Sometimes in winter, you just want to curl up and just go into hibernation to avoid the cold all together. Although we too love doing this, there are times when cabin fever can start to set in and you get the urge to go outside and brave the elements. South Korea certainly doesn’t slow down in the winter, so when you find yourself wondering just where to venture to when the weather is at it’s coldest, look no further than our guide to must see places this winter in South Korea!
Even though most signs of life maybe gone for the time being, there are plenty of places here in Korea that still shine through in the winter months. Forcing yourself outdoors to enjoy the colder months can mean the difference between suffering through a season and never forgetting it. At the risk of sounding pushy, we think it’s important to remain active and experience everything that every season has to offer. So without any further adieu, here is a list of our favorite places to visit in the depths of winter.
This city is considered one of the oldest in Korea and was once the capital of the ancient Silla kingdom. Because of this, a large number of historical sites can be found around the city, including the large burial mounds which are scattered throughout the area. These mounds look surreal, especially in the wintertime as the once green grass fades to the more muted tones of winter. There are plenty of things to see and do in this historic city, even in the wintertime so be sure to check out the guide below. (Hedgers Abroad guide coming soon!)
– GYEONGJU GUIDE –
Jinan – The Red Ginseng Spa
You can hardly throw a rock in Korea without hitting a spa or jjimjilbang, but not all of them are created equally. The Red Ginseng Spa in Jinan, outside of Jeonju, is a testament to the quirky if not interesting spa culture in South Korea. This spa offers a great many features that you just won’t get in the standard spa or jjimjilbang such as aromatherapy, sound therapy, mud masks, group bathing, naps in a big room with “healing beds,” and more. The crème de la crème, however, is the incredible rooftop hot tub which overlooks the Maisan Mountains.
Hwacheon – Ice Fishing
Hwacheon County is about as north as you can get in South Korea and it is snuggled right up next to the DMZ. Being so far north means this area is icy cold throughout the winter season. Because of this, Hwacheon is the host to the Sancheoneo Ice Fishing Festival. The festival offers tons of fun winter themed activities besides fishing and is a great way to spend a winter weekend out of the city.
Jeonju Hanok Village
Jeonju is a cultural gem in the middle of South Korea. Known for its traditional architecture and raw beef bibimbap, this old city has been rejuvenated by modern upgrades and remains one of Korea’s most popular destinations. While we assert that Jeonju is a city for all seasons, it seems simply made for the winter. Getting snuggly in an overnight hanok guesthouse with heated floors and then warming yourself with loads of street food is our idea of perfection.
Wolchulsan National Park
While we love hiking and enjoying nature during the warmer months, there is something about this National Park in the winter. The enormous granite rocks, devoid of all lush green life, are a stark contrast against the winter sky. The iconic Sky Bridge looks breathtaking against the boulders and the trails are emptier than any other time of the year.
Pyeongchang – 2018 Winter Olympics Site
Even if you aren’t particularly fond of winter, there is a magic that it holds if you can just bring yourself to venture out into the cold and white. Korea is covered in mountains, and therefore, ski resorts. Korea is also the proud host of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, so you should definitely take the time this winter to check out the slopes where the Olympic athletes will be skiing in Pyeongchang.
Gyeongbokgung is one of Seoul’s most popular tourist destinations for good reason. The name roughly translates to mean “The Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven,” served as the royal palace since the first buildings were constructed in 1395. The architecture and palace grounds are stunning year round, but there is something extra magical about it when covered in snow.
Sokcho – Seoraksan National Park
One of the northeastern-most cities in South Korea, Sokcho is about as deep into Korea’s deep winter as you can venture. Blanketed in snow for longer than any other major Korean city, Sokcho is a perfect travel destination in the cold months. As an affront to the seemingly endless cold, a visit to Sokcho is an act of defiance when all instincts demand retreat to a warm complacency until Spring arrives. Instead, we believe a trip to the depths of Korea’s winter might be just the adventure needed to gain appreciation for this frigid season. Surrounded by natural beauty and some of the most pristine wild places remaining in South Korea, Sokcho is a perfect destination for anyone wanting to appreciate this oft-overlooked season.
Namdaemun – Food Market
I am sure we can all agree that there is no better way of getting through the winter than to fill up on as much warm and delicious food as possible. That’s why we strategically placed Thanksgiving and Christmas in the right in the middle of all that cold, right?! Namdaemun Food Market is the place to be to find all the street food your heart desires. Our advice? Bring some antacids.
Busan – Christmas Tree Festival
Korea’s Christmas season sometimes seems to be a bit lackluster. Back home Christmas lights are on display as soon as Thanksgiving ends and Christmas music can be heard in almost every coffee shop and store. Korea has been upping it’s Christmas game in the cities recently, however, and there are a few Christmas festivals you can attend to get back into that Christmas feeling.
Andong – Hahoe Village
As one of our first places to visit outside of Seoul, Andong represents one of our first tastes of traditional Korea and the spectrum of culture present in this country. The village is basically empty in the winter leaving you feeling as if you have stepped through time. Andong is also home to many hanok guesthouses and there is nothing better than a weekend getaway during the Korean winters as the ondol floor heating system will keep you toasty warm all night long inside your little hut.
Yeouido Park – Ice Skating
The summertime swimming pool on this Han River Park is converted into a large ice skating rink in the winter. The rink is opened December to mid-February and is the perfect place in the city for a winter date night. There are skate rentals available as well as a sledding hill and a snow playground. Check out the Korean Tourism Organization for more information.