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 hats (and coats), 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.
If 2014 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 2014’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 outing. This unique experience brings the concept of dinner and a movie to an entire 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.
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 New Year, avoid the headache by booking a motel suite and throwing your own party.
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 2017.
SO LONG, 2016!!