Spring in Korea 2023: Top Tips and Things to Do
My second favorite season (after autumn, of course) and my final installment in my seasonal guides: spring in Korea!
There’s always something so magical about the spring season despite less fun things, like the awful air quality or random cold snaps. As soon as mid-March hits, the temperatures start to warm ever so slightly until cherry blossoms pop up everywhere, and then the rest of nature starts to catch up.
While I find myself wanting to stay inside and practicing too much hygge during winter in Korea, I always find myself trying to get outside as often as possible in the spring! I’ll take the long way home, start arranging weekend trips, and (once mid-April hits) begin wearing dresses with out tights!
If you come to Korea, either come for fall or for the magic of its spring.
Quick Korea Guide
- Getting in: I’m assuming you’re flying into Incheon International Airport. You do NOT need to spend money on a taxi. Use the subway; it’s one of the nicest in the world. If you do need a private transfer, book ahead.
- Stay in Touch: Korea has eSIMs! Just order ahead here and you’ll be emailed a QR code which you can use to set-up your service.
- Where to Book Activities: I always like checking Klook or Trazy for the best deals on anything related to tours and experiences in Korea.
- Getting Around: In Seoul and Busan, you’ll always do a combination of the subway and walking with some taxis. Download the Kakao T app for taxis and Kakao Map for navigation.
Just looking for cherry blossom tips for Korea? Read my full guide here!
Spring in Korea: A Guide
What’s the Weather Really Like
While spring is definitely warmer than winter, it’s still fairly cool through mid-April. On my last trip, I was there from mid-March to mid-April, and we got a random temperature drop that had me shivering and sick by the time I left! I remember it was so cold at night on my Han River cruise, I couldn’t stand to be outside for more than 5 minutes. So don’t be fooled by the pretty blossoms, you still need a proper jacket to keep warm. Plus, of course, expect at least some rain.
The other big thing you’re going to want to worry about is:
the air quality.
Whomp, whomp, whomp. I know photos of China in the spring go viral each year because theirs is about 100 times worse than Korea’s, but the peninsula still suffers from yellow dust. It’s pretty gross, and it definitely triggers my allergies like crazy. The big thing to do is wear a face mask if you’re sensitive to the dust and drinking plenty of water. You can easily pick up a face mask at any convenience store.
What to Pack and Wear
Because the weather can vary a lot, I recommend packing some light layers. Korea is still pretty chilly, and you might get a random cold snap like I did on my last trip! Here’s what I’d pack:
- A Light Jacket – At minimum I’d bring a jean jacket, trench coat, or some other sort of spring/fall type jacket. If you get cold easily, I’d even recommend a warmer jacket than that.
- Thin Layers – My best tip for this weather is to just bring layers! I remember walking around Lotte World in a T-shirt and jeans and being warm but then the next day freezing with my jacket and thick scarf on. I, of course, love my Everlane T-shirts for layering and just nicer, long sleeve shirts. You could even bring some UNIQLO Heattech tanks and some warmer tights to put under skirts. I’d get these tanks ahead of time just to be on the safe side because I’m not sure they’re still on sale in the spring in store.
- Close–Toed Shoes – Shoe wise, it’s definitely not sandal weather yet (learned that the hard way), so bring sneakers, loafers, or any comfortable slip on shoes. I’m always a fan of white sneakers, sturdier shoes for hiking, and a pair of loafers for any nicer places I visit.
Places to Visit in Korea During the Spring
There are SO many places to visit around Korea in the spring. Basically, anywhere you turn, it’s like the country is waking up from the winter. Even when the cherry blossoms blow away, new flowers and greenery start to bloom in their place!
Depending on when you plan on going, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the flower forecasts. In general, though, they’ll start blooming down south first and slowly make their way up north by mid-April (or mid-May for roses). The biggest blooms are known as:
- Yoshino Cherry Blossoms
- King Cherry Blossoms
- Plum Blossoms
All the Best Spring Flower Festivals & Tours
Gurye Sansuyu Festival | 구례산수유꽃축제 (Mid-March)
Gurye’s Sansuyu Festival is all about the bright yellow blooms! I wrote more about it here and how to get there on your own. You could also make things easier and book a tour (this one goes to both Gurye and Gwangyang for the maehwa blooms). I actually recommend just doing a tour because it’s such a pain to get there without your own car, and even then you’ll have problems parking.
Gwangyang Maehwa Festival | 광양매화축제 (Mid-March)
This might be the earliest of the festivals with Gurye’s sansuyu festival. Maehwa is a type of plum in Korea, and its blossoms are these pretty white-pink things. You can read more about it here. Don’t miss the maehwa ice cream! Just like Gurye, though, it’s quite a mission to get here. Even when driving, the parking is kind of insane. I’d just book the the tour I listed above that combines Gurye and Gwangyang or even do this one that combines visiting with Jeonju Hanok Village.
Jeju Canola Festival | 제주 유채꽃축제 (Mid Mar-April)
I finally got to see the canola fields on my last Jeju trip! This has always been on the top of my list of things to do in Jeju. They’re just as beautiful as you’d hope they’d be. While you can spot the yellow blooms all over the island, the main spots for them are: Seopjikoji, Noksan Road, Jeju Horse Park, and Sanbangsan.
You can book this tour which will take you to all the best canola and cherry blossom spots on Jeju! Alternatively, you can easily rent a car to drive yourself around; that’s what I did.
Everland Tulip Festival 에버랜드 튤립축제 | (April)
Fancy a trip to Everland for more than just the rides? The tulips here last quite while, so if you can, I’d wait til later in April when it warms up a bit! When I went in early April, it was still really cold! Colder than Seoul too since it’s about an hour outside of the city. Froze my butt off now that I think about it, and most of the fun rides weren’t open yet.
The tulips are all in the part of the park with the Holland Village, so it’s a lot of fun to walk around and feel like you’re in a Korean version of the Netherlands.
Jeju King Cherry Blossom Festival | 제주 왕벚꽃축제 (Early April)
I got into it in my cherry blossom post, but there are actually two different kinds of cherry blossoms in Korea! The more popular style is the Yoshino, but the other style is the king cherry blossoms that originate on Jeju! I was just a smidge to early when I went, but I saw the beginning of them blooming. You can catch them mainly along Jeonnong–ro near Jeju University, Hallim Park, and Noksan–ro.
Icheon Baeksa Sansuyu Festival | 이천백사 산수유꽃축제 (Late March)
If you’re further up north, then you can see the sansuyu blooms in Icheon’s Baeksa village.
Wonmisan Azalea Festival | 원미산 진달래 축제 (Late March – Early April)
Right outside Seoul at Bucheon Sports Complex, you can see both the jindalrae azaleas and the cherry blossoms. Seriously such a beautiful places to walk around, even in the rain.
Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Festival | 경주 벚꽃축제 (Late March)
Gyeongju is also great if you want to see some lesser-known Korean history. While most of what we can visit today is from the Joseon Dynasty, Gyeongju goes back further to the Silla dynasty. The main area for cherry blossom viewing is around Bomun Lake.
Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival | 화개장터 벚꽃축제 (Late March)
Still my favorite of all the festivals so far, and it’s one of the first posts I wrote way back in the day! Four kilometers of cherry blossoms, need I say more? Definitely head here early in the morning, on a weekday if you can, because it’s gotten way more popular than when I first visited and the crowds can be intense!
Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival | 진해군항제 (Late March)
Jinhae is the most popular of all the flower festivals, and it’s the one that probably comes up when you search for cherry blossoms in Korea. It’s crazy crowded even on a random afternoon during the week when I went. The whole city feels like it’s in bloom, but the big areas to go are Yeojwa stream and Gyeonghwa station. For all you need to know, read my Jinhae guide here.
Seokchon Lake Cherry Blossom Festival (석촌호수 벚꽃축제) | (Early April)
Seokchon Lake, where Lotte World and Lotte Tower are located, is probably one of the most famous spots in Seoul to see the cherry blossoms. The whole lake is surrounded in the pink blooms, and it really is incredible to see even if you’re shoulder to shoulder with everyone else in the city! I recommend going to one corner and up to the roof of Rosana Boutique Hotel to see a view of the lake, the tower, and the blossoms!
Yeouido Spring Flower Festival (영등포 여의도 봄꽃축제) | (Early – Mid April)
Yeouido is one of the big places to see the blossoms in Seoul. There are also a bunch of other flowers in bloom around the same time, which is why it’s a spring flower festival instead of just a cherry blossom one. I’m hoping to make it here this year. Included in this tour
Gyeongpo Cherry Blossom Festival (경포대 벚꽃축제) | (Early April)
I think this might be the most furthest north of the cherry blossom festivals? (Don’t quote me on that!) The main area of the festival is at Gyeongpodae Pavilion, and the blossoms surround Gyeongpoho Lake and make up about a 4km path.
Jecheon Cheongpungho Cherry Blossom Festival (제천 청풍호 벚꽃축제) | (Early April)
Jecheon is one of those places I’ve really never heard of before! It’s about 2 1/2 hours south of Seoul, so I might try to squeeze it in someday. If not, I’ll make it a priority another!
Taean International Tulip Festival (태안 세계튤립축제) | (Mid April – Mid May)
If you want to visit somewhere in Asia with over 1 million tulips, Taean in April is your best bet! The only other places I know of is the Dutch area in Suncheon Bay Garden and Holland village in Everland.
Jirisan Baraebong Festival (지리산 바래봉) | (Late April – Late May)
Jirisan’s Baraebong peak is also on my list, and I probably should have visited in the last 3 years when I had plenty of weekends to go… Oops. For about a month, Jirisan’s Baraebong peak is covered in purple-ish royal azaleas.
Gokseong Rose Festival (곡성 세계장미축제) | (Mid-May)
This basically happens about mid-May and lasts for a little over a week. Gokseong’s train village has a huge section dedicated to roses from around the world, and it’s so, so fun and colorful. I recommend going before or after the festival to avoid the crowds. During the festival period, it’s pretty crowded even in the middle of the week! You can read more about it here.
Other Spring Festivals
Jeju Fire Festival (제주 들불축제) | (Early March)
This looks like such a cool festival! It’s held on the first full moon of Korea’s lunar new year and is meant to pray for good harvest and health.
Jindo Miracle Sea Parting Festival (진도 신비의바닷길축제) | (Late March)
So, once a year the sea seems to part from Jindo Island to a smaller island nearby, and you can walk across. It’s very Moses-esque. I’ve never gone because it’s like a combination of my least favorite things — huge crowds, mud, and early morning haha. But my friend went one year and thought it was a cool experience. If you’re coming from Seoul or Busan, you can book a tour here.
Uljin Snow Crab Festival (울진대게와 붉은대게축제) | (Early March)
Uljin is apparently famous for its snow crab! I’ve never been to that area of Korea, but the festival sounds fun, especially if you love seafood. There’s even a snow crab eating competition.
Yeongdeok Snow Crab Festival (영덕대게축제) | (Early March)
Yeongdeok is another snow crab festival, and it’s a bit later in the month. If you miss Uljin’s, you can always try Yeongdeok’s.
Damyang Bamboo Festival (담양대나무축제) | (Early May)
Celebrate all things bamboo at this festival! Here’s my post on visiting Damyang in general. The forest is the main attraction, but while you’re visiting you can go see Meta Provence and check out their big spa.
Boseong Green Tea Festival (보성다향대축제) | (Early May)
The festival is to celebrate green tea! I have a whole guide on how to visit Boseong here. It’s basically the main place where green tea is produced in Korea. If you’re coming from Seoul or Busan, you can.
Yeon Deung Hoe (Lotus Lantern Festival) (연등회) | (Early May)
Right in Seoul, the lotus lantern festival with a long history to celebrate Buddha’s Birthday.
Chunhyang Festival (춘향제) | (Late May)
Chunhyang is Korea’s version of Romeo + Juliet but happier. Its origin comes from my old town, Namwon, so I’ve been able to go twice! It’s a fun festival if you’re curious to see more about Chunhyang, and there’s even a beauty pageant.
What to Eat in the Spring
I actually don’t know a ton of food that’s super related to spring. Like I can name off a bunch for the other seasons, but I struggled a bit with this one. I even asked my friend Autumn, who’s like the biggest Korean food lover ever, and she only had a few that were truly unique to the season.
So I read this article to learn a bit more about snow crab in Korea. I’m assuming since the festivals for it are in March, that’s the peak time to get them. Apparently, you can only catch snow crab from November – May, but if you’re too early or late, the crabs won’t be fat enough. Late February/Early March seems best, so if you’re a seafood fan, early spring is when to get them!
Strawberries start to come into season in late winter, early spring. I personally like them best from this time frame because they’re the sweetest. I still remember spending on Saturday morning picking them at a friend of a friend’s farm because — why not? We went home with a giant box of them too!
Since veggies will be in season as the spring continues, banchan means fresher dishes instead of pickled. I’m not big on pickled things, so I’m a big fan of spring banchan.
I know that’s not much! But spring is a nice transition season because you can still eat all the delicious, warm stews from winter and all the summer dishes will start to spring up towards the end of the season.
Any Extra Spring Tips
Bring cough drops with you
Maybe I missed them, but I could not find good cough drops in Korea. The ones I got at the convenience store might as well have just been candy that’s how well they worked. If you’re sensitive to yellow dust, bring proper Halls cough drops instead.
Sheet masks for the dust
To combat the dust, you want to be extra moisturizing! I up my sheet mask use from sparingly to at least 1-2 times a week during the spring.
Get a specific yellow dust face masks
Personally, I’d just wait until you’re in Korea to get one at a pharmacy or convenience store. Look for “황사마스크” or yellow dust mask. You don’t just want regular or cloth masks but at least N95 or above.
Are you planing on visiting Korea in the spring? Let me know what fun spots you see!
For more on Korea travel:
- Beginner Tips:
- Other Seasons:
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