If you happen to be in Seoul during Christmas, you might have realized already, that Christmas in South Korea is celebrated very differently to what we are used to in Western Countries. So for you to still have a unique and memorable Christmas experience during your South Korea Trip, I gathered all the info and top places you will need for your Christmas holidays in Seoul!
What Christmas means in Korea
Christmas in Korea is a vibrant and festive affair all bout embracing the spirit of giving, love, and togetherness. While not an important religious holiday for most Koreans, it’s a time for couples to exchange gifts and enjoy romantic dinners, illuminated streets, and grand Christmas displays. Families and friends also gather for special meals and gift exchanges, but that’s not as common as in other western countries. Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) and Seollal (Korean New Year) are much more important holidays and more comparable to the way we celebrate Christmas.
The country’s cities, particularly Seoul, dazzle with colorful lights and decorations, creating a magical atmosphere that invites locals and tourists alike to immerse themselves in the holiday spirit. Whether you’re enjoying the unique blend of Western and Korean traditions or strolling through beautifully adorned streets, Christmas in Korea offers a heartwarming and memorable experience.
What Koreans do on Christmas
In South Korea Christmas Day (December 25th) is a public holiday, while Christmas Eve and Boxing Day are not. Couples often exchange gifts and share romantic dinners similar to valentines day, while friends gather to have some “Chimaek” (= combining Korean fried chicken ‘chikin’ and beer ‘maekju’) or to go clubbing or partying in Hongdae or Itaewon. Families may enjoy a festive meal, but it’s typically not as common and grand as on Korean New Year or Korean Thanksgiving celebrations.
Weather during Christmas in Korea
Seoul experiences a chilly but enchanting winter during Christmas with average temperatures from -4°C (24°F) to 5°C (41°F).
Even though Seoul can see some snow in December, it’s not very likely for you to have ‘white Christmas’ here. Korea has about 5 snowy days during the Christmas month on average. In the mountainous northern region you’re more likely to see snow and can even do some first skiing activities.
When visiting Korea during Christmas Season, make sure to bundle up in cozy coats, scarves, and bring multiple layers of clothing. I can highly recommend you to get an electronic handwarmer in Seoul at Artbox or Daiso!
Opening Hours During the Holidays
While many shops and restaurants remain open during Christmas, it’s essential to check their specific holiday hours. For that I highly recommend you to check the apps NaverMap or KakaoMap.
Usually most major tourist attractions, restaurants, cafes and department stores tend to be open, allowing you to enjoy festive shopping and sightseeing. Many shops, especially in popular shopping districts like Myeongdong or Gangnam, even extend their hours for late-night holiday shopping.
Activities to do before and on Christmas
Before I will show you the top places to visit during Christmas, I will recommend you some activities and things to do, that helped me living here to get into the Christmas mood even though Koreans celebrate it very differently and I’m 8000km away from home.
Places to see during Christmas in Seoul
Seoul truly lights up during Christmas, with stunning decorations adorning the city’s streets and buildings. Some must-visit spots and Festivals for Christmas vibes and decorations include the following 10!
During Christmas, Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul transforms into a captivating symbol of holiday spirit. The historic cathedral’s stunning Neo-Gothic architecture is adorned with enchanting Christmas lights, creating a picturesque scene. Visitors flock to the cathedral to witness its festive illumination and attend special holiday services, making it a cherished Christmas destination in the heart of the city.
The nearest subway station is Myeongdong Station (Line 4).
Address: 74 Myeongdong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
Shinsegae Department Store
Shinsegae Department Store in Myeongdong undergoes a stunning holiday transformation during Christmas. Outside, the store’s façade sparkles with a brilliant display of lights and festive decor, casting a magical glow over the bustling streets. Inside, shoppers are treated to a winter wonderland of enchanting displays, exclusive holiday promotions, and a diverse selection of luxury gifts, making it a top destination for those seeking both the joy of the season and unique shopping experiences.
The nearest subway station is Myeongdong Station (Line 4).
Address: 52-5 Chungmuro 1-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
N Seoul Tower
During the Christmas season, N Seoul Tower becomes a beacon of festive cheer, overlooking the city of Seoul with its glittering lights and decorations. The tower’s observation deck offers breathtaking panoramic views of Seoul’s illuminated streets and landmarks, providing a romantic backdrop for couples celebrating the holiday. Visitors can also take part in unique Christmas-themed events and activities at the tower, making it an ideal destination to create unforgettable holiday memories with loved ones. Buy tickets for the Tower & Cable Car >here.
The nearest subway station is Myeongdong Station (Line 4).
Address: 231, Samil-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul
Seoul Plaza (City Hall)
Seoul Plaza, located in front of Seoul City Hall, undergoes a stunning Christmas transformation, turning into a hub of holiday magic and community gatherings. The iconic Christmas tree in the plaza stands tall and radiates with an enchanting glow, becoming a focal point for locals and visitors to take in the festive spirit. Throughout the season, the plaza hosts various events, from ice skating under the open sky to captivating light shows, creating an inviting atmosphere for all to enjoy the joyous holiday celebrations at the heart of Seoul.
The Ice Rink is open from Dec 22nd – Feb 11th 10pm-9:30PM and they only ask for 1,000 KRW.
The nearest subway station is City Hall Station (Line 1 & 2).
Address: 17-3 Taepyeongno 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
Lotte World Castle
Located within Lotte World Adventure theme park but visible from outside, the main attraction undergoes a magical transformation during the Christmas season. The castle’s exterior shines brightly with thousands of twinkling lights and festive decorations, creating a whimsical and enchanting atmosphere that captures the imagination of visitors of all ages. Inside the castle, holiday-themed shows, parades, and entertainment add an extra layer of charm, making it an essential destination for families and those in search of festive joy in Seoul during Christmas.
The nearest subway station is Jamsil Station (Line 2 & 8).
Address: 15, Songpa-gu, Seoul
Visit Gwanghwamun Square, where you can find a large Christmas tree and colorful lights, creating a magical atmosphere in the heart of the city. Every year from mid November to End of December you can see beautifully illuminated Installations for the Seoul Lantern Festival with Korean traditional or christmasy themes.
2023 the Seoul Lantern Festival and Gwanghwamun Square Market will be held from December 15th – January 21st daily from 6 to 10PM!
The nearest subway station is Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5).
Address: 175, Jung-gu, Seoul
COEX Mall (Starfield Library)
Explore the Starfield Library in the middle of the famous COEX Mall, which goes all out with its Christmas decor, featuring enormous trees, dazzling lights, and even themed installations. It offers a uniquely cozy and festive atmosphere during the Christmas season. Perfect for a shopping spree to find Christmas presents while having a look at the majestic tree decorated differently every season. Also don’t miss the often holiday themed special advertisements on the viral 3D-Screen outside of the Mall.
The nearest subway station is Samseong Station (Line 2).
Address: 159, Samseong-dong, Gangnam, Seoul
Dongdaemun Design Plaza
This architectural masterpiece takes on a mesmerizing Christmas theme during the holiday season: Instead of traditional decorations, the building is illuminated with dynamic Christmas-themed shows under the created by projectors, turning it into a captivating spectacle called the “Seoul Light at DDP” . Inside, visitors can immerse themselves in the enchanting world of the Seoul Light installation, where innovative light displays and interactive exhibits add a touch of magic to the holiday atmosphere, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a unique and artistic Christmas experience in Seoul. The Christmas Market & DDP Light Show are open between December 15th and January 21st.
The nearest subway station is Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (Line 2, 4 & 5).
Address: 143, Euljiro 7-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
Timesquare & Shopping Malls
Many Malls within the city – like the Time Square Mall in Yeongdeungpo or The Hyundai in Yeouido – are decorated with glittering lights that create an enchanting ambiance while shopping. Visitors can enjoy special holiday-themed promotions, dine at a variety of restaurants offering seasonal menus, and even catch live performances or Christmas events.
The nearest subway station for Time Square Mall is Yeongdeungpo Station (Line 1) and for The Hyundai is Yeouinaru Station (Line 5).
Addresses: 442, Yeongdeungpo-dong 4-ga & 22 Yeouido-dong, Seoul
Stroll along the beautiful Cheonggyecheon Stream, where mesmerizing light installations and festive decorations adorn the walkways during the Seoul Christmas Festival. It also often contains some installations from the Seoul Lantern Festival as it is very close to Gwanghwamun Square, but that changes every year. If you’re not already freezing, having a walk along this human made river in the middle of the busy city is a lovely way to take a break from the hectic travel time. My Tip: Get a hot tea or coffee to go at one of the many cafes around that area.
Walk from Euljiro 3-ga Station (Line 2 & 3) to Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5).
Address: 1, Taepyeong-ro 1-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
NEXTSTOPKOREA TIP: If you’re looking for mulled wine: The Netflix famous Gwangjang Market has a Mulled wine pop up stall every year offering a glass for around 4,000 Korean Won. Combine this with a Hotteok or the famous Donut Twist and you have the perfect wine-dessert-combination.
Best Day trips from Seoul
As Christmas is not a really important holiday in Korea many Guided tours and daytrips will still be happening according to plan. Here my 4 favorite options for nature lovers or adrenaline junkies:
Nami Island is a picturesque oasis known for its tree-lined paths and for the Korean Drama “Winter Sonata”. So especially during winter there are great events happening and extra cure snowman souvenirs available.
Garden of the Morning Calm
Every winter the trees and bushes in the Garden of Morning Calm light up in various different colors, inviting everyone to have a walk along the park area.
Korea might not be famous as a skiing or snowboarding destination, but especially in the mountains of the northern region, there are great areas. And the best part: you can literally rent anything and don’t need to carry around heavy gear or clothing.
Especially famous for its Bibimbap, ChocoPie and the large Hanok Village – Jeonju is a great destination for a day trip from Seoul. Even in the cold winter time the this area is worth a visit! Don’t miss the unique Jeonju Kakao Friends Souvenirs!
Many Koreans say the amusement park Everland is even better than the much more famous Lotte World. You can reach it within an hour from Seoul and see great Christmas parades here!
In conclusion, spending Christmas in Seoul is a unique and heartwarming experience. Whether you’re enjoying the festive decorations, tasting traditional Korean holiday treats, or participating in the various celebrations, Seoul has something magical in store for every traveler during this special season. So pack your warmest clothes, bring your holiday spirit, and get ready to make unforgettable memories in the heart of South Korea’s vibrant capital. Happy holidays!