For some people, winter calls for cozy blankets, a warm cup of hot chocolate, and staying indoors. But for others, winter is the perfect time to discover a whole new world! If you’re one of those adventurous types that feel restless with wanderlust no matter the time of the year, then read on! We’ll tell you exactly why Korea is one of the best places to go to during winter.
When is winter in Korea?
Winter in Korea begins around the end of October and can last until March. That’s 5 whole months of cold! But the coldest months are definitely December and January. It’s also during these months that you get a higher chance of seeing snow.
Should you visit South Korea in winter?
Yes, absolutely! South Korea is a complete winter wonderland with so many amazing spots and activities not available at any other time of the year. During winter in Korea, you get to taste winter delicacies and go on fun activities like skiing, sledding, and more. There are also tons of unique festivals and experiences you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
How’s the weather in Korea during winter?
Winter in Korea can get pretty harsh, especially if you’re not used to cold weather. Temperatures can go as low as -20°C (-4°F) in Seoul and other northern parts of the country. Southern regions like Busan and Daegu are relatively warmer, with winter temperatures averaging around 3°C to -7°C (37.4°F to 19.4°F).
Nevertheless, we advise you to pack appropriately if you’re planning to go to Korea during winter. Thick padded jackets are a must to protect you from the cold and the windchill. Instant hot packs are also very popular and can be found at most Korean convenience stores. These come in super handy in keeping your hands and feet warm as you explore the city.
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The 20 Best things To Do In Korea During Winter
1. Ski at Vivaldi Park
What’s the best thing to do during winter? Ski, of course! Korea has plenty of beautiful ski parks all over the country, fit for every kind of skiing level. Whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned pro, we’re sure you’ll find the perfect ski park for you here.
Korea is full of mountains which makes it the perfect vacation spot for skiing. There are about 17 ski resorts all over the country, with most of them located in the Gangwon Province. This is because that area gets the most annual snowfall every year, which makes it perfect for skiing! Gangwon is a province outside of Seoul, easily accessible via the KTX Train. The trip takes less than 2 hours and will make you feel like you’ve been transported into a winter wonderland.
In Gangwon, you can find the country’s largest ski resort: Vivaldi Park! It’s a huge resort filled with all sorts of slopes and the most breathtaking scenery. Marvel at the snowcapped mountains as you speed down the snowy slopes!
2. Hike At Bukhansan National Park
Think hiking is just a summer activity? Well, think again! Hiking during winter is a great way to exercise and warm your body up. Besides, the mountain view during winter is absolutely gorgeous. It’s like a totally different world from the summer mountains!
One of the best winter hiking spots is the Bukhansan National Park which is located right in Seoul. You wouldn’t expect such a cool hiking spot to be located in the bustling city, but here it is! The Bukhansan National Park is a beautiful natural reserve which makes it a favorite among hikers of all skill levels.
When you reach the top, you’ll be greeted by the most stunning view of the city and the bright red forest under a blanket of snow. Along the trail, you’ll also be able to spot different mountain cats and even oriental temples! Bukhansan National Park is definitely a must-see.
3. Go Ice Fishing
Looking to try something new on your vacation? Then why not try your hand at ice fishing!
Head on over to Hwachaeon, a county in Gangwon Province. Gangwon is located a few hours outside Seoul, and you can easily reach it by riding the KTX Train. The Hwachaeon Ice Fishing Festival is one of the biggest winter ice festivals in the country!
It takes place on a long stream that is covered with a 40-centimeter-thick layer of ice. During the festival, people come together to enjoy ice fishing and a lot of other winter activities. If you’ve never tried ice fishing before, you’d be surprised! It’s a really satisfying activity that values patience and hard work. After some effort, you’ll be rewarded with a big catch!
4. Visit Nami Island
Winter is the perfect season for cozy, romantic vibes. And what better place to enjoy some romance than at Nami Island?
It’s widely known as one of the most romantic places in the entire country. Nami Island is a half-moon-shaped island off the coast of Gangwon Province. Filled with ancient redwood trees that transform into beautiful ice cones during winter, Nami Island is filled with romantic and sentimental vibes that you will surely enjoy.
It’s beautiful all year round, but its beauty is especially heightened during winter. That’s why the representative winter K-Drama, “Winter Sonata,” was filmed here! It’s a truly beautiful spot that’s a favorite among tourists and locals looking to experience a lovely winter wonderland that isn’t too far from the city.
For full details on everything you can do on the island, as well as how to get there from Seoul, you can check out our post.
Read More: The Ultimate Travel Guide to Nami Island
5. Experience a Traditional Korean Bathhouse
We think the best way to ward off that winter chill just might be to spend the day at traditional Korean bathhouses! These are called jjimjil-bangs, which are the perfect place to go when you just can’t stand the cold anymore.
Jjimjil-bangs are conveniently located all over the country. It’s a really convenient way to relax and warm yourself up by having a hot bath. Here you can rest, rejuvenate, and even spend the night! Jjimjil-bangs have various rooms where you can relax in many different ways. There are baths of varying temperatures, saunas, and even massage and scrub rooms. There are also common areas where you can just lounge and even spend the night!
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6. Join the Busan Christmas Tree Festival
In the Jung-gu district of Busan, there is a special little festival that’s enjoyed by tourists and locals alike. The Busan Christmas Tree Festival takes place during the last week of November until January. There are tons of street folk performances you can watch, different contests you can join, as well as caroling festivals that bring on the holiday cheer!
Above all, the 18-meter-tall Christmas tree is the highlight of the festival! The towering pine sculpture of light makes the perfect photo spot. The decor also changes every year, so you’ll be sure to be greeted with a completely new setup! The Busan Christmas Tree Festival is a beautiful celebration of light and holiday cheer.
Busan is the second largest city in Korea and it’s located a few hours away from Seoul. It’s also easily accessible via the KTX Train.
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7. Have A Photoshoot At Gyeongbokgung Palace
The Gyeongbokgung Palace in downtown Seoul is one of the most picturesque spots in the entire city. Filled with beautiful traditional architecture and surrounded by stunning natural scenery, it’s no doubt why this spot is so popular all year round.
But during winter, it becomes even more magical. As the snow starts to fall in Seoul, the Gyeongbokgung Palace transforms into a magical palace straight out of a fairytale! The snow creates the perfect backdrop and complements the sentimental vibe of the place. All of this makes it perfect for photoshoots! If you want to level up your social media photo game, then why not rent out hanbok (traditional clothing) from the many nearby hanbok rental shops in the area?
8. Spend The Day At The Taebaek Best Snow Festival
The name doesn’t lie! The Taebaek Best Snow Festival is really one of the best things you can do in Korea. It’s a unique winter experience that lets you do all sorts of activities. For art lovers, here you can find jaw-dropping snow sculpture exhibitions. There’s also a charming igloo cafe where you can grab a bite and enjoy the scenery.
If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, Taebaek also has something for you. Here you can participate in snow rafting, dog-pulled sleds, and more! Taebaek Best Snow Festival promises fun for the whole family.
Taebaek is a small mountain city in the Gangwon Province, which you can get to via the KTX Train. Because of its elevation, Taebaek experiences one of the longest winters in the country. That’s what makes it such a perfect winter vacation spot!
9. Get A Big Catch At The Pyeongchang Trout Festival
Calling all seafood lovers! They say fish tastes even better when you’re the one who caught it. Well, here at Pyeongchang, you can do just that! Pyeongchang is once again a county in Korea’s “winter capital,” Gangwon Province.
Here you can join the famed Pyeongchang Trout Festival! Both visitors and locals alike can enjoy ice fishing for their own trout. There are also other activities like sledding, snow rafting, riding 4-wheel ATVs, and more. If you’re looking for new experiences, why not try joining the bare-hand fishing competition at the festival? Find out how well you fare when you have to catch slippery fish in the ice-cold water using just your bare hands!
Whatever the case, the Pyeongchang Trout Festival offers great fun and new experiences for all of its attendees.
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10. Shop Til You Drop At Insadong
One of the best things about winter is the outfits! You can finally wear more layers and mix and match different kinds of clothes. If you’re looking for a place to get cheap but beautiful clothing, then we definitely recommend Insadong!
Insadong is a famous shopping district right in the heart of Seoul. During winter, you can get cute fuzzy gloves, comfy woolen sweaters, stylish coats, and more. Here you can also shop all of the latest trends in Korean fashion, beauty, and skincare. At Insadong, you can also shop for traditional Korean goods to take back home. Of course, you can do all of this without breaking the bank–especially if you know how to haggle!
11. Celebrate New Year in Seoul
What better way to welcome the new year with a bang than spending it in one of the greatest cities in the world? Seoul New Year’s Eve Countdowns are famous for being epic, entertaining, and definitely exciting!
If you happen to find yourself in the country at the end of the year, then we definitely suggest staying to experience amazing New Year’s Eve parties. There are a bunch of parties that happen simultaneously across Seoul, so you can take your pic. The Lotte Tower in Songpa-gu, Seoul is the 6th tallest building in the world, so you can see truly epic fireworks here during New Year’s Eve!
If you want something a bit more chic, why not head on over to the COEX shopping mall in Gangnam, Seoul? You can do a bit of shopping before the fireworks begin!
12. Join The Seogwipo Penguin Swimming Festival
Have you ever heard of Korean penguins? If not, that’s because they don’t exist! No, the Seogwipo Penguin Swimming Festival doesn’t actually feature real penguins. Instead, they have something much more unique and entertaining!
Seogwipo is definitely one of the most interesting places to visit during winter. Aside from the amazing scenery and natural landscapes, there are also bizarre and quirky activities like the Penguin Swimming Festival! You see, this festival doesn’t actually involve penguins. Instead, locals and tourists alike take off their clothes and race in the icy waters of Seogwipo!
Think that’s too much of a challenge? Don’t worry, because Seogwipo takes care of all festival participants! Everyone who swims will be treated to delicious fish cakes and warm soup to help fight off the icy chill.
Seogwipo is a city on Jeju Island, which is an island off the coast of Korea. If you want a complete guide on how to get to Seogwipo as well as all the other fun activities you can do there, check out our article.
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13. Stroll Through The Garden Of Morning Calm
If you like vacations to be a little more on the calmer side, then we also have some recommendations for you. The Garden of Morning Calm is an arboretum located in Gapyeong District, which is just outside of Seoul. Gapyeong is easily accessible if you just ride the subway from Seoul (Myeongdong Station). It will take you to Gapyeong Station in around an hour and a half.
Once you’re in Gapyeong, you’ll be amazed at the hidden paradise that is the Garden of Morning Calm. Just the name already sounds so peaceful! Actually, the name comes from the famous Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. He once described Korea as the “Land of Morning Calm.”
Established in 1996, the Garden of Morning Calm is a beautiful arboretum where you can truly appreciate the natural beauty of Korea. With the goal of highlighting the country’s unique flora and culture, the Garden of Morning Calm has become a favorite for both tourists and locals. It’s a great spot to just stroll around, take photos, and refresh yourself!
14. Skate Through Seoul
Winter calls for ice skating, of course!
One of the best places to skate is Seoul Plaza, which is located right in the middle of the city. All year round, it’s a great place for many different events and performances. But during winter, the plaza gets covered with a thick layer of ice which makes it perfect for skating!
If it’s your first-time ice skating, don’t worry. It’s a pretty easy sport to pick up, and we’re sure you’ll be gliding across the ice in no time. Seoul Plaza is great because it suits both rookie and long-time skaters.
15. Meet Furry Friends At The Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm
We bet you never expected visiting a sheep farm to make it to our list of the best things to do in Korea during winter. But in fact, the Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm is really one of the top vacation spots during this time of year!
This ranch is among many ranches located in Pyeongchang, but it’s the only one that raises sheep. Watching these furry friends graze is like seeing clouds come down on the earth! Their fluffy coats and adorable faces will make you want to see them up close and pet their fuzzy little heads. You can do this if you sign up for the feeding experience at the ranch!
During winter, the ranch transforms into a huge snow-filled playground. Have fun building snowmen and having snowball fights in this huge open area! The Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm also offers amazing scenery. From traditional thatched-roof houses to lush green fields, mysterious marshes, and more. There are also plenty of walking trails so you can look around and really take it all in! Visiting the Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm is sure to be a fun and satisfying activity for the whole family.
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16. Eat Yummy Winter Snacks
What’s the best part about traveling? Trying new foods!
In Korea, many different foods only come out during wintertime. Some use seasonal ingredients that are only available during winter, while some become perfect for the season because of their other qualities. Whatever the case, we definitely recommend having a winter-themed food trip!
One winter staple is definitely bunggeo-ppang. Perhaps you’ve even seen this cute fish-shaped bread on social media. Stuffed with a red-bean paste, bunggeo-ppang ang crispy on the outside and sweet and moist on the inside!
Another winter favorite is chestnuts. Koreans especially love roasting chestnuts over a fire or in a hot drum. The nutty taste and warm exterior will definitely help you beat the winter cold for sure.
The last winter treat we want to recommend is sweet potatoes! During wintertime, sweet potatoes are served steaming hot and wrapped in a piece of parchment paper. Then you peel the skin back and uncover the hot and chewy sweet potato inside! This is definitely a Korean favorite–healthy, satisfying, and perfect for the cold weather!
As these snacks are all winter favorites, you’ll be able to find them at street stalls and traditional markets all over the country during the right season.
17. Have A Cup At Boseong Green Tea Plantation Light Festival
We’re continuing this winter-themed food trip onto the next activity, which is attending the Boseong Green Tea Plantation Light Festival! Since the first-ever festival in 2000, the Boseong Tea Plantation Light Festival has been one of the staple light festivals of the country. The incredible decorative lights, multimedia shows, and various illuminated objects will all make you feel very festive indeed!
Aside from being a great picture spot, you can also experience an enormous range of green teas here. Having a warm cup of tea as you stroll through the beautiful bright light displays is truly one of the best ways to spend a winter night.
Here at Boseong Tea Plantation Light Festival, you can also buy a lot of different beauty products–all made with tea! Korean beauty is renowned worldwide, so you can definitely trust them when it comes to cosmetics.
The festival takes place in Boseong, which is outside Seoul. To get there, just ride an express bus to Boseong Terminal right from Seoul Central City Bus Terminal.
18. Join the Pinocchio And Little Prince Lighting Festival
You won’t have to travel far to get a taste of Europe. Right here in Korea, there’s a festival that evokes a Western kind of Christmas. In Gapyeong, there is a whole town called Petite France. This place has amazing Western-style colorful architecture and landmarks dedicated to The Little Prince.
But aside from that, many people go to Petite France to attend the Pinocchio and Little Prince Lighting Festival! By night, the whole landscape transforms into a fairy tale. Fairy lights and colorful artwork fill the space. There are even amazing magical performances like orgel shows, marionette and puppet shows, magic shows, and more!
The Pinocchio and Little Prince Lighting Festival offers one delight after another. Going here will definitely be a magical experience, so make sure you don’t miss it!
19. Go Strawberry Picking At Daega Farm
They say fruits in Korea are always sweeter. We bet those fruits will taste even better if you pick them yourself! Strawberry picking is also a great way to warm yourself as they grow inside greenhouses during winter.
Daega Farm in Gyeonggi County is the perfect place to go strawberry picking. The strawberry plants are protected from the winter chill inside pleasantly warm greenhouses. Here you can get a box for a small fee and fill it up with as many strawberries as you can!
There are also different activities for kids, so make sure to bring the whole family when you visit. The generous owners will give you more strawberries than your money’s worth, so you’ll be sure to go home happy!
Gyeonggi is located just outside of Seoul, so you can easily reach it via Korail train lines as well as through the Seoul Metropolitan Subway system.
20. Indulge In Onyang Hot Springs
Last but not the least, we can’t finish this list without talking about a surefire way to warm your body up during winter. Winter in Korea can be brutally cold, especially for those not used to this kind of weather. Luckily, there are plenty of hot springs all over the country for you to warm yourself up!
The Onyang Hot Spring is believed to be one of the oldest hot springs in Korea, having been founded more than 1,300 years ago. For centuries, it’s been servicing locals. It’s said that bathing in hot springs has many health benefits like relieving arthritis, lessening skin problems, regulating blood pressure, and more.
In the past, many of Korea’s great kings also took their time to relax in the Onyang Hot Springs. You will definitely feel like royalty once you’ve dipped your toes into the warm relaxing waters. We can’t think of a better way to replenish yourself and breathe some life back into your bones than spending the day in a refreshing hot spring!
Onyang Hot Springs is located in Chungcheongnam-do, which is north of Seoul. To get here, you can ride Line 1 on the Seoul Metropolitan Subway.
I hope you liked this article on winter in Korea! Which activity are you most excited to try out?
Winter in Korea is truly special. From unique festivals to yummy food and romantic spots, this country has it all. All of these are reasons why it’s become a top vacation spot even during wintertime.