Summer in South Korea is probably the most controversial season of the year. While some people love the heat, there are just as many people who do everything they can to avoid it.
The biggest reason for this is simply that summer in Korea is often very hot. Although temperatures usually sit around 35 degrees celsius, it can get as hot as 40! On top of this, it’s often very humid and muggy. As such, this weather quickly becomes unbearable for many people – myself included.
In saying that, summer in Korea brings some unique attractions with it. All over the peninsula, summer activities and festivals take place. No matter where you are in Korea, there is a festival or event that you can take part in.
In today’s post, I want to discuss everything that you need to know before planning a trip to Korea in the summer. From what to pack to the best festivals to attend, everything that you need to know about summer in Korea is here.
With that being said, let’s get started and take a look at the essential information that you need to know before coming to South Korea in the summer!
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Summer in Korea Infographic
Summer Weather in Korea
Jeju Island in Summer
As mentioned in the introduction, summer in Korea is HOT! Often the temperature won’t drop below 25 degrees (celsius) for a few weeks – even at midnight. In cities such as Seoul, it’s also quite stuffy at times and it can be uncomfortable to stay outside for longer periods of time.
Summer will begin slightly cooler in June with lows in the mid-teens. Many of the highs will remain under 30 degrees during this month. In July, it will begin to heat up and temperatures will often reach above 30 degrees. In August, temperatures peak and you can expect the hottest weather during this month – some days might even reach 38 or 39 degrees.
Ominous clouds bring rain with them during August in Busan.
The most important weather consideration for summer in Korea is Monsoon Season. Named Jangma locally, this season usually begins in late June or early July. This season will bring massive amounts of rain and, in some areas, flooding. Usually, this season lasts for 4-6 weeks.
If you are planning a trip to Korea in late June, July, or early August, make sure to consider the abundant rainfall that Jangma brings with it. While it’s still possible to go outside and enjoy summer activities, this is also a great time to enjoy the indoor activities that Korea has to offer.
Clothes to Wear During Summer in Korea
By now, you’ve probably already realised that you’ll be needing cool and light clothes during the Korean summer. This can’t be emphasised enough! Make sure to bring shorts, skirts, t-shirts, and other light clothing for your stay.
In terms of footwear, it’s worth bringing sandals as well as light, covered shoes. You likely won’t want to be wearing sandals around Seoul as there are many areas where this footwear is not ideal. Covered shoes will give you the flexibility to climb Namsan, stroll along the Han River, and more – all without hurting your feet. In saying that, sandals are great for non-walking expeditions and ideal for the beach.
If you are visiting during the monsoon season, you will want to pick up an umbrella or two quickly after landing. While small umbrellas are convenient, I highly recommend a full-size umbrella as the rain can be quite extreme. These umbrellas are just so much sturdier and capable of handling the rain.
While that in mind, it’s also worth bringing a raincoat. Ideally, you will want this to be as light as possible. Monsoon season is still very warm, and wearing a heavy coat will make you swelter. If you don’t want to pack a coat, there are cheap plastic-bag like disposable coats available at convenience stores in Korea.
Clothing Packing list for summer in Korea:
- Light cardigan or sweater for the few colder evenings
- Light shoes (canvas shoes are very popular!)
- Umbrella (can be purchased in Korea)
- Light raincoat or windbreaker
Overall, you will want to be packing light clothing for summer in Korea. This is fantastic as it also allows you to leave more room in your suitcase for more important items!
Best Summer Activities in Korea
1. Head to the beach!
Hajodae Beach in Yangyang.
Korea is famous for its modern technology, amazing cities, and skyscrapers. However, what many people don’t know, or don’t consider, is that Korea also has stunning nature.
For this reason, one of the best activities to do during summer in Korea is to escape the cities and get into nature. What better way to do this than to visit the beach and cool off?
Although the peninsula has many great beaches along its coasts, the east coast is the most famous for beaches.
The beaches are beautiful. With their white sand, expansive views, and cooling waters. Even if you can easily visit the beach at your home, I recommend visiting the beach as one of the best summer activities in Korea.
From Seoul, the east-coast beaches can be accessed in a bit over an hour. Two of the most popular locations are Sokcho and Yangyang. Although both of these locations offer fantastic beaches, I would recommend Yangyang.
Yangyang is the home of Surfyy Beach, a beach where you can learn to surf, or just enjoy the beach bar.
Not only is the area great for beach activities, but there is a whole host of unique cafes and accommodation that will provide you with lots to experience once the sun goes down (or under the sun!).
There are also many other beaches located along the peninsula. However, for those in Seoul, the east coast provides the closest white-sand beaches.
If you are on the west coast, consider checking out Muchangpo – another fantastic beach, albeit one that is a lot less touristy.
2. Climb a Mountain
Mountains in Korea provide a unique experience and are a great summer activity!
Korea is a country that has a TON of mountains. Nearly every city has its own representative mountain, and that’s not to mention Seoul which has quite a few – Bukhansan, Namsan and Naksan to name only a few.
Mountains in Korea are stunning and for that reason, they are one of the must-do summer activities in Korea. While you are in Korea, make sure that you get the chance to visit at least one mountain!
Although mountains can be experienced in any season, summer is a good time to visit as the fine dust is minimal in this season. Although this may not seem like a big deal, trust me, it will make the views far better!
If you are staying in Seoul, there are a lot of local mountains. Bukhansan is the largest and provides some of the best views in the city.
Other, smaller, mountains are also located around the city. Eungbongsan, Namsan, Naksan, and Inwangsan are all great choices. Really, you can’t make a wrong choice when it comes to climbing a mountain in Korea.
If you want a longer but more rewarding climb, consider taking a day trip to visit a mountain. There are many mountains that can be visited within a few hours from Seoul.
Two of the most popular are Seoraksan and Daedunsan. Personally, I would have to recommend Seoraksan in the summer as it is very close to Sokcho (fantastic beaches!).
If you want to make the most of summer in Korea, why not stay a few days on the northeast coast (around Sokcho) and climb Seoraksan one day, before proceeding the spend the next day at the beach?
3. Attend a Summer Festival
Boryeong Mud Festival is one of the most popular summer festivals in Korea.
Korea is a country that loves festivals. From the cherry blossom festivals in spring to the snow festivals in winter, Korea really loves to make the most of the season.
Summer in Korea is no different, and many festivals will be taking place over the summer. If you aren’t a nature-lover, don’t worry! There are also many music festivals and even massive water fights!
Summer festivals will take place all over the country and you can find at least a few no matter where you are in the country. Although many of the more popular festivals are located in the cities, there are also many that take place in the country.
One of the most popular and well-known festivals is the Boryeong Mud Festival. This festival takes place on the west coast of Korea in mid to late July. As you may be able to guess, the festival revolves around mud!
If mud isn’t your thing, then what about taking part in massive water fights or even joining a water festival? You are sure to keep cool in the summer heat at these festivals!
There are also many more cultural festivals that take place during the warmer months. Some of the most popular are music festivals such as the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival, and the Busan Film Festival.
Throughout the summer months, there will also be smaller festivals taking place. For example, the Han River will host a multitude of festivals that take place over the three months of summer.
If you don’t have the time or energy to attend one of these big festivals, I would recommend visiting the Han River and seeing the festivals there. It’s one of the best summer activities in Korea!
4. Enjoy the Han River
The Han River at dusk.
The Han River is in many ways the heart of Seoul. It flows right through the centre of the capital and brings happiness to the citizens within the city.
Summer is perhaps the best time of the year to visit the Han River. Not only because of the festivals that take place along the river but also because in summer there are many other activities that can be enjoyed.
If you are looking to get some exercise, walking or biking along the Han River is a wonderful experience. Bikes can be hired for less than $1 per hour, and paths follow the river throughout the whole city.
If exercise doesn’t sound like your thing, then why not do the opposite and enjoy a picnic at some of the popular picnicking locations along the Han River? The best part about picnics in Korea is that you can order food right to yourself! Even fried chicken and beer. This is one of the most iconic activities that you can do during summer in Korea.
In summer many markets and other activities will begin to appear on the banks of the river. These usually take place in the evening and make for a fun way to enjoy a few hours.
Personally, one of my favourite ways to enjoy the Han river is to take a cruise. Cruises along the Han River can be found quite affordably and they make for a fantastic way to enjoy the river. Cruising along the Han is one of my personal favourite summer activities in Korea.
5. Go Island Hopping
Beaches on Udo.
The southern coast of Korea consists of many different islands that all provide their own wonders. The most popular of the islands is Jeju, however, there are many more that most people never get the chance to visit!
Jindo is another large island and perhaps the second most popular island behind Jeju. Although Jeju tends to get most of the credit (and is definitely more tourist-focused) Jindo is also a wonderful island to visit.
My favourite island to visit during summer in Korea is Udo, an island off the coast of Jeju Island. The island is rather small and can be explored (by bike or scooter) in one afternoon.
When I visited Udo for the first time I fell in love. Even though I visited in winter, people were still swimming! In summer, however, I can imagine that the island would be even more pleasant.
Bikes, scooters, and other forms of transport can be hired to explore the island. If you don’t feel like using these methods, there is also a bus that can be taken. In fact, you can even walk between many of the attractions.
Not only is the island a lot of fun to explore, but the beaches are stunning and the food is good! The island is famous for its peanut ice cream and also for its black pork burgers. If you get the chance to visit, make sure to leave some time to eat!
No matter what island you visit in Korea, you will have a great time. In summer, the beaches and water can be enjoyed and for this reason, it’s one of the best summer activities.
6. Visit Theme Parks
Rollercoaster at Everland during summer in Korea
If you are travelling in Korea as a family, this is one of the best options for a day of entertainment. Even if you are travelling as a smaller group, or alone, visiting the theme parks of Korea can be a great summer activity.
There are two types of summer theme parks in Korea – the normal theme parks such as Lotte World and Everland, and the water parks such as Ocean World and Caribbean Bay.
Everland is often known as being the best theme park in Korea and usually, this is the case. However, in summer I actually prefer Lotte World. This is due to the fact that Lotte World has both an indoor and outdoor area.
Although most of the bigger rides are outside, it’s nice to be able to escape the heat when you need to. Further, there are even many good rollercoasters and activities inside!
If you are looking for a cooler day, consider visiting one of the water parks of Korea. These parks are located all over the country and they offer all manners of summer activities.
If you would prefer to just swim, you can do so! However, if you are feeling more adventurous you can also try out some of the massive water slides or even the tube rides and other water-based rides.
Ocean World is my favourite water park and is accessible by bus from Seoul. The bus ride takes around an hour and a half, and it’s worth leaving early to make sure you get in before the crowds arrive.
There are also many smaller water parks located around the country. While these won’t offer the same activities as the bigger parks, they are often much more accessible as they are located in the hearts of cities around Korea.
7. Explore the Parks of Korea
Seoul Forest during summer!
Whether you are based in Seoul, Busan, Jeju, or anywhere else, Korea has a lot of fantastic parks and they often host events making them a great summer activity.
In Seoul, there are many fantastic parks. Some of the most popular are Seoul Forest, World Cup Stadium, and Olympic Park. All of them are very big and have their own attractions.
If you are looking for somewhere that is child-friendly, then Seoul Forest is a great idea as it also has playgrounds and other activities located around the park.
If you are more interested in taking some photos for Instagram, World Cup Stadium is fantastic. This is the home of the famous silver-grass garden, Haneul Park.
On the other hand, if you are more interested in views, then why not check out the gardens on the mountainsides of Seoul? Namsan and Naksan both have fantastic gardens that really come alive in summer.
Every city around Korea has gardens that are worth visiting, and it’s something that Korea does very well. Unfortunately, I haven’t written about them all on this blog yet.
However, I have covered parks in Incheon. If you are there for a while, check out some of the best parks in Incheon.
Exploring the parks of Seoul
8. Take a Day Trip
Naksansa, is a popular day trip location from Seoul.
If you are staying in one of the bigger cities of Korea, make sure that you don’t stay there for your whole trip. There is so much that Korea has to offer outside of Seoul and Busan, and the easiest way to experience these gems is through day trips.
Day trips are rather broad, as you can find hundreds, if not thousands, of different options. There are really so many different choices! If you are interested in browsing them, check out Klook or Trazy.
Some of the most popular day trips from Seoul during summer are the DMZ tour and the Seoraksan & Naksansa day tour. Both of these are fantastic and if you have the time, I recommend doing both.
Although the cities have a lot to offer (you could spend months or years in them alone!), there is so much more that Korea has to offer. Although travelling often brings time restrictions, it’s sad that many people never get to leave the big cities.
9. Experience the Cafe Culture
Korea has a big cafe culture! These drinks were at Cafe Seoulism.
The cafe culture in Korea is very strong, and something that has been becoming more and more apparent every year.
When you think about coffee and cafes, Korea probably isn’t the first place that you think of. However, once you experience a few cafes in Korea you will quickly realise that there is a very strong and popular culture here surrounding cafes.
Seoul has the most Starbucks per capita in the world, and it isn’t just Starbucks that it has a lot of!
All throughout the country, you will find all manner of different cafes. From cat cafes, to board game cafes, all the way to video game cafes and flower cafes. You can really enjoy coffee in any kind of environment in Korea!
While coffee isn’t the main focus of many of these cafes, they are loved because of their atmosphere. There aren’t many cafes around the world where you can enjoy coffee while looking over the city, or where you can sip on coffee while playing some video games.
If you haven’t already experienced the cafe culture of Korea, make sure to check it out while you are in the country. It’s a great way to escape the summer heat for a while, and this makes it a great summer activity.
Explore the cafe culture of Korea
10. Spectate Stunning Sunsets
As a photographer, this entry is a personal favourite. However, even if you don’t enjoy the art of photography, I highly recommend getting out at seven or eight pm to watch the sunset. Korea has amazing sunsets, and this is especially true during summer.
I have a whole post dedicated to the best sunset views in Seoul. If you’re looking for specific locations to watch the sunset during summer in Korea, I recommend referring to that post. It only covers views in Seoul, but it goes in-depth as to the best spots to view the sunset in the capital city.
Generally speaking, the best locations to view sunsets are from mountain peaks (of which there are many in Korea) and near coasts or rivers. These will provide the best views with a touch of nature!
If you’re feeling more motivated, why not go and view some sunrises? These can be even more spectacular! However, they do require you to be an early bird, and so I prefer to stick to sunsets.
During summer in Korea watching the sunrise on the coast is particularly popular. East coast beaches provide stunning views of the sun rising over the ocean.
Learn about the best summer sunset locations
11. Party with Korea’s Nightlife
Korea – especially Seoul and Busan – is known for its nightlife. While the most ‘traditional’ form of nightlife involves drinking soju and makgeolli (rice wine), there are also many craft breweries and higher-end bars. Of course, there are also a ton of clubs in Seoul!
Nightlife is a great activity during summer in Korea because it provides a great way to escape the heat. Further, summer nights tend to be cool enough to be bearable, and therefore it’s a great time to make the most of the weather!
Typically Hongdae is the most popular district for younger locals. Gangnam is popular among older individuals and is known for being more expensive. If you’re looking to have an international experience, Itaewon is a great place to go.
If you’re in Busan, Seomyeon is the equivalent of Hongdae. It’s great for affordable nights out and is mainly frequented by university students. If you’re looking for a slightly more classy experience there are a ton of rooftop bars near Haeundae. These are ideal if you don’t mind spending a bit more.
12. Learn at Museums
Colorpool Museum in Insadong
Okay, okay, I admit that Colorpool Museum is not the best museum to visit if you want to learn. However, it’s a fantastic place to take photos and definitely one of the best Instagram locations in Korea. With that being said, there are a ton of other museums around Korea that provide fantastic learning experiences.
Museums are even better during summer in Korea because they provide a brief respite from the relentless heat. Most of the museums will have air conditioning and provide a far more pleasant experience than just staying outside.
If you’re looking to learn about Korean history, I highly recommend Samgakji War Museum. It’s a fantastic museum with free entry. If war isn’t your thing, I recommend visiting the museums near Gyeongbokgung in Gwanwhamun. There is a range of museums covering all kinds of historical aspects.
If you’re looking for something more fun, there’s also the Trickeye Museum which is dedicated to illusions. Of course, there’s also the aforementioned Colorpool Museum for anyone wanting stunning photos!
13. Tour Korean Palaces
If you want a traditional experience, there’s no better place to visit than the palaces located around Korea. These palaces are absolutely beautiful and they provide an enjoyable way to learn about Korean history. They also make for great places to take photos – especially if you rent hanbok.
During summer in Korea, the palaces are even better. Not only is the weather fantastic (albeit too hot), but there are extra events running. For example, in Changdeokgung Palace, you can view the secret garden. In Gyeongbokgung Palace, there are evening light shows that run throughout the summer.
However, it can be extremely tiring to explore the palaces during summer due to the heat. As such, I recommend visiting in the morning or evening if possible. If you can visit in the morning, you will also be able to avoid the majority of the crowds that appear around noon.
14. Explore Cities at Night
There is no better time of the year to enjoy nightlife than summer. However, while nightlife generally consists of drinking and partying, there are other ways to enjoy the great weather – one of them is to go exploring. No matter what city you are staying in, there is exploring to be done!
Cities in Korea are incredibly dynamic and unique. With the 24/7 culture, there’s also that you can do, even at midnight! I love to go exploring when I take photos because I almost always find something new that I didn’t know about before.
If you’re in Seoul, there are a ton of great places to explore under the cover of darkness. The streams and rivers (Cheonggyecheon, Seongbukcheon, Han River, etc) are fantastic and very calming to stroll along. Markets such as Gwangjang and Namdaemun are ever-changing and diverse. Nightlife districts such as Hongdae and Gangnam are also exhilarating to explore.
In the end, there are a ton of places in Seoul, Busan, Daegu, and other big cities to explore. While exploring is great at any time, it’s especially fun during the long nights of summer.
Food to Eat During Summer in Korea
Coming from New Zealand, I wasn’t really familiar with seasonal foods. Of course, some fruits and vegetables have specific seasons and there are also some foods best enjoyed at certain times of the year – fish and chips during the summer or turkey during Christmas for example.
However, when I came to Korea I was amazed to find out just how many seasonal dishes there are. Especially when it comes to summer in Korea, there are so many different foods to enjoy! While some of these foods can be eaten year-round, they are best in summer. Some foods are exclusively for summer and you will mostly only find them during this season.
Bingsu is the epitome of delicious Korean summer foods. These ice flakes come covered in a variety of toppings. In the image above, red beans are used. However, you can also find chocolate, blueberry, strawberry, mango, brownie, and a range more bingsu flavours.
The most enjoyable part about eating this dish is sharing it with friends and family. It’s also fantastic for dates! When the toppings begin to get low, you can drizzle condensed milk all over the delicious treat to keep it sweet the whole way through!
Korea’s quintessential summer meal, naengmyeon (cold noodles) are a delicious treat for anyone looking for a dish to counteract the searing heat. These noodles are generally served ice-cold and it’s not uncommon to find ice flakes still within.
These noodles are very stretchy and can be hard to eat. As such, scissors are often given alongside the dish. If you are served this dish with chopsticks and scissors, you are expected to cut the noodles as you eat – trust me, this makes the experience far easier as it’s very difficult to eat the noodles otherwise!
Jeon are Korean savoury pancakes. This dish is delicious year-round, but it’s especially great in summer. Why? because it pairs fantastically with makgeolli, Korean rice wine. To make the atmosphere even better, these delectable snacks can be eaten in a market such as Gwangjang Market.
The most common jeon are served as kimchi-jeon. However, you can also find a wide range of other flavours. Seafood jeon are very popular and some jeon will even have pork or other meats inside. While they don’t make a meal in themselves (unless you order lots!) they are a great side dish or snack.
Bibim naengmyeon is a bit different from traditional naengmyeon as it’s usually flavoured with spicy sauce. This spicy yet sweet source is normally served on top of vegetables such as cucumber, meat (usually pork or beef), and, of course, noodles!
Where naengmyeon is served in ice-cold soup, bibim naengmyeon is served without the soup. While the noodles are still cold, the focus is on the noodle creation itself rather than the added liquid.
If you aren’t a fan of cold noodles, then there are always warmer alternatives! Kalguksu is one of them. This summer dish is made from noodles and usually contains a range of seafood. At some restaurants you can find meat versions, typically using beef. However, most commonly the dish will be seafood-based.
Alongside Kalguksu you will always be served kimchi – usually a lot! This Korean summer cuisine is intended to be eaten together with kimchi. For this reason, the dish itself often isn’t extremely flavourful. Rather, the kimchi adds its strong flavour.
Before people get angry at me for adding this, let me explain. Fried chicken has been controversial recently as some critics claim that it’s not a Korean food at all. Whatever your stance on this, it is true that Korea has put a unique spin on fried chicken. Further, it’s not really summer food – I agree!
However, what makes chicken an amazing summer dish is not the food itself, but the place where you eat it. In summer, ordering chicken to the Han River to have a picnic is amazing. You can’t beat the relaxing atmosphere on the banks of the Han. Alternatively, enjoying chicken and beer inside one of the many parks of Seoul makes for a fantastic evening.
Samgyetang – often called chicken ginseng soup in English – is a fantastic dish to enjoy during summer in Korea. While you might be wondering why people are eating a hot soup during even hotter weather, there is a lot of sense behind it!
During summer, we tend to sweat a lot. This causes us to lose our appetites and lose our energy. Samgyetang is a light dish that is easy to eat and extremely nutritious. When you feel like you can’t eat, or don’t want to eat, but know that you should, Samgyetang is ready to be consumed!
Summer in South Korea FAQ
There are a lot of activities that can be enjoyed in Korea during the summer months of June – August. It’s one of the best times to enjoy the country’s outdoor activities, and at the same time, one of the best times to enjoy all of the indoor activities that Korea offers.
Although I included my favourite summer activities on this list, it’s far from exhaustive. What are your favourite Korean summer activities? I would love to hear them and add them to this list!