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Hangang Yeongdeungpo Yeouido Spring Flower Festival
Every year as Korea shakes off the winter cold and the temperatures start to rise, people from all over the country travel to Seoul for the Hangang Yeongdeungpo Yeouido Spring Flower Festival, an annual event that indicates that spring has finally arrived. Held in Yeouido with the beautiful backdrop of the Hangang (River), the Hangang Yeouido Spring Flower Festival celebrates the 1,641 Jeju-do cherry blossom trees of Yunjung-no (Yeouiseo-ro Street). In addition to hundreds of cherry blossom trees, the festival features azaleas, forsythias, rhododendrons, bridalwreath trees, deutzias and more for a total of 13 different varieties and 90,000 plants in full bloom. Several events are held during the festival as well including cultural art performances, street performances and a floral art exhibition. The Hangang Yeouido Spring Flower Festival is also great to experience after sunset, when the cherry trees are lit up with LED lights to create a fantastic evening ambience.
Date & Time: Mid-April (Depending on when the flowers bloom) Location: Yunjung-no (Yeouiseo-ro Street) in Yeouido
Royal Wedding Ceremony of King Gojong and Empress Myeongseong
Twice a year in the spring and the fall, a re-enactment of the royal wedding ceremony of the last king of the Joseon Dynasty, King Gojong, and Empress Myeongseong (Queen Min) is held at Unhyeongung (Palace), where the original ceremony that took place on March 21, 1866. The actual ceremony in the Joseon Dynasty was a significant national event mobilizing thousands of personnel and lasting several days. Although the present event is a simplified form staged over two to three hours, it is re-enacted as authentically as possible in a solemn atmosphere based on historical research.
The wedding ceremony starts with some opening performances featuring traditional music and dance. Then the bisuchaek ceremony is staged, where the empress is formally installed as the queen. Then there is an elaborate royal procession along with a royal dance performance, and the wedding ceremony ends with the Chinyeong ceremony, where the king greets the queen. This royal re-enactment is a special event where one can experience firsthand a colorful traditional Korean wedding and royal court culture.
Date & Time: April & September Location: Unhyeongung (Palace)
One of two of the most important ancestral rituals in Korean society, the Jongmyo Jerye, also known as Jongmyo Daeje, or the "Jongmyo Grand Ancestral Rite" is a rite held for worshipping the late kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty at Jongmyo Royal Shrine. It is held every year on the first Sunday of May. The Jongmyo rite is usually accompanied with the traditional court music of Joseon called Jongmyo Jeryeak and a dance called Ilmu or “Line Dance”. Jongmyo Jerye has been designated as Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 56, and its music, the Jongmyo Jeryeak, has been designated as Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 1. Together, they have been designated by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The Jongmyo Jerye procedures are divided into three parts. Strict formalities accompany each procedure as Jongmyo Jerye was the nation's highest-ranked rite. The first part of the Jongmyo Jerye consists of rituals that invite and greet the spirits. The second part of the Jongmyo Jerye consists of rituals to entertain the spirits, and the third part consists of the last rites which are held to send the spirits off to heaven. During the Jongmyo Jerye, visitors can experience music, dancing, food, traditional costumes and the spirit of the ceremony. The memorial services remain preserved based on specific procedures and strict guidelines and offer a unique understanding of the Korean cultural heritage. This significant experience embodies one of the most solemn rites carried out by the kings and civil and military officials of the Joseon Dynasty.
Date & Time: First Sunday of May Location: Gyeongbokgung (Palace) / Jongmyo (Royal Shrine)
Yeon Deung Hoe Lotus Lantern Festival
The Yeon Deung Hoe Lotus Lantern Festival is a modern-day annual tradition that offers visitors the chance to experience Yeondeunghoe and Buddhist culture. The main event of the festival is the Lantern Parade, during which more than 100,000 brightly-colored illuminated lanterns and lantern floats in various shapes flood the streets of downtown Seoul. Other programs include an exhibition of breathtaking traditional Buddhist lanterns and various performances including Korean folk music performances, dance performances as well as traditional Buddhist dance performances. However, the festival favorite is the Buddhist Street Festival, an event where participants get to experience Buddhist culture firsthand. Participants can make lotus lanterns, get their faces painted, create Buddhist art, try temple food and play folk games. Festival goers do not only get to experience the Buddhist cultures of Korea, but the Buddhist cultures of Thailand, Taiwan, Myanmar, Tibet and Mongolia as well.
Date & Time: Around mid-May, on Buddha's Birthday Location: Jongno area
Seoul Summer Sale
The Seoul Summer Sale is a big annual citywide shopping event that is put on for the benefit of international visitors. It is a fantastic opportunity for international shoppers to get great deals and discounts on fashion, cosmetics, performances, dining, accommodation, tourist attractions, entertainment and more. In addition to saving big at over 800 participating businesses in 5,000 different locations, international shoppers can take advantage of several promotional events during the Seoul Summer Sale Theme Weeks. During Brand Week, shoppers can save big on both international designer labels and Korea’s best designer labels; during Beauty Week shoppers can get discounts on some of Korea’s top-selling cosmetic brands and take advantage of major deals at several spas, oriental medicine clinics and cosmetic beauty clinics; and during Restaurant Week, shoppers can take advantage of the specially priced menus at a variety of popular restaurants.
Date & Time: June - July Location: All throughout Seoul
Seoul Fringe Festival
Originally beginning in 1998 as the Independent Arts Festival, the Seoul Fringe Festival has grown to become one of Seoul’s biggest arts festivals. Every year over 300 bands, acts, groups and troupes from around the world perform at several different theaters, clubs, halls and galleries in Hongdae, Seoul. The festival consists of a Music Festival, a Visual Arts Festival, an Asian Independent Film Festival, a Performing Arts Festival, and a Street Festival. During the Music Festival, over hundred bands play various genres of music including rock, traditional Korean classical music, electronic music and more at several different clubs in Hongdae. During the Visual Arts Festival, various art exhibitions of domestic and foreign artists are viewable to the public, free of charge. The Asian Independent Film Festival features independent films and documentaries by promising young Asian directors. The Performing Arts Festival features various genres of performing arts including dance, drama, mime, jazz dance, and more at small theaters located near Hongik University, while the Street Festival features various exhibitions and performances can be enjoyed right on the street.
Date & Time: August Location: Hongdae area
Seoul Open Night
Seoul City will hosts the the annual Midsummer Night Festival at the end of summer. Camp overnight on the open grass fields of Seoul Plaza and show off your talents at the talent show. Experience the culture through music and performances at one of Seoul's most memorable summer festival.
Date and Time: Last Friday & Saturday of August Location : Seoul Plaza, Cheonggyecheon (Stream), etc