The Lotus Lantern Festival: The Complete Guide of Events

Seoul, Korea: Lotus Lantern Festival, monks

Each spring, usually in May, Seoul has the most colorful celebration of Buddha’s birthday that you’ll be able to see across the country. Over 100,000 lanterns will be lighting up the night.

Lotus lanterns, elephants, dragons and more will be paraded along the road to culminate in a final hurrah of dance and music. I wrote up an article for Groove magazine this month on the highlights of the holiday weekend to look forward to and you can check that out here on pages 20 & 21 or pick up a magazine while you’re out an about in the city. Below, I’ll go over some of the information so that you can start planning now for where to go and when to get there:

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Eoulim Madang

Seoul, Korea: Lotus Lantern Festival 2013, Eoulim Madang Traditional HatAs the first event of the festivities, the Eoulim Madang is all about getting people movin’ and groovin’ and ready for a good time… and a long walk. All of the participants in the parade gather together at Dongguk University Stadium in their Hanboks and other traditional garb, gather their lanterns and dance, sing and pray to get into the spirit of celebrating Buddha’s birthday. Spectators are welcome and may even pick up a free lantern, but if you want to get the best seats for the parade, you’ll want to make a mad dash from the stadium down to Jonggak before the end of the stadium festivities.

Where: Dongguk University Stadium, (Dongguk University Station, Line 2, Exit 6)

When: May 16th from 3:30pm ~ 6:00pm (dates change each year)

Lantern Parade

Seoul, Korea: Lotus Lantern Festival 2013, Near Dongguk Uni at the beginningIn the past, around 300,000 people have gathered together to witness the beauty that is the Lantern Parade. With over 100,000 lanterns to see in all shapes and sizes from the traditional lotus flowers to the long dragon and large elephants and fire breathing peacocks, there are some sights to enjoy, not to mention the beautiful Hanboks groups will be wearing. Though the parade starts in Dongdaemun, the most popular place to grab the free seats that will be placed along the route is closer to Jonggak Station. People start filling up the seats 30-60 minutes in advance so grab some friends, get some drinks and get there early.

Where: From Dongdaemun and to Jonggak

Transport: Dongdaemun Station (Line 1, Exit 9 & 10), Jongno 5-ga Station (Line 1,  Exit 1, 4, 5 & 8), Jongno 3-ga Station (Line 1, 3 and 5, every exit), Jonggak Station (Line 1, every exit).

When: May 16th from 6:00pm ~ 9:30pm(dates change each year)

Hoehyang Hanmadang

Seoul, Korea: Lotus Lantern Festival 2013, FinaleAfter the parade, though some people head home, the participants in the parade will gather together to fill Gwanghwamun Plaza (a new location this year as it has usually been Jonggak Square), and dance for another couple of hours. Dancers on stage will show you the steps so you can jump on in too. People link hands to shoulders and massive snages zig-zag through the crowds. There’s laughing, dancing and singing until an explosion of confetti falls overhead.

Where: Gwanghwamun Plaza, Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5, Exit 2, 3, 4 & 7)

When: May 16th from 9:30pm ~ 11:00pm (dates change each year)

Traditional Culture Events Day

Seoul, Korea: Lotus Lantern FestivalTents line the street in front of Jogyesa temple and visitors can paint, glue and stamp a variety of Korean Buddhist crafts either for free or a very minimal cost that covers the material costs. You can make lotus lanterns, Buddhist prayer bead bracelets, traditional dolls, paint bowls and plates and stamp prints of Buddhist images.

Where: In front of Jogyesa Temple, Jonggak Station (Line 1, Exit 2) and Anguk Station (Line 3, Exit 6)

When: May 17th from 12:00pm ~ 6:00pm (dates change each year)


Seoul, Korea: Lotus Lantern Festival 2013To finish off the entire event, a mini parade heads around the block from Jogyesa temple, down Insa-dong’s main drag and back to the temple to culminate in a final celebration with dancing and music. It’s a beautiful and more intimate event than the night previous and a great way to end the entire weekend celebrating the birth of Buddha.

Where: In front of Jogyesa Temple, Jonggak Station (Line 1, Exit 2) and Anguk Station (Line 3, Exit 6)

When: May 17th from 7:00pm ~ 9:00pm (dates change each year)

If you’ll be visiting Seoul during Buddha’s Birthday and want to stay near the parade route, check out Hotel Skypark Kingstown Dongdaemun or Morning Sky Hotel.

Seoul, Korea: Lotus Lantern Festival 2013Seoul, Korea: Lotus Lantern Festival, Hanboks and lanternsSeoul, Korea: Lotus Lantern Festival, Dragon Head

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The Lotus Lantern Festival, The Complete Guide of Events, Seoul, Korea: The Lotus Lantern Festival has events all weekend from getting started to the parade and experience programs to celebrate Buddha's Birthday. Here's what you should do if you'll be in Seoul, Korea for the holiday.

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7 Responses

  1. damon says:

    아쉽네요. 여기저기 돌아다녀봐야되는데…미국에있었어 못 보겟네요.

  2. veganviet says:

    아주 예쁘서 가고 싶었어!

  3. Hey! So I’m visiting korea in september, and I was wondering where can I check some festivals etc * Can you recommend a website? Thank you so much for the info

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