South Korea has so many attractions and unique experiences to offer. During winter season, the country comes to life with interesting winter festivals and exciting snowy attractions. Beautiful landscapes, scrumptious food and an endless array of cool activities – what’s not to love?
If you’re planning to visit Korea in winter, bookmark our D.I.Y. 9-day Korea winter itinerary and you’ll be all set for a fun-filled family vacation – sans all the pre-planning homework. It’s very easy to D.I.Y. and it gives you the flexibility to make the most out of your vacation – just the way you like it. Ready? Let’s go!
Travel Dates: 11 – 19 Dec 2019
Days Spent: 9 Days 8 Nights
Weather: Seoul 6°C / -4°C (Winter Season)
Airline: Thai Airways
No. of Travellers: 2 adults and 1 child
Hotels Stayed: Novotel Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun Hotels & Residences (6 nights) and Daemyung Resort Vivaldi Park (2 nights)
Accommodation in Korea
Which is the best area to stay in Seoul? This is the question that most people will ask. For shopaholics and foodies, Myeongdong is the best! For the fashionistas, consider Hongdae. For families, Jamsil is a good option. In my opinion, as long as the accommodation is within walking distance to subway and located in a central location, it should be fine.
I chose Novotel Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun Hotels & Residences because it’s relatively new and very near to Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (partly because I’m an Accor Plus member). The airport limousine bus stop is just a min walk away – truly a huge time saver! I also love that the room is equipped with washer and kitchenette.
We also spent 3D2N at Vivaldi Park Ski World, the most visited ski resort in Korea. The biggest advantage of this resort is that it’s near to Seoul (only 1.5 hours) and free round-trip transportation is provided for foreigners in winter season. Besides skiing and snowboarding, it has LOTS of exciting indoor activities, a huge water park as well as a snow sled park named Snowy Land.
Did these accommodations meet my expectations? Actually, they surpassed them!
9-Day Korea Winter Itinerary
Day 1: SIN – BKK – ICN
I booked the Thai Airways to Seoul with a short 3-hour transit in Bangkok because I wanted a day flight. I can’t sleep on a plane and I also dislike arriving in early morning. Moreover, it’s $600+ cheaper as compared to Singapore Airlines and Korean Air. Hence, I thought this was the best choice for us.
There are various private airport transfers on Klook. We booked the private transfer from S.A Tour as they were the cheapest ($83 per car for 3-5 person). I’d highly recommend them. The driver can speak Mandarin and is very helpful. The car is clean and spacious. Moreover, he sent me the pick-up details one day before my trip. Very awesome service!
Before we got onto his car, we also collected our Discover Seoul Pass from the airport redemption counter. I’d highly recommend getting this pass before exploring the city. It’s a special tourism pass that allows entry to many amazing attractions in Seoul, and it comes with 3 options: 24-hour, 48-hour and 72-hour. The card also functions as a transit card (Tmoney).
As of this writing, the pass offers 42 Free Pass Attractions (including Gyeongbokgung Palace, COEX Aquarium, N Seoul Tower Observatory, Lotte World Adventure, Eland Cruise etc.), 35 Discount Attractions (including Lotte World Tower, Seoul Land Theme Park) and 28 Discount Experiences. It also includes a free one-way AREX Incheon Airport Express.
Day 2: Lotte World Adventure, COEX Aquarium, Eland Cruise
We bought the 48-hour Discover Seoul Pass (from now on, I will call it DSP). Before using it, we mapped out our public transport routes and arrange our itinerary in advance to fully maximize the free admission perks within the 48-hour timeframe.
Our first destination was Lotte World Adventure. It consists of a huge indoor theme park ‘Adventure’ and an outdoor amusement park ‘Magic Island’. We went on a weekday, but to our dismay, it was still super crowded. Most of the attractions had queue time of 30 mins, with some stretching up to an hour. We only managed to try 5-6 rides before leaving for our next destination.
- Getting to Lotte World Adventure: Jamsil Station Gate 4 Line 2 or 8, Enter via South Gate for DSP holder
Next, we headed to COEX Aquarium. Truth be told, we had originally wanted to visit Lotte Aquarium. But since it wasn’t covered in DSP, we changed our plan to COEX Aquarium. Overall, it has a nice lay-out with many thematic areas. As compared to Lotte World, this place was much less crowded. The free hanbok experience was a bonus to many tourists.
- Getting to COEX Aquarium: BongEunSa Station Line 9 Gate 7, walk 3 mins towards COEX Mall
After spending 2 hours at the aquarium, we had to leave for Eland Cruise. There are different cruises every day. i.e. Story Cruise during the day, Music Cruise at night, Lunch / Dinner Buffet Cruise, etc. DSP holders can redeem free entrance to Story Cruise, Music Cruise and Moonlight Cruise.
We went for the Music Cruise from 7:30pm to 8:40pm. Snacks and drinks can be purchased on the cruise. As the cruise sailed along the beautiful Han River, there was also live music performance. It was a simple cruise, but we enjoyed the good music and amazing night view. Best way to wind down our first day in Seoul! If you prefer buffet cruise, you can also book for it on Klook.
- Getting to Eland Cruise: Yeouinaru Station Line 5 Exit 3 (10 mins walk to Han River Park)
Day 3: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Running Man, N Seoul Tower
Gyeongbokgung is the most famous and most visited palace in Korea. Honestly, I’m not a historical buff. Thus, I don’t find this place as interesting as I thought it would be – except for their royal guard changing ceremony. Many tourists seemed to enjoy walking around the palace in Hanbok (entrance is free if you’re dressed in Korean traditional costume).
- Getting to Gyeongbokgung Palace: Gyeongbokgung Station Line 3 Exit 5
We proceeded to Running Man Thematic Experience Center which is inside the SM Duty Free Building. The center is quite small but it’s enough to delight Edison who is an avid fan of Running Man. There are 6 different zones with various missions. Visitors have 60 mins to complete all the missions and earn as many R-Points as possible. Overall, it was quite fun! Guess who can complete the missions in time?
None of us, haha!
- Getting to Running Man Theme Park: Jonggak Station Line 1 Exit 3, Turn left at the first corner and walk 3 mins to SM Duty Free Building
Next, it was time for N Seoul Tower! Also known as Namsan Tower, this is the place to see the most beautiful view of Seoul as well as a romantic pilgrimage for couples who wish to declare their eternal love. You can see love locks of all shapes and sizes here. We took the lift and went up to the observatory – the 360 degrees panoramic views of Seoul were indeed breathtaking!
- Getting to N Seoul Tower: Chungmuro Station Line 3, 4 Exit 2 in-front of Daehan Cinema. Take Bus #2 1,100 Won (15mins ride)
Day 4: Nami Island, Petite France, Gangchon Rail Bike
Day 4 was a relaxing one as we went on a day tour to Nami Island, Petite France and Gangchon Rail Bike. I’d highly recommend this tour on Klook. The timing was perfect, we had enough time for all the places without rushing. Breakfast and lunch were included, price was very reasonable with 3 pick-up locations.
Our first destination was Petite France. Made famous by K-drama “You Who Came From The Stars”, this is one of the most visited tourist spots in Korea. As soon as I arrived, I was attracted by its brightly coloured buildings that stood out against the monotone mountain.
Petite France consists of 16 French-style buildings and 23 stops. Much to my surprise, it’s actually quite small. From one end to the other, it took only 20 mins. Can you believe it? Nonetheless, you’d spend more time taking pictures as there are many picturesque spots here. Petite France also has its own guesthouse here.
Next, we went to Nami Island. We had been here in summer and we were glad to visit again in winter. It was a totally different feel! There was snow on the tree branches, grounds and rivers, as well as cozy wood fire around the island. When you’re here, don’t miss out on Nami Island’s tasty sweet treat called ‘Snowman Hotteok’ (Korean sweet pancake). They are extremely popular, especially during the winter months.
Our last destination was Gangchon Rail Bike and we enjoyed this the most. This is a popular tourist attraction where visitors can pedal along old railroad tracks while taking in the lovely Bukhangang River scenery. We rode a 4-seater bike on a 90-min course route, passing by 4 tunnels, each decorated in their own unique way.
I have to say, I’m SO glad we went on this tour because it was so much fun and well-organized.
Day 5: Everland
This was our second visit to Everland. We still enjoyed the theme park reasonably well, especially in winter where the Four Seasons Garden was glittering with Christmas lights; Winter Playground as well as Snow Buster were opened.
Snow Buster is a snow-covered sledding hill that is usually opened from mid-Dec every year. In winter 2019/2020, it was opened on 14 Dec 2019. This attraction was so popular that we had to queue for 40mins just for one slide down. Haiz. As the park was mostly outdoor, the weather was very cold. Thankfully, heaters were scattered around the entire park to keep visitors warm. Thumbs up!
We purchased discounted admission tickets to Everland and round-trip transfer between Seoul – Everland from Klook.
Day 6 – 8: Vivaldi Park Ski World
There’s so much to explore in Seoul but the highlight of any winter vacation is always SNOW. Hence, we made our way to Vivaldi Park Ski World – a ski resort located in Gangwon-do. This resort is extremely popular due to its close proximity to Seoul. Read our full review of Vivaldi Park Ski World and Snowy Land.
Day 9: ICN – BKK – SIN
It was time to pack-up for our flight back home. This refreshing yet fun winter vacation was a perfect wrap for our 2019. It was a totally different experience from our first trip in summer 2016, and I was glad we made this choice.
Flight Tickets (Thai Airways): $1800
Tours and transport: $1000
Meals, activities and misc. expenses: $1500
Total: $5900 (exclude shopping expenses)
Phew! Thanks for sticking with me on this super long post! For more information on what you can do in Korea with your family, please visit Korea Tourism Organization’s official website and Facebook Page. Happy planning!