Top 7 Tips to Survive (And Actually Enjoy) Winter in Korea

Top 7 Tips to Survive (And Actually Enjoy) Winter in Korea

Brace yourself for the cold in Korea! Here are a few tips to not let the chilling temperatures ruin your holiday.

It’s no surprise that we are always looking to beat the heat, and dreaming of a winter wonderland. With the mercury continuing to dip, winter is in full force – the best time to pop over to Korea and take full advantage of the refreshing weather while exploring the beautiful country. Still, we get that the cold can be just a little bit too much to bear. Therefore, we have compiled a list of the top seven things you can try to enjoy your winter holiday in Korea without turning into ice!

1. Dress to reduce stress

This sounds like a complete no-brainer, but it is something that cannot be said enough! We often are not prepared for just how cold it can be in non-temperate countries, and underestimate the layers that we need in order to survive. While the temperatures may vary depending on when you visit, the basic rules are:

(a) base thermal layer (merino wool or synthetic fabrics like polyester)
(b) mid insulation layer (wool, fleece or down)
(c) outer waterproof layer (shell layer, preferably waterproof and wind resistant)

There’s no point in wearing many clothes if you’re wearing the wrong ones to begin with! Invest in a good set of layers and you’re one step closer to making it through this winter.  

Also, remember to keep your head and neck warm with a beanie and scarf, and have those handy heat packs in your gloves or pockets to keep your hands from freezing off!

2. Enter the underground

Express Bus Terminal Underground Mall | Image credit: Korea Tourism Organisation

Gangnam Terminal Underground Shopping Center | Image credit: Korea Tourism Organisation

Yeongdeungpo Underground Mall | Image credit: Korea Tourism Organisation

One of the best ways to not be cold is… stay out of the cold! Korea is famous for its underground shopping malls – think entire labyrinths of clothes, shoes, accessories and more!

Since they are readily accessible via the subway stations, you could spend a whole day underground without having to step a foot outside in the cold at all. Above are three of the malls you definitely want to check out!

3. Feast like a King

We burn more calories in cold weather, so go easy on your diet and eat everything! Also, what could possibly beat the cold better than enjoying some delicious, piping hot Korean cuisine, complete with rising steam to warm up your face.

Kimchi Jjigae | Image credit: James

Samgyetang | Image credit: Thy Khuê

If you are at a restaurant, be sure to try out at least one of these classic soups – haejaangguk (hangover soup), gamja tang (potato soup), kimchi jiggae (kimchi stew), galbi tang (clear beef soup) and sundubu jiggae (spicy tofu and seafood soup). Also, although more commonly eaten in the summer, my personal favourite is samgyetang (chicken ginseng soup). These hearty soups will warm your bellies not only during the meal, but for the entire day afterwards.

Gyeran-ppang | Image credit: Travel Oriented

Bungeo-ppang | Image credit: LexnGer

If you are on the go, pick up street snacks like hotteok (sweet pancake with sugar), gyeran-ppang (egg bread), bungeo-ppang (fish-shaped bread with red bean filling) or goguma (sweet potato) to warm up both your hands and your heart.

4. Choose: coffee, tea or me?

Coffee | Image credit: Fourth Movement

Did you know that with 284 outlets, Seoul is the city with the most number of Starbucks cafes? The coffee culture in Korea has been on the rise, and a cafe is likely to be just around the corner. If you are sick of the cold, just hop into one of them for warmth, and grab yourself a latte while you are at it. Don’t worry if coffee is not your thing – tea houses still remain abundant too. One of the more popular neighbourhoods for quaint tea houses is Insadong, where you can tastefully sip on traditional teas (my favourite is citron tea!) to keep warm.

5. Sweat it out in jjimjilbangs

Traditional Pinewood Fire Room | Image Credit: Dragon Hill Spa

If you have heard anything about Korea, you probably would have already heard about their jjimjilbangs, or public bathhouses. These multi-storeyed establishments belong to a world of their own; there are hot and cold bath-tubs (you have to get naked, but the sexes will be separated), different saunas, television and game rooms, and so much more. When you are in one of these toasty buildings sweating it out, it might be difficult for you to re-enter the outside world of sub-zero temperatures.

6. Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise

While resenting the humidity of temperate countries, we seriously take for granted how lucky we are to not have to constantly re-apply lip-balms and moisturisers. During the harsh Korean winters, the cold and dry weather can be a nightmare for your complexion (think peeling skin and cracking lips). Thankfully, you’re in the capital of skincare and beauty, and there is easy access to products and face masks to rehydrate your skin. Keep your trusty travel-sized products in your bags and just keep moisturising!

7. Embrace it

Vivaldi Park Ski World | Image Credit: Korea Tourism Organisation

Taebaek-si Mountain Snow Festival | Image Credit: Korea Tourism Organisation

There are only so many ways you can hide from the cold, and let’s be realistic, why would you go all the way to Korea in winter just to stay indoors? It will definitely take time to get used to the weather, but get excited for all the once-in-a-lifetime memories you will make in this cold! Your trip and the winter will not last forever, so make the most of it while you can. To start you off, here are some fun things to do in Seoul during winter. In addition, take advantage of the snow to try out winter activities such as skiing and snowboarding, and attend unique winter festivals to experience traditional activities and celebrate with the locals.

All in all, keep your hearts warm and have a blast this winter in Korea. Annyeong!

About Author

Lydia Lee
Lydia Lee

A linguistics student, Lydia suffers from the occupational hazard of thinking too much about the quirks of language. She yearns to see more of the world and its people, and cannot wait for her next adventure to soak in more beautiful sights and sounds. Before she can do that again, her perfect day would include taking a slow walk, having a warm cup of coffee, and being immersed in a good book.

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