One of the purposes of traveling abroad is encountering and experiencing a different culture of other countries. So if you are planning to trip to Korea, knowing the official Korean holidays makes the travel more enjoyable by experiencing their traditional customs and ceremonies at the same time. However, there are always ups and downs. Please check the tips between the lines to enjoy the holidays in Korea and to avoid having a hard time finding an open restaurant with your starving stomach.
Let’s check the official Korean holidays!
South Korea has 11 official holidays a year.
New Year’s Day (January 1)
Like most of the countries in the world, Koreans celebrate New Year’s Day. The ceremony starts on the evening of December 31 in many places and the most famous place to celebrate is Jonggak. Especially, they make a large stage in front of the city hall(the Seoul Plaza) and have a big concert to celebrate New Year’s Day and at 00:00 of January 1st, they ring the Bosingak bell in Jonggak 33rd times to pray the prosperity and happiness of the country and the people. After that, they set off the firecrackers. And many Koreans also go to the top of the mountain to see the first sunrise of the year.
1. 2020 Coex New Year’s Fireworks Countdown
Annually Coex holds fireworks to count down the new year! Come and celebrate the past and welcome the new at the 2020 Coex Fireworks countdown. We strongly recommend taking the subway to get there to avoid the traffic jam. Because Seoul subway runs late on New Year’s Day and it’s convenient as well.
2. First Sunrise at Gyeongpo Beach
Moreover, after the countdown in Seoul, take a bus ride to Gyeongpo Beach, the eastern part of Gangwondo Province, to see the fireworks and first sunrise of the new year. Say your prayers as the sun rises across the vast ocean for the new year. If you are in Busan, Homigot is the best place to enjoy the sunrise.
If you are looking for something low key. It will be crowded near the Seoul city hall and Jonggak area. The government extends the end-time of buses and subways during the new years so it’ll be a little difficult taking public transportation. Instead, it might be better to go to the nearby pubs to enjoy the anniversary to avoid the crowds.
Seollal – Lunar New Year’s Day (February 11-13)- One of the biggest Public Korean holidays
As I mentioned earlier, Seollal is one of the most famous and important Korean holidays. Usually, Koreans traditionally think Seollal is more important than January 1st because of their long history. So, family members who live apart in many places get together and thank their ancestors and celebrate new year’s day with various Korean traditional foods.
1. Seoul Palaces
Check out Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, and Gyeonghuigung Palace during Seollal. Moreover, the admission is free on Seollal and you can take pictures wearing hanboks, a traditional Korean dress.
2. Hangang Ferry Cruise
The Ferry Cruise in the Hangang river will host a special fireworks cruise on the day of Seollal. The cruise ride will be about 70 minutes and there will be fireworks only one time. Make sure you get there early to join the fireworks cruise. For more details, head here.
Usually, they don’t open shops and restaurants during the holiday season. It would be better to check the restaurants which are opened before the holidays start. I recommend you not to exit from Seoul. A lot of people move to their hometown and the traffic jam outside of Seoul is significant. Enjoy the quiet Seoul during the holidays with our other article about how you can survive on a big holiday in Korea.
Independence Movement Day (March 1)
Korean people commemorate the anniversary of Korea’s declaration of independence by announcing the Declaration of Independence against Japanese colonial rule on March 1, 1919. Many Koreans visit the Independence Hall of Korea on the day to remember the numerous patriots who willingly died for Korea’s independence from Japan.
Children’s Day (May 5)
A day designated by the children to grow up properly, wisely and spirited, and to show the love for children.
1.Buk Seoul Museum of Art
Check out the Buk Seoul Museum of Art to see performances, puppet shows, and do hands-on activities.
2. Seoul Baekje Museum
Seoul Baekje Museum will also be open on Children’s day for film screening, painting, hands-on activities and more.
3. Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)
The DDP will also host a fun music party for children, have hands-on activities, and display exhibitions.
It’s not a good choice to visit the amusement park on Children’s day because I don’t want you to spend your holiday in line waiting for rides.
Buddha’s Birthday (May 19)
The first 8th day of April in the Lunar calendar is Buddha’s birthday and it’s designated as a national holiday in 1975 in Korea. We can’t miss the day because people hang a lot of colorful lamps following the streets to celebrate Buddha’s birthday. It makes awesome scenery. Many Buddhists also visit temples on the day, and temples serve a delicious lunch, Bibimbap, for free!
Head to a nearby temple to celebrate this holiday. For example, there is a famous Bongeunsa temple in the Gangnam area and the Jogyesa temple is close to Insadong. In addition, the festivities are celebrated differently in each temple some might have Korean traditional games, some might have lantern making, and performances.
Memorial Day (June 6)
A day commemorating the spirit and devotion of the war dead to protect the country. So, many people visit The Seoul National Cemetry and The War Memorial of Korea to remember the Patriots and the importance of Peace. Head here for more things to do in Itaewon after visiting The War Memorial of Korea.
Bars and pubs don’t open on Memorial Day.
Liberation Day (August 15)
Liberation Day commemorates the liberation of Korea from Japan on August 15, 1945, and also celebrating the establishment of the Republic of Korea on August 15, 1948.
Chuseok (September 20 – 22) – One of the biggest Public Korean holidays
One of the biggest public holidays in Korea to thank God for the crops of the year. Literally, Chuseok means a night with the biggest moon in Autumn. So, people pray for their wishes to the moon and do a lot of traditional ceremonies like ‘Ganggang-suweol-rae’, ‘Juibul-nori’, etc. You can find many ceremonies to participate in during the holidays.
Gyeongbok Palace is open on Chuseok and it will also be free. Try on a hanbok and take pictures there. Because various performances and traditional activities will be held there and near Gwanghwamun square.
2. Namsangol Hanok Village
Go to the Namsangol Hanok Village to experience Korean rice cakes called Songpyeon. You can see also traditional Korean tightrope performances and Taekwondo, and be part of other traditional Korean activities.
3. National Museum of Korea
The National Museum of Korea has a beautiful garden and it is one of the most visited art museums in the world. You can learn about the history and culture of Korea and see the important artifacts during the past.
4. War Memorial of Korea
The War Memorial of Korea is great because they have a children’s museum and big airplanes out on the field. It’s a fun educational experience for the whole family.
Like Seollal, they don’t open the shops and restaurants either during the holiday season and avoid visiting outside of Seoul. Read our another article about how you can survive on a big holiday in Korea.
National Foundation Day (October 3)
It celebrates the legendary foundation of Gojoseon and the god-Dangun, a person who was believed to establish the first nation, Gojoseon in Korea in B.C. 2333.
Hangul Day (October 9)
Before the Hangul, people used Chinese characters to read and write in Korea and it was too hard to learn for ordinary people. So the King Sejong in the Chosun dynasty created Hangeul to help those people can read and write easily. Subsequently, South Korea is one of the countries that have a low illiteracy rate. It’s the day to celebrate the creation of Hangul.
Foreigners and visitors of Korea can participate in the annual Hangeul essay writing contest at Yonsei University.
Christmas (December 25)
You know Christmas, right? 🙂
You can check out our post on Things to do in Winter in Korea for more information about the best places to visit at the Christmas season.
We hope you can find a good holiday season for your trip and enjoy the real Korea!
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