What To Do If You’re Staying In Seoul for Seollal!
This year Seollal, or the Lunar New Year, falls on February 19th which means the holiday spans three days and runs into the weekend making it a lovely five day holiday from February 18th to February 22nd.
Most Koreans head back to their hometowns to see family and if they celebrate in the traditional fashion will wake very early in the morning and hold a ceremony to pay respect to their ancestors in which they will dress in traditional Korean clothing, or Hanbok, and bow to an altar table set with all kinds of food including meat, fish, vegetables and fruit. After the ceremony, families will sit down to enjoy a hearty rice cake soup, or tteokguk, which signifies the addition of one more year to their age. In Korea, Lunar New Year is the date on which everyone’s age increases by one year.
Not all families celebrate traditionally though and now more and more people are heading to the ski resorts and spas to enjoy some relaxation time. No matter what the people do, the city of Seoul ends up much quieter than normal and the busy fast paced city comes to a bit of a wanderer’s pace. Restaurants that are usually open 24 hours a day may not open at all so if you’re staying in the city, plan ahead, stock up on food and drink and enjoy some quiet time in the city and maybe make plans to head out to one of these places that WILL be open. Some places will even have discounts if you born in a year of the sheep which includes: 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991 & 2003.
1. The National Gugak Center
The National Gugak Center preserves and promotes traditional Korean music and performance. Over the holiday weekend, visitors are welcomed to celebrate the Year of the Sheep with special performances. From 2 o’clock both days before the performance starts there will be traditional games played on the grounds of the center as well so, grab some friends and enjoy the afternoon with some games and a concert.
Directions: Nambu Bus Terminal Subway Station, exit 5 and take bus 4429 and get off at the center; Bangbae Subway Station, exit 1 and take local bus 07, 15 or 17 and get off at the center; OR Naebang Subway Station, exit 3 and take local bus 07 or 15 and get off at the center.
Show Time: February 19, 2015 & February 20, 2015, 4:00PM – 5:30PM
*50% off for people born in a year of the sheep, wearing a Hanbok, under 24, OR if you come with your grandparents
2. The Namsangol Hanok Village
A good place to take part in some traditional Korean activities on this traditional holiday is the Namsangol Hanok Village that sits at the foot of Namsan Mountain. Visitors can take part in activities including making kites, spinning tops, masks and rice cake. There will be traditional performances and the traditional ancestral rites are demonstrated as well. Activities and programs will run from February 19th to February 21st.
Directions: Chungmuro Subway Station, exit 3 or 4
Hours: 11:00AM – 5:00PM
3. The Korean Folk Village
A special event for the lunar new year will be held at the Korean Folk Village until February 22nd. Visitors can take part in face painting, horse petting, kite flying, rice cake pounding and fortune telling among other things. There will also be traditional performances, dancing, acrobats on tightropes, and horse shows at different times throughout the daily schedule.
Directions: Outside of Gangnam Subway Station, exit 10 catch bus 5001-1 to the Korea Folk Village. Outside Yeouido Subway Station, exit 6 catch bus 7007-1 to the Korean Folk Village. Outside Suwon Subway Station, exit 4 catch bus 10-5 or 37 to the Korean Folk Village.
Hours: 10:00AM – 5:30PM
*Those in a Hanbok or those born in the year of a sheep will be just W12,000
4. The Palaces
If any of the palaces are still on your list of places to see, this would be a good weekend for one. All of the palaces will be open and they will also be showcasing different programs for guests. Visitors that come dolled up in their Hanboks will also get free entry. Programs will include traditional rituals, games and performances all with a Korean palace as a beautiful backdrop.
Directions: Gyeongbukgung Subway Station, exit 5 or Gwanghwamun Subway Station, exit 2.
Hours: 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Directions: Anguk Subway Station, exit 3 or Jongno 3-ga Subway Station, exit 7
Hours: 9:00AM – 5:00PM
*Other palaces and directions to them can be found here on the Visit Korea website.
5. The National Folk Museum of Korea
The museum which sits on the grounds of Gyeongbukgung Palace is holding an exhibit centered on the Year of the Sheep appropriately. Artwork and relics will look at the role of the sheep in Korean culture in an exhibit titled “A Sheep Bringing Happiness”. In Korean culture, sheep are considered friendly animals and as a symbol stand for goodness and gentleness. If you can’t get out over the weekend, this exhibit is currently open and will run until February 23, 2015. Over the holiday weekend, the museum will also be hosting different traditional games and events just outside of the museum so there will be plenty to see and do as well.
Directions: Anguk Subway Station, exit 1, Gyeongbukgung Subway Station, exit 5, OR Gwanghwamun Subway Station, exit 2. The museum sits on the northeast corner of the Gyeongbukgung grounds.
Hours: 9:00AM – 5:00PM; events outside start from 11:00AM and run until 4:00PM
Admission: Free; some events cost a small fee to partake
Amenities: Strollers and wheelchairs are available free of charge, audio guides available for W1,000
6. Other Attractions:
Many attractions around the city will be closed over the holiday weekend, but not all of them. Here are some more places that will be open: National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, 63 Building, N Seoul Tower, COEX Aquarium, Seoul Museum of History, The National Museum of Korea. They may not be suited up for a special Lunar New Year event, but if you haven’t been yet, they’ll be open and ready to have you.
7. Amusement Parks
For something not so traditional but fun fun fun, head to any of the amusement parks in Seoul over the weekend. The parks will not only have their year round rides open, but they’ll also be offering up some winter themed events including sledding and other fun that you can have in the white powder that we love winter for bringing to us.
Directions: Check out their website for directions from your area.
Hours: 10:00AM – 9:00PM
Admission: One Day Ticket: W46,000*, After 3:00: W38,000, After 5:00: W20,000
*On their site there is a printable coupon giving foreigners a discount. Ticket ends up W37,000
Directions: Check out their website for directions to your area.
Hours: 9:30AM – 11:00PM
Admission: Full Day: W46,000, After 4:00: W37,000
*On their site there is a printable coupon giving foreigners a discount. Ticket ends up W24,000
8. Korean Tourism Organization
KTO will be hosting hands on activities for six days from February 16th to February 21st this year. Visitors can partake in folk games and make traditional crafts and take home souvenirs that are all offered free of charge.
Directions: Korea Tourism Organization building in Jung-gu, Seoul, B1. Jonggak subway station, exit 5. Cross over Cheonggyecheon Stream and turn right. The KTO building will be on the left.
Hours: 9:30AM – 5:30PM
9. Live Concerts
If you’re looking for something to do in the evening that may not be so cultural but will definitely keep the mood light and maybe make you bounce in your shoes, check out Korea Gig Guide for some live shows that will be taking place over the holiday weekend.
Seollal in Seoul, as quiet as it may be, can be a cultural treat with so many places to enjoy re-enactments, traditional dancing and hands on activities. Take advantage of these opportunities or stay home in your PJs over the long weekend, either way I hope everyone has a great Lunar New Year in Korea!
*Some photos in this article provided by the websites linked above.