Seoul is a city of four distinct seasons. I spent one August in the city and it was hot and humid. Winter is cold. If you don’t mind the cold, it’s worth it to visit for the winter atmosphere. Here are some great ideas of things to do in Seoul if you find yourself here in the winter.
Visit Gyeongbok Palace
This former royal palace has been destroyed throughout history and slowly rebuilt in the 20th century. It looks beautiful any time of year, but I especially like the frozen lakes surrounding the buildings and white snow contrasting the colorful roofs. I visited Gyeongbok Palace on Lunar New Year and many Korean families were visiting, some wearing the traditional hanbok.
National Folk Museum
An excellent way to get out of the cold is to get into a museum. The National Folk Museum is a good place to start. The museum has been recently updated and features a multitude of Korean traditions, from marriage customs to traditional food preparations. The museum is broken into three main exhibition halls: History of Korean People, Korean Way of Life, and Life Cycle of the Koreans. Located within the grounds of Gyeongbok Palace.
Shop at Insadong
Yes it’s touristy. But it’s still a pleasant place to shop for traditional Korean crafts. This neighborhood in center Seoul has been constructed to feel like a village. There are restaurants and tea shops along the lane and lots of street snacks. Scroll paintings, pottery, and other artwork are good items to pick up here.
Warm up in a Coffee Shop
Coffee culture is alive and well in Seoul: it amazes me just how many coffee shops there are. There are the usual international brands like Starbucks and plenty of Korean-only chains like Hollys Coffee and Tom N Toms. But best to head for the independent shops which have a lot more character. For a good selection, check out Hongdae (see below). (Watch out for prices at Starbucks. Coffee is double the price from Starbucks in other countries–$7 for a brew!)
Walk along Cheonggyecheon Stream
Granted, you may enjoy this more in the summer. But it can look beautiful in the winter when parts of the stream are iced over and snow is on the banks. Chonggyecheon is a stream flowing through central Seoul that was once covered by concrete. Back in 2005 it was uncovered and turned in to a long park area set down from the street level. Office building soar on the sides and a little bit of nature lies in between.
Experience Hongdae Nightlife
Butted up right against Hongik University, Hongdae is filled with bars, restaurants, music venues, and shops. Go here to people watch, listen to music, drink, eat, and hang out.
Experience Hongdae in the Day
Hongdae is alive in the day as well. It’s great for boutique shopping, independent coffee shops, and funky cafes. There are usually buskers out singing and playing guitar, especially on the weekend.
Read more about Seoul
For excellent reading material about Seoul, try or