For anyone who has ever visited Korea in the summer, the heat might be one of the memories that “stuck” the most. Despite the heat’s brutal reign from June to early September, there are plenty of ways to cool off around the city. Check out these 17 tips on how to stay smelling fresh this Seoul summer.
1. Visit a free museum
There’s no air conditioner like the one you get in a Korean museum. Not only is it a great place to hide out from the brutal sun rays, but you can learn a thing or two while you’re at it. Most of the museums in Seoul are free and offer fascinating insights into some of the country’s national treasures. The National Palace Museum of Gyeongbokgung and the National Museum of Korea sell highly detailed English resource books that will help you learn more than the exhibition rooms offer. Some other popular museums include the Seoul Craft Museum, National Folk Museum of Korea, War Memorial of Korea, Contemporary History Museum, and the Story of King Sejong / Yi Sun Sin. Click the museum names for links to their website where you can find accessibility information, opening hours, and exhibition highlights. Happy learning!
The National Palace Museum
Address: 12 Hyoja-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul | 서울시 종로구 효자로 12
Opening Hours: 10AM-6PM
National Museum of Korea
Address: 137 Seobinggo-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul | 서울시 용산구 서빙고로 137
Opening Hours: 10AM-9PM
Seoul Craft Museum
Address: 4 Yulgok-ro 3-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul | 서울시 종로구 율곡로 3길 4
Opening Hours: 10AM-6PM
National Folk Museum of Korea
Address: 37 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul | 서울시 종로구 삼청로 37
Opening Hours: 9AM-6:30PM
War Memorial of Korea
Address: 29 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul | 서울시 용산구 이태원로 29
Opening Hours: 9:30AM-6PM
Contemporary History Museum
Address: 198 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul | 서울시 종로구 세종대로 198
Opening Hours: 10AM-6PM
Story of King Sejong/Yi Sun Sin
Address: B1, 175 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul | 서울시 종로구 세종대로 175
Opening Hours: 10:30AM-7:30PM
Accessibility: All museums have accessible entrances for wheelchair users and offer rental services.
2. Try a self-service ice cream shop
One of the hottest COVID-19 trends was the self-service ice cream shop. It seems impossible to wander any neighborhood without spotting one; you can even find some inside the subway station! If you’re on the hunt, type in ‘아이스크림 할인점’ into your Naver Maps or Kakao Maps app. Don’t try anything sneaky!
Accessibility: Most shops are on the ground floor but have narrow walkways.
3. Hit a bullseye at an archery cafe
South Korea is famous on Instagram for its unique cafes (have you visited our Instagram page yet?). A popular destination for tourists and locals alike is an archery cafe! For a cheap price, a quick lesson and a few rounds are included. The most popular archery cafe chain in Korea is appropriately called Robin Hood, which has several branches around the city. The most popular is in Sinchon (신촌역) near Yonsei University (map below).
Robin Hood (Sinchon)
Address: Seoul, Seodaemun-gu, Sinchon-dong, 13-2, 4F
Opening Hours: Daily, 11AM-2AM
Accessibility: Elevator access is available at Robin Hood Sinchon. For other branches, please contact directly.
4. Try Traditional Bingsu in a Hanok Cafe
Bingsu (빙수) is a shaved ice dessert that’s the perfect treat to cool off in the summer. The history of bingsu dates back to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) with flavors such as rice cake, red bean, and powdered bean flour. You can try these traditional flavors at one of the many hanok cafes in Insadong (인사동) starting from Anguk Station Exit 6 (안국역, map below).
5. Try Modern Bingu at Sulbing
None of the traditional flavors calling to you? Cool off with a spoonful of modern bingsu flavors like strawberry, cookies n’ cream, and green tea at the popular chain Sulbing (설빙). There’s a Sulbing in every neighborhood in Seoul, so a quick search on your map app is certain to bring one up nearby!
Accessibility: Many Sulbing cafes are located on a higher floor, so we recommend looking for a branch located in a larger building or mall for elevator access.
6. Take the subway for some water sports
The province of Gyeonggi-do (경기도) where Seoul is based is famous for its sparkling lakes and rivers. These open many opportunities for some of the best water sports in Korea. Canoeing, wakeboarding, kayaking, and inflatable rafts are all easily accessible via train from Seoul.
For inflatable water games (see photo above), depart at Gapyeong Station (가평역) and walk straight from Exit 1 to reach the shore. Once there, you’ll see a large bungee jump, and just beside it is a popular water sports area. Additionally, you can check out this link for more water sport options.
7. Ride the breeze at the Han River
There are many places to rent a bike in Seoul with the most popular being the Han River. Although paths can get a bit crowded during summer, the breeze and sparkling water make this destination the perfect place for an afternoon ride. Bikes cost around 3,000 won (3USD) per hour from a rental shop, making this an affordable way to beat the summer heat. You can rent bikes on either side of the river (check the map below for kiosks) or you can follow this easy guide to use the city’s rental bike service. We personally recommend starting from Banpo bridge (point 10) and riding East!
8. Fill your stomach with soybean noodles
My favorite Korean food is easily cold soybean noodle soup, aka Kongguksu (콩국수)! The most popular restaurant in the city for this traditional meal is Jinju Huigwan (진주회관), located just behind City Hall Station (시청역) Exit 10 (map below). The restaurant is always packed, but you can get your food served just a few minutes after sitting down, which means that lines move quickly. Don’t be put off by the crowd side and enjoy this local icon. Plus, it’s vegan friendly (the kimchi too!).
26 Sejong-daero 11-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Opening Hours: Daily, 11AM-9PM
Accessibility: Jinju Huigwan is located on the ground floor. It can get very crowded, but staff members will be able to help with any accessibility requirements.
9. Enjoy the tropical flavors of Jeju
Jeju Island is known as the Hawaii of Korea (some even say East Asia), but we can’t all take a weekend getaway. Why not bring Jeju to Seoul? Enjoy the island’s delicious flavors such as citrus and green tea in the way of desserts and cocktails at the adorable ‘Into Jeju’ cafe (map below) as part of the popular Songridan-gil Cafe Street.
Address: Door 101, Ogeum-ro 16-gil 9, Songpa-gu, Seoul
Opening Hours: Daily, 12PM-11PM
Accessibility: The cafe is located on the ground floor. It’s very narrow and only offers a few non-bar stool seating options.
10. Have a picnic at a Han River Park
One of the best places to enjoy the sun in Seoul is the Han River! This huge river offers numerous parks along its shore with the most popular located at Yeouido and Banpo. These parks can definitely get crowded, but if you come early enough in the morning, you’ll be able to secure a spot while also missing out on the hottest days. If you’re not too bothered by evening bugs, the Banpo Bridge zone offers beautiful night views and a water and music show. Below are the following times for the shows. Each show lasts around twenty minutes.
April 1st – June 30th & September 1st – October 31st: Weekday shows are at noon, 8:00, 8:30 and 9:00PM. During weekends and holidays, the fountain shows are at noon, 7:30, 8:00, 8:30 and 9:00PM.
July 1st – August 31st: On weekdays, shows begin at noon and every half hour starting from 7:30PM. The last show begins at 9:00PM. On weekends and holidays, you can watch the Banpo Bridge Moonlight Rainbow Fountain at noon, and every half hour from 7:30 – 9:30PM.
Accessibility: There are spacious walking trails on both sides of the Han River, but it can get crowded during the summer.
11. Wander the night markets
Enjoy the cool evening air? Why not enjoy it with delicious food and some shopping? Seoul isn’t known for its night markets like other East Asian cities, but a trip to Namdaemun Market (where you can buy practically everything) or the street food market of Myeongdong is sure to entertain – and fill your stomach. Make sure you stop by Namdaemun’s famous hotteok (filled donut) stand and try some of Myeongdong’s signature egg bread when you have the chance.
Hoehyeon Station, Line 4 – Exit 5, Exit 7
Opening Hours: 9AM – 9PM
Myeongdong Station, Line 4 – Exit 8.
Opening Hours: 12PM – 12AM – There is usually a break from 2PM – 3PM.
Accessibility: Namdaemun Market is known for its crowded indoor buildings, most of which do not offer elevator access. You can shop for skincare, traditional medicine, and clothing from street vendors. Myeongdong Market is entirely outdoors. Both markets can be crowded at various points in the day.
12. Enjoy a cold foot bath
Traditional Korean medicine favors warm feet and a cool head, but we’re all about dipping our toes into cool water. Foot bath cafes are a popular daytime activity in Korea, and while many people visit a public bathhouse or sauna to get one, there are cafe options as well. Although you can search ‘족욕 카페’ in Korean on your map app, we suggest Tea Therapy in Bukchon Village as a great place to get started (map below).
Address: 74 Yunposun-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Opening Hours: 10AM-10PM
13. Rinse off in a Korean sauna
Looking for a way to cool your entire body? Head to a Korean sauna, aka a jjimjilbang (찜질방), in any corner of the city. The large public baths offer hot and cool waters, while the saunas almost always come with an ice room. You might freeze your bones off after a few minutes inside, but it’s the perfect place for the most literal ‘cool down’ you can get all summer. Our favorite saunas in the city are Dragon Hill Spa, and the womens-only Spa Lei.
Dragon Hill Spa
Address: 40 Hangang-daero 21na-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Opening Hours: 24HR
Address: 5 Gangnam-daero 107-gil, Seocho-gu, Seoul
Opening Hours: 8AM-11PM
Accessibility: All saunas have elevator access. Please contact directly about rental services.
14. Take the subway to the beach (yes, really)
Seoul isn’t too far from the Western coast, which means the beaches aren’t too far either! Take the subway out to Incheon Station (인천역, Suin-Bundang Line, Line 1) and connect via bus or taxi to one of the neighboring beaches. The top three beaches are Hanagae Beach 하나개해수욕장 (Bus 무의1 from Dongincheon Station, Around 2 hours), Wangsan Beach 왕산해수욕장 (Bus 306 from Dongincheon Station, around 2 hours), and Geojampo Beach 거잠포해변 (Bus 306 from Dongincheon Station, around 2 hours). Leave early enough in the day and you can be back in Seoul before dinner!
15. Spend a day making traditional crafts
Bukchon Village offers a wide variety of traditional craft-making lessons from certified experts. Most last around 30 minutes and cost around 10,000 won (10USD). Some of the popular crafts include traditional Korean knot making, paper mache dolls, and Dancheong painting. There are hanoks offering craft lessons all over the village, so make sure you explore every corner before heading off. Each craft costs around 5,000 won and you can join at any time. There might be a few people waiting before you, but most lessons don’t last much longer than 20 minutes. Or, you can visit the Traditional Craft Experience Center to learn more about Korea’s unique culture and see what lessons they’re offering on the day you visit!
Anguk Station, Line 3 – Exit 3 – Continue walking straight until you see the hanok buildings on your right. There are often local guides in red jackets who can help tourists.
Traditional Craft Experience Center
Address: Bukchon-ro 12-gil, Gahoe-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Opening Hours: 10AM – 6PM
Accessibility: Most hanok offering crafts are very narrow and small. They also have a small step to enter the building. Some have courtyards and if you require more space, you can request to make your craft outside.
16. Enjoy traditional music at the Gugak Theater
The sun can be so brutal in the Seoul summer that our best option really is just to hide indoors. What better way to do that than traditional music performance? The National Gugak Center (map below) offers weekend performances at an affordable price, with themes changing every week. Even if you’ve been once, it’s almost positive that you won’t see a repeated show. Come to witness the performers’ incredible talent!
National Gugak Center
Address: Seoul, Seocho-gu, Nambusunhwan-ro, 2364 국립국악원
Opening Hours: Daily, 9AM – 6PM
17. Meditate in a mountain temple
Moving slow, relaxing, and taking a deep breath can keep our body temperatures down. One of the best places to do this is in a Buddhist temple, of which there are many around Seoul, but the mountain temples offer a further push of coolness. Beat the large crowds in central Seoul and instead head to beautiful temples such as Gilsang-sa 길상사 and Dalma-sa 달마사 (our personal favorites) for a cooler place to meditate. If you’re looking to show your respect to those at the temple, read our guide to temple etiquette here.
Address: 68 Seonjam-ro 5-gil, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul
Address: 50-26 Seodal-ro, Dongjak-gu, Seoul
Accessibility: Both temples are located high on a mountain but offer free parking. Gilsang-sa is mostly located on the same level, while Dalma-sa’s building go slightly uphill.