KOREA: Best things to do during winter
January 1, 1970
by EM Fajardo
One of the best places to set foot on during the holidays is Korea. Its growing popularity due to television dramas turned it into an ultimate travel destination and we can’t afford to miss that. Korea is a recommended getaway for families, friends, couples and even for solo travelers due to its efficient transport systems and English language signs all over the place. So what are you waiting for? Book your trip and plan for a week-long off the daily grind!
Planning your itinerary can be tricky if you’re not planning to avail of tour packages from agencies especially in our case when we chose the peak season which is the transition between autumn and winter. But in my opinion, a DIY travel in Korea is more efficient and money-saving. There were 12 of us on the tour so we definitely planned our trip ahead of time to maximize our 7-day Korea adventure. It probably won’t be that hard to walk around and discover the place all by ourselves.
Using Accuweather, we expected a – 4-degree weather so we prepared ourselves with appropriate clothing. For Filipinos like us 19 degrees Celsius is already a sweater weather, and for us to make the most out of our trip, we added some layers of cashmere and a box (!) of heat packs.
Useful tip: If your country doesn’t have a winter season, there should be an extra budget for clothing. Winter coats, boots, and heat-tech clothing is quite pricey, plus you have to save space on your luggage for extra thick layers.
Off we go!
Day 1: Everland
Everland is the largest theme park located in Yong-in, South Korea accommodating almost 7 million guests every year. It is advisable to plan your trip during the weekday to avoid long lines and maximize every ride available. Online reservations through Klook may be of help in saving up your purchases since they offer seasonal discounts.
Big Rose Tree
Everland is the largest theme park located in Yong-in South Korea housing almost 7 million guests every year. It’s advisable to plan your trip during the weekday to avoid long lines and maximize every ride available. Online reservations through Klook may be of help in saving up your purchases since they offer seasonal discounts.
Everland’s major attraction is the T-express which is dubbed as one of the coolest roller coasters in the world. If you’re on for an adrenaline-pumping ride, this 200 ft. tall wooden roller coaster with a 77-degree angle drop is perfect for you.
Useful tip: During winter out of all the places we’ve been into, Everland so far was the coldest. There may be heat lamps around the place but the cold wind adds up to your chill. Extra heat packs can save your life!
Day 2: Exploring the Myeongdong shopping district
Myeongdong is one of the shopping districts in Seoul where you can find the best deals on branded cosmetics, souvenirs, and Korean food products. Korea is also known as one of the best makers of cosmetic products and you will see even Koreans shopping around the place. In case you run out of Korean Won, this will be the perfect place to stop by.
Useful tip: Purchasing more than USD 100 entitles you to a tax-free purchase on selected stores, just present your passport and shop away!
Passing along the district, you will also see the majestic Myeongdong Cathedral which is Korea’s first Gothic-themed church made of bricks. It is also the very symbol of Korea’s faith in Catholicism.
Day 3: Iconic places in Korean dramas!
If you’re a big fan of Korean dramas (like I am), there’s a big chance that you would want to spend a day visiting the locations of our favorite K-couples.
Our first stop was Namiseom or Nami Island, a 2-hour travel from Seoul. Nami is a picturesque island that appeared multiple times in the heart-throbbing Korean drama series, Winter Sonata. And because most of my travel mates love Korean dramas, we made several poses mimicking the memorable moments of Kang Joon (played by Bae Yong) and Jeong Yoo (played by Choi Ji). Nami is always a go-to place during all four of Korea’s seasons.
Useful tip: The earlier you get there the higher chance you’ll get to roam around and take a good photo without passers-by on the background. We were able to see the island covered in snow before it melted 2 hours after we took photos!
Close to the port to Nami is a bus stop to Petit France, a small French cultural village which is a 45-minute bus ride from Nami. Many would refer to it as the Little Prince theme park which houses 16 French-style structures composed of souvenir shops, cafe, and even lodges for visitors who want to experience a bit of French lifestyle.
Its increased popularity might also be due to two romantic comedy Korean dramas that were shot in this place – 1. My Love From the Star where Cheon Song-Yi (played by Gianna Jun) and Do Min-Joon (played by Kim Soo-Hyun) had their romantic kiss; and 2. The comedy-mystery drama, Secret Garden where Kim Joe-Won (played by Hyun-Bin) and Gil Ra-Im (played by Ha Ji-Won) first met.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza
Since we still have the energy to explore the city, few of us decided to stop by the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDT) which is the most accessible major architectural attraction in Seoul. It’s just right outside the Dongdaemun train station! The DDT is one of the must-see places in Seoul where you can find souvenir items and Korea’s contemporary art exhibits.
Getting into this place will definitely make you feel overwhelmed as you witness Korea’s best representation of its love for the youth. One of the most popular Korean drama that chose this location were: The Producers; and She was Pretty, both dramas representing an inspiring career-driven story for young adults.
Useful tip: After a long stroll at the DDT, you may also want to stop by the Dongdaemun night market for street food and good finds which opens starting 10 PM onwards.
Day 4: Seoul’s heritage sites
I’m truly amazed at how Korea strongly lived with their culture. Heritage sites are preserved and located in the busy central business cities in the country. Our ajusshi would say that you can never claim to be in a place without visiting its history, and so we spent a day strolling around the oldest sites around Seoul.
This 6-centuries old palace is Seoul’s largest preserved palace that has been a symbol of Seoul’s unwavering love for their history.
Bukchon Hanok Village
There is an overwhelming number of traditional houses lined up at Bukchon Hanok Village. These houses have actual residents and some of them even welcome tourists inside their place for a total experience of Korea’s culture.
Detour: Namsan Seoul Tower
If you’re a fan of city skyscrapers and postcards (!) don’t forget to visit the Namsan Seoul Tower which is 480 meters above sea level. It has the most beautiful collection of postcards and it’s where you can see Seoul in a 360-degree view!
Korea is one of the countries that has a romantic vibe and tradition, so you might want to try and seal your promises of love through the Namsan tower.
Useful tips: There is an option to access the peak of N. Seoul Tower for USD 9 but as a wise traveler, the dusk that we witnessed just at the bottom of it is already priceless. As for the love locks, if you’ll adopt this tradition you can bring your own padlocks or buy a pair at the N. Seoul Souvenir Shop for USD 6.
Day 5: Vivaldi Ski Park
This is a must if you’re traveling during winter. It’s not all the time that you get to try this sport! There were three kids with us during this tour so we had to choose the closest and friendliest ski resorts in Korea, the Vivaldi Ski Resort. They have an accessible pickup point near Lotte World Mall in Seoul and they also provide training packages if you want to maximize the experience.
Day 6: A must! DMZ and Lotte Aquarium
Korea Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
Korea has long been divided into two sovereign states, the North and South Korea. Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is the safest, buffer zone established under an Armistice Agreement during the Korean war in 1953. It’s required to avail of a tour package going to DMZ for security purposes. It’s also their way of discussing tourists the dreadful story, dreams, and hopes behind it.
Useful tip: Your passport is required as you enter the premises of DMZ. There will be soldiers checking up on every tourist’s identities.
We had half a day free and the DMZ service dropped us off near Lotte World Mall. There are three major activities you can do at Lotte World: Lotte World amusement park, an indoor theme park; Lotte World Aquarium; and Lotte World Tower which is the 5th highest building in the world!
Lotte World Aquarium
Lotte World Tower
Day 7: Ewha Women’s University and Hongdae Shopping District
One of the most picture-worthy sites in Seoul is its universities. The most interesting location we went into was Ewha Women’s University, the very first school for women in Korea. It has the largest underground campus, the Ewha Campus Complex (ECC) which is 6 – stories below ground.
Useful tip: Surrounding universities in Seoul are shopping districts. If you’re interested in university hopping, you better prepare a lot of penny for the good stuff with cheaper prices around campuses.
We may have visited more than what was expected and this is because of Korea’s efficient transport system. It will also be helpful to book in a hotel which is close to a subway station for easier transfers. Whenever you feel lost or confused, ask questions and a little research won’t hurt!