The Best Time to Visit Seoul

Autumn colors around Gyeongbokgung palace in South Korea.
Kriangkrai Thitimakorn / Getty Images

The best times to visit Seoul are during the spring (March to May) or fall (September and October). These months are generally considered the high season and for a good reason. With spring comes the delicate blush-colored blooms of the cherry blossom trees, while fall foliage makes the city glow with fiery reds, oranges, and yellows. Winter and summer have their charms but are not for the faint of heart, as temperatures plummet and soar, respectively.

No matter when you choose to visit, use this guide to help you delve into genteel temples, sprawling palaces and historical hanok houses juxtaposed with cutting-edge technology, a renowned food scene, and innovative architecture and design.

The Weather in Seoul

Each of the four seasons is distinct in Seoul. Winter can be bitterly cold, with icy blasts sweeping down from Siberia. Spring temperatures range from 50 to 70 degrees F, perfect for frolicking amid the pink blossoms of the cherry trees. Summer is hot and extremely humid, driving many Koreans into the city’s thousands of air-conditioned coffee shops. Keep in mind that June through September is also typhoon season, with high rainfall and a chance of heavy storms. Fall brings a return to mild weather ranging from 50 to 80 degrees F and makes for an excellent time to explore the many hiking trails within the city limits.

Peak Season in Seoul

Boasting the most agreeable weather, spring and fall are naturally congested times in Seoul, though school holidays in the summer make it a fierce contender for the city’s busiest season award. However, with the plethora of cafes, museums, and galleries sprinkled near all the major attractions throughout the city, a refuge from the weather is never far away, meaning a visit to Seoul is enjoyable during any season.

The Seoul metropolitan area has a population of nearly 26 million. With that number of people calling the city home, it ensures there’s no real “off” season—most major attractions even remain open during Korea’s national holidays. While outdoors landmarks such as palaces and temples are open year-round, they may occasionally close due to inclement winter weather or summer typhoons.

Though winter can be slightly cheaper, prices in South Korea’s capital remain steady during most of the year except for two main spikes—the national holidays, Seoullal, and Chuseok, the dates of which fluctuate annually but generally occur during February and September. During these times, the entire country mobilizes, making train tickets, flights, hotels—you name it—more expensive.

Key Festivals and Events in Seoul

Korea has a deep love of festivals that range from traditional to kooky. Observing everything from history and film to food and music, Seoul is a city that loves a party. No matter what month you visit, you’ll find an event to suit your mood. It's impossible to avoid the citywide festivities and cultural events during the Seollal (the Lunar New Year) and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) holidays.

January

With Christmas festivities complete and the average temperatures hovering around 25 degrees F, you’d think the crowds would be minimal in January. But this month marks the winter school holidays in South Korea, which adds domestic tourists to the city’s already buzzing population. Seoul can get even more packed and expensive when Seollal falls at the end of January, which it does every few years.

February

It’s chilly and dry in Seoul in February, but the streets are packed with shoppers and visitors in anticipation of the Lunar New Year, which generally falls this month. Colorful displays in shop windows, performances in city squares, and special holiday menus at restaurants make February a fun time to visit South Korea’s capital.

Events to check out:

  • Seollal is Korea’s Lunar New Year celebration, with traditional performances and activities taking place at Seoul’s major royal palaces.

March

Don’t put your coat away yet! Though spring technically begins this month, Seoul’s northern latitude means temperatures in March linger in the 40s. In recent years, however, warm temperatures have surprised everyone, including the trees, making an early cherry blossom season a real possibility.

Events to check out:

  • The Seoul International Marathon has taken place since 1931, making it Asia’s oldest marathon. The race begins at Gwanghwamun Palace and finishes across the Han River at the Seoul Olympic Stadium.

April

April is said to be Seoul’s most beautiful month, a time when cherry blossoms float through the air giving the city a whimsical pink glow. With temperatures mainly in the 50s and 60s Fahrenheit, it’s the ideal time to visit, which also makes it more crowded and expensive. It’s still possible to get good deals, though, since the weather can be fickle, and no one knows exactly when the cherry blossoms will make their highly anticipated appearance.

Events to check out:

  • Yeongdeunpo Yeouido Spring Flower Festival consists of performances, activities, and exhibitions that take place amidst the cherry trees.
  • Held in honor of Buddha’s birthday is the Lotus Lantern Festival (Yeon Deung Hoe), which has taken place for over 1,300 years, and consists of a vibrant parade that lights up the city center. (Buddha’s birthday is observed on different dates each year, meaning this festival is sometimes held in May.)

May

May is Seoul’s Goldilocks window when it’s not too hot or too cold, kids are in school, and the rainy season hasn’t yet begun. It’s also a relatively inexpensive time to visit, as there are no major holidays or festivals in the city this month.

Events to check out:

  • Jongmyo Daeje is a remembrance of Korea’s royal ancestors and includes a parade, costumes, and traditional performances.

June

June is a weather wildcard, where temperatures can range from the 60s to 80s. It’s also the beginning of typhoon season, meaning rain becomes more of a possibility.

Events to check out:

  • The Seoul World DJ Festival draws music lovers the world over for a weekend of continuous mixing.
  • Though not as widely celebrated as Seollal and Chuseok, Dano is another of Korea’s major holidays and is observed with traditional customs and costumes at the National Folk Museum of Korea.

July

Let the humidity begin! July is the start of Korea’s hottest and most humid months. If you do plan to visit during the dead of summer, plan outdoor activities in the morning and evening, and schedule indoor visits during the scorching midday heat.

Events to check out:

  • Cool off by participating in the Sinchon Water Gun Festival—always a crowd-pleasing favorite since July is one of the country’s hottest months.

August

Korean children have school holidays in August, and you’ll likely find them splashing in one of the city’s multiple fountains and streams. Temperatures peak around 90 degrees F, and August is also one of the rainiest months in the ROK. If the weather doesn’t scare you away, then you should be able to find good deals on flights and accommodation.

Events to check out:

  • Becoming more popular every year is the Seoul Fringe Festival, bringing both local and international artists and performers to the streets of Seoul.

September

Chuseok generally occurs in September, making it a bustling month in Seoul. While thousands of people depart the capital to visit their hometowns, thousands more spill in to celebrate the festivities. It’s a crowded and slightly more expensive time to visit, but the fall colors and the festive atmosphere make it worth the trade-off.

Events to check out:

  • Korea possesses a thriving film industry, with many movies making their debut at the Seoul International Film Festival.
  • Traditional Chuseok celebrations are held at the city’s main palaces and temples.

October

Tourist numbers are relatively low in October, despite it being the time when the leaves begin to show off their brilliant hues. The city’s central focal point, Namsan mountain, is the perfect place for an autumn walk and features panoramic views from N Seoul Tower at its peak.

Events to check out:

November 

Seoul temperatures start to drop in November (think somewhere between 30 to 50 degrees F). Still, this month brings with it fewer crowds, autumn feasts, and the colorful lanterns that make up one of the city’s most anticipated and beautiful festivals.

Events to check out:

  • Kimchi is omnipresent in Korea, and there’s no better way to get acquainted with the ubiquitous side dish than by making and eating it at the Seoul Kimchi Festival.
  • Millions of visitors flock to see the inventive displays at the Seoul Lantern Festival, where colorful lanterns stretch nearly a mile along the humanmade Cheonggyecheon Stream winding through central Seoul.

December

Baby, it’s cold outside. By December, temperatures drop back into the 20s and 30s, which makes a visit to one of the city’s many teahouses or steamy bathhouses a priority. Christmas is widely observed in South Korea, and shops and department stores deck their halls accordingly. Combined with the country’s tax-free shopping program, it’s a busy time of year to visit.

Events to check out:

  • Korea’s two main theme parks, Lotte World and Everland (just south of Seoul), host Christmas celebrations with decorations, parades, and performances that rival anything produced by Mickey Mouse.
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