The Complete Guide To Celebrating The Holidays In Seoul, Korea
In the States it seems like everyone has started putting up their holiday decorations well before even Thanksgiving has passed. Once that was taboo but these days clearly what was taboo is not anymore (you know what I’m referring to, right?). In Korea, sometimes you can be hard pressed to see any holiday decor to get into the spirit before or after Christmas. It is there, if you know where to look though!
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Check out this complete list of where to go and what to see for lights, ice rinks, food, fun and more this holiday season!
Twinkling Sparkling Lights!
From the Galleria Department Store to Seoul Plaza, Times Square and Lotte Department Store in Sogong-dong, there are a number of places to go in order to see a grandiose Christmas tree in all it’s splendor, but to get that much more into the spirit, head to these places for all of those twinkling lit up hot spots that will remind you of Christmas back home. For some spectacular fun, lights AND performances, also check out the theme parks for some great fun: Everland, Seoulland and Lotte World. Myeong-dong, where you’ll likely be headed for some Christmas gifts anyway also has numerous building facades lit up for the holidays so stay into the evening to see them in all their festive glory.
Santa’s Village at Herb Island
Through the month of December and into the spring
Back in the States, some families pile into their cars and drive along lanes of houses that are lit up every which way. In Korea… that’s a little tough to do, BUT that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the lights and Santa decor. Head to Herb Island and visit Santa’s Village located in a nut pine forest. The village takes their inspiration from Finland’s village of the same name and showcases 300 Santa sculptures, Christmas trees and a 300 meter long light tunnel. (Website)
Lighting Festival at The Garden Of the Morning Calm
December 2, 2016 ~ March 26, 2017
Another garden to see some beautiful holiday lights twinkling in the night is Garden of the Morning Calm. Nestled in the mountains just outside of Seoul, this makes for a great day trip or weekend away from the city. More than 5,000 plants in the gardens, scenic walkways and 6 million LED lights are calling. Head to Gapyeong now! (Website)
There are a few different places in Seoul to get out and about, strap some ice skates to your feet and flit around on some ice. Be prepared for lines on the weekends but fun on the frozen water!
Grand Hyatt Ice Rink: December 1, 2016 ~ February (Website)
Seoul Plaza Ice Rink: December 17, 2016 ~ February 9, 2016 (Website)
Olympic Park Ice Rink: December 23, 2016 ~ February 5, 2016 (Website)
World Cup Park Rink: end of December ~ February
MBC Plaza Sangam: December 23, 2016 ~ February
Lotte World Ice Rink: All Year (Website)
Mokdong Ice Rink: All Year (Website)
Taereung International Skating Rink: All Year (Website)
Food & Fun
A Festive Cooking Class at the Conrad Hotel
December 9, 2016
This Christmas themed cooking class will offer even the most ill-equipped chef the opportunity to whip up smoked salmon, turkey, beef wellington and more along with a dessert too. At W90,000 it’s by no means cheap, but is a fun and different way to start off those holiday festivities. (Sign Up Now!)
Route 66 Chili Cook Off
December 10, 2016
Route 66 will be hosting their third annual holiday chili cook off. Pay just W30,000 and you’ll get to eat 12 chilies and vote for your favorite. Chili may not remind everyone of the holidays, but it’s warm and bubbly and deliciously North American so it could get some of you right into that holiday spirit with memories of home cooked goodness.
Santa Pub Crawl
December 17, 2016 at 8:30pm
Dress up like Santa Claus and toast the town… or get toasted, one of those. Join hundreds of others in red and white gallivanting around the city spreading cheer and merriment wherever they go. Drink responsibly. (Website)
Christmas Cookie House Making
December 22, 2016 at 1:30pm
The Seorae Global Village Center is hosting a session to make Hansel and Gretel inspired cookie houses with children. Email them and sign up early to take part! (Website)
The European Christmas Market
December 10 & 11, 2016
Located at Seongbukcheon Fountain Square, this market is a great place to find food and items from Bulgaria, Austria, Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Finland and plenty more European countries. Goods donated from embassies are on sale along with ginger bread houses and other cute knick-knacks that could be perfect stocking stuffers. (Website)
Marche de Noel
December 10, 2016: 10:00am ~ 4:00pm
The French Christmas Market takes place in the small Ginkgo Park next to the French School in the Seocho District of Seoul. This market gets more and more popular as the years go by and yet stays in the very tiny Ginkgo Park. With that in mind, it’s best to get there early, get some delicious French treats and then get out to sit and enjoy the dishes without being stepped on. Well worth the bumping though.
Kintex Christmas Fair
December 9 ~ 18, 2016
This is the largest Christmas fair in the country. For ten days at Kintex in Ilsan, everything from decorative party supplies to stationary, holiday desserts and more are on sale. Not only is shopping on the docket, but there is also a Christmas Jazz Recital, Christmas themed classes and more. This is THE place to for all of your Christmas decor and gifting needs. (Website)
Holiday Concerts & Performances
December 10, 2016 at 7:00pm
The Camarata Music Company presents Handel’s Messiah at the Chungdong First Methodist Church near City Hall with a chorale and orchestra arrangement. The Camarata’s Children’s choir, Ars Nova Orchestra and professional soloists come together to present this annual Christmas festival concert with timeless classics. (Website)
December 16 – 31, 2016
The Universal Ballet and the National Ballet will be presenting this well known holiday piece that will no doubt have everyone tapping their feet and dancing into the streets afterward.
The Little Singers of Paris
December 17 & 18, 2016
The choir will once again perform some of those classic holiday arrangements like Caccini’s Ave Maria, Mozart’s Berceuse, Christmas carol and more international holiday favorites. Don’t miss it their amazing performance. (Website)
White Christmas Concert
December 23, 2016 at 8:00pm
The Seoul Arts Center and Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra will present a John Williams Special this year. While I’m not quite sure what his music has to do with the holidays, it is called their Christmas concert so I’m assuming there will be some holiday tunes along with John Williams’ famous scores from Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Superman and Harry Potter. (Website)
Cantata: Prince & Christmas
December 23 & 24, 2016
This performance at the Sejong Performing Arts Center “harmonizes historical facts and dramatic imagination based on the Christmas story experienced by the last prince of the Joseon Dynasty”. To see a Christmas performance with a Korean cultural twist, this is the one for you. (Website)
Ronn Branton Jazz Christmas
December 24 & 25, 2016
Head to Sejong Center for this annual jazz christmas special. This year’s artists include Ronn Branton, Martin Jacobson, Sean Pentland and Manual Weyand. (Website)