After months of snow and temperatures well below freezing spring seems to be peaking its head out from behind the clouds. More and more people are opting for jackets over parkas and tennis shoes over boots. The bright colored tee-shirts and dresses are beginning to make their way back out of the back of the closet and the blacks and grays of winter are being hidden away. These are all sure signs that spring is just about here and we need to get out and celebrate it!
Here’s my top 10 list of spring festivals around the country: (Listed in order of date not awesomeness.)
1. Jinhae Gunhangje Festival
For all of those people looking to celebrate the coming of spring with some beautiful flower photos, this is the largest cherry blossom festival in the country. It is running from April 1st to the 10th this year and as an added bonus it will also be a festival to celebrate the important Admiral Yi Sun Shin.
Take an intercity bus or train to Jinhae. From Jinhae bus terminal/ train station the festival grounds are within walking distance. Follow the other million festival goers.
2. Nonsan Strawberry Festival
From April 3rd to the 7th this year, this festival is a very sweet treat. Not only can you buy strawberries, strawberry jams, strawberry hot sauce, strawberry pancakes and well, all things strawberry, you can even catch a bus, provided by the festival, from the festival grounds to the nearby strawberry fields. There you can pick as many strawberries as you can fill your belly with. As this is the most popular part of the festival, they suggest getting the bus early and then enjoying the tents on the festival grounds later.
Catch an intercity bus from Seoul Express Bus Terminal. They run every 40 minutes from 6:30AM to 11:45PM. Once there, follow the crowds and the balloons lining the street, it’s a short walk, or catch a local bus 515, 516, 601, 701 or 712 to Daegyodong (대교동).
3. Icheon Baeksa Sansuyu Flower Festival
Running from April 12th to the 14th, this festival is only for those foreigners that enjoy a good townie get together. This festival celebrates the Japanese Dogwood trees that have been growing in the area for more than 100 years. One can try sansuyu pancakes, makoli and soup. There is also an area for playing traditional Korean games. The area is blanketed with these gorgeous yellow flowers and it’s also the start to a beautiful mountain hike.
Catch an intercity bus from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal to Icheon. They run every 20-40 minutes from 6:10AM to 11PM and take 1 hour. From the Icheon Terminal catch a free shuttle bus in front of the Grand Wedding Hall to the festival venue starting from 10AM (takes 20 minutes).
4. Hangang Yeouido Spring Flower Festival
Though certainly not the largest cherry blossom festival in the country, it is the closest for those living in Seoul. Running from April 13th to the 17th this year, this is the time to take a trip to Yeouido. Cherry blossom trees line the roads and blanket the park. The roads are inaccessible to cars and the flowers are even lit up at night. There are street performers and caricature artists as well as any street food you could possibly desire and a thousand other people there to take it all in. Expect crowds.
Take the subway to Yeouinaru Station Exit 1, Dangsan Station Exit 4, Yeouido Station Exit 2 or the National Assembly Station Exit 1.
5. Jindo Miracle Sea Festival
Not the easiest of festivals to get to, but one that will easily impress. Once a year, this year from April 25th to the 28th, the seas part for a short 45 minutes or so and one can walk from the mainland to an island 2.8 kilometers off the coast. Those in attendance can enjoy concerts and good eats before and after the parting and when the path appears head out to gather shell fish, find starfish and other ocean fare.
From Seoul Central City Terminal, catch an express bus to Jindo at 7:35AM, 9AM, 3:30PM or 4:35PM. From the Jindo Bus Terminal catch a bus to Hoedong.
6. Gwangalli Eobang Festival
For anyone that needs an excuse to go and enjoy the beaches and general atmosphere of Busan, here it is. From April 26th to the 28th, this festival celebrates the spring and the ocean, what else is there really? Not only is it on one of the most popular beaches in Busan, one can try bare-hand fishing, take part in a cooking contest and eat lots of good food. Don’t forget to visit the nearby fresh-fish market and pick out what you want to eat from the many fish tanks for dinner and then enjoy the bridges that light up the view when day turns to night.
Catch a train to Busan from Seoul Train Station. From the Busan Train Terminal get on the subway to Gwangan Station and take exit 3 or 5 and head towards the beach.
7. Hi Seoul Bike Parade
For something a little less traditional, but no less important, for the fourth year in a row, to bring awareness of energy conservation to the masses, is this great one day festival and parade. Starting at 8AM on March 13th, attendees can take part in a 21 kilometer ride from Gwanghwamun Square to Peace Plaza in World Cup Park along some of the most scenic paths Seoul has to offer. Those hoping to ride along should apply from April 5th to the 27th as only the first 5000 riders are accepted.
8. Daegu Yangnyeongsi Herb Medicine Festival
Older Koreans have quite the knack for knowing what traditional medicines will cure all of your ailments and if you would like to get more information yourself, here’s a good place to do it. This was once the site of an international herb market with herbs from China, Russia, Europe and Korea. From May 8th to the 12th, visitors can learn more about Korea’s medicinal herbs and other traditions around Asia.
Catch a train down to Daegu and then take the subway to Banwoldang Station and take Exit 18.
9. Lotus Lantern Festival
One of the biggest and most colorful festivals in Seoul to be sure, this year it runs from May 10th to the 12th. With everything from lantern making and other Buddhist experiential tents to cultural performances and an exquisite lantern parade, it is not to be missed. Day and night there’s something to do and see here in celebration of Buddha’s birth. The festival is located on the street in front of Jogye-sa Temple, one block from Insa-dong accessible from Jonggak Station or Anguk Station.
The parade runs from Dongdaemun and runs along Jongno Street to Jogye-sa Temple. Chairs are set up for the parade in the early evening and it’s best to get their early to grab one. Jongno 3-ga or Jonggak Station or Jongno 5-ga Station.
10. Boseong Green Tea Festival
Last but certainly not least, is this festival to celebrate the drink of Korea. Boseong is the largest producer of tea in the country and the fields are sprawling. One can pick leaves, make tea and eat lots of green tea delights. If you don’t choose to go during the festival, this is still a beautiful place to visit during the spring and summer months.
Take an intercity bus from Seoul Express Bus Terminal. From Boseong Bus Terminal catch a bus to Daehan Dawon.
With these and many more festivals to choose from, there is no reason not to get outside and enjoy the delightfully warm and breezy weather of spring.