We invited our fellow blogger Kaila Yu of the blog NomList to display the best things to do in Seoul in Winter. We are convinced, what about you?
Seoul is such an amazing city to visit on vacation, so much so that everyone reading should visit at least once. But when should you visit this amazing city? The answer is winter! We will be going into great detail as to why this time is best, the best places to stay, and recommendations for visiting!
Why should you visit Seoul in Winter?
The festivals are one of the main reasons why you should visit Seoul in winter. They are special in the sense that you can’t really do them at any other time of the year. The experience is also further elevated because you won’t have trouble finding space to enjoy them. This is because winter in Seoul can get really cold, so chances are not many people will gather at the same time.
Furthermore, you can experience some amazing sights and visit some marvelous places. Seoul has some of the best nature experiences in the world. But if that is not to your liking, then Seoul’s food and stores will certainly do the trick. Every recommendation in this article will be things that you might enjoy, and they will complement each other, making this trip to Seoul in winter a complete experience.
15 Things to do in Seoul in Winter
#1 Nami Island
Do you know how I talked about beautiful sights in Seoul? Well, Nami Island is a wonderful example. The Nami island is home to some of the most amazing natural sights, so much so that even the most introverted person would agree! If that doesn’t interest you somehow, you can visit the areas used to film the popular Korean show called Winter Sonata.
Finally, you might even get to see some animals in their natural habitat, which is always fun. Animals are always a joy! You are then able to end your experience by visiting some nearby restaurants.
Definitely try out the KKOKKO Chuncheon chicken ribs during your visit. They are certainly delicious, and while consuming this delicacy, you can enjoy sights that you may have missed out on before.
#2 MyeongDong Shopping
Some people believe that they should dress similarly to the people of the country they visit. If you are one of them, then you should definitely visit the Myeongdong underground shopping center. This place is home to some of Korea’s best fashion. You don’t even need an interpreter because fashion doesn’t have “multiple languages.” I mean, clothes are just clothes, so you should be able to style yourself just fine on your own.
But what about paying for your clothes? Don’t worry; the cashier is there to help you out, and they are used to receive tourists. Also, don’t worry about getting tired of looking at clothes. There are a lot of other places to visit near Myeongdong shopping. You can get some delicious food or watch movies at a movie theater. There is even a cat cafe to visit! That doesn’t need an explanation as to why you should visit haha!
#3 Garden of Morning Calm
Are you a plant fanatic? Well, you’re in luck, the garden of Morning Calm is one of the best places to go if you want to look at different plants. It is home to 5000 different species! You can go to this place many times and not see the same plants for a long while. The only downside is the plants would be affected by the harsh winter that Seoul has to deal with. But in my opinion, the winter helps increase the appeal of the different plants.
You may even get lucky and see some rare or endangered plants. It is unfortunate that they are endangered, but this makes visiting the garden even more special since you can’t see them anywhere else. You can help preserve their beauty in photography. So they can still at least be remembered through your pictures, even if they do become extinct.
#4 Insadong Cultural Street
You know what they say, good food brings people together. This is certainly true when you visit Insadong cultural street. This place is great for people who want to try some good Korean food like Korean barbeque or street food like tteok-bokki. What makes this great is that you can take the street food with you while visiting some of the shops there with your group.
You can look for some antique-like pottery while chomping down on your tteok-bokki and chatting with your friends. You might even get a chance to experience what it is like to live in Korea if you pay careful attention to the locals. There is a lot to learn about the language and mannerisms. Definitely, a must-go-to place if you come to Seoul.
#5 Parasite Filming Location
This section is a little special since I will spend a lot of time praising Parasite. This movie is such a great watch, and you should definitely see it if you get a chance. It’s such a well written and directed story. You really get to see the differences between the characters. The build-up is just amazing, and the ending is still such a shock even if you could predict it. I was definitely happy with the time and money I spent on this movie.
If my opinion doesn’t convince you, then maybe the four Oscars it won will. They won the best picture, director, screenplay, and best international feature film! A foreign film that won this many Oscars should certainly gain your interest. So much so that you should be interested in visiting the places that they used to film this wonderful movie. It’s not a lot of places, but they are all great places to visit!
#6 Gyeongbokgung Palace
I personally believe that history will always be interesting to look at and learn about. You can learn how people lived before. This is why you should definitely visit this palace because it was the Joseon dynasty’s royal palace. You get to see the place where politics get to play out. Plus, this place is one of the most beautiful buildings in South Korea.
Though you should note that this royal palace is not actually the original Palace, it was destroyed a long time ago, but then they rebuild it as best as possible. Originally built in 1394, it was later burned down and abandoned for 3 centuries e and rebuilt in 1867. So, even though it isn’t the original, it’s still an impressive building that’s well worth the visit.
#7 Bangsan Market
Bangsan Market is such a surprising place is lots of things happening all the time. This place is special because it has everything you could want in one place, just like Netflix or Amazon! It has 550 stores all in one place! This means that there are food, clothes, souvenirs, you name it!
There is no way you will ever find it a waste of time visiting this place. It is just a great place to visit with a group of friends just to hang out!
#8 Seoul lantern festival
The lantern festival is easily one of the best things to do in Seoul during the winter. You get to experience a popular tradition that is fun to visit with your family or friends. The public recreation space of Cheonggyecheon is decorated with hundreds of lanterns that make the sights even more appealing during the festival. So with the lanterns, you can see the beautiful snowy sights in all their natural beauty.
During the two weeks of November when the festival is held, visitors can encounter various types of lanterns from Cheonggye Plaza to Supyo Bridge.
#9 Little prince lighting festival of Petite France
Petite France is a french style theme park built in Seoul; it’s pretty nice with great places to see and photograph. In fact, there is so much that you can do that you’ll probably get tired while exploring. For those who want to take a break from walking, there are other things to see as well, like an orgel, marionette, magic, and puppet performance.
Little Prince Lighting Festival of Petite France is held throughout the Park with beautiful lighting sceneries at nighttime. Lovely buildings and streets as well as Christmas trees are adorned with shimmering lights like a fairy tale. It’s guaranteed to give you that joyful winter experience that you need!
#10 Seoul Plaza Ice Skating Rink
I know this seems kinda simple and bland but bear with me. I know that you can ice skate in northern Europe and America, as easily as in Korea, but Ice skating is always fun! Plus, the Seoul plaza ice skating rink is more than just a rink; it has many complementary areas like concerts and restaurants.
Don’t know how to skate? It’s also a great fun place to learn how to skate properly. It will be well worth it, but remember that ice skating is really hard. At least in my opinion haha!
When traveling to Seoul in Winter, one needs to be ready for the cold weather! And what do you need when facing cold weather? Heat! That is where the Jjimjilbang enters. A Jjimjilbang is a large, public south Korean bathhouse. They are sex-segregated and furnished with showers, massage tables, hot tubs, and Korean traditional kiln saunas.
During the winter, you will be able to enjoy all of these facilities to the fullest. Go with a group of friends and warm yourself up in the sauna! If that doesn’t do the job for you, then the hot tubs or showers will certainly do the trick.
Furthermore, you can enjoy an excellent massage at an affordable price. It may seem bland that I am just listing activities you can do, but there are just so many activities. You will find it hard to get bored during your time in the Jjimjilbang, particularly the foreigners who will find most of it a new experience.
#12 Bukchon Hanok Village
Alright, so I talked about the royal palace as one of the best things to do in Seoul in Winter, which shows much of the royalty’s life. But what about the other people? To learn about them, we have the Bukchon Hanok Village, which shows how normal Koreans lived back then. You can see the housing and where they went to eat during this time, like restaurants. But the main appeal would be the design, architecture, and cultural value of this village. Even the alleys and small streets are important features of this village.
Surrounded by Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces, and Jongmyo Shrine, Bukchon Hanok Village is home to hundreds of hanok (traditional houses) that date back to the Joseon dynasty. Bukchon means “northern village” as the neighborhood lies north of two significant Seoul landmarks, the Cheonggyecheon river, and Jongno. Today the hanoks operate mostly as guest houses, tea houses, cultural centers, and restaurants. providing visitors with an opportunity
It’s one of the best places to experience, learn, and immerse themselves in traditional Korean culture. You can even learn how people traveled throughout the village as well and how tough it may be on them. Think of it like an Adventure that you can enjoy with your group.
The last great thing about this place is that you can go on an actual tour and learn about each of the main attractions in greater detail. This way, you’ll learn to appreciate the Korean culture even more!
#13 Winter food
I am a firm believer that some foods taste better during a specific time frame, in this case, the winter. So I will be recommending to you several Korean foods that are great for your winter travel in Seoul. Bungeo-ppang, Sundubu-jjigae, fish cakes, and Hotteok are all special because they get elevated by the winter season. How are they elevated? The answer is simple and that is they help keep you warm or they warm you up when you are too cold. But let us go over each of these foods in great detail.
The Bungeo-ppang are pretty little fish pastries that are filled with a hot filling like red bean paste. The sweetness is just irresistible and to die for! Another great option would be the fish cakes that are just plain scrumptious. They are a mixture of a wide variety of seafood and vegetables, which are later fried!
Something more simple and healthier would be Hotteok, aka Korean pancakes and will get the job done! The final thing is the most healthy, and it is the Sundubu-jjigae, a tofu soup. You get all the vegetables and meat that you want. Add in a mouth-watering broth, and you will definitely warm up at the end of your meal!
#14 Ice Fishing
I am willing to bet that a lot of people reading this have never fished before. Let us add to that and say that chances are most of you never ice fished before. Well if you are interested in such a thing, then you should go and visit the hwacheon sancheoneo ice festival. There you can actually try and fish for something with a rod or even fish with only your hands. I wouldn’t suggest the latter for beginners because it could be devastating if something goes horribly wrong!
Nearby it’s possible to visit a place like a winter village and enjoy “dalgona,” a sponge candy. Granted, candy might not be enough to encourage you to come and visit, but it’s a great addition to this wonderful experience of immersing in the unique culture of Korea!
There is also a winter sports zone where you can try out ice soccer and ice badminton! I know most people have tried out soccer or badminton before but I am positive that you haven’t tried the ice version unless you are Korean. It is such a unique activity to try with your friends.
#15 Seoul Everland
Everland is probably one of the most famous parks in Seoul. You get five different areas, and each of them is special in their own way. For example, it has a European and American themed area. There are even a water park and roller coaster. Granted, who would want to go to a water park during the winter, right? Only if you want to develop a horrible cold. Also, not everyone would go on a roller coaster during the winter because you will be exposed to heavy wind. But if you can deal with that, then you should be fine.
On the other hand, Everland makes up for it by having sledding options for you, and they will change up some of the other attractions to give you that winter joy! You will also still be able to see the animals, but again that will depend on their ability to handle the cold. Finally, there are far fewer people during winter, and you won’t have to endure the typically long lines for the rides in these popular parks!
In the end, I can assure you that you will enjoy your time in Seoul’s masterpiece, even in Wintertime.
Where to stay in Seoul
The best accommodation to stay in Seoul for your winter vacation is a hotel. They are at a really affordable price during winter, and they are typically near great tourist spots! Your best bet is to research where you want to visit, and a good hotel will typically be close by! Have a look below!
About the author
Kaila Yu is an on-camera correspondent/expert and travel & food writer based in Los Angeles. She is the co-author of the best selling book 30-Day Travel Challenge and founder of the blog NomList. She also writes for several other outlets: VICE, Extra Crispy, Fodors, The Matador Network, Skyscanner, Fly Washington.
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