As September rolls around, temperatures start to drop and a collective sigh can be heard across the nation as people everywhere finally feel relief from the summer's suffocating heat. Autumn in Korea, with its mild temperatures and gentle breezes, is a perfect time to travel. Festivals are among the most unique events in Korea, and from September to November they seem to pop-up almost everywhere. Crops ripen and are harvested during this time, giving festival-goers a chance to sample fresh, delicious treats and local delicacies.
Festivals in Korea combine some of the most fascinating elements of Korean history, culture, arts, and food, making each festival a unique reflection of its local flavor. In Korea, there seems to be a festival for just about everything! There's a ginseng festival, a fireworks festival, a festival celebrating the country's UNESCO World Cultural Heritages, a herbal medicine festival, a drum festival, and of course, a kimchi festival—plus many more! No matter if you're in Korea for a couple of days or for a few months, you owe it to yourself to visit a least one of these recommended festivals this fall.
Festivals in September
Wonju Hanji Festival
Date: September 5 – September 9, 2013
Location: Hanji Theme Park area, Wonju-si, Gangwon-do
Many visitors may already know that "hanji" is a type of traditional Korean paper, but did you also know that it can be used to make dolls, crafts, lanterns, and even clothes? Simple as it may seem, you'll be absolutely blown away by all that can be done with this amazing material. Visitors will even get a chance to make their own hanji artwork!
Chungju World Martial Arts Festival
Date: September 6 – September 10, 2013
Location: World Martial Arts Park, Chungju-si, Chungcheongbuk-do
The Chungju World Martial Arts Festival is a large-scale martial arts demonstration, showcasing the amazing skills of martial arts masters from around the world. Prepare to be awed by a breath-taking flurry of kicks, punches, and jumps! You'll also get a chance to try out many of the martial arts presented.
Geumsan Insam Festival
Date: Septermber 6 – September 15, 2013
Location: Ginseng Expo Plaza and Ginseng and Herb Street area, Geumsan-gun, Chungcheongnam-do
Geumsan is one of the most famous places in Korea for ginseng (insam). The festival has it all: a ginseng foot spa, hands-on ginseng harvesting, and a ginseng market where ginseng products can be purchased at special discounted prices. If you are interested in health foods or want a closer look at Korea's well-being culture, this is the festival for you.
Pyeongchang Hyoseok Cultural Festival
Date: September 6 – September 22, 2013
Location: Lee Hyoseok Cultural Village area, Bongpyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do
The Pyeongchang Hyoseok Cultural Festival is held in Bongpyeong-myeon Village in Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do Province to commemorate Lee Hyo-seok, a modern Korean novelist most famous for his short story "When Buckwheat Flowers Blossom." The area where the festival is held is the novelist's birthplace as well as the setting of the famous story. In addition to a writing contest, an exhibition of illustrated poems, and the Night of Literature event, there are an array of programs offered such as strolling through a buckwheat field and making traditional buckwheat foods.
Suwon Hwaseong Cultural Festival
Date: September 27 – October 1, 2013
Location: Hwaseong Haenggung Palace Plaza & Hwaseong Fortress area, Suwon-si, Gyeonggi-do
Hwaseong is an impressive fortress that encompasses most of downtown Suwon, winding around the city and over the foothills of the nearby mountains. In celebration of the fortress' incomparable beauty and important history, performers at the Suwon Culture Festival present a series of historical reenactments and events that once again bring Hwaseong to life, wrapping visitors in the magic of this treasured UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. Main events include a reenactment of the Royal Parade of King Jeongjo the Great, a fireworks display, and a Citizen's Parade.
Andong Maskdance Festival
Date: September 27 – October 6, 2013
Location: Andong-si downtown, Talchum Park, Hahoe Village, and surrounding area, Andong-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Korean traditional mask dance performances have been designated an Important Intangible Cultural Heritage and are a must-see for those hoping to understand more about Korean culture. Artists from home and abroad will not only treat you to a series of captivating performances, but will also get you to join in the free-spirited fun!
Gyeonggi International CeraMIX Biennale
Date: September 27 - November 17, 2013
Location: Icheon Cerapia, Yeoju Doja Sesang, Gonjiam Ceramic Park, Gwangju
Photo courtesy: Korea Ceramic Foundation
Highlighting the outstanding technology and beauty of Korean ceramics, the Gyeonggi International CeraMIX Biennale is attended by 27 local and foreign ceramics artists from 18 countries. The festival features a number of ceramic-related hands-on programs, a ceramics healing camp where visitors get to work the clay, a flea market, and street performances.
Millennial Anniversary of the Tripitaka Koreana
Date: September 27 - November 10, 2013
Location: Haeinsa Temple area, Hapcheon-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do
The Millennial Anniversary of the Tripitaka Koreana is a festival celebrating the thousand year anniversary of the publication of the Goryeo Daejanggyeong, also known as the Tripitaka Koreana. Visitors can learn about the endless mysteries of the Tripitaka Koreana through a 3-D video, view how this treasure was made and how it looked in different eras and kingdoms, and see treasured Buddhist relics.
Festivals in October
Jinju Namgang Yudeung (Lantern) Festival
Date: October 1 – October 13, 2013
Location: Namgang River area, Jinju-si, Gyeongsangnam-do
The Jinju Namgang Yudeung (Lantern) Festival is one of the best festivals in Korea as recognized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. Visitors can make their own wish lanterns and send it downstream or even submit an entry into the most innovative lantern contest. Traditional lanterns from all over the world will be on display as well, but the festival's main draw is the simple beauty of thousands of lanterns lighting up the night.
Gimje Horizon Festival
Date: October 2 - 6, 2013
Location: Byeokgolje area, Gimje-si, Jeollabuk-do
Photo courtesy: Gimje Municipal Government
The Gimje fields in Jeollabuk-do Province represent the granary of Korea where expansive fields stretch endlessly across the horizon. The festival aims to promote Gimje as home to the largest fields in Korea where a large volume of rice is produced. Major events include cutting down rice plants, the festival mascot show, catching grasshoppers, making craftworks with rice straws, and kite flying along the horizon.
Yangyang Songi Festival (Pine Mushroom Festival)
Date: October 2 – October 6, 2013
Location: Namdaecheon Stream and Songi field area, Yangyang-gun, Gangwon-do
The Yangyang Songi Festival (Pine Mushroom Festival) is a prime opportunity to wander the Yangyang region of Gangwon-do Province, gathering fresh pine mushrooms growing in the wild. Whether you're interested in learning more about the natural mountain habitat of the mushrooms (under strict control throughout the year) or simply just want to sample some delectable pine mushroom cuisine, this fun, quirky, country festival is not to be missed.
Anseong Namsadang Baudeogi Festival
Date: October 2 – October 6, 2013
Location: Anseong Matchum Land area, Anseong-si, Gyeonggi-do
This festival celebrates the proud and fascinating history of Korea's oldest performance troupe, Namsadang. Once considered lower than the lowest servant, the Namsadang troupe rose to greatness in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and still remains a symbol of Korean pop culture and the city of Anseong (the troupe's birthplace). The group's traditional performances, called Namsadang Nori, were officially designated a World Intangible Heritage by UNESCO in 2009.
Jeonju International Sori Festival
Date: Ocotober 2 – October 6, 2013
Location: Sori Arts Center and Jeonju Hanok Village, Jeonju-si, Jeollabuk-do
Pansori is a traditional Korean folk music style traditionally performed with one singer and one drummer. If you have yet to hear the haunting melodies of Pansori, one of UNESCO's Intangible World Heritages, this is the place to be. Whether it's a song of joy or sorrow, Pansori singers weave a story that is so full of raw emotion that it transcends the language barrier and stays with you forever.
Seoul Drum Festival
Date: October 3 – October 4, 2013
Location: Seoul Plaza, Jung-gu, Seoul
Sure to set your toes a' tapping, percussion groups and solo performers from around the globe gather here to show off their lightning-fast drumming and innovative beats. Spectacular performances of both traditional and modern music and a world exhibition of 1,000 percussion instruments make this festival a feast for both the eyes and ears.
Jarasum International Jazz Festival
Date: October 3 – October 6, 2013
Location: Jarasum Island area, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do
Local and international jazz musicians congregate on the island to fill the lakeside air with the sweet sounds of jazz throughout the day and night.
Yeongju Punggi Insam Festival
Date: October 3 – October 9, 2013
Location: Namwoncheon Stream area, Punggi-eup, Yeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Of all the ginseng in Korea, Yeongju ginseng is particularly famous for its high level of saponins and its seemingly miraculous effects. Whether you need a fresh and healthy pick-me-up or just want a chance to harvest ginseng and sample some delectable ginseng dishes, the Yeongju Punggi Insam Festival is well worth the trip out to the countryside.
Busan International Film Festival, BIFF
Date: October 3 – October 12, 2013
Location: Theater District in Nampo-dong, Suyeong Bay Yachting Center, Haeundae Beach, and other locations, Busan
Photo courtesy of BIFF Organizing Committee
The largest film festival in Asia, the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) is THE must-see event for movie buffs. Approximately 36 screens at 6 major theaters will have over 800 screenings of 300 domestic and international films. Only the newest films and videos will make the lineup of this prestigious event.
Seoul International Fireworks Festival
Date: 19:00 - 20:00, October 5, 2013
Location: Hangang River Park (Yeouido are), Yeouido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul
World-famous, professional firework teams set the sky ablaze with a series of one-of-a-kind firework displays, accompanied by lighting displays, laser shows, and a range of superb performances and events.
Gwangju World Kimchi Culture Festival
Date: October 5 – October 9, 2013
Location: Jungoe Park area, Buk-gu, Gwangju
In Korea, no table is complete without a side of kimchi. Come and see why this unusual dish is so essential to the Korean people. During the festival, you'll not only get a chance to make your own kimchi, but you'll also see 100 or more kinds of Korean kimchi, as well as kimchi-like dishes from countries around the world.
Busan Jagalchi Festival
Date: October 10 – October 13, 2013
Location: Jagalchi Market District, Nampo-dong, Jung-gu, Busan
The Jagalchi Market is probably the most well-known seafood market in all of Korea, chock-full of fresh seafood caught in the waters right off port. Always a major tourist destination, the marketplace becomes even more popular during this annual festival.
Seoul Yangnyeongsi Herb Medicine Culture Festival
Date: October 11 – October 12, 2013
Location: Herbal Medicine Alley, Jegi-dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul
This festival is located right in the heart of Seoul and easily accessible via subway. Red ginseng, ginseng, and a number of medicinal herbs can be purchased at incredible prices, making for the perfect souvenir for loved ones back home. During the festival, you'll also be able to sample a number of herbs, enjoy a taekwondo demonstration, and participate in a range of singing, writing, and other competitions.
Namdo Food Festival
Date: October 11 – October 13, 2013
Location: Naganeupseong Folk Village, Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do
Photo courtesy of Suncheon Municipal Government
Jeollanam-do Province iscomprised of 22 cities and is the province in Korea that is most well-known for its food. Come try out some of the regional specialties, like grilled goat meat and Mokpo Nakji (octopus) and see what all the fuss is about.
Ganggyeong Fermented Seafood Festival
Date: October 16 – October 20, 2013
Location: Ganggyeong Jeotgal (Salted Seafood) Market, etc., Nonsan-si, Chungcheongnam-do
As Korea's largest salted seafood market, this festival is an ideal place to taste the unique flavor of salted seafood dishes and experience the daily life of Korean fishing villages.
Jeonju Bibimbap Festival
Date: October 24 – October 27, 2013
Location: Jeonju Hanok Village area, Jeonju-si, Jeollabuk-do
Photo courtesy of ©Pungnam Culture Incorporated Association
Bibimbap is one of Korea's most well-known foods and is a staple in restaurants and homes all across the nation. Discover more about this signature dish by learning to cook traditional bibimbap, checking out the 101 Kinds of Bibimbap Exhibition, participating in cooking competitions, sampling local recipes, or joining in one of the other events at this culinary festival.
Suncheon Bay Reeds Festival
Date: October 25 - 27, 2013
Location: Suncheon Bay area in Dongcheon, Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do
In autumn every year, Suncheon Bay, which is one of the top coastal wetlands in Korea, becomes the venue of the Suncheon Bay Reeds Festival. The festival offers various programs that incorporate culture, arts, rural life, ecological learning, and economics. During the festival period, a number of hands-on programs are offered, such as the Suncheonman Healing Tour with eco-environment experts, the making of small items using reeds, and the reed weaving for visitors to enjoy with their families and friends.
Festivals in November
Seosan Chrysanthemum Festival
Date: November 1 - 10, 2013
Location: Gagu-ri area, Seosan-si, Chungcheongnam-do
The Seosan Chrysanthemum Festival offers an opportunity to see chrysanthemums of rich fragrance and various colors. Chrysanthemums are one of the most popular autumn flowers in Korea. At the exhibition hall, visitors can see various chrysanthemum artworks, harvest edible chrysanthemums, and enjoy a street performance and traditional performances.
Choenamdan Bangeo Festival
Date: November 7 – November 10, 2013
Location: Moseulpo Port area, Seogwipo-si, Jeju
As Jeju Island's largest seafood festival, the Southernmost Yellowtail Festival attracts a large number of tourists every year. In addition to seeing Jeju's gorgeous seascape, you'll also have the opportunity to watch a ship parade, participate in a fishing contest, or even try to catch a fish with your bare hands.
* Schedules are subject to change without notice.
Last updated in August 2013