When to Go
Seoul has four distinct seasons, and few would dispute that autumn (roughly mid-September-November) is the most pleasant. It’s a time of crisp temperatures, clear skies, and radiant foliage, perfect for lengthy treks around Seoul’s streets, hills, and parks.
Winter (late November-February) brings flurries and icy temperatures, but can also be very picturesque, with holiday light displays throughout the city and snow capping the surrounding mountains.
Spring (March-May), with its blossoms and mild breezes, can be almost as glorious as fall but is sometimes marred by the seasonal hwangsa or “yellow dust,” a hazy cloud of pollutants that descends on the Korean peninsula from neighboring China.
Summer (June-early September) borders on the tropical, with warm and muggy weather and frequent heavy rainfall interspersed regularly with days of brilliant sunshine.
As most visitors to Korea are from neighboring countries, tourist traffic tends to be fairly consistent throughout the year, and it’s rare that Seoul will feel any more overrun than usual. The only dates to really watch out for are the lunar New Year or Seollal (typically late January-mid-February) and the harvest festival of Chuseok (typically late September-early October).
The exact dates of both occasions vary according to the lunar calendar, but they usually last three days and see a significant number of businesses close as people pour out of the capital to visit their hometowns. The resulting traffic chaos makes travel outside of Seoul inadvisable but can actually work to the advantage of visitors staying in the city—the crowds thin out, the roads become a lot more manageable, and plenty of shops and restaurants remain open to cater to the people who remain in the city.
© Jonathan Hopfner from Moon Seoul, 1st Edition