South Korea in Winter

Complete Guide to South Korea in Winter: What to See, Do & Eat

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Winter in South Korea is long and cold – but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing fun today. It’s actually quite the opposite: fun festivals, cozy teahouses and delicious hot stews are going to be all part of your adventure in South Korea in winter!

Check out 25 free things to do in Seoul for more ideas on what to do in Korea!

When is Winter in South Korea

Winter in South Korea typically spans from December to February. During this period, the weather can be quite cold, with temperatures often dropping below freezing. It’s a good idea to dress warmly if you plan to visit South Korea during the winter months, especially if you’re exploring outdoor attractions or participating in winter sports. Keep in mind that the exact timing and intensity of winter weather can vary from year to year.

Traditional Experiences to do in Winter in Korea

South Korea really is a year-round travel destination. If you visit during the cold season, you should definitely put the following activities on your itinerary when traveling to South Korea in winter.

Cozy up in a Teahouse

Sipping on hot tea is one of the best ways to spend winter in South Korea. My favorite teahouse in Seoul is Tteuran, located inside a beautiful hanok house in Ikseon-dong.

What I love about this place is the green courtyard you have excellent views of from the inside. It’s not only the cozy atmosphere and delicious teas that have made Tteuran popular. Another amazing teahouse in Seoul is Cha Masineun Tteul (차마시는뜰) in the heart of Bukchon Hanok Village.

If you’re in Jeonju, be sure to check out Gyodong Dawon, which seems to be one of the last few places that appreciate authentic tea art.

Traditional Tea Ceremony Experience

Tea ceremonies are viewed as a way to find relaxation and harmony in the fast-paced Korean culture of today. If you not only enjoy drinking tea but also making some and learning about the culture behind it, a traditional tea ceremony at Bukchon Hanok Village would be the perfect item on a South Korea winter itinerary.

This tea making class focuses not only on how to brew to perfect cup of Korean green tea and matcha but also on the appropriate traditional tea etiquette developed in South Korea over centuries.

Traditional Korean Tea Ceremony

Soak in the pools of a Jjimjilbang

What better way to warm up after a day of sightseeing in winter in Korea than at a jjimjilbang? This traditional public bathhouse is equipped with hot tubs, showers, Korean traditional kiln saunas and massage tables.

The bathing areas are gender-segregated but the other relaxation areas are usually unisex. Plus, you can get a body scrub that will leave your skin super soft!

Korean Sauna Korea in Winter

Stay in a Korean Hanok House

In a traditional Korean house, called hanok, people usually sleep on the floor. This might not seem like a smart things to do in Korea in winter, but it’s actually super comfortable – because of ondol. Dating back centuries, Koreans have developed a smart way of heating their floors.

This makes sleeping in a hanok not only a fun cultural experience but also extremely cozy in the winter.

The Best Festivals South Korea in Winter

Korea has a lot of festivals year-round – and winter is no exception. Here are the best winters festivals in Korea you should out on your itinerary when traveling to South Korea in winter.

Taebaeksan Mountain Snow Festival

Taebaek City has been hosting a large Mountain Snow Festival every year since 1994. The festival gives visitors the opportunity to try out a variety of winter activities in South Korea, including snow rafting and sledding and also features a large exhibition of sculptures made of snow. On top of that, you can hike in the nearby Taebaeksan Mountain, one of the highest in Korea.

Korea in winter

Mt. Deogyusan Winter Wonderland

If you’re looking for a fantastic winter landscape, the scenery at Mount Deogyusan on the border between Jeollabuk-do and Gyeongsangnam-do is unlike any other.

Winter in South Korea transforms the landscape into a mesmerizing wonderland, with hidden temples discreetly tucked amid snow-capped mountains. Exploring these enchanting sites is an absolute must during the winter season in South Korea!

Winter Light Festival

Should hiking not be your thing or you’re simply looking for something more serene, the Winter Light Festival at the Garden of Morning Calm is the perfect choice. Located only 2 hours away from Seoul, this beautiful garden and its lighting festival is the perfect day trip destination for visitors to Seoul wanting to experience South Korea in winter.

Snow Sledding

For those you can’t ski or snowboard, snow sledding is a fun alternative to try. Bears Town Ski Resort is one of the most accessible snow wonderlands from Seoul and also the longest sledding slope in all of Korea. The nearby Herb Island Light Festival is a special treat in South Korea in winter.

Empty sledge with on the snow on the background of the slagheap

Top Ski Resorts in Korea

South Korea has a lot of mountains – and winter sports are extremely popular. Due to the high number of foreign tourists (many of which are coming from Southeast Asia to learn skiing or snowboarding), there are a lot of English ski and snowboard classes available.

Yongpyong Ski Resort

If you are looking for a for a world-class ski experience this winter Yongpyong Ski Resort is a great choice. It’s the biggest ski and snowboard resort in Korea, located at the foot of Mount Balwangsan in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province. The Alpine Skiing event at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics were also held at this location.

Vivaldi Park Ski Resort

One of the closest ski resorts to Seoul, Vivaldi Park Ski Resort is a very popular choice for Seoulites and visitors alike and has been the most visited ski resort in Korea for 8 consecutive years.

The ski resort boasts the largest lodging facility in Korea and offers a wide range of accommodation options. On top of that, the slopes are open from 8:30 am until 5:00 am, making Vivaldi Park a great choice of weekday skiing or night skiing.

Alpensia Ski Resort

The Alpensia Ski Resort has six slopes for skiers and snowboarders to enjoy. Runs as long as 1.4km provide a dynamic experience for both beginners and experienced skiers and snowboarders. There is also an area exclusively for advanced snowboarders to practice their skills.

The ski resort is located in the Pyeongchang area, where to 2018 winter Olympics were held. Because of this, Alpensia boasts a wide range of comfortable hotels and B&B’s where you can stay for a fun ski weekend.

Elysian Gangchon Ski Resort

Elysian Gangchon Ski Resort is a beautiful and modern ski resort about 1.5 hours from Seoul and only 30 minutes from the popular Nami Island.The slopes at the Elysian are great for beginners and intermediate skiers and snowboarders but there are also a few advanced slopes to go crazy on.

Eight of the ten slopes are suitable for beginners and intermediate skiers (2 for beginners, 1 for pre-intermediates, 5 for intermediates, 2 for the advanced). A total of six lifts operate for the ten slopes resulting in very short waiting times and more ski fun for you!

What to Eat in South Korea in Winter

Winter in Korea can be rough. However to beat the cold, you should get familiar with the endless soup and stew variety that Korea has to offer.

Eomog Tang, Fish Cake Soup

This soup is one of the most popular street foods during winter and even throughout the entire year. The combination of the soft fish cakes on a stick in a flavorful broth paired with other vegetables. The fish cakes vary in size and shape from flat slices to round balls.

Dongtae Jjigae, Pollock Stew

If you’re not familiar with pollock, it’s a type of fish similar to cod, which is the main ingredient of this deliciousness in a bowl. Korean Jjigae stews are a flavorful experience with many ingredients melting together in the pot: radish, green onion, tofu, bean sprouts and anchovies.

Ddeokguk, Rice Cake Soup

This soup variety is traditionally eaten for Lunar New Year in Korea. It is made of the broth and thin rice cakes. It is said to bring good look for the new year when it is eaten during New Year’s. It is usually served with eggs, thin slices of meat, and dried seaweed. 

This is one of my personal favorite Korean dishes – so be sure to try it during your Korea trip!

Sundubu Jjigae, Uncurdled Tofu Stew

One of my favorites of all time, and not only in winter: sundubu jjigae! This delicious stew consists of uncurdled tofu, many vegetables, including mushrooms and onions.

There are even varieties with seafood (oysters mussels, clams, or shrimp) and optional meat! However, no matter which type you try, you will always taste the gochujang (chili paste) and gochu garu (chili powder). A raw egg is oftentimes poured on top of the jjigae right before serving it.

What to Pack For South Korea in Winter

It gets extremely cold in South Korea in winter. However, many restaurants, cafés and jjimjilbang turn their heating to full blast. Therefore, the best way is to layer up.

Here’s a list to consider:

  1. Warm Clothing:
    • Heavy Coat: A warm, preferably waterproof, insulated coat or jacket, like Wantdo coats
    • Layered Clothing: Sweaters, long-sleeve shirts, and thermal undergarments.
    • Warm Pants: Thick trousers or jeans to keep your legs warm.
    • Winter Accessories: Hats, gloves, scarves, and earmuffs to protect against cold winds.
  2. Footwear:
    • Boots: Waterproof and insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry, like Bearpaw
  3. Electronics and Accessories:
  4. Skincare and Toiletries:
    • Moisturizer: The cold weather can be harsh on the skin, so hydrating lotions or creams are essential.
    • Lip Balm: To prevent chapped lips. For me, there’s nothing better than LANEIGE’s lip sleeping mask to hydrate those lips!
    • Sunscreen: Snow can reflect sunlight, so protection against UV rays is necessary. For Korea, I recommend a high UV like COSRX Daily SPF 50 Vitamin E Vitalizing Sunscreen.
  5. Medication and First Aid:
    • Prescription Medication: Carry necessary medications and a copy of your prescription.
    • Basic First Aid Kit: Band-Aids, pain relievers, and cold/flu medication.
  6. Travel Documents:
    • Passport and ID: Essential for international travel.
    • Travel Insurance: Always a good idea for any unexpected situations. I also book mine with World Nomads Travel Insurance.
  7. Backpack or Day Bag:
  8. Language Assistance:
  9. Cash and Cards:
    • Local Currency: Some cash for small purchases where cards might not be accepted.
    • Credit/Debit Cards: Accepted widely, but always good to have backup options.

Remember, South Korea can get quite cold in winter, so prioritize warmth and comfort when packing. Also, check the weather forecast closer to your travel dates to make any necessary adjustments to your packing list.

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Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.

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