Seoul Lantern Festival

The Seoul Lantern Festival is an annual festival that takes place along the stunning Cheonggyecheon Stream. It usually takes place from early November for about two weeks. If you are in Seoul during that time, you should definitely drop by.

seoul lantern festival

Things To Know About Coming To Seoul

  • What To Wear In Seoul – The festival usually takes place the first two weeks of November, which can be quite cold. Make sure to layer up and dress appropriately. Check what to pack for Seoul in winter here.
  • Power Converters – If you are coming from a country like USA, UK, Japan or South East Asia, then make sure to bring the right travel adaptor when coming to Seoul. Find more info about travel adaptors here.
  • T Money Transport Card – When going around Seoul using public transport like subways, buses and even taxis, you will need a T Money Card. Click here for more info.
  • Foreigner Special Discounts – Check out companies like Trazy or Klook for the best discount packages.

The Seoul Lantern Festival

The lantern festival in Seoul is a huge event that takes place for two weeks during November. It attracts over 2,5 million visitors each year and has been held since 2009. It definitely is one of the most famous festivals in Korea. This festival can get quite crowded, especially during weekends, therefor it is recommended to visit on a weekday.

lantern festival in Seoul

The lights turn on every night at 5 PM and turn of at 10 PM on a weekday and 11 PM during weekends. The festival is free to enter but there are lots of additional activities you can do for a small fee. Like making your own wishing lantern and letting it float down the river (5000 krw). Check official website here.

Just outside the banks of the river you’ll find many vendors selling all kinds of food like heotteok, tteokbokki and many other Korean snacks.

Not everyone is a fan of the Seoul Lantern Festival. The citizens of Jinju actually criticised this festival a lot as they think it was a copy of their popular lantern festival, the Jinju Namgang Yudeng Festival.

Themes At The Lantern Festival

In 2017, the main theme was the Olympics and in 2019 the main theme was Dreams with lights. Each year the themes of the festival are different but they all have some similarities. There is always a section about traditional Korean customs and folk stories. Listed below are some of the traditional folk tales that are often included in the Seoul Lantern Festival. To learn more about Korean traditional stories, check out the Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Culture.

horse lanterns at seoul festival

1. Red Bean Porridge Granny and Tiger Lantern

This story is about a grandmother who managed to escape being the tiger’s pray. Other animals helped her to escape with the use of several tools and tricks. You can see the evil smile on the tigers face. This is a story often told to little Korean children.

cheonggyecheon lantern festival

2. Sister Sun and Brother Moon Lantern

This story is about the birth of sun and moon. The story is actually a bit similar to Red Riding Hood, because the tiger also ate the mum of these two kids. When the two kids discovered this, they ran away. The tiger chased them but they climbed a staircase to heaven and became sun and moon.

3. Old Man With a Lump on His Neck

This is a traditional Korean folk story about an old man with a huge lump on his neck. The Korean name of the story is Hokburiyeonggam and the moral of the story is not to be too greedy. This story was first written down in 1915, in the textbook Chōsengo Dokuhon.

How To Go To The Seoul Lantern Festival

Cheonggyecheon runs all the way through downtown Seoul and is about 11 km long. The lantern festival only takes place along a small part. From the start at Seoul city hall till around Jongno 3-ga. Most articles will recommend you to start at the official start, but personally I (Marie) would not recommend this. The start, especially during weekends gets super crowded and you’ll go so slow. I would highly recommend to work your way back and start at Samilgyo. There is a staircase just in front of Cafe Bene. Go down there and work your way back toward Seoul City Hall. This is a 5 minute walk away from Jongno 3-ga (line 1 & 3) exit 15 or Euljiro 1-ga Station (line 2) exit 4.

If you do want to begin at the start then head to one of the following subway stations. Jonggak Station (line 1) exit 6, or Euljiro 1-ga Station (line 2) exit 2.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When is Seoul Lantern Festival?

A: The festival takes place every year for 2 weeks during November. Check exact dates on the official website.

Q: Where does the lantern festival start?

A: The official start is at Cheonggyecheon Plaza, but it is highly recommended to start at Samilgyo to beat the crowds.

Q: How to go to the festival?

A: There are quite a few subway stations surrounding Cheonggyecheon, including Jonggak or Euljiro 1-ga.

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Have you been to the lantern festival? Do you have any questions about visiting the festival? Do you have a favourite lantern from your last visit? Let us know in the comment section below.

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