What To Do If You’re Staying In Seoul For Seollal 2018
This year Seollal, or the Lunar New Year, falls on February 16th which means the holiday spans three days and runs into the weekend making it a lovely four or five day holiday for locals.
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 respects 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. My Korean family will partake in this very tradition adorned in Hanbok and all. To learn more about the Jesa ceremony I’ll be partaking in, you can read about that here. 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 and luck for the new year. In Korea, the Lunar New Year is the date on which everyone’s age increases by one year… traditionally, though there has been quite a bit of talk of forgoing the Korean age differences and just sticking with the western age for all. That’s for another post though.
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Not all families celebrate traditionally and now more and more people are heading to the ski resorts and spas to enjoy some relaxation time rather than stress over perfectly set tables. 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 were born in a Year Of The Dog which includes: 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994.
With that, here are some great options for getting out and about and getting involved over the holiday weekend here in Seoul.
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 Dog with a special performance called Han Pan Nol Gae. The show will begin with a mixed drum ensemble with a song to block bad luck and hope all the best for the New Year. There is also a women’s moondance and more for a spectacular 80 minute performance. From 2 o’clock (an hour before the performance) visitors are invited to take part in traditional games on the center grounds. All foreign guests will also receive a 4 piece post card set with traditional Korean depictions on the front to say thank you for attending.
Show Time: February 16th & 17th, 2018; 3:00pm ~ 4:20pm
*If you where a Hanbok or were born in the year of the Dog (1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994), you can get in for just W1,000.
2. The Namsangol Hanok Village (남산골한옥마을)
The Namsangol Hanok Village is once again opening its doors on Seollal to provide a great place to take part in some traditional Korean activities and fun. The Namsangol Hanok Village that sits at the foot of Namsan Mountain is easy to get to for many as its centrally located. Visitors can take part in activities including making kites, spinning tops, masks and eat up a helping of rice cake. There will be traditional performances and the traditional ancestral rites are demonstrated as well. Activities and performances will run from 11:00am to 4:00pm on February 16th and 17th.
Hours: 11:00AM – 4:00PM
3. The Korean Folk Village (한국민속촌)
A special event called “Fortune Party Celebrating Seol” for the Lunar New Year will be held at the Korean Folk Village from February 10th to the 11th and from the 15th to the 18th. 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.
Hours: 10:00AM – 5:30PM
4. Treat Yourself To A Staycation
Tried to book a trip out of the city but couldn’t? Treat yourself to a stay away in Seoul. There are some beautiful and fun places to stay around the city and maybe it’ll give you more time to get to know another bit of the city. This city is massive, so why not stay on the OTHER side? Here are a few places I’d recommend looking into that still have rooms available over the holiday period.
(Central Seoul) GLAD Hotel (Yeouido): One of only two Design Hotels in Korea, GLAD is located on Yeouido Island in the middle of town. Chic, urban and modern with all of the amenities and cool vibes. Stay here and you really won’t want to leave your room.
(Eastern Seoul) Lotte Hotel World: This spot is solo, couple and family friendly and near so many cool things to check out like the Seoul Sky Observatory with its gorgeous views of the city from high high up and TeamLab Seoul for some futuristic amusement park fun. Stay here and get out and about to check out what the east side of Seoul is up to.
(Western Seoul) Shilla Stay Mapo: The Gongdeok, Mapo area has some hidden gems if you’re on the hunt for something a bit more rustic and real. The hotel is comfortable and beautiful. After a nice rest, head out to enjoy some Pyeongyang style noodles at Eulmildae or go over to Gongdeok Jeon Town to get your fill of all things fried. You won’t be sorry.
5. Lotte World Folk Museum (롯데월드 민속박물관)
The Lotte World Folk Museum is a bit different from other historic and traditional museums in that is showcases history through innovative media technology. The Performance Hall and Market place are free for visitors while the History Exhibition Hall and Miniature Village require an admission fee. If you don’t want to brave the weather and stay outside of the Hanok Villages, but you want to partake in a cultural activity, this is a great option to check out. Get more information on times and tickets on their site.
6. 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 to enjoy. 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.
Hours: 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Hours: 9:00AM – 5:00PM
*Other palaces and directions to them can be found here on the Visit Korea website.
7. The National Folk Museum of Korea (국립민속박물관)
The museum which sits on the grounds of Gyeongbukgung Palace is holding an exhibit centered on the Year of the Dog appropriately. Artwork and relics will look at the role of the dog in Korean culture in an exhibit titled “Dogs In Our Lives: Companionship & Friendship”. The museum hosts events and fun in the grounds out front every year and is a gorgeous place to learn about history and culture. After finishing up there, head across the street to the Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art.
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
8. 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. If there are any on your list to see still, then this is a great time to head out and enjoy them.
- N Seoul Tower
- Korea House
- The War Memorial of Korea
- Hangang River Ferry Cruise
- Seodaemun Prison History Museum
- National Theater of Korea
- Myeongdong Nanta Theatre
9. 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. Be sure to check out their websites and print out their coupons because you can get some great deals if you head in over the holiday weekend.
Hours: 10:00AM – 9:00PM
Admission: One Day Ticket: Print the coupon from their website for a BIG discount.
Hours: 9:30AM – 11:00PM
*On their site there is a printable coupon giving foreigners a discount
10. Live Music & Mayhem
Spots all around Hongdae will surely have their doors wide open… well probably shut tightly so there’s no draft inside, but you catch my drift. Music will be playing and there will be bands to see so if you are looking at this holiday weekend as an opportunity to stay out late and see some live music, then be sure to head over to DoIndie to stay on top of what is going on around town musically. Shutter yourself inside if you really want to, but if I were you, I’d find a live pub and dance and jive because isn’t that really the best way to spend a holiday?
11. Tune In To The Olympics
Last but not least, the Pyeongchang Olympics will be in full swing this holiday weekend so make sure to tune in and support all of the amazing athletes that have come to the Land Of The Morning Calm. It will be frigid in Pyeongchang and if you’re headed that way, good luck out there, but if if you’re planning on staying indoors, at least follow along. Check out the Pyeongchang2018 Website for up to date info on what to see.
The Lunar New Year, or 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.