(Seoul) Just past the broiling early summer months and before the coming bite of winter, crisp nights and gorgeous foliage welcome natives and tourists alike. Our bias may be showing but we challenge you to name a better fall destination than Seoul. Ideal temperatures, stunning nature walks and lively entertainment await. Korea may be best known as a global entertainment juggernaut from K-Pop and K-Dramas but there’s definitely something in the creative waters in Seoul and its world-class food, fashion and art shine exceptionally bright in the fall.
1. Bamdokkaebi Night Market (밤도깨비 야시장)
If you’re familiar with the metropolitan Seoul area, you know that late summer means it’s time for gourmet adventures under the stars by the Han River. The famous “Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Market (밤도깨비 야시장)” is a beloved event held after sunset for a few glorious weeks every year. The popular event returned this summer after a two-year pandemic hiatus. Dozens of food trucks, typically owned by trending restaurants in Korea, again lined up each weekend to serve their crowd-pleasing dishes to visitors.
2022’s night market began in late August and is set to continue for 10 weeks until late October. While the event was held in three to four different locations in previous years (including Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Cheonggye Plaza), this year the night market will exclusively be held at the Banpo Han River Park under the new name Han River Moon Light Market.
The market also features a host of small-scale merchandise vendors where visitors can purchase handmade crafts and startup items. For the past two years, the Bamdokkaebi Night Market was canceled due to COVID-19 preventions (since the event is known to attract hundreds of thousands of attendees). Fortunately, city officials announced that the long-awaited market would re-open this fall, creating excitement amongst both locals and tourists to experience top-tier foods by moonlight.
Over 40 food trucks and 60 merchandise booths are participating in the market, with sponsorships from the Seoul city government to encourage local business growth. While grabbing late-night bites, you will also be able to enjoy the beautiful view of the Han River, with light and fountain shows coming from the Banpo Rainbow Bridge.
The first few weeks of the night market already proved to be a huge success, inviting thousands of people from all around the country. For the next month, the Han River Moonlight Night Market will be held every Saturday and Sunday from 5-10 PM. In the past weeks, attendees have griped about the long waits and huge crowds on social media, with photos to showcase the demand for the event.
Though you may experience longer lines than in previous years, the fair’s hiatus created pent-up demand and its booming popularity is understandable, although perhaps not entirely welcome. Aside from the food itself, the retail vendor setting and general festive atmosphere of the night market will make it a memorable experience for anyone in the area.
Location: Dalbit Square, Banpo Hangang Park, Banpo 2(i)-dong, Seoul, South Korea
2. Rubber Duck Project Seoul 2022
Seoul residents may recall the craze that a giant rubber duck on Seokchon Lake created in 2014, attracting a grand total of an estimated 5 million visitors during its month-long display. The rubber duck was installed as part of the opening of the Lotte World Tower back in October 2014 but ended up being an attraction of its own.
As part of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s “Rubber Duck” series, this monumental, inflatable rubber duck has traveled across 16 different cities since 2007, including Saint-Nazaire, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Osaka, and Sydney.
After eight years, the rubber duck is returning to Seoul from September 30th to October 31st in the same location. The temporary installation is 18 meters tall, 19 meters wide, 23 meters long, and weighs several tons, floating on Seokchon Lake. Accompanying the main installation will be numerous photo booths and gift stores, showcasing different iterations of rubber ducks that are part of the “Rubber Duck” series.
The artist mentioned that numerous limited edition ducks inspired by Halloween—including Skeleton Duck, Dracula Duck, Ghost Duck, and Rainbow Duck—will be available for purchase in the pop-up stores near the area. As the Seokchon Lake is located around the Lotte World amusement park, visitors on rides and rollercoasters will also be able to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the enormous bath-toy on the river.
Location: Seokchon Lake, Jamsil 6-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul, South Korea
3. Seoul Fashion Week S/S 2023
Trendsetters might have recently seen highlights of Paris Fashion Week, New York Fashion Week, and Milan Fashion Week—but did you know that Seoul Fashion Week (SFW) is also scheduled to be held in person for the first time in three years? Alongside some of the biggest haute couture cities in the world, Seoul has been hosting its own Fashion Week for a little over a decade. While the pandemic posed interruptions to the event for the past three years, Seoul Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2023 will finally be held fully in person this coming October 11th to the 15th.
Well-known as the culture and design hub of the country, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) has held this event since 2012 and has announced its partnership once again. Designed by the renowned architect Zaha Hadid, DDP is an exceptional architectural structure that hosts exhibitions all year round and is itself one of the most popular tourist destinations in Seoul.
With the rest of the world opening up to travel, Seoul Fashion Week is expected to invite hundreds of global designers, models, buyers, and reporters to the five-day event. The Seoul Collection typically features a mix of the country’s major and emerging designers. It has historically been a premiere opportunity to showcase Korea’s rising talent and contributions to the global fashion industry.
While most shows are closed to the public, there are a number of designers that allow non-industry individuals to register in advance for tickets to their shows. Even if you aren’t able to attend the shows themselves, walking by the venue is an experience in and of itself. During the days of Fashion Week, you will see numerous models posing for street photographers outside the plaza in avant-garde attire. The city also hosts a plethora of night-time events and shopping experiences that anyone will be able to enjoy.
Location: Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), 281 Eulji-ro (Euljiro 7-ga), Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
4. Seoul Lantern Festival
As another one of Seoul’s top fall attractions, the Seoul Lantern Festival is an outdoor exhibition of massive paper and LED lanterns that stretch across the mile-long promenade of the Cheonggyecheon River. Every year, millions of people from around the country visit the area to walk through the bright lights. Historically, the festival has featured a combination of both traditional Korean paper lanterns and more modern LED installations, often portraying images of Korean folklore and mythology.
In 2021, the Seoul Lantern Festival opened a virtual reality (VR) version of the experience, allowing citizens to experience the “walk” without having to physically come to the river. Specific details regarding the 2022 event have yet to be released, but traditionally the festival has taken place from November to mid-December in past years. Keep on the lookout for when the festival is announced, as this is an experience you don’t want to miss!
Location: 1 Cheonggyecheon-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
5. Itaewon Global Village Festival (이태원 지구촌 축제)
Itaewon is commonly known as the “diversity hub” of South Korea, featuring authentic restaurants and shops owned by people from all around the world. Coined as one of the most “foreigner-friendly” parts of Seoul, Itaewon is home to dozens of different nationalities and cultures. The Itaewon Global Village Festival is an annual fair where visitors can experience international cuisines, traditions, and music in one setting. This year, the Global Village Festival will take place from October 15th to the 16th, with over 40 participating embassies to promote their local cultures.
The festival has traditionally started with a global parade, where hundreds of flag bearers and street performers will march through the streets of Itaewon to open the two-day event. It also includes a global traditional outfit fashion show and a culture performance to showcase dances and rituals from numerous different countries. Not only is it an incredible experience for local residents to experience other cultures, but it is also an outstanding opportunity for foreign tourists to get a snapshot of Korean traditions. Typically, K-pop dance groups, Taekwondo teams, Hanbok models, and traditional Korean instrument artists will put on top-tier performances that cannot be seen elsewhere. Be sure to take a stroll through the fair if you are in the area and take a quick lap around the world!
Location: Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
6. Places in Seoul to see the autumn foliage: Namsan Park, Deoksugung Doldam-gil, Changdeokgung Palace
Nothing screams ‘fall activity’ more than going to see autumn leaves. While Korea is famous for the foliage spots across expansive mountains in the countryside, you don’t have to travel far from the city to enjoy cinematic views of changing leaves. In fact, here are some places in Seoul where you can walk through some of the best fall foliage:
- Namsan Park: The N Seoul Tower is a must-see attraction for anyone who visits Seoul. Visitors can choose to take a cable car that leads to the top of the mountain and savor panoramic views of the entire city during the ride. You can also choose to hike up the mountain and immerse yourself in the forest to get to the tower. It is no question that Namsan Park offers breathtaking views in the fall, allowing one to experience the beautiful array of colors without having to travel far.
- Location: 231 Samil-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
- Deoksugung Doldam-gil (Deoksugung Stone Wall Road) – Deoksugung is the smallest out of the five traditional palaces in Seoul, located right next to the Seoul City Hall. Surrounding the palace is a romantic walking path bordered by antique stone walls and centuries-old oak and ginkgo trees. The road is a popular date spot for couples all year round but attracts even more people during the fall foliage.
- Location: Deoksugung Palace, 5-1, Jeong-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul
- Changdeokgung Palace: This palace offers a more intimate experience for visitors that want to walk through the traditional royal gardens of Korea. Changdeokgung Palace is home to the “Secret Gardens” where kings used to seek tranquility. Now open to tourists, these gardens display poetic scenes that cannot be found anywhere else.
- Location: 99 Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea