6 Ways to Ring in the New Year, Korean Style

New Year’s Eve in Korea is action packed. Hotels host swanky soirées, restaurants lure in hungry diners with holiday specials, and the masses gather in the streets, unmoved by subzero temperatures, eager to share a final shot of soju with one another before the clock strikes midnight.

But, contrary to what many think, there is a number of alternative options for those looking to celebrate the holiday outside the country’s overcrowded restaurants and bars. So, don your party hat (and coat), and check out these alternative destinations for a truly memorable New Year celebration.

Ring My Bell

During the Joseon dynasty, the Bosingak Belfry near Jonggak Station was rung to notify Seoul citizens of the opening and closing of the city gates. These days, it often goes unnoticed by tourists and passersby throughout the year. Until December 31st, that is, when it is the focus of the capital’s New Year festivities.

Thousands gather in the city center to witness the annual tradition of the ringing of the bell. The Bosingak Belfry is rung a total of 33 times by the mayor at midnight and is followed by an entertaining fireworks display. Of course, you could always watch the televised ceremony at home, but it’s worth risking hypothermia to join in on such a celebrated tradition.


Karma Chameleon

If 2017 didn’t exactly meet your expectations, why not ensure a better year for yourself with a few extra karma points? Skip the bars and head to Golgulsa Temple in Gyeongju to participate in the temple’s annual New Year’s templestay program.

As the country’s headquarters of Sunmudo, a traditional Korean martial art, you’ll have the chance to learn some impressive spin kicks while picking up meditation techniques at the same time. At midnight, test your endurance with the resident monks by attempting the customary 1,080 bows for the New Year.

 Afterwards, be treated to a hot bowl of tteokguk (rice cake soup), the traditional Korean New Year breakfast, and a trip to nearby Kampo Beach for a final Sunmudo exercise. By the end of your stay, you’ll have a clear mind and will be ready to kick 2018’s metaphorical butt. Call 054-775-1689 for more information.

Dinner and a Movie

For those that prefer a quiet, intimate evening with a significant other, Ciné de Chef is the perfect New Year’s Eve outing. This unique experience brings the concept of dinner and a movie to an entirely new level.

Diners have the option of ordering à la carte or choosing from the restaurant’s set menu that includes both Korean and Western gourmet dishes prepared by skilled chefs. After dinner, guests are led into the CGV Ciné de Chef theater that consists of high tech screens, an 11.1 surround sound system, and plush leather chairs, valued at 8 million won a piece. With locations in Seoul and Busan, this special experience is as convenient as it is indulgent. Click here for more information.

Hotel Party

Hitting the town with your friends on New Year’s Eve is fun but usually involves getting lost in crowds, waiting in long lines, and shouting over obnoxiously loud music. This holiday, avoid the headache by booking a motel suite and throwing your own party.


Seoul has a great selection of “boutique motels” with options that are both reasonable and impressive. Nox Hotel’s L’eau Claire suite boasts a pool, sauna and an elegant bar and goes for about one million won per night, a reasonable price for a night of luxury in the heart of Gangnam. Visit noxhotel.com to make a reservation.

Fireworks at New Heights

To mark the first day of 2018, South Korean conglomerate Lotte will hold a countdown and fireworks event at the 123-story Lotte World Tower, which just so happens to be the fifth tallest building in the world.

The fireworks will last for 555 seconds to represent the 555 meters that make up the skyscraper. The extravaganza is expected to attract approximately 100,000 viewers and will employ 1,500 guards and voluntary workers to maintain safety. The show will begin at 8:30 pm on December 31, but it’s recommended that you arrive early for a good view.

Image: The Sun

Catch the Sunrise

For a quintessentially Korean experience, join throngs of families and couples on your favorite mountain, beach or island to watch the first sunrise of the New Year.

For a festive environment, check out the Samcheok Sunrise Festival on the east coast or head south to Busan for the city’s New Year Festival, both of which start at sunrise on New Year’s Day and promise spectators a trifecta of fireworks, good music and delicious regional cuisine.

If you don’t do well with crowds, head to the smaller beaches outside these coastal cities, where locals will be more than willing to share a cup of hot coffee and plenty of well wishes for 2018.

This article was written by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.