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Royal Guards at Gwanghwamun Gate

Seoul covered in snow is a rare but beautiful experience! If it snows in Seoul, do not expect the snow will stay for days.

I

t usually melts in no time, so the best you can do is start exploring right away, as hours later, you might be disappointed to see there’s not even a trace of the snow. 

Here’s a list of must-visit attractions in Seoul when covered in snow:

Gwanghwamun Square has a long history of being the main entry point to the royal palace of Joseon. It stretched out from Gwanghwamun Gate and was once connecting the Six Ministries of Joseon Kingdom, built on both sides of the square and guaranteeing fast access of all administration workers to the royal offices in the main palace.

The statue of Admiral Yi Sunshin, a naval commander renowned for his victories over the Japanese invaders, stands proud at the square. In the middle is King Sejong the Great statue, creator of Hangeul, Korea’s alphabet. The square ends at Gwanghwamun Gate is the main gate of the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the biggest of Seoul’s royal palaces.

Gwanghwamun Square keeps its importance as it’s one of the biggest open space areas in central Seoul.  It is used for countless protests (believe me, something is going on there almost every day), political rallies, and open-air concerts. The square is currently undergoing a renovation that will increase the green area and reduce the public traffic.

Yi Sun-sin Monument at Gwanghwamun Square
The Monument of King Sejong at Gwanghwamun Square
Gwanghwamun Gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace | 경복궁

Gyeongbokgung Palace was the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty. It’s the largest of all five royal palaces in Seoul. Much of the palace was destroyed by Imperial Japan in the early 20th century. It was restored to its former glory and is a must-visit place for everybody visiting Seoul for the first time.

The main points of interest in winter might be the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion (경회루) and pond around it, used for elaborate state banquets during the Joseon dynasty. The pavilion looks stunning, mostly if the pond’s water is frozen or snow around it. The best spot for very instagrammable photos is at the corner of the pond furthest from the pavilion.

If the weather is too cold and you want to warm up, there’s a small souvenir shop that sells tea and coffee. You can also have more authentic tea and royal snacks in a section of the palace. Make sure to go there early in the day as snacks can run out of stock. You will be able to sit and enjoy your hot drinks almost as they did in the old days. If you are wearing hanbok, that will be another excellent opportunity for a fantastic photoshoot.

Geunjeongjeon Hall of Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeonghoeru Pavilion at Gyeongbokgung Palace
The Guards of Gwanghwamun Gate

Sungnyemun | Namdaemun Gate | 숭례문

Sungnyemun or Namdaemun Gate is one of the Eight Gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul. In 2008 fire broke and entirely destroyed the gate’s wooden structure. The restoration took three years and cost $14M.

Namdaemun Gate was one of significant importance for Korea during the Joseon era. That’s why it is designated as the first National Treasure of Korea. It was used to let in ceremonially important visitors of the capital and for trade as it connects Hangang River and all the goods arriving by water with the capital markets.

It’s not a coincidence that Korea’s most significant and oldest market is situated just next to the gate. It even gets its name from it – Namdaemun Market.

Sungnyemun Namdaemun Gate

Seoul City Hall | 서울광장 

Seoul City Hall and the circular lawn is usually used to host various community events. Seoul City Hall consists of an old and new building. The old building, built during the Japanese occupation, is in colonial style and currently houses the Seoul Metropolitan Library. The new building of the Seoul City Hall is quite spectacular. The Green Wall placed inside the spacious new building’s antre is the most famous City Hall attraction.

In winter, the lawn in front of the municipality building turns into an ice skating rink with very affordable prices. When not occupied by the ice skating rink, you will find kids making snowmen or playing with the snow.

Seoul City Hall

Deoksugung Palace | 덕수궁

Deoksugung Palace is the latest palace used by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty. It’s smaller than the rest of the royal palaces and incorporates two modern classical buildings and a fountain. Part of the building is converted into a contemporary art museum and a display telling the palace’s turbulent history that witnessed Joseon and Korean Empire’s fall.

Deoksugung Palace is a favorite escape of numerous office workers during lunch break – they usually bring a coffee and walk around or sit for a small talk.  There’s a small souvenir shop just right after the main gate. Stop by for some coffee or tea, and sit on the small platform overseeing a beautiful pond with a small island in the middle. Covered in snow, that might be one of the best views in Seoul. 

Deoksugung Palace Classical Building
Deoksugung Palace
Deoksugung Palace
Jeonggwanheon, reception room in Deoksu Palace

Namsan N Tower | 남산서울타워

Namsan Tower is an all-time favorite for locals and visitors. Besides great city views, Namsan is an entertainment heaven, featuring robot cafe, VR, and playrooms. Namsan Tower is a popular dating destination and is super beautiful at night.

Due to the COVID19 pandemic, most of the attractions inside Namsan Tower are either in renovation or closed. One positive note is that the queues for the observation deck on the top of the tower are gone, and it’s faster than ever to go up and enjoy the views without the crowds.

The park surrounding Namsan Tower is massive and well maintained and offers hundreds of pathways for a pleasant stroll on a snowy day. Some areas of the park are more popular, so expect lots of people. But if you go further and take smaller paths, you will end up walking by yourself, enjoying the beauty of being surrounded by magnificent trees and barely hearing the sounds of the city.

Namsan Tower in Winter
Namsan Tower in Snow
Namsan Tower - snowy winter
Namsan Tower - making a snowman

Changdeokgung Palace | 창덕궁

Chnagdeokgung Palace is my favorite of all Joseon Royal Palaces, especially when there’s snow in Seoul. It’s the only of all palaces in Seoul with UNESCO World Heritage status. The layout of Changdeokgung naturally follows the hilly landscape, and that’s why it is not symmetrical as all other palaces.

If you have more time, explore the part that’s across the Geumcheongyo Bridge and to the Injeongjeon Hall’s left, the main ceremonial hall of the palace. This area is called Gwolnaegaksa, or the Government Offices Inside the Palace. You will find beautiful angles for memorable photos with layers of the beautiful overlapping curved roofs of the palace buildings.

It’s worth stopping at the small souvenir shop of the palace right after Sukjangmun Gate. You will be amazed by the quality and variety of souvenirs you can buy. Getting a hot drink on a cold winter day might be another option before you further explore the palace grounds.

Snowing in Changdeokgung Palace
Changdeokgung Palace
Changdeokgung Palace in Winter
Changdeokgung Palace in Snow

The Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace | 후원

The Secret Garden is magnificent when covered in snow. It’s called ‘secret’ as it was not accessible for the public or all people with allowance to the palace. It served as private recreational grounds of the Joseon kings. It is not overly landscaped as it tried to portray the natural beauty of the terrain it was built on.

One of the Joseon kings built his library inside the garden, so besides being used for rest and recreation, it became an important place to pursue knowledge and reflect on essential state decisions.

The only way to look around is to join a guarded tour, so make sure to book in advance or at least early in the day. The tour lasts between 70 to 90 min, but you will be surprised it’s not enough to admire all the fantastic sights in the garden. 

Snowy Winter in the Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace
Snowy Winter in the Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace
Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace in Snow

Hangang River | 한강

Hangang River doesn’t freeze often, but when it does, it’s gorgeous. Because the river stretches across the whole city, dividing it into the Southern and Northern part, there are numerous viewing spots with astonishing vistas to the frozen Hangang River.

The Floating Islands are multipurpose floating buildings designed to host recreational activities. They are built close to Banpo Bridge and, together with the Banpo Hangang Park that stretches along the riverbank, are perfect spots to experience the river and admire the beauty of the snowy winter in Seoul.

The best time to explore the Floating Islands is right before sunset. Wait for the sunset. It’s never disappointing. At night the Floating Islands are lit in colorful light and are such a feast for the eyes.

Frozen Hangang River with Namsan Tower
Hangang River Frozen in Winter
Hangang River Frozen in Winter
Sevitsom Hangang River Floating Islands by Night

Seoul Olympic Park | 올림픽공원

Olympic Park is the biggest city park on the south of Hangang River. It was built for the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games and since then is one of the most beloved and attended parks in the Gangnam area. The park is home to Korea’s biggest sports arena.

The park is quite big, so it might take several hours to walk around it. It’s divided into several sections – leisure sports area, culture art park, history experience section, and various gardens featuring seasonal plants and colorful flowers.

Remains from the Baekje period are spread around the park. There’s some excavation work performed right now in sections of the park where Mongchon Fortress was built.

Seoul Olympic Park

Lotte World Tower | 롯데월드타워

Lotte World Tower is the newest landmark of Seoul. It’s the highest building in Korea and the 5th tallest in the world. Besides having one of the fastest elevators globally, the views from the observation deck on the top of the tower are breathtaking. On a clear day, you might be able to see Namsan Tower and vast parts of the city. Views to the Hangang River and its many bridges are another reason you might want to buy the expensive Seoul Sky visitor ticket and go on the top. In a snowy day in Seoul, views from the top might be breathtaking. 

There’s an even more extreme experience called Seoul Sky Bridge tour – crossing an open-air bridge above the tower’s highest occupied indoor floor. It might be freezing cold and windy in winter, but always worth experiencing it.

Adjacent to Lotte World Tower is Seokchon Lake – a favorite promenade destination for locals and visitors. The walk around the lake might take an hour, but it offers Lotte World Tower’s best views. On one side of the lake is Lotte World, a popular entertainment park.

There are way more places that might be a fantastic sight when covered in snow. If I missed a spot that you think deserves to be listed here, leave a comment about the place and your impression of it covered in snow.

Lotte World Amusement Park in Snow
Seokchon Lake in Winter
Lotte World Park at Seokchon Lake

Snow in Seoul: Best spots to experience winter in Korea

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