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Seoul - Facts for the traveller, when to go, events

Facts for the traveller for Seoul

Seoul sunset skyline

When to Go to Seoul

Seoul is beautiful at all times of the year - your visit depends on your tastes. Autumn (September-November) is the most popular time, with fine weather and amazingly colourful forests. Winter - if you can stand the cold - is also magnificent. The ice and snow show off Seoul in a flattering way. During spring (March to May) Seoul has mild temperatures and flowers, including the magnificent cherry blossom, bloom everywhere. Summer is probably the least attractive time to visit - it's warm, humid and very wet.

The worst times to be in Seoul as a traveller are during holiday periods, in particular July and August. Accommodation is expensive, transport is crowded and people are everywhere. Especially avoid Lunar New Year (first day of the first moon).

Seoul Events

Public holidays which follow the familiar solar calendar include: New Year's Day (1 January), Independence Movement Day (1 March: anniversary of 1919 Independence movement against the Japanese), Arbour Day (5 April: trees are planted across the nation), Children's Day (5 May), Memorial Day (6 June), Constitution Day (17 July), Liberation Day (15 August: marks the Japanese acceptance of the allied terms of surrender in 1945), National Foundation Day (or Dangun Day, 3 October: marking the mythical foundation of the Korean nation in 2333 BC by the god-king Dangun), Christmas Day (25 December).

During the Lunar New Year (Seollal), in January or February, you can expect not only Seoul but the whole country to grind to a halt. It's probably a good opportunity to head off to the Korean Folk Village (near Suwon) or the Seoul Nori Madang to view the special performances of traditional dances or wedding services. Buddha's Birthday, or Feast of the Lanterns, is on the eighth day of the fourth moon, and falls around April or May in the Western calendar. There's an evening lantern parade from Yeouido Plaza to Jogyesa, starting around 6.30pm.

Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving, is also known as the Harvest Moon Festival, and falls on the 15th day of the eighth month, around September or October. It is the most important of South Korea's lunar holidays, and Seoul becomes almost deserted as most city dwellers head back to their family homes. They prepare offerings for the ancestral tombs and prepare for an evening of gazing at the moon.

Two other festivals worth looking for are the Seokjeondaeje, staged twice a year (first day of the second and eighth moons) at the Confucian Shrine at Sungkyunkwan University in northern Seoul. A traditional court orchestra performs and full costume rituals are enacted. Similarly, full costume parades are held at the Jyongmyo Daeje, the Royal Shrine Rites in the Jangmyo Shrine on the first Sunday in May.

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