December is a festive time in South Korea, with light displays and holiday festivals. Embrace the frosty temperatures and take advantage of reduced crowds as you visit top destinations, with evenings spent beneath the warm glow of colorful Christmas lights and lanterns. Hit the slopes for opening weekend at one of the country's best ski resorts, or take in picturesque winter landscapes on a hike through a national park.


December brings winter weather to South Korea just in time for the holidays. With an average high temperature of 37°F (3°C) and an average low temperature of 19°F (-7°C), December is the second coldest month of the year behind January. This month is also among the driest, with only a 10% daily chance of rain in Seoul and an average of less than an inch of precipitation in the capital city. Relatively low humidity makes the air feel even drier.

Grab your winter gear for sightseeing this month, and be sure to bundle up against cold winds from the northwest. In most of the country, snow is possible but rare, though by the end of the month, travelers can expect significant snowfall in the northern ski region. Days continue to shorten, culminating in the year's shortest day in the third week of December. While visitors may have limited hours of sunshine, they can enjoy mostly clear skies for outdoor activities.

Crowds & Costs

Kicking off the winter low season in South Korea, December offers limited crowds at top tourist sites and reasonable prices for flights and accommodations. This month can be a great time to snag a deal on travel expenses and explore major cities without the crowds. Winter vacation for Korean schoolchildren typically begins in mid-December, leading to a rise in domestic tourism at family-friendly attractions such as the country's popular theme parks. Likewise, visitors can expect a bump in crowds and costs during the holidays at the end of the month, with Christmas designated a public holiday for South Korean workers. 

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Where to Go

For the best holiday sightseeing, begin your trip in Seoul. During December, the capital city glimmers with festive light displays and Christmas decorations. Experience Seoul in the holiday spirit, from ice skating at Seoul City Hall to strolling along Myeongdong Walking Street under the glow of colorful string lights. Seoul is not the only destination for holiday festivities. Travel to Busan for the annual Christmas Tree Festival and Haeundae Lighting Festival, where you can enjoy a "white Christmas" along Busan's beaches. For an option closer to Seoul, take a day trip to the Garden of Morning Calm Lighting Festival in Gapyeong County.

As the ski season begins, winter sports enthusiasts have multiple options to take advantage of wintry weather conditions. For maximum natural snowfall, travel to the country's mountainous northwest. Once the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics, the Pyeongchang district now hosts several world-class ski resorts ideal for skiing, snowboarding, and enjoying a hot drink at the lodge. Alternatively, visitors staying in Seoul can make a day trip to a resort near the capital city, such as Jisan Forest Resort or Konjiam Resort, located approximately one hour away by car.

What to Do

In South Korea's major cities, December is an ideal time to visit top tourist attractions with limited crowds. Start your day with a hot coffee or tea from one of the country's famous cafés. Chilly mornings are perfect for indoor activities such as museums, while outdoor sightseeing should be saved for the warmest part of the day when the afternoon sun provides some respite from freezing temperatures. In the evenings, bundle up in your warmest winter gear to sample South Korean cuisine at night markets and revel in colorful holiday light displays, which can make even the frostiest night feel festive.

Adventure travelers can celebrate the beginning of the winter sports season this month. Hit the slopes for opening weekend toward the beginning of December, or wait until the end of the month when natural snowfall is heavier. Hiking is popular year-round in South Korea, and wintertime is no exception. Take in snow-capped mountains and picturesque winter landscapes at the country's top national parks, from the southernmost Hallasan National Park on Jeju Island to Seoraksan National Park in the northeast. Hikers should pack seasonally appropriate gear, including cleats or spikes, to provide traction on icy surfaces.

Events in December

Busan Christmas Tree Festival, Busan. From December to January, take in the spectacular lights and Christmas tree display in the heart of Busan. 

Haeundae Lighting Festival, Busan. This second Christmas-themed festival in Busan lights up Haeundae Beach and the surrounding area.

Garden of Morning Calm Lighting Festival, Gapyeong. This festival, held from December to March, illuminates the natural surroundings of the Garden of Morning Calm arboretum in vivid colors.

Seoul Lantern Festival, Seoul. Get in the holiday spirit with a Christmas market, light and lantern exhibit, and photo ops in the heart of the capital city.

Seongsan Sunrise Festival, Jeju Island. From December 30 to January 1, celebrate the end of the year with a breathtaking sunrise scene over Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, a UNESCO World Nature Heritage Site.

More Helpful Information

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