanks for sharing!

    reply...
  • January 20, 2023

    Nice! Sounds peaceful. I’m working for YBM. I’ve never been to Korea, but my wife buys kimchi and we try to enjoy it.

    reply...
  • January 19, 2023

    Thank you for such a great and exciting description of all the possibilities this weekend! Have fun!!!

    reply...

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