As Seollal – Korean New Year, usually in February – is one of the main holidays for Koreans, the New Years Evening on December 31st is usually just celebrated among the younger generation by going to clubs or bars. I will share the most famous spots with you for NYE here.
What does it mean to Koreans?
As Seollal – Korean New Year, usually in February – is one of the main holidays for Koreans, the New Years Evening on December 31st is usually just celebrated more contemporary festivities associated with the end of the Gregorian calendar year. Modern practices involve countdown events, fireworks displays, and lively gatherings with friends and sometimes family. But as everywhere in the world, people join in the global tradition of bidding farewell to the old year and welcoming the new one with hope, joy, and anticipation for the opportunities ahead when the clock strikes midnight.
How’s the weather in Korea during NYE?
Usually, Temperatures range from -5 to 5 °C (23 – 41 °F), creating a chilly atmosphere. So, if you’re stepping out for the countdown or fireworks, consider bundling up to keep cozy in the wintry scene! But as always, it’s a good move to peek at the latest weather updates for Seoul on New Year’s Eve before your trip.
What to do on New Year‘s Eve?
As a tourist you might still want to celebrate the New Year as you’re used to at home – from fireworks and parties to more calm morning walks with the year’s first sunrise. There are many options for you to spend New Year’s Evening in Seoul, but I will share the most popular 5 things to do here:
Watch the Bell Ringing Ceremony
When you ask a Korean, what is the most popular place to be on December 31st, the older Generation will for sure tell you to go to Bosingak Pavillon. At midnight between the 31st of December and 1st of January, 16 of Seoul’s officials traditionally hit the bell 33 times.
This ceremony has its roots in the Joseon Dynasty where the bell was rang every evening and morning to announce the start and end of a day and it is also aired on National Television every year. The event there starts at 11PM, includes the bell ringing ceremony, “the rise of the midnight sun” an artifact symbolizing the new year and a Kpop Concert with Enhypen, The Boyz & Oh my Girl on the way to Gwanghwamun Square. The show apparently ends around 1:30AM.
Address: 54, Jong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul — 서울특별시 종로구 종로 54
Join a Countdown-Event with Fireworks
And if you ask a Korean from the younger generation, I’m sure they would prefer the famous firework or drone shows for the last evening of the year:
Lotte Tower Fireworks
This highest of all towers in South Korea is home of the most popular of yearly Fireworks in Korea’s capital city. (If you miss it on NYE: it happens in May again^^) Most people actually book a hotel room with Lotte Tower View just for this event, but if you’re too late to find that, you can see it well outside too. Just remember to wear warm clothes!
Address: 300, Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul — 서울특별시 송파구 올림픽로 300
Hyundai Drone Show at COEX
The area around the COEX Mall & the Yeongdong-Daero (Street) is since 2021 the new place to be during New Years Eve. Over 1000 Drones are used to draw amazing pictures and a countdown into the dark sky between December 31st and January 1st. Usually the COEX Mall prepares some events around those days, so it’s definitely worth a visit!
Again as for Lotte Tower I was not able to find the public announcement for this event.
Address: 513, Yeongdong-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul — 서울특별시 강남구 영동대로 513
Watch the first Sunrise of 2024
Many Koreans, that are not into partying, wake up early in the morning of January 1st to welcome the first sun rise of the year. The most famous spot for that in Korea is actually in Gangneung at Korea’s East Coast. They even celebrate a whole Sunrise Festival every year!
If you want to stay in Seoul the Haneul Park in Mapo-gu would be the place to be, but you can also just go to one of Seoul’s many bridges or go for a hike to see the sun rise above the city. But don’t forget to wear very warm clothes and maybe bring tea / a handwarmer.
Address: 95 Haneulgongwon-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul — 서울특별시 마포구 하늘공원로 95
Enjoy the Seoul Winter Festa
This year marks the first year of Seoul’s Winter (or actually Winta) Festa from December 15th until January 21st of the new year. There are several events happening around the city including the Seoul Lantern Festival and the two following with special NYE-Events:
Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)
The Lightshow and winter market at DDP will take place from December 21st until January 1st and they prepared a special countdown event and a new sound interaction performance for the New Year’s Evening. Starting at 6PM and ending at 1:30AM you can enjoy a great evening at the most modern of Seoul’s landmarks.
Address: 281, Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul — 서울특별시 중구 을지로 281
Gwanghwamun Square & Gate
Another important part of the Winter Festa is happening at the Gwanghwamun Square. It is not only the location of this year’s Lantern Festival showcasing amazing Light Installations, but also offers a Winter Market and a special Lightshow at the Gate right in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace. All those events are available from December 15th until January 21st and the lightshows usually happen from 6 to 10pm. Of course on NYE they will continue the shows until after midnight.
Address: 172 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul — 서울특별시 종로구 세종대로 172
Party into the New Year 2024!
This Ice Palace New Year’s Party on the Sevit Islands close to Banpo Bridge is THE New Years Party every year – for tourists and also for locals. Fancy costumes, great Show acts and good music all with an amazing city view when leaving the party on the first morning of 2024.
You can buy tickets >here.
Address: 2085-14, Olympic-daero, Seocho-gu, Seoul — 서울특별시 서초구 올림픽대로 2085-14
How to get home afterwards?
For New Years Eve 2023/4 the Seoul Metropolitan Government has announced that public transportation, including buses and subways, will operate beyond midnight. Most of Seoul’s subway line’s operating time – including No. 1 to 9 – will be extended until 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
Moreover, buses will continue running past midnight, with some extra routes added near public event sites.
The government also encourages taxi drivers to pick up passengers near event sites from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m.
For safety reasons, specific roads will be partially blocked during the celebrations so you might face some delays due to detours. Also subway stations close to event sites might be closed or will be extra staffed to prevent overcrowding.