What Makes Springtime in Korea So Special?
Springtime in Korea is a magical time of year. With the beautiful cherry blossoms in full bloom and the many exciting festivals, tours, and activities that take place during this season, it’s no wonder why so many people flock to Korea for an unforgettable experience. From sampling delicious Korean food to taking part in traditional festivals, there are plenty of opportunities to soak up the culture and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a fun adventure with friends, springtime in Korea will not disappoint!
Cherry Blossoms – Where to Go and What to Expect
Every spring, the cherry blossoms in Korea come alive with a magical transformation. The Hanami season, or festival of flowers, is an annual event that celebrates the beauty of nature and the joys of life. It’s a time for families and friends to gather together and appreciate the stunning landscape of vibrant colors that blanket Korea’s countryside. From Seoul to Jeju Island, there are plenty of places to experience this breathtaking event. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or an adventure with friends, make sure to take advantage of the incredible scenery during this special time in Korea!
In 2023, the cherry blossoms are scheduled to start blooming on Jeju Island on March 20th, in Seoul on March 28th, and the northern parts of South Korea in early April.
Keep in mind the following caveats:
- The cherry blossoms tend to go away earlier than the officials predict
- Nature is a prankster. Many times a rainstorm has barged in during peak blossoming and stripped the trees.
My tip about cherry blossoms is to avoid the popular places, like Yeouido. They are extremely overcrowded–dangerously so. And there are assholes who shake the trees to shower their girlfriends with blossoms, stripping the trees of their beauty for everyone else.
Here are some other places to view cherry blossoms in South Korea. They’re listed in the order that they start. Read towards the end for my secret tip you won’t find on any other blog.
NOTE: This post will be updated with more festivals and detailed information. Subscribe to this post or to our mailing list to get the latest.
Daegu E-World Blossom Picnic
The fastest cherry blossoms in the country! I don’t know what the advantage of that is, but Korea is always in a rush. This event’s real edge is that it’s best at night. There are lots of photo zones for the Instagrammers. It not only focuses on cherry blossoms. The picnic goes through a gamut of bloomings, ending with tulips.
- When: March 18th – April 9th
- Where: Daegu E-World (map)
- What to see and do: night time blossoms, photo zones
- Fees: Park admission (~W45,000)
- More info: https://eworld.kr/
Jeju Royal Cherry Blossom Festival
For the early adopters! Jeju Island is the first location where cherry blossoms come into bloom.
- When: late March – early April
- Where: Jeonnong-ro, Jeju-si and Jangjeon-ri, Aewol
- What to see and do: look at cherry blossoms
- More info: https://www.visitjeju.net/en
Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival
This is the big one with big trees. The entire city of Jinhae gets invaded by cherry blossoms. Jinhae has the famous Yeojwacheon “Romance Bridge,” which is like a tunnel of cherry blossoms.
- When: March 25th – April 3rd
- Where: Jinhae Public Stadium, Jinhae Jungwon Rotary, and it’s being expanded to more places
- What to see and do: Jinhae-gun Music Hall Festival, Patriots Parade, Black Eagles Air Show
Busan Samnak Cherry Blossom Festival 부산 삼락 벚꽃축제
- When: late March (TBA)
- Where: Samnak Ecological Park, Sasang-gu, Busan
- What to see and do: natural dyeing, pottery, calligraphy, nail art, children’s archery experience, The Birth of Samnak attraction, educational exhibits, performances
- More info: https://www.sasang.go.kr/index.sasang?menuCd=DOM_000000604002000000 (Korean)
Hwagae Market Cherry Blossom Festival
Started in 1993, this is a festival if you want to get the true romantic Korean countryside. Charming riverside open market bordered by mountains leading up to a Buddhist temple–that’s Korea! The festival itself runs for three days in early April, when the blooms are fullest. This festival has the most “stuff” happening.
- When: March 31st – April 2nd
- Where: Tea Culture Center in Hwagae-myeon, Hadong-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do
- What to see and do: pungmulnori (folk drumming, dancing, and singing) contest, archery contest, parade, Celebrity Celebration Show, ssireum (Korean wrestling), Cherry Blossom Sales Competition, Hwagae Market Playground, late night movies, yutnori (traditional game) contest, talent show, youth dancing contest
Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Festival
- When: late March – early April
- Where: All over Gyeongju
- What to see and do: Cherry Blossom Street Art Road, Cherry Blossom Lights, Cherry Blossom Playground, participating restaurants give you free water if you bring a tumbler
- More info: https://www.garts.kr/index.do?menuId=00000238 (Korean)
Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival
So… you aren’t heeding my warnings, and you want to be moshed up in crowds. If you can, though, I recommend checking out Yeouido on a weekday. I used to have a couple of offices in that area, and it’s bearable then.
- When: early April – mid-April
- Where: Yeouido Park, Seoul
- What to see and do: photos
Seokchon Lake Cherry Blossom Festival
The other big Seoul draw for cherry blossoms is Seokchon Lake. It’s the one that Lotte World is on. As far as I know, there aren’t any performances or anything. It’s good if you want pictures of cherry blossoms with Lotte World in the background. You don’t need to go into Lotte World to enjoy the flowers.
- When: early April – mid-April
- Where: Seokchon Lake area, Seoul
- What to see and do: take photos
Daejeon Daecheong Lake Cherry Blossom Festival
The youngest festival on this list. It boasts the longest cherry blossom path in the world at 26.6 km. This is one that is recommended to see by car.
- When: early April
- Where: local road No. 517 from Sinsang-dong, Dong-gu, Daejeon to Hoenam-myeon, Boeun-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do
- What to see and do: drive and look at cherry blossoms
More info: https://www.donggu.go.kr/dg/tour/contents/988 (Korean)
And My Secret Cherry Blossom Place…
I found this out by accident while traveling back in 2011. Hahoe Village (pronounced Ha-hway) near Andong is surrounded by cherry blossoms. And it’s practically empty this time of year. Hahoe Village is like a medieval village frozen in time. You can rent a minbak room there and spend the night. Wake up at dawn to view an amazing site even most Koreans don’t get to see. Cherry blossoms surrounding a Joseon Dynasty village!
It’s best to go to Hahoe around the last week of March and first week of April.
Cherry Blossom Tours
Hike hidden trails and see the cherry blossoms that no one else sees. The Seoul Hike runs every Saturday. Your guide Shawn is a Korean folklorist who spins tales of Korea’s mountain gods and spirits while taking you to secret temples. Book here.
Want to sit back and relax with no worries about how to get there? Check out these cherry blossom tours from our partners.
Even More Spring Flower Festivals & Tours
As I said, cherry blossoms are just the beginning. In my opinion, there are better flowerings in spring. Cherry blossom season in Korea is still too chilly for my taste. I’m more a fan of the azaleas that appear in late April and go through May. During that time, the air smell floral and intoxicating.
Here are some events to fill your Instagram feed.
NOTE: This list will be updated frequently.
Taean International Tulip Festival
Over 5 million tulips tastefully and artfully planted in Korea’s largest flower festival from one of the world’s top five tulip cities (yes, that’s true). The festival area is divided into different themed sections. This year, they’re encouraging attendees to wear pink.
- When: April 12th – May 7th
- Where: 400, Kkotjihaean-ro, Taean-gun, Chungcheongnam-do
- 충청남도 태안군 안면읍 꽃지해안로 400
- What to see and do: Just see it. It’s a giant garden with amazing flower sculptures.
- Admission: Adults W14,000 | Children & Teens W11,000 | Seniors & Groups W12,000
More info: http://www.koreaflowerpark.com/ (Korean)
Gokseong World Rose Festival
See 1,004 types of roses from all over the world in one place. This is a popular festival for couples, where there’s actually a contest for marriage proposals? That has to be fascinating and cringey at the same time.
- When: May 20th – June 5th (?) They’ve announced the start but not the end
- Where: Gokseong Train Village
- What to see and do: performances, hanbok fashion show, market, Rose Waltz Party
- More Info: https://www.gokseong.go.kr/tour/festivity/rose (Korean)
- Admission: W2,000 – which is converted into a gift certificate to spend at the festival (clever!)
Other Spring Festivals
There are more than flower festivals. I’m sure some of you allergy sufferers would appreciate that. May and June are the best festival seasons. They’re packed and stacked.
Here are some notable and some quirky festivals.
NOTE: This list will be updated frequently. Keep checking back or subscribe.
Jeju Fire Festival
How fitting that this takes place in a volcano! Well, it’s intentional. Jeju was borne from volcanic fire, and this celebrates it. The bangaebul (wildfires) were set to grazing fields to get rid of pests. There are deep cultural symbols in this event.
- When: March 9-12
- Where: Saebyeoloreum Volcanic Cone
- San 59-8, Bongseong-ri, Jeju-si, Jeju-do
- 제주 제주시 애월읍 봉성리 산59-8
- What to see and do: parades, fire-themed performances, Volcano Show!
- More Info: https://www.jejusi.go.kr/buriburi/main.do (Korean)
Goryeong Daegaya Experience Festival 고령대가야체험축제
Gaya was the small forgotten yet mysterious kingdom sandwiched between Silla and Baekje during the Three Kingdoms Period (18 BCE – 660 CE). This festival celebrates its lost heritage.
- When: March 31st – April 2nd
- Where: Daegaya History Theme Tourist Site, Jisan-dong Tombs, Daegaya Culture Nuri, Daegaya Museum, Royal Tombs Exhibition Hall in Goryeong-gun
- What to see and do: performances, parade, historical exhibitions, ironware experience
- More info: http://www.festdgy.com/ (Korean, under construction)
Buan Masil Festival 부안마실축제
A festival to celebrate the area of Buan. Very local but fun.
- When: May 4 – 6
- Where: Buan Maechang Park
- What to see and do: performances, parade, kids fun zone
- More info: https://www.buan.go.kr/buanmasil/index.buan (Korean, not yet updated)
Gongju Seokjang-ri World Paleolithic Festival 공주 석장리 구석기 축제
You’d think you’d find some paleo food here, right? This area is known for its paleolithic finds, so it celebrates Korea’s stone age culture. There are little experiences for families to learn how life was during this age.
- When: May 5th – 7th
- Where: Seokjang-ri Museum
- 990 Geumbyeok-ro, Gongju-si, Chungcheongnam-do
- What to see and do: performances, exhibitions, paleolithic experiences
- More info: http://www.gspf.kr/ (Korean)
Ulsan Iron Festival 울산 쇠부리축제
The Ulsan Soeburi Festival makes sense in this legendary industrial city. The festival is launched at Dalcheon Steelyard, the birthplace of iron-production in Korea. It’s worth it to watch traditional iron smelting in person.
- When: May 12-14
- Where: Dalcheon Steel Mill
- 1-7 Dalcheon-dong, Buk-gu, Ulsan
- What to see and do: Sparks of Hope Ceremony, performances, street parade, steel art exhibitions, car photo zone, traditional steelmaking experience, drum circles, Garden of Fire ←ooooh!
- More info: http://www.soeburi.org/festival/ (Korean)
Boseong Green Tea Dahyang Festival
The famous green tea plantations come to life! This festival celebrates the new harvest and is a must-do for green tea enthusiasts. Make sure to enjoy a cup of suncha, which is green tea harvested around this time
- When: May (TBA)
- Where: 775 Nokcha-ro, Boseong-eup, Boseong-gun, Jeollanam-do
- 보성읍 녹차로 1181-76 (봉산리 310번지)
- What to see and do: tea ceremonies (Korean, Chinese, and Japanese versions!), good harvest ceremonial prayer, tea leaf picking, green tea foot bath, Green Tea Fairies (they dance and give out green tea)
- More info: https://www.boseong.go.kr/tour/festivity/tea_aroma (Korean)
This isn’t everything!
I’m only adding festivals with definite dates. Korea has a tendency to wait until the last minute. It’s not unusual for a festival to have a date the week before it starts. If a festival you know of isn’t on this list, it’s likely because the official dates have yet to be announced. Please post in the comments or email me if you know of one.
Things to Know Before You Go
I should have led with this, but early spring in Korea is still chilly. Cherry blossom season you will still need a coat. The air is also not the cleanest. A combination of hwangsa (yellow sands from the Gobi Desert) and winds spreading pollution from China and Korea can make for some heavy air days. It’s not like this all the time, but you’ll experience it. Be prepared to wear a mask and drink lots of water.
Though it’s not as frequent as in summer, we do get rain. As I said above, the rain gods tend to prank us by stripping the trees of the cherry blossoms. The weather in mid-April to mid-May fluctuates, so be prepared for toasty afternoons and chilly evenings. Pack accordingly.
That said, spring–particularly May–is my favorite timein Korea. It’s intoxicating.
More to come…