As the temperature drops and the first snowflakes fall, South Korea undergoes a captivating transformation. From snow-covered landscapes to unique winter festivals, we’ve got your ultimate guide to the top things to do in Korea during this magical time of year. Whether you’re a fan of winter sports, holiday lights, or cultural experiences, Korea offers a diverse winter wonderland for travelers of all kinds. Join us as we explore the top things to do in Korea in winter, where you can find winter escapades galore. So bundle up in your longest jacket, grab some warm Korean street food, and let’s explore the best of Korea in its coldest season.
Things to do in Korea in winter: FAQs
When is winter in Korea?
Winter in South Korea typically spans from December to February, with the coldest temperatures occurring in January. During this period, the country experiences a significant drop in temperatures. Freezing temperatures and snowfall are common. Northern areas like Seoul get quite cold, while southern areas such as Busan and Jeju have slightly milder winters.
What is the weather like in Korea in winter?
Here is a chart of the average weather in Korea in winter:
Seoul gets an average of 10 inches of snow per winter, while Busan only gets occasional dustings.
In the mountainous region of Gangwon Province, where most ski resorts are located, expect colder temperatures and higher snowfall accumulation.
Is winter a good time to visit Korea?
There are pros and cons to visiting South Korea in winter, with the most obvious con being the harsh low temperatures. You’ll need to bundle up and be prepared for sub-zero temperatures. Also keep in mind that winter days are significantly shorter, allowing less daylight for sightseeing.
If you’re ready to embrace the cold, it can be a great time to visit. During winter, the country transforms into a winter wonderland with snow-covered mountains, historic sites, and city streets. There are many winter sports opportunities and winter festivals that can’t be enjoyed during any other season. There are also fewer tourists during this time, meaning fewer crowds and potentially cheaper prices.
Looking for warmer weather and blooming flowers? Try visiting in the spring! Check out my guide to the top 31 things to do in spring in Korea.
What should I pack for Korea in winter?
Pack with the cold temperatures in mind. You’ll want to bring warm clothing, preferably layers that you can use to protect yourself from the chill. I recommend packing thermal base layers (such as HeatTech from Uniqlo), long-sleeve shirts, and sweaters to pile on. You’ll also want a thick winter jacket; most Koreans wear long padded jackets. For pants, I recommend packing insulated pants or thick jeans and bringing long underwear or leggings to layer underneath. It’s all about layers!
Don’t forget winter accessories, such as warm hats, gloves, scarves, and socks. I also suggest bringing a good pair of sunglasses, because the winter snow can get very bright.
Things to do in Korea in winter: Seoul & surrounding areas
1. See Christmas lights in Myeongdong
Myeongdong is a popular shopping district in Seoul, South Korea, known for its street food market, trendy fashion boutiques, and K-beauty shops. During the holiday season, Myeongdong is transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland with colorful Christmas lights and festive decorations. Head to Myeongdong Cathedral, Shinsegae Department Store, Lotte Department Store, and Myeongdong Walking Street for the best light displays.
The Christmas lights in Myeongdong typically start to appear in late November and remain until early January.
2. Go ice skating at Lotte World
The indoor ice skating rink at Lotte World is open year-round, but the best time to visit is in the winter when Lotte World is decorated for Christmas. Escape from the harsh outside while enjoying this classic winter sport. Equipment rental is available on-site. If you’re visiting on a weekend, I recommend showing up early because it gets really crowded!
3. Spend a day at the Winter Festival at Everland
Everland, Korea’s largest theme park, is one of the best destinations to visit in winter. Located in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do, Everland is only an hour outside of Seoul. Some of the best attractions at the Everland Winter Festival include Snowman World, the Holland Village Night Lights, sledding at Snow Buster, the Christmas parade, the Santa Village & Lenny’s Adventures performance, and the Magic in the Sky fireworks display.
Get a discounted Everland ticket and the option of booking a convenient shuttle bus from Seoul here!
4. Visit the Lighting Festival at the Garden of Morning Calm
Held from December to March, the Lighting Festival at the Garden of the Morning Calm sees 30,000 LED lights illuminating over 30,000m2 of gardens. Each area has a different theme display, from love to animals to flowers. Just 2 hours from Seoul, this is one of the best winter day trips from Seoul. It’s in close proximity to Nami Island and many strawberry-picking sites, so you can easily combine destinations for a dreamy winter day trip.
5. Take a day trip to Nami Island
This scenic island, made famous by the Korean drama “Winter Sonata,” is particularly charming in winter when the trees are bare and the island is covered in snow. The island lies in the middle of the Bukhangang River, which freezes over in winter, providing stunning views all around.
Because of their proximity, Nami Island and Garden of the Morning Calm are often combined together for the ultimate winter day trip from Seoul. Build your own perfect winter day trip, including both of these locations and more, here.
6. Go sledding at Seoul Land
Seoul Land is an amusement park located in the Grand Park complex in the south of Seoul. It holds various festivals throughout the year, with the Snow Light Festival being held from December to February. From the beginning of November to the end of December, there’s a park-wide Christmas Party. Then, from January 1st to the end of February, there’s a Snow Party. Enjoy the thrilling rides before taking part in the festival events, such as sledding and ice fishing!
Want discounted Seoul Land tickets that include free admission to the snow sled area during the winter season? Book here for the cheapest tickets.
7. Attend the Seoul Lantern Festival
Every winter, hundreds of LED lights and lanterns made of traditional Korean paper light up Cheonggye Plaza and Cheonggyecheon Stream. Local artists make colorful, life-size lanterns, all with different themes and stories. Best of all, it’s completely free!
Check the dates and details of the festival here.
8. Bask in the winter ambiance at The Hyundai Seoul Christmas Village
The Hyundai, located in Yeouido, is the biggest department store in Seoul. The mall opened in 2021, spanning an area the size of 13 football fields. It’s very modern, spacious, and Instagrammable. Every winter on the top floor, the Christmas Village opens featuring a huge indoor Christmas tree with gorgeous string lights. Take in the Christmas atmosphere while escaping from the cold at this indoor Christmas village.
9. Take a day trip to Pocheon for the Herb Island Light Festival
Just 1 to 2 hours north of Seoul is Pocheon Herb Island, the largest herbal botanical garden in Korea. It’s a Mediterranean-inspired theme park consisting of crafting experiences, herb museums and restaurants, skin care souvenir shops, and a Santa Clause village. There are over 300 Santa statues in the village! The theme park itself is a little bizarre, but the Light Festival makes it worth the visit in the winter. The botanical garden covered in colorful, twinkling lights is a beautiful sight.
10. Go strawberry picking
Did you know that winter is Korea’s peak strawberry season? This is when the berries are the biggest, reddest, juiciest, and sweetest thanks to greenhouse farming. There are lots of places to go strawberry picking in Korea, but I suggest going to Chuncheon so you can combine it with a visit to Nami Island and/or the Garden of Morning Calm, or going to Pocheon so you can combine it with a visit to the Herb Island Light Festival.
Go strawberry picking, visit the picturesque Pocheon Art Valley, and explore the Herb Island Light Festival in one day with this guided tour from Seoul.
Go strawberry picking, visit Nami Island, see the Lighting Festival at the Garden of Morning Calm, or choose another winter activity with this customizable winter day trip from Seoul.
11. Stroll around a palace and hanok village after snowfall
Seoul’s Five Royal Palaces are stunning year-round, but there’s something extra magical about them after a fresh coat of snow. The main palace, Gyeongbukgung, is known for its beauty after snowfall. After exploring the palace, you can head next door to Bukchon Hanok Village, where you can grab a hot drink in a traditional teahouse and continue to take in the snowy backdrop.
12. Try adventurous winter sports at Vivaldi Park Ski World & Snowy Land
Only 45 to 90 minutes from Seoul, Vivaldi Park is Seoul’s closest ski resort. In the winter, Vivaldi Park is divided into Ski World and Snowly Land. Ski World is where you can hit the slopes on skis or a snowboard, with 12 slopes to choose from: 2 beginner, 5 intermediate, 4 advanced, and 1 expert. If skiing isn’t your thing, head to Snowy Land, where you can go sledding on 4 slopes of varying degrees.
Save yourself the hassle of figuring out your own transportation by booking a shuttle bus and discount ticket package here.
Want to visit Nami Island and Vivaldi Park together in one day? Join this winter day tour from Seoul!
13. Try ice fishing at the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival
This 3 week-long festival is one of the biggest events in Korea in winter, with CNN recognizing it as one of the “7 Wonders of Winter”. It takes place on a stream covered by 16 inches of ice! You don’t have to be into fishing to enjoy the festival, as the festival also has ice sculpture viewing, ice and snow sledding, a winter village, and a bare-hand fishing competition that is hilarious and entertaining to watch. Check festival dates and details here.
Want to join a hassle-free day trip from Seoul? Book this tour for convenient and affordable transportation between Seoul and Hwacheon.
14. Step into a frozen kingdom at the Cheongyang Ice Festival
Located in Cheongyang-gun, the Cheongyang Ice Fountain Festival features massive ice fountains, ice sculptures, and igloos. After looking at the magnificent ice creations, you can go snow sledding, ice sledding, bobsleighing, zip lining, ice fishing, and more. You’ll feel like you stepped into the Disney movie Frozen! Because of its location, it can be easily combined with visits to Eobi Ice Valley, strawberry picking sites, Nami Island, and/or the Garden of Morning Calm for an ultimate winter day trip.
15. See an impressive ice wall at Eobi Ice Valley
Eobi Ice Valley is situated at the base of Eobi Mountain and is famous for its magnificent ice wall in the winter. The entire surface glistens with icicles, ice formations, and ice cliffs, turning the valley into an ice-covered wonderland.
Eobi Ice Valley is situated in Gapyeong near many other winter attractions. Book this customizable tour to conveniently combine a trip to Eobi Ice Valley with the Cheongyang Ice Festival, strawberry picking, Nami Island, and/or the Garden of Morning Calm.
Things to do in Korea in winter: Busan
16. See Christmas lights at the Haeundae Lighting Festival
Haeundae Beach is the most famous beach in Busan for its soft white sand, skyline views, and various festivals held throughout the year. Each winter, the Haeundae Lighting Festival brightens up the beach with various impressive light fixtures, such as a light passageway, a Christmas tree, Christmas sculptures, and lights on the beach resembling twinkling waves.
17. Feel the Christmas spirit at the Busan Christmas Tree Cultural Festival
Held in Nampo-dong, the Busan Christmas Tree Cultural Festival has LED lights, concerts, street performances, a giant Christmas tree, and more. Enjoy the Christmas carols while taking in the festivity of the 60-foot Christmas tree and hanging lights.
18. Take a dip in frigid waters at the Polar Bear Swim Festival
Each December, 5,000 brave people swim in the frigid winter waters of Haeundae Beach like polar bears. At the starting signal, everyone runs into the ocean together to embrace the winter weather and pray for good health in the new year. There are also performances and swimming competitions that take place before the main event. Check this year’s festival details and registration information here.
19. Warm up at Spa Land, a traditional Korean spa
Jjimjilbangs (찜질방) are traditional Korean spas with saunas, baths, snack bars, entertainment zones, and much more. Spa Land Centum City in Busan is one of the best places to get the premier Korean spa experience. With 22 baths fed by all-natural spring water, 13 distinctively themed saunas, and an open-air foot spa, you can spend an entire day defrosting from the cold winter weather. To visit the baths, you’ll have to get naked, but don’t be scared! It’s a normal part of Korean culture, so embrace it and it won’t be awkward.
Things to do in Korea in winter: Outside of Seoul & Busan
20. Go skiing or snowboarding at the host sites of the 2018 Winter Olympics
Is skiing or snowboarding your thing? Then you can hit the same slopes that Olympians competed on in the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics. Alpensia Ski Resort was the main venue, with 6 slopes: 1 beginner, 1 intermediate, and 4 advanced. If you prefer more variety, then Yongpyong Ski Resort is a great choice. It’s the biggest ski and snowboard resort in Korea with 28 slopes: 5 beginner, 5 intermediate, 4 advanced, 6 expert, and 1 extreme.
If you’re a snowboarder, you might prefer Phoenix Park Ski Resort, which hosted the Olympic snowboarding events. There are 21 slopes: 7 beginner, 4 intermediate, 4 advanced, and 2 expert.
21. Try winter sports and ice fishing at the Pyeongchang Trout Festival
Besides skiing and snowboarding, there are other great winter activities in Pyeongchang. The Pyeongchang Trout Festival has many winter programs such as ice and lure fishing for trout, snow tubing, ice skating, snow rafting, ice cycling, sledding, and more. Any trout you catch while fishing at the festival can be prepared right away, grilled or raw as sashimi, at a nearby restaurant.
It’s possible to visit the Pyeongchang Trout Festival on a day trip from Seoul. It’s over 3 hours away, so I recommend booking this guided tour that includes transportation and ice fishing admission and equipment.
22. Admire giant snow sculptures at Taebaeksan Snow Festival
Located in the scenic Taebaeksan National Park, the Taebaeksan Snow Festival is one of the most popular winter festivals in Korea. The mountain range gets an average of over 100 inches of snow per year, making it the perfect snowy backdrop for the festival. After the festival, you can go on a snowy hike or try winter sports. From snow and ice sculptures to winter sports and cultural performances, this festival is a must for snow lovers.
23. See tea fields turned into a winter wonderland at Boseong Tea Plantation Light Festival
Boseong Tea Plantation is one of the most scenic spots in Korea during the spring and summer when the tea fields are vibrant green. But did you know that its light festival is one of the biggest winter festivals in the southern region of Korea? Every December to January, LED lights take over the tea field, turning it into a spectacular winter wonderland.
24. Marvel at a 50-foot Christmas tree at E-World Starlight Festival
Every winter, Daegu’s E-World Theme Park comes alive with 10 million lights, a 50-foot Christmas tree, 100,000 LED roses, and much more. The festival is also home to the longest illuminated road in Korea at almost 700 feet long. From the top of the 83 Tower located in the park, you can take in the views of the lights and the Daegu nightscape. If you visit on the first night of the festival, you can catch a stunning fireworks show.
25. See the 500+ species of camellia at Camellia Hill
Jeju Island’s Camellia Hill Botanical Garden has over 500 species of camellia. They start to bloom in autumn and stay out until spring, with winter being the peak time to see them. Visit in December, January, or February for your best chance to see the camellia in full bloom. The arboretum is especially pretty when it’s covered in a fresh coat of snow.
As your winter adventure in Korea comes to a close, we hope you’ve had an unforgettable time exploring the snowy landscapes, seeing the magical holiday lights, and discovering unique winter festivals. Every season in Korea has its unique charm, but winter is a wonderland just waiting to be explored. If you can brave the cold, you’ll be rewarded with a Korean winter to remember.
Visiting Korea in the winter and want to visit the best year-round attractions and destinations, too? Check out my ultimate South Korea travel guide & itinerary, written by a local.