All this Manila heat is definitely making us dream of snow-capped mountains, falling snow from the sky and the comfort of the cold breeze. While summer in the Philippines is one of our favorite things in life, we can’t help but reminisce our first winter season experience in South Korea.
If experiencing snow is part of your bucket list this year, let us help you plan your itinerary by giving you the top 10 things you can do during the winter season in the land of the morning calm, South Korea.
You’ve probably read numerous blogs saying that Seoul is a mecca of street food. Indeed, they are correct. Every nook and cranny in Seoul is filled with street food you’d definitely want to splurge on.
2. HISTORIC SPOTS
Take a step back in time and get a glimpse of traditional Korea through its preserved historic spots. While Seoul is sprawling with modernity, you can’t help but be amazed at how the Koreans were able to preserve their culture through their temples and cultural villages.
There are quite a number of palaces in Korea that you can visit. But, if you are short of time, we recommend visiting Changdeoukgung Palace and Gyeongbokgung Palace as they are two of the most iconic and most visited palaces in Seoul. If you are lucky, you can also chance upon the traditional changing of guards done at the gates of the palaces.
Also, if you want to truly feel the Korean vibe, you can actually rent and wear their traditional clothing, known as hanbok, as you visit the temples. Hanbok rental will cost approximately KRW 15,000 (Php750 or USD15) for four hours. By wearing one, you are given free passes to all the temples you want to visit. Go ahead and feel like Jang Gyeum as you run across those majestic palace halls!
We were not much in the mood that time to rent the hanbok so we decided to just take pictures with tourists who were wearing them.
We also had a brief visit to Bukchon Hanok Village, where you can see some traditional Korean houses. This place was crowded with tourists, some of them were wearing their hanbok. Not all the houses were open to the public and even had signs informing people to stay silent. Luckily, we found one house that was open to tourists.
3. NAMI ISLAND WONDERLAND
If you are one of us who truly dream of experiencing Winter Wonderland, Nami Island is one of the places you should not miss out. This is a small island located 1-2 hours from Seoul via land travel (plus, a very quick ferry ride). If you were a fan of the Korean drama, Endless Love: Winter Sonata, then Nami Island will be a familiar place to you. We were as giddy as five-year old kids as we explored the snow-covered ground of this serene island.
Despite the below zero temperature, we still gave this ice cream a shot because why not?!
Nami Island brought our childhood fantasies to life. As we have both lived in a tropical country all our lives, seeing Nami Island covered in snow was something that we only saw in movies and TV shows.
4. ELYSIAN GANGCHON SKI RESORT
Should you find yourself packing your bags for this winter adventure, you should definitely not leave Korea without paying a visit to a ski resort. We decided to try Elysian Gangchon Ski Resort and we were able to book it via Klook. The tour included van rides going to the resort and back to Seoul, a tour guide and a complete set of gears. We only showed up at the meeting place and from there, everything was smooth sailing. It was hassle free for us, so we recommend that you book yours via Klook as well.
Seeing the ski resort was definitely another one of those, “am I dreaming” moments. Experiencing it for ourselves was an entirely new terrain for us. Upon arrival, we were asked to go the locker room to secure our belongings. We were then asked to change to our ski gear and head on to the field for a short lesson. We were excited to immediately try it out.
After some tries, we actually gave up on it. Skiing looked so easy at first but it was actually hard, maybe just for us. For the more daredevil types, this one might be for you. But if you are like us who panic at the slightest movement on a downhill slope, maybe you should give this a pass, haha.
5. LOVE LOCKS AT NAMSAN TOWER
For the Korean drama addicts, Namsan tower will surely be a familiar site. In this tower, you will see the famous love locks, where couples could actually buy a padlock, write their names on it and seal off their love for the whole of Seoul to see. Aside from that, if you have extra cash, you might want to consider going up the observatory to view Seoul from the top.
6. NIGHT SCENE
It’s not every day that you can actually walk along the streets at night and feel safe while doing so. Thus, we did not miss the chance of seeing Seoul at night to behold its beauty. The lights, people, and the sights–everything was just perfect.
7. EVERLAND ADVENTURE
There are two famous theme parks in Seoul; Lotte World and Everland. We’ve read that Lotte World is more for kids, and since we didn’t have kids with us (though we’re surely kids at heart), we decided to go to Everland instead. Everland is one of the major theme parks in Seoul which is not just a theme park, but a zoo as well. We booked our Everland tickets via Klook because it’s way cheaper than getting it at Everland itself. Booking at Klook was so fast and easy that we just booked on the spot while standing by the gates of Everland. In five minutes, we were already inside. Here, you can enjoy rides, see animals and similar to other theme parks, they also had a parade of various storybook characters.
8. JIMJILBANG EXPERIENCE
To be truly immersed in the Korean culture, we decided to have a go at their traditional Jimjilbang. Jimjilbang is the traditional Korean bath segregated by gender. We didn’t realize how ginormous Jimjilbangs are until we were able to try one for ourselves. Imagine, inside there were hot and cold pools, massage areas, sleeping areas, canteen and much more.
Pretty much like mushrooms, jimjilbangs in Korea are everywhere! We were able to try Dragon Hill Spa and it did not disappoint.
9. WALKING DAY TRIPS
Seoul is such a walkable city. We actually discovered a lot while walking and strolling. Since it was almost Christmas Eve, we walked to find Myeong-dong Cathedral. This church is near Namdaemun Market.
Another good find was this store that sells really cheap but very nice bags, perfect for giveaways.
Convenience stores and bakeries were also scattered around Seoul. We didn’t miss out on this set meal from their convenience store called C-U, that tasted as authentic as the dishes sold in restaurants. It’s also perfect if you are on a budget, like us. Namdaemun market is also a one-stop shop for all your pasalubong needs.
10. TRAIN AND TRIP TO BUSAN
Lastly, if you have extra time, we suggest that you take the famous train to Busan and see another side of South Korea, one that is not as busy as Seoul. We spent around KRW200,000 (Php10000, USD200) for a back and forth ride from Seoul Station to Busan. Ticket prices vary depending on the season, time, and destination. Buy your tickets thru KTX . Travel time is approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.
We highly recommend Canvas Hostel in Busan. This hotel provided us with our basic comfort and staff hospitality in the short time that we spent in Busan. Special mention to Jackie Chan, their staff, for making sure that all our queries were attended to. Book them thru booking.com.
There are lots of things to see and do in Busan, but with only one day on our itinerary, we weren’t able to do as much. Although such was the case, we still enjoyed the more laid back and the slower pace that Busan has to offer its tourists.
These are the top 10 things you can do in South Korea. In a few months, it will be winter season again. Don’t let this year pass without ticking this off your bucket list. Early planning is key!
Disclaimer: We were not in partnership with any company/institutions during our trip to South Korea. All our recommendations were based on our personal experiences as first timers in South Korea. If you find something wrong or missing, don’t hesitate to message us. And yes, South Korea was so good that we are already planning for our second trip there, only now on a different season.