When Is the Best Time of Year to Visit Seoul?

Changdeokgung in spring
Changdeokgung in spring | © KoreaNet / Flickr
Mimsie Ladner

Seoul has four very distinct seasons, and each offers something unique to visitors staying in the South Korean capital. But depending on what you want to see and do during your visit, some times are better to visit than others. Read on to find out what to expect from each month of the year.

January

While most travelers prefer to avoid the cold, there is a certain charm about wandering ancient palace grounds and hanok villages in thick, white snow, which tends to fall most frequently in January. Many Seoul attractions are also far less congested, making it an ideal time to visit, especially for those looking to avoid the crowds that flock to the capital later in the year.

There are also many ways to take advantage of the cold weather, such as ice skating at City Hall, snacking on seasonal street food, or hitting up the nearby ski resorts. Furthermore, South Korea’s efficient transportation system runs like clockwork despite icy conditions, making it a breeze to get around.

Rainfall: 3 days

Temperature: 25.3°F (-3.7°C)

Snowfall at Changdeokgung Palace

February

The Korean winter is brutally cold and long, stretching well into late February and even early March. Nevertheless, tourists can still enjoy Seoul’s countless indoor facilities such as theme parks, museums, restaurants and jjimjilbangs (Korean spas) – many of which are connected directly to the subway, eliminating the need for walking outside in the frigid weather.

If you’re traveling on a budget, February might be right for you, as hotel and flight prices drop dramatically, just like the temperatures! Additionally, shopaholics can take advantage of the Korea Grand Sale that is held at the city’s mega-malls and department stores during this month.

Rainfall: 3 days

Temperature: 30.6°F (-0.8°C)

March

As the weather begins to warm up and spring starts to set in, Seoulites flock to the wildflower-punctuated parks and mountain trails easily accessible via the city’s subway system. The increasingly higher temperatures also make for perfect jogging weather, which is exactly why the Seoul International Marathon is held in March.

Do be mindful that during the end of March, temperatures often unexpectedly drop again, so it’s best to dress in layers and bring along a jacket. Koreans use the poetic expression “Ggot saem chuui” (“The winter is jealous of flowers”) to describe this weather phenomenon.

Rainfall: 6 days

Temperature: 40.5°F (4.7°C)

Yeouido Spring Flower Festival

April

Korea’s cherry blossoms – which tend to bloom in mid-April – are a sight to behold, and there is no shortage of parks, palaces, and walking paths to see them. Don’t miss the Yeouido Spring Flower Festival where you can walk under an entire road canopied by the picturesque pink and white flowers.

Despite being one of the most beautiful months of the year, April is also when the infamous yellow dust sweeps in from the Gobi Desert, covering the Korean peninsula and creating a cough-inducing haze and dustiness. If you have allergies, it’s probably best to avoid this month or to bring along a supply of masks.

Rainfall: 6 days

Temperature: 53.1°F (11.7°C)

May

May’s weather is the least likely to be inclement, making it one of the most popular months of the year to visit Seoul. Take advantage of the city’s mostly sunny days to enjoy a picnic on the Han River or a wander through Seoul Forest.

May is also the month when many restaurants and bars begin opening their outdoor terraces, night markets start running again, and countless festivals take place. Don’t miss the Lotus Lantern Festival during Buddha’s Birthday, when downtown Seoul is bejeweled with multi-colored lanterns and a spectacular parade makes its way from Dongdaemun Gate to Jogyesa Temple.

Rainfall: 7 days

Temperature: 63.5°F (17.5°C)

Lotus Lantern Festival

June

June is yet another month to avoid the crowds and enjoy the still-mild weather and relatively affordable accommodations and airplane tickets. Evenings can be cool, so it’s not a bad idea to carry a light jacket when headed out to dinner, a night out on the town, or while dancing the night away at Ultra Music Festival, which is held during this month.

Rainfall: 9 days

Temperature: 71.2°F (21.8°C)

July

Summers in Seoul can be excruciatingly hot and muggy, so you might find yourself hopping from one air-conditioned venue to the next or chowing down on patbingsu and naengmyeon to keep cool. Korea’s monsoon season also begins in late July, and storms can be torrential, with many lasting all day.

The heat and rain can be a deal-breaker for many, but for those not deterred by weather, July can be a very fun time to explore Seoul. Music festivals like the Valley Rock Music & Arts Festival and the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival, as well as cultural events like the Sinchon Water Gun Festival and Korean Queer Culture Festival are on just about every weekend and make for a great way to beat the heat.

Rainfall: 14 days

Temperature: 77.2°F (25.1°C)

The sun sets over Lotte World Tower in Seoul

August

While the blazing heat makes August a great month to hit up the beaches and water parks just outside of Seoul, it is also summer vacation for the majority of Korea’s schools, universities and companies. Therefore, restaurants, malls, and cultural complexes tend to be overly crowded. Furthermore, Seoul hotels are usually at full occupancy, and certain facilities such as swimming pools are virtually impossible to access.

Note that South Korea typically experiences one to three typhoons per year, which usually pass over the peninsula in or around August and bring heavy rains, so don’t leave home without a sturdy umbrella and a raincoat.

Rainfall: 10 days

Temperature: 78.6°F (25.9°C)

September

As one of the most unpredictable months of the year weather-wise, September can bring some of the hottest days of the year in the beginning of the month and chilly, autumn-like weather at the end of it. Consider bringing a few items that can be layered depending on the temperature.

As Seoul prepares for fall, events such as the Seoul International Fireworks Festival and the Hanseong Baekje Cultural Festival provide plenty of fun activities for families and individuals.

Rainfall: 7 days

Temperature: 69.1°F (20.6°C)

Seoul International Fireworks Festival

October

With perfect weather and a seemingly endless number of events like Seoul Fashion Week, October is without a doubt one of the most pleasant months to visit the Korean capital.

During this time, Korea’s mountains transform into an awe-inspiring array of reds, yellows and oranges, and Seoulites make their way to Namsan Mountain and Bukhansan National Park to see the changing leaves set against a sprawling cityscape.

If you happen to be in Seoul at the end of the month, get yourself in a costume and head to Itaewon, where one of the biggest Halloween celebrations in Asia takes place. Just know that it can get cool by mid-October, so be sure to pack a few extra layers.

Rainfall: 5 days

Temperature: 56.8°F (13.8°C)

November

November, like October, is known to have mild temperatures, low rainfall, and a wealth of untainted natural beauty. Enjoy the crisp, cool air as you marvel at the colorful lights at the Seoul Lantern Festival held downtown at the Cheonggyechon Stream, or try your hand at making kimchi at the Seoul Kimchi Festival.

Rainfall: 5 days

Temperature: 43.7°F (6.5°C)

A couple on Seoul’s Han River

December

For visitors who don’t mind the cold, December can be a fun time to visit Seoul. Yes, there’s the cold, which can at times be excruciating, especially during the end of the month, but there’s also snow, festive décor, and lots of merrymaking. While businesses shut down for Christmas in many cities worldwide, larger businesses in Seoul boom with festivities and events throughout December and rarely close for the holidays.

Rainfall: 5 days

Temperature: 31.5°F (-0.3°C)

When not to go to Seoul

It can be difficult visiting Seoul during the dog days of summer or the brutally cold days of winter, depending on where you’re coming from and what you’re used to. In general, late summer (late July to late August) is very hot and muggy, not to mention rainy, which could make sightseeing a hassle. Similarly, late winter (early January to late February) can be very cold and dry, making visiting outdoor destinations uncomfortable for some.

South Korea’s two main holidays, Seollal (Lunar New Year), which usually falls in January or February, and Chuseok, which takes place in September or October, are some of the busiest times for domestic travel since people flock to their hometowns to visit family. This can make traveling around the country nearly impossible if not planned months in advance. Furthermore, many attractions are closed during these days, and Seoul becomes unusually quiet.

No matter when you decide to visit Korea, it’s certain you’ll have fun doing it! Happy travels!

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