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With temperatures reaching well over 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) during the summer months, Seoul can get sweaty and, at times, downright uncomfortable. But with proper planning, it can also be enjoyable. Here are a few ways you have fun during the Korean summer while simultaneously staying cool.
Perhaps there’s no better place to hide from the sun than inside a gallery dedicated to all things frozen. The Ice Museum, a part of Hongdae’s Trick Eye Museum, is just that and displays a very cool (more like freezing) collection of objects made from ice, including igloos, a carriage, and even a toilet. The highlight of the exhibition is undoubtedly the ice slide, where visitors can play for as long as they’d like… or at least until hypothermia sets in.
Ice Museum, 20, Hongik-ro 3-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82-2-3144-6300
Although there’s not much scientific data to back it up, Koreans believe that being scared decreases body temperature, helping to keep the body cool. Which is exactly why Korean horror films are released during the summer. Check out the latest scary movie at one of Seoul’s luxury movie theaters, or book yourself a spot on the Dark Side of Seoul tour, which will take you through some of the creepiest and most sinister spots in town.
There are plenty of K-beauty products that have been developed to remedy skin problems that arise during the hot and humid summer months, including sheet masks. When temperatures rise, Koreans store their sheet masks in the refrigerator for a delightfully refreshing facial. Our favorite is the It’s Real Squeeze Mask (Aloe) by Innisfree, which helps to infuse the skin with the moisture it needs to stay supple in the sun, and also has anti-inflammatory properties that work to reduce the irritation and redness associated with sunburns.
Innisfree, 64-2 Myeongdong 1(il)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82-2-776-0117
There’s no shortage of hiking and climbing spots in South Korea, but the summer heat can dissuade climbers from heading to the national parks. But the Kolon Climbing School offers a pretty cool alternative. Featuring a 20-meter-tall indoor ice wall – the tallest in the world, according to Guinness World Records – in a training center that’s kept at -15 degrees Celsius, the school caters to ice climbers of all levels. If you’re a complete beginner, get a feel for the sport during the 3-Hour Experience, which includes a lesson, all the equipment you need, and climb time for 65,000 won ($65).
Korea has no shortage of summertime dishes that help make the sweltering heat a bit more tolerable. Among them, bingsu is a favorite of children and adults alike. The shaved ice treat is traditionally topped with sweetened red beans, chewy rice cakes, and condensed milk, but more modern interpretations of bingsu – like those at Sulbing – include everything from fine chocolate and green tea ice cream to chunks of mango and fresh strawberries. Naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles) and samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) also help to stave off the heat.
Sulbing, 32-17 Myeongdong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82-2-3401-7900
If you’re looking to enjoy an ice-cold brew with a breeze, check out one of Seoul’s many rooftop bars. Whether you’re enjoying a wild night out in Hongdae or wanting to ‘wine’ down after work in ritzy Gangnam, you don’t have to travel far to find a rooftop space whipping up drinks in the vertical metropolis of Seoul. Southside Parlor in Gyeongnidan is our go-to for sipping tropical cocktails meticulously crafted with seasonal ingredients.
Perhaps one of the most obvious ways to beat the heat is to hop in the water. Head to the beaches of Incheon or the east coast, all of which are easily accessible via public transport and can be done as a daytrip. But if you’re not looking to travel more than an hour to get to the seaside, check out the public pools along the Han River like those at Ttukseom Hangang Park or try out a water sport. For a full day of fun, make your way to Caribbean Bay, the country’s biggest and best waterpark.
The daunting hills of Seoul are remedied by the city’s ultra-efficient and affordable public transportation system, so take advantage of it to avoid an unwelcomed midday workout… or heat stroke. Download the Seoul Bus and Jihachul apps for on-the-spot transport planning, or make use of the related websites or local tourist information centers for detailed maps and timetables.
Whichever way you decide to stay cool this summer in Seoul, have fun doing it!