Asia Korea Travel

12 Festivals in Korea You Must Attend This Year

Checking out festivals is one of my favourite things to do. When I came to South Korea, I was surprised how many festivals this country has. And there’s pretty much a festival for everything: flowers, fish, fireworks… you name it! With the help of bloggers in Korea, I’ve compiled a list of festivals for each month that you can add to your travel itinerary. When you visit Korea, definitely check them out! Most festivals are free, or will have a foreigner/group discount.

January

Taebaeksan Snow Festival

Megan from Bobo and Chichi

Taebaek Snow Festival (Photo: Bobo & Chichi)

The long, cold winters in Korea can be rough. The only thing that helps ease the pain would be when there is a beautiful blanket of snow covering the ground and mountains. Each year in January, Taebaeksan Provincial Park hosts its annual snow festival featuring different snow carvings from local artists all over the country. Each year the sculptures are different to keep things new and interesting! You will also find ice patches where people ice skate and sled on. Be prepared though, the Taebaek mountains get much colder than the rest of Korea, so come with hand warmers and an extra pair of socks to keep you warm as you enjoy the winter wonderland at Taebaeksan Snow Festival.

February

Seollal

Linda from Linda Goes East

Seollal (Photo: Linda Goes East)

Lunar New Year, Seollal in Korea, is at the end of January or at the beginning of February, on the day of the second new moon after winter solstice. In 2017, Korean Lunar New Year falls on January 27 and ends January 30. During this time, most people are usually off work and enjoy time with their families. It is a three-day festival that involves families preparing extravagant meals, cleaning their homes, receiving guests or traveling to see their relatives. The most important part of Seollal is the morning ceremony to remember the ancestors. Families give the food cooked the day before and various fruits, vegetables and snacks as offerings. The best way to celebrate it is to join a local family. If you are unable to do so, there are many Seollal activities going on for families throughout the country you can attend.

People greet each other saying새해 복 많이 받으세요, which translates to “Please receive good fortune for the New Year”.

March

Jindo Sea Parting Festival

Star from 87pages

Jindo Sea Parting Festival (Photo: 87PAGES)

If you’re keen to witness the Korean version of Moses & the Red Sea, look no further than the Jindo Sea Parting Festival. Located on the third largest island in South Korea, Jindo Island has become a popular springtime destination for tourists and locals alike.  The sea parting happens twice a year, due to extremely low tides, that reveal a path beneath the sea. Visitors are encouraged to walk to the nearby Modo Island before the Yellow Sea rolls back in. If wading in the water isn’t your thing, grab a bucket, join the locals and dig for your lunch. Seriously, what you dig up, you can eat. If that’s not your thing, head back to the mainland, and take part in the day-long festival. From wrestling to folk dances to traditional performances (like a shamanistic ritual to purify the soul!) there’s a ton to do. End your day with delicious local seafood and if you’re adventurous be sure to try sannakji (live baby octopus). Trust me it’s delicious, just be careful of the suction cups. All in all, if you’re looking for a cool springtime Korean festival, then definitely add the Jindo Sea Parting Festival to your list. This a miraculous phenomenon you do not want to miss.

Note: Sea Parting Festival date changes depending on the tide. Sometimes this event is held in April.

April

Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival

Kayley from Chasing KM

Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival (Photo: Chasing KM)

Jinhae revolves around the Cherry Blossom Festival in April. It’s not the only place they grow but each town seems to have its own thing they’re famous for, and this is theirs! The festival has two popular sites – Yeojwacheon (Romance Bridge) and Gyeonghwa Station, both famous for their parts in K-Dramas. The festival is the talk of the town and people come from all over the country to catch a glimpse. The blossoms are too beautiful and spectacular. It’s such a buzz to see them and be in awe of them because they don’t last very long!

May

Lotus Lantern Festival

Barun & Jen from Barilee Traveling

Lotus Lantern Festival (Photo: Barilee Traveling)

One of the most extravagant festivals in South Korea is the grand Lotus Lantern Festival, celebrating Buddha’s Birthday in Seoul every spring. The downtown core becomes a hub of international cultural activity that gets you in on the action of lantern making, food sampling, playing traditional games, watching folk performances and trying on clothes from all over the world. Jogyesa Temple explodes in sea of lanterns and giant paper statues which dazzle in colour both day and night. The real star is the incredible Lotus Lantern Parade, which attracts thousands of spectators to enjoy a showcase of giant lantern floats of fire-breathing dragons, peacocks and giant elephants as they walk among thousands of participants from all corners of Seoul. We’ve been to a TON of festivals in Korea over 6.5 years but this remains our absolute favourite and not to be missed!

Note: Lotus Lantern Festival date changes depending on when Buddha’s Birthday falls. Sometimes this event is held in April.

June

Busan International Dance Festival

Samantha from Expat and the City

Dancers unite! The Busan International Dance Festival (BIDF) is one of the largest dance festivals in Korea. Held in Haeundae Beach, dancers from all over the world showcase their talents ranging in styles from classical ballet, modern, hiphop, African dance and more. If you appreciate dance like I do, this is a great festival to check out and get inspired!

July

Boryeong Mud Festival

Saranghae Korea

Boryeong Mud Festival (Photo: Saranghae Korea)

I think one of the most popular festivals in Korea is the Boryeong Mud Festival. This festival is held every July. It’s a week-long celebration of the most important and famous element of Daecheon Beach, and I am talking about the mud. This festival recognizes the beneficial properties of mud especially to the skin. Aside from that, there are games, music and a party by the beach. This is the kind of festival where mudslinging is not a bad thing. People get to enjoy swimming in the mega tub full of mud, mud sliding and wrestling and a lot more. Playing in the mud may sound quirky, but that’s what makes Boryeong Mud Festival interesting and attractive especially to the foreigners living in South Korea.

August

Yeongdong Grape Festival

Mike from Live Travel Teach

Yeongdong Grape Festival (Photo: Live Travel Teach)

Korea’s Yeongdong Grape Festival is the perfect outing for an August weekend.  Be sure to stop by the nearby vineyard on your way where you can pick your own grapes and even take a wine footbath!  At the actual festival you’ll notice the telltale white tents selling all kinds of grape and wine paraphernalia.  Adults can get free samples of dozens of wines and there are plenty of unique snacks to try too.

One thing you must do is the grape squashing!  They give you bags for your feet and blast Gangnam Style to get everyone dancing on the grapes. If you’re a foreigner they’ll likely interview you about your experience and you might even have a news crew tailing you because this is one festival that is typically only visited by Koreans. Yeongdong Grape Festival is certainly worth a stomp.

September

Daejon Food and Wine Festival // Craft Beer and Music Festival

Alla Ponomareva

Daejeon Food & Wine Festival (Photo: Alla Ponomareva)

Ask almost any Daejonite which festival is their favorite? You’d undoubtedly hear – The Daejeon Food and Wine Festival, which happens in September or October of each year. It gathers imported and domestic wine vendors under one roof, where interested winos can network as well as sample and purchase from the collection of over 10,000 different wine types. Prestigious events such as the Asian Wine Trophy, International Sommelier Competition and Asia Wine Buyer’s Conference also take place throughout the 2-3 days of this festival. Food vendors and cultural performances entertain the crowd near the Hanbit Tower Square.

The same location also hosted it’s first annual Daejeon Craft Beer and Music Festival in October of this year. 15 different craft breweries from Korea and abroad were available to pour some delicious brews, while the stage was rocking and rolling with amazing performances to suit everyone’s tipsy tastes.

October

Yesan Apple Festival

Nastacia from Rerouted Endeavors

Yesan Apple Festival (Photo: Rerouted Endeavors)

Fall is short in Korea compared to the long humid summers and freezing winters. Venturing outdoors to enjoy the great weather and autumn foliage is a must while it lasts. Apple picking is a popular activity to do during this season especially at the Yesan Apple Festival. The apples from this region are well known for their flavorful taste and vibrant color. The festival is held late October and November every year and includes making apple jam or pie and sampling apple flavored wine and even kimchi.

Busan Fireworks Festival

Samantha from Expat and the City

Busan Fireworks Festival (Photo: Expat and the City)

Ever since I was little, I loved watching fireworks, especially on holidays like Canada Day. But the fireworks back home pale in comparison to what Busan showcases every year at the International Fireworks Festival. Prepare to be amazed as you sit on Gwangalli Beach and watch the sky light up in all colours of the rainbow. This year, I was lucky to get a FRONT ROW seat right at the shoreline. Because this is such a popular festival that attracts thousands of people from across the country, the beach gets busy…and I mean BUSY! Prepare yourself for long lines at the subways, restrooms and restaurants. If big crowds aren’t your thing, don’t worry. You can always watch the festival from one of the mountains in the surrounding area (free), or at one of the beach side eateries (cover charge).

November

Kimchi Festival

Jessica from Family in Faraway Places

Kimchi Festival (Photo: Family in Faraway Places)

The five-day Gwangju World Kimchi Culture festival is held every November. Along with the usual Korean festival highlights like talent shows, local food stalls and performances, this festival celebrates all things related to kimchi. Foreign visitors can try their hand at making kimchi and there’s an extensive kimchi market where you can try samples of different kinds of kimchi before buying your favorite. Some years we go to the festival just to make our purchase of some of the best kimchi in the country!

December

Busan Christmas Tree Culture Festival

Samantha from Expat and the City

Busan Christmas Tree Culture Festival (Photo: Expat and the City)

Get into the holiday spirit and walk the streets of Nampo at the Busan Christmas Tree Culture Festival. Every December, Nampo decorates the streets with life-sized snowmen, candy canes and all things Christmas. The holiday wouldn’t be complete without a tree! In the centre of Nampo square there’s a gigantic LED Christmas tree on display where you can take the perfect photo. There’s lots to do at the cultural event, including a daily concert, Christmas auction, treasure hunt, and a caroling contest. Don’t forget to make a New Year’s wish at the wish tree! This festival runs into the first week of January.

You Might Also Like

36 Comments

  • Reply
    Soraya @ Hello Raya
    February 1, 2017 at 12:50 am

    Taebaek Snow Festival looks like it’d be so much fun to see – I mean that snow sculpture looks cool. And the Lantern Festival – that totally has my name on it. I LOVE parades!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      February 1, 2017 at 1:19 am

      The snow sculptures are really cool! ..or should I say really cold! hehe

  • Reply
    Jen Ackermann
    December 27, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to compile this list Sam! It seems like there’s a festival every weekend in Korea somewhere, maybe a bit overwhelming sometimes. Nonetheless, we LOVE festivals in Korea so this is something right up our alley. We’re also proud to say we’ve been to most of these festivals. Surprisingly, we never made it to the Kimchi festival.

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 28, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      Thanks for being a part of this post and telling us about the lantern festival! I haven’t been able to go to many of these but hopefully I’ll return to Korea someday and check them out!

  • Reply
    Travel with Karla
    December 27, 2016 at 2:18 am

    I can’t believe I only attended 2 out of 12! Thanks for this compilation. You just made my bucket list longer! This means more adventures in 2017! <3

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 28, 2016 at 1:28 pm

      Woo hoo! Hope you can see all of these awesome festivals in 2017!

  • Reply
    Nicole
    December 27, 2016 at 1:12 am

    Korea has so many festivals! I loved the fireworks festival but, man, it was so busy! My other favourites are the azalea festivals and the lantern festival in Jinju! My first ever weekend in Korea was at the Jinhae cherry blossom fest so it brings back lots of memories 🙂

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 28, 2016 at 1:28 pm

      Oh tell me about it! The fireworks festival is INSANE. Not good if you have a hard time dealing with large crowds. We always hang on the beach after when lots of people file out to go to the subway (I would NEVER try to get a subway home!)

  • Reply
    Hedgers Abroad
    December 26, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Wow, Korea has so many festivals! This is a great list of recommendations each month for your top picks. It should also be said, that small festivals are happening everywhere and always. There are plum festivals, makgeolli making festivals, azalea festivals, and so so many more. While many on this list can be incredibly crowded, they can also be a lot of fun. We haven’t done all of these, but now maybe we should!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 28, 2016 at 1:27 pm

      I know! So many festivals!! I love Korea!

  • Reply
    nckykm
    December 26, 2016 at 11:37 am

    ooh! Beautifully written round up of the year. Now that 2017 is on its way, it’s time to make plans!! Excited!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 26, 2016 at 12:06 pm

      Yess! It’s a great list to check off all the festivals for 2017! Cheers to a new year!

  • Reply
    Jackie
    December 26, 2016 at 7:20 am

    I love this! It’s like a bucket list of Korean festivals, haha! I pinned it and will share it. Great post! 😀

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 26, 2016 at 10:56 am

      Yes it’s totally a bucket list! Hope you can check them all off someday! Thanks for pinning 🙂

  • Reply
    Ana Park
    December 26, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Your list has reminded me that even after 13 years, there are still so many things that I have not experienced in Korea and there are still some places I have not been to. I have wanted to see the parting of the sea before I even came here. I saw it on Arirang back in 2000 and I thought I’d go there once I get to Korea. I haven’t done it until now ~

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 26, 2016 at 7:14 am

      Wow 13 years! Yes I think you should make it your new years resolution to go see all the festivals 🙂

  • Reply
    Rocio Cadena
    December 26, 2016 at 5:43 am

    What a fantastic list! I love the collaborative spirit. Seeing fellow bloggers from the community do similar entries featuring the works of other bloggers is really inspiring me to jump on the bandwagon! I just want to think about the theme. Anyway, I really wanna check out the sea parting festival. Some friends went earlier this years and absolutely loved it and couldn’t recommend it enough. Have you had a chance to go?

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 26, 2016 at 7:15 am

      I love collaborating with fellow bloggers. I highly suggest you do the same once you think of a topic! I didn’t go to the sea parting festival and I won’t be able to go because I’ll be gone from Korea before the festival happens 🙁

  • Reply
    abcdefghizzy
    December 26, 2016 at 4:06 am

    Wow! This collab is so useful! I wish someone had written this while I was living in Korea! It would have helped me plan out my year better! Living in Daejeon, I got to celebrate wine festival and it was amazing but the cherry blossoms were the best festival experience! There’s something magical about the way the rain dances on you! I am saving this to reference for a future blog post! Awesome job everyone!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 26, 2016 at 7:16 am

      Glad you can use this as a reference for later! And hopefully you can make your way back to Korea and attend some of the festivals!

  • Reply
    Toronto Seoulcialite
    December 25, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Very cool! Jen and Barun made the lotus lantern festival look wayyyy cooler than when I saw it. I want to check out that grape festival for sure. I never saw the dance festival when I lived in Busan. Is it new?

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 26, 2016 at 7:17 am

      I think the dance festival is a couple years old. The grape festival looks fun. I want to squash grapes with my feet! lol

  • Reply
    Rachael
    December 24, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    All these festivals looks fantastic! I didn’t know there was a snow festival in Korea!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 26, 2016 at 7:18 am

      Haha ya there’s basically a festival for everything!!

  • Reply
    Indrani
    December 22, 2016 at 5:08 am

    So, there is no wrong time to visit in Korea! That sounds so great. All festivals are so unique. The mud festival sounds similar to the one in Goa!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 22, 2016 at 6:58 am

      I also went to Mud Fest in Korea and it was awesome!! I would like to go to the one in Goa, toO!

  • Reply
    Nadine Smith
    December 22, 2016 at 2:59 am

    There is really something to see and do in Korea any time of the year! What a beautiful place! I would love to see the snow festival, the sea parting, and the Christmas lights show. But everything looks spectacular!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 22, 2016 at 6:57 am

      I like that there’s something for everyone!

  • Reply
    Nerdventurists
    December 21, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    I went to the snow festival in Hokkaido when I lived in Japan, I definitely need to check out the one here in Korea! I didn’t know Korea had one, so cheers for letting me know :)!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 21, 2016 at 1:23 pm

      A snow festival would be pretty cool…or should I say cold! hehe. Hope you can make it to the one in Korea!

  • Reply
    Mark Scrooby
    December 21, 2016 at 4:48 am

    I feel like Korea has a festival around every corner, more often than not they are pretty average! Nice to see a breakdown of what, where, when and what to expect in English. We’ve been lucky enough to attend a few of the festivals in the post. I’m very sad about not attending a kimchi festival though!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 21, 2016 at 5:00 am

      Yes there are so many festivals I love it!

  • Reply
    Flo @ Yoga, Wine & Travel
    December 20, 2016 at 8:51 am

    Wow there’s so much going on in South Korea! The Kimchi festival looks so interesting haha. We have a similar tombolo in Hong Kong but no “sea parting” festival – perhaps we should follow suit and start one!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 20, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      Sooo many fests in South Korea! I didn’t get to make it to the Sea Parting Festival but that does sound like fun!

  • Reply
    alla0909
    December 19, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    One day I will make it over to the Busan Fireworks Festival, which always brings plethora of amazing images from fellow photographers and fans alike. What a feast for the eyes!

    • Reply
      Expat and the City
      December 19, 2016 at 2:00 pm

      Yes you should check it out next year! Sadly I won’t be in Korea anymore!

    Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: