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.
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. I have this LL Bean jacket, which I’m packing for my next spring trip because even I got pretty chilly!
- 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 still hanging on to my white Adidas sneakers from 2 years ago and am packing some sturdier sneakers 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 land 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.
Korea’s Cherry Blossoms Forecast
Forsythia and Rhododendron Forecasts
Best Flower Festivals & Tours
For more on these pretty pink blooms, check out my overall cherry blossom forecast and festival guide.
Gurye Sansuyu Festival | 구례산수유꽃축제 (Mid-Late 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. 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. Book a tour here
Jeju Canola Festival | 제주 유채꽃축제 (Late Mar-April)
I finally got to see the canola fields on my last 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.
Everland Tulip Festival 에버랜드 튤립축제 | (Mid March to Late 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 pretty cold! Colder than Seoul too since it’s about an hour outside of the city.
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 (Late Mar – Early Apr)
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. Book a tour here.
Icheon Baeksa Sansuyu Festival | 이천백사 산수유꽃축제 (Early April)
If you’re further up north, then you can see the sansuyu blooms in Icheon’s Baeksa village.
Wonmisan Azalea Festival | 원미산 진달래 축제
2020 Date: Starts around April 6th
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. Book a tour here
Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Festival | 경주 벚꽃축제 (Early April)
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. Book a tour from Busan here
Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival | 화개장터 벚꽃축제 (Early April)
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! Book a tour here
Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival | 진해군항제 (Early April)
Jinhae is the most popular of the festivals, and it’s the one that probably comes up when you search for cherry blossoms in Korea. It’s crazy crowded, so I’ve never been, but this year I might try!
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 – Mid 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. Book a tour here
Jecheon Cheongpungho Cherry Blossom Festival | 제천 청풍호 벚꽃축제 (Mid 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! Book a tour here
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 big place I know of is the Dutch area in Suncheon Bay Garden. Book a tour to Taean here
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. If you’re coming from Seoul, check out this tour option.
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 book tickets to the festival here 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.