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Koreans seem to be able to make a celebration out of almost anything. A master of combining tradition with modernity, however quirky the result, Seoul is home to these seven unique festivals and customs.
Many believe Japan is home to the most beautiful cherry blossom trees but when the weather gets warmer at the beginning of spring, Yeouiseo Street in Seoul transforms into a dreamland of pink and white. Countless Korean Dramas, movies, and music videos shoot in this area every year because of the romantic ambiance. As one of the first festivals of the year, be sure not to miss it when in Seoul.
Koreans take their traditions very seriously and keep them alive over generations. One of the most beautiful customs is paying respect to Buddha on his birthday. Various parts of Seoul are decorated with lanterns of all kinds creating a huge open-air lantern exhibition and an impressive parade is held leading from Dongdaemun Gate all the way to Jogyesa Temple. Most Koreans value this holiday as one of the most important days during the entire year.
What could be more romantic than visiting the annual Jungnang Rose Festival in Seoul? Not only can visitors spot roses of all sorts and colors but the people of Seoul set up a 5.1-kilometer long bed of roses and build an entire temple made of roses, which is truly a magnificent site. The exciting rose flower parade featuring music and exceptional costumes kicks off the festival each year.
Summers are hot and humid in South Korea but the people of Seoul have found a way to cope with the extreme temperatures. Thousands of Koreans get together in the middle of Yonsei Street in the beginning of July and cool off by shooting at each other with their water guns during the Sinchon Watergun Festival. The festival also includes a water gun battle, various water slides, and DJ’s to beat the heat in style.
In fall, South Koreans take a journey back into the past with the Go, Go Jongno Culture Festival. The city is decked in green, red, blue and yellow, the traditional Korean colors. Celebrating the city’s 2,000 year history, visitors can enjoy various exhibitions on Korean art, food, including royal cuisine, music, and traditional clothing. The hotspots during the fall festivities are around Insa-dong and Cheonggyecheon Stream.
Every year, the people of Seoul get together in front of the 63 City Building in the city’s Hangang Park to enjoy an incredible firework display. Every year, professional firework teams from around the world head to Seoul to be part of one of the largest firework festivals in the world.
Kimchi is to Koreans like tea is to the British – a vital part of their daily life. Kimchi is a fermented side dish made of vegetables, generally cabbage, prepared in a spicy chili sauce. Even though Koreans eat kimchi year round, it is usually prepared in winter and then left to ferment. Gimjang, the act of preparing kimchi in winter, is an important part of Korean culture and absolutely fascinating to watch as a visitor. In the beginning of November, the Seoul Kimchi Making & Sharing Festival is held at Seoul Plaza and in front of Gwanghwamun Square. Take part in the festivities and you will learn how to prepare kimchi and even sample over 200 varieties of this typical Korean side dish.