How to Celebrate Christmas in Korea

How to Celebrate Christmas in Korea

Winters in Korea can be long and cold, but what makes them different from winters at home is that the sun always shines. You can be wrapped up like a snowman and still be dorning the sunnies.

So it really doesn’t feel that bad at all. Another great thing that differs from winters at home it that you can be 90% guaranteed to get snow….and alot of it!

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This will be our 5th winter/Christmas in Korea….oh my ~~how times flies!! Whilst it’s always a sad time being away from friends and loved ones at home, we’ve just about adjusted to life as an expat and Christmases surrounded by new friends and new faces.

So what are the best ways to spend Christmas in Korea?

1. Christmas Dinner & New Year’s Parities

Christmas day dinner can be had in Iteawon at one of the many restaurants offering christmas dinner specials with all the trimmings. For around 40,000 won there is usually an endless supply of Christmas food; including home favourites like pigs in blankets, and topping it off with apple crumble pie and ice cream.

Most pub restaurants include a free drink to help get the festivities started. Book early to secure your place as most places fill up quick.

Some of our favourites spots include: Zelen, The Wolfhound Pub, Rocky Mountain Tavern, Dillengers, Route 66, Prost and N Seoul Tower (for a more expensive option). Some of these serve the traditional roast while others offer a great atmosphere to celebrate christmas.

There are a few hotels around the city that offer christmas packages, check out Walkerhill (02 2022 0333), Renaissance Seoul (02 2222 8500), Seoul Plaza (02 771 2200) and Imperial Palace Hotel (02 3440 8000).


As for New Year, the bright lights of Time Square Shopping mall and the sound of Korean KPop followed by the impressively large ball dropping a midst the horns blowing and people partying the night away, is one of the many great ways to introduce the new year in style.

christmas in korea

Here’s a list of some of the many New Years’s events going on around the city this year:

Time Square Seoul 

If the grand party atmosphere is what you need this new year then head on over to the annual New Years Event at Time Square (mullae station). Tickets should be purchased in advance and can set you back around 70,000won.  This is just one of the many New Years’s events going on around the city.  

Walkerhill hotel

have their annual Christmas Eve Party in the stylish Woo bar on December 24th from 10pm-3am.  They are also hosting their NYE Party counting down to the new year from 10pm – 3am on December 31st.  For more information or to make a reservations call: 02 2022 0333 / WSEOULWALKERHILL Facebook page.


2. Embrace the Culture

Do something cultural this year and bring in the new year by ringing the Bosingak bell in Jongno by Jonggak Station. Thousands gather to see the bell ring 33 times starting exactly at midnight of New Year’s Eve.

Wrap up well for this one and prepare to shed a tear or two as it’s a magical way to see in the new year.

Some 100,000 people choose to bring in the new year by flocking to Korea’s West Sea to see the last sunset of the year while others head to the East Sea to see the first sunrise of the year.

Whichever feels more important to you, both offer a spectacular opportunity to reflect on the past and look forward to the future while enjoying cultural performances, bonfires and Korean cuisine.


3. Lantern Festivals, Outdoor Skating, Ice fishing & More

lantern festival seoul

Winters in Korea can be cold, harsh and though for those of you who aren’t used to the cold.  For the average joe this may mean boarding up the windows with bubble wrap (a cost-effective heating system for those penny savers), piling on the layers to stay warm and visiting  jimjilbangs  on a daily basis just to replenish your skin.

 

ice sculpture in the city

But for the photography lovers winters in Korea may mean classic snowfall shots, majestic snaps of fountains transformed into beautiful snow sculptures and long exposure images of the winter sunsets as the snow settles on the landscapes of the city.

Each year the Lantern Festival takes to the popular chungeoncheon stream. It’s a great chance to capture some great artwork and get some wonderful wintry shots while enjoying the hot mulled wine.

You may have missed out on this years Lantern Festival already, but there’s always next year!


Another great event that you can still part-take in however is the infamous Ice Fishing!

Held every year in January, just outside Seoul, ice fishing is fun for all the family. There are various travel groups like Wink and Adventure Korea that offer a full days tour, but we always do it with friends and enjoy the activities on our own schedule.  There are two famous festivals that take place each year, both just as good as the next.

 

Hwachon Festival: Getting there: From Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, take an intercity bus to Hwacheon. The Hwacheon Stream is about 10-min walk from the Bus Terminal.  The Festival takes place from January 9th – 31st.

Don’t miss out!!

Your fingertips may freeze by the end of the day but it’s all worth it when you get to cook your own fish on the barbie! You can’t get much fresher ~ there are all sorts of options for eating your fish, if and when you actually catch one. We’d recommend trying the sashimi tent, for around 10,000 they cut and prepare the fish in front of you and offer a few side dishes to compliment it. Yum yum!

Inje Festival: Alternatively you can check out the Inje Ice Fishing Festival at Soyangho Lake which offers similar events from fishing to sledding and even an eating contest.  

Getting there: From Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, take an intercity bus to Inje Bus Terminal (인제).  From Inje Terminal, take a taxi or a shuttle bus to the festival venue. The festival takes place from January 19th – 24th.

ice fishing seoul

This year we spotted the outdoor skating rink at City Hall (exit6).  What’s more magical than ice skating at christmas?!  Singletons be warned….Cute Korean Couples may overwhelm you and make you revisit what you had for breakfast!!  haha…

But for 1,000won how can you resist an hour skating around and falling on your butt a few times in the freezing cold!  I’m making this sound less appealing by the second, but it all adds to making your christmas a little more festive while your here in Korea!

The rink opens from mid December to the start of February each year.  It stays opened until 11pm at weekends and 9:30pm on weekdays, giving you plenty of time to get skating.


4. Skiing, Snowboarding & Magical Hotel Rooms with a View

Why not try snowboarding at least once while in Korea. Check out our post on Ski Season in Korea for all you need to know about skiing in Korea.

christmas in muju

Muju Resort is just magical at christmas time. The Tirrol Hotel (063-320-7200), with its spectacular views over the slopes and the mountains set the scene for a winter wonderland.

You can even cuddle up with a Giant Christmas Bear while enjoying a well-earned beer beside the christmas tree! The village itself is lit up like a christmas tree and looks like something from a European Christmas postcard.

Truly majestic and just the right amount of charm to have a memorable christmas.

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Most ski resorts will have some sort of New Years celebration. There’s always the spa’s and saunas to enjoy after the slopes and if you really feel like partying you’ll be sure to find a norebang or two close by. Don’t forget the Champers if you decide to bring in the new year on your board!


4. Pot Luck Parties, Sledding & Christmas Musicals

Why not try to recreate the traditional christmas roast with all the trimmings.  Whilst you’d think this would be a difficult task, what with the giant ovens that hardly anyone in Seoul possesses and an abundance of (2) cooking rings per kitchen, it is actually possible.  Here’s how!

This is where the infamous Pot Luck party comes in handy, and a pre ordered turkey from High Street Market makes the traditional dinner all the more possible.

Shop at the slightly more expensive Shinsegae Department Store food sections for necessities like brussel sprouts, baileys (if you’re Irish), lot and lots of cheese, wine and grapes and of course Chocolate!

turkey dinner

You can find home cooked turkey’s at various places around the city including:

Costco

Hannam Supermarket

Haddon House

High Street Market

Ask Ajuma

Another great event you can’t beat at Christmas time is going to a Christmas musical.  This year The Nutcracker was in Seoul and we got a great price on early tickets.

The performance was amazing and definitely made our christmas special this year.  The Nutcracker is back in Seoul this year again.

Tickets can be purchased through Interpark, by calling into one of the tourist offices around the city or by calling 070 7124 1777.


You can also get into the christmas spirit by going to one of the many Christmas carol concerts held around the city at various times.   They will be sure to have you singing some christmas classics in your sleep.

Getting there: Achasan Station line 5, exit 4


When all else fails, get yourself down to Children’s Grand Park for some fun.  Release your inner child and get Sledding (It’s not just for the kiddies).  

For 10,000won you can enjoy the tube sled, snow mountain and Korean traditional ice skating.  There are a number of places around Seoul that you can experience sledding this year, the most popular being Everland and LotteWorld.

snowman in korea

If you don’t wake up to a white christmas this year  don’t be too disappointed, just head off Snowboarding at Phoenix Park for the weekend, or get drunk on mulled wine!


But if cold winter doesn’t work for you there’s always Christmas in Australia…..We traded in the Ugg Boots for Flip Flops in 2009 and spent christmas in the Sun!!

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It was a nice way to spend Christmas and definitely a change from the cold weather at home.

~~~~~

Whatever you have planned this christmas, make sure you are surrounded by people you love and friends who can make it special.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from hitchhikinginheels xxx 

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Janine & Janice | Irish Travel Bloggers | Portugal Based
Work Smart | Travel Often | Explore More
Two Ladies on a mission to life an Unconventional Life, full of Love & Adventure.

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