Summer in Seoul is well underway, which means dealing with humid and hot weather. It can be hard to escape the heat, especially in the city. But don’t worry because we have eight recommendations for how you can cool off in Seoul this summer.
Eat icy bingsu
Bingsu (빙수) is a highly sought-after treat during the summer months. This Korean dessert has various flavors, with a mound of shaved ice as the base. You can find fruity, chocolatey, or milky bingsu. The classic bingsu flavor is patbingsu (팥빙수), which typically comes with sweetened red beans and rice cakes. Bingsu is easy to find at most dessert shops and many cafes during the summer. It is an affordable experience in Seoul that any tourist should try.
Try a naengguk (냉국), or chilled soup
You may not be used to having your soups served cold, but Korea’s cold soups, or naengguk (냉국), are go-to’s during the summer. Mul naengmyeon served in chilled beef, or kimchi radish broth is a popular way to cool down in Seoul and South Korea. Make sure to add vinegar and mustard to your mul naengmyeon to give it a more complex flavor.
Another popular chilled soup is kongguksu, noodles served in a chilled soy milk broth. This soup has a creamy and nutty flavor, making it an equally refreshing alternative to the more sour-tasting mul naengmyeon. Not only will these chilled soups cool you in the summer heat, but they’ll also introduce you to more Korean cuisine.
It’s a tradition in Korea to eat samgyetang (삼계탕) during the summer, specifically during sambok (삼복). Samgyetang is a ginseng chicken soup that often includes ginger, garlic, and jujubes. However, unlike mul naengmyeon or bingsu, samgyetang is not served chilled but piping hot. The logic is that you fight fire with fire; eating boiling samgyetang will help you manage the hot weather. The saying in Korean is “이열치열.” While it may seem counterintuitive, samgyetang is a delicious and healthy Korean dish that can’t be missed.
Relax at Cheonggyecheon
After doing some sightseeing at Gyeongbukgung and Gwanghwamun, dip your feet in Cheonggyecheon (청계천), a stream that runs through the center of Seoul. Over time, the stream has changed along with Seoul’s development, going from a naturally formed stream to a waste-filled stream to being completely covered by concrete. A restoration project that started in 2003 brought the natural feature back to the city’s center. Now Cheonggyecheon serves as a respite from bustling city life for locals and tourists alike.
During the summer months, taking a walk along the stream or finding a spot under one of the bridges to sit and dip your feet in the cold water is a popular way to cool off in Seoul. Many Korean street markets are within walking distance if you get hungry.
Take advantage of AC in shopping centers
Shopping in South Korea cannot be skipped, and one of the great things about shopping in the summer is that you can spend a few hours in air-conditioned shopping centers. The popular Starfield Mall, located at COEX in Gangnam, is one shopping option. With over a hundred stores to browse, it will be difficult to leave empty-handed. You can also rest and take pictures at the Instagram-famous Starfield Library while at the mall. Other popular shopping centers include Galleria in Gangnam and Hyundai Department Stores located all over Seoul. With plenty of shopping options in Seoul, you’re likely to spend blissful and air-conditioned hours shopping to your heart’s content.
Explore the city in the evening or at nighttime
While the temperature doesn’t change much, whether day or night, exploring Seoul at night keeps you out of direct sunlight while offering opportunities to experience Korean culture, Seoul comes alive at night with its markets, clubbing scene, and riverside parks, so this is a great way to get to know another side of the city.
If you’re looking for good food and night views, head to one of the Han River parks in the evening. This is a favorite activity among Seoul locals. Many parks have vendors selling foods such as fried chicken, tteokbokki (떡볶이), and more. If summer nights are still too warm, grab some cold sikhye (식혜), a Korean sweet rice drink, bingsu, or slushies from one of the riverside vendors to enjoy your food. In addition, most places offer soju cocktails which are great for the summer.
Another great place to find good food and Korean culture at night is at one of the night markets. Every day from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., the Dongdaemun Night Market offers plenty of street food and shopping options. Myeongdong Night Market and Namdaemun Night Market are other night markets to visit.
You can access the Dongdaemun Night Market by subway lines 2, 4, and 5 at Dongdaemun History and Culture Park station, exits 1, 2, or 3. It can also be accessed by subway line 1 at Dongdaemun station, exits 6 or 7.
Head to Seoul Forest to cool off in the shade
Avoid the blistering sun rays by going to a park to relax in the shade of Seoul Forest‘s tree canopy. Opened in 2005 and located in Seongsu-dong, Seoul Forest covers over 480,994 square meters of land. The park is so large that it is split into four parts: the Culture & Art Park, the Educational Experience Park, the Eco-forest Park, and the Riverside Park along the Han River. There’s plenty to explore in the park, such as the insect garden, artwork scattered around the park, and a playground for kids. Other Seoul park options include Yeouido Hangang Park or Namsan Park.
You can access Seoul Forest via bus lines 121, 141, 145, 148, 463, 2014, 2412, 2224, and 2413. The park is also accessible by the Bundang Line at Seoul Forest Station, Exit 3, and by subway line 2 from Ttukseom Station, Exit 8.
Swim at one of the outdoor pools along the Han River
The six outdoor public pools that sit along the Han River are open for the first time this summer since being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, these pools were a popular weekend escape for Seoulites who needed to cool down. For just ₩5000, you can swim the day away at one of these pools. If you want to avoid crowds, go to these pools during the week instead of the weekend.
The pools are in Ttukseom Park, Jamwon Park, Mangwon Park, Yeouido Park, Gwangnaru Park, and Nanji Park. The pools are open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. until August 21.