Seoul Lantern Festival 20223 – A Local’s Guide on What to Expect

The Seoul Lantern Festival (서울빛초롱축제) is an annual event that is hosted on the Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul every November. It’s a pretty spectacular site to behold, so if your trip to Seoul coincides with this, you should definitely stop by. 

What is the Seoul Lantern Festival?

Seoul Lantern Festival
Seoul Lantern Festival
Beautifully illuminated lanterns run down the Cheonggyecheon
Beautifully illuminated lanterns run down the Cheonggyecheon

The Seoul Lantern festival sees the Cheonggyecheon stream decorated with thousands of beautiful, larger-than-life paper lanterns. The lanterns depict various scenes, figures, buildings, and celebrities. 

The Cheonggyecheon is a manmade stream that runs through the center of Seoul. It was opened to the public in 2005 as part of a $900 million US dollar beautification initiative that initially received a massive amount of criticism.

However, today, the stream is a popular rendezvous point for locals, who eat their lunch on the banks of the stream or come here to jog or walk their dogs. Several cultural events are hosted here each year – most notably the November Seoul lantern festival, and celebrations for Buddha’s birthday in the spring.

Lanterns are contributed to the festival from all over the world. It is estimated that more than 3 million people attend the Seoul Lantern Festival every year, making it quite a big affair.  

The Seoul lantern festival and its themes 

Seoul Lantern Festival: Themes often concentrate on aspects of Korean history and culture
Themes often concentrate on aspects of Korean history and culture

The festival was first introduced in 2009 and has been going strong ever since. The Seoul Lantern Festival 2022 will be the 13th year that the event is taking place.

The lanterns depict a vast array of things – from Korean cultural sites to eccentric Japanese anime figures. A different main theme is identified every year. 

In 2016, the Seooul Lantern Festivaltheme was ” Lightened Hangang River where history flows”. Since the Han River is the largest river that flows through the country, the theme aimed to depict what traditional life was like by the river.

More recently, in 2018, the theme was “Seoul Dream”, and paper lanterns of old street cars, Korean military officials, and local delicacies were crafted to depict the history of Korea. 

The precise dates for the 2022 Seoul Lantern Festival are still yet to be announced. However, the celebration will be held for 2 weeks in November.

Seoul Lantern Festival Highlights 

Seoul Lantern Festival: Depictions of life in Korea centuries ago
Depictions of life in Korea centuries ago

The Seoul Lantern Festival is free to attend. However, there are lots of “extras” available as you make your way down the Cheonggyecheon. You can purchase paper lanterns of various sizes here, and then paint and decorate them as you like before setting them off to float down the stream. 

A lot of the purchasable lanterns are themed around the Lunar New Year, and good luck symbols in this calendar. The lanterns cost just a few thousand won, and it’s a nice experience. 

The Atmosphere 

The lanterns for the Seoul Lantern Festival are up all day. However, it’s best to stop by in the evenings when they are beautifully illuminated and the ambiance is almost magical. 

Light shows are projected onto the buildings and bridges that encircle the Cheonggyecheon, while traditional music plays out from loudspeakers. 

The banks of the stream and the surrounding streets are crammed full of Korean street food vendors who serve up all the classics. You can find everything from spicy, tomatoey tteokbokki, to sweet red bean pastries here. 

Visiting the Cheonggyecheon is certainly one of the best things to do in Seoul. All year round, its walls and banks are decorated with contemporary art installations and inspiring graffiti.

Keep your eyes peeled for this too as you walk its length for the festival. Be sure to dress up warm, as Korea can be very cold in the winter. Average temperatures in Seoul are usually between 2° and 12° celsius during this time.

Getting to the Cheonggyecheon

Since the Cheonggyecheon runs 11 kilometers through downtown Seoul, it is easy to join the trail through the lantern festival at any point. There are pathways on both sides of the stream so that you can walk up one side, and then return back from the other. 

The best ways to reach the festival site by public transport are outlined below. Don’t forget to purchase a T-Money card to ensure that you receive discounted fares across Korea. 

Reaching the Cheonggyecheon by Metro 

There are several Seoul metro stations that are just a few minutes’ walks away from the Cheonggyecheon. You can opt to use Jonggak Station (Line 1), Exit 4 or 5, or  Euljiro 1-ga Station (Seoul Subway Line 2), Exit 2 or 3. These stations leave you close to Cheonggye Plaza. 

Alternatively, you can head to Euljiro 3-ga Station (Lines 2, 3), Exit 1, 2, 3, or 4, or Jongno 3-ga Station (Lines 1, 3), Exit 12, 13, or 14. These stations are close to Samilgyo and Seungyo

Other Things to Do Nearby 

Attending the Seoul Lantern Festival is probably going to take up no more than 1-2 hours of your evening. There are plenty of attractions, Seoul restaurants, and bars in the area to occupy your time before and after the event. 

You can start in the eastern part of Seoul, close to Gwangjang market, before making your way west along the Cheonggyecheon. You can take detours away from the stream to see the Seoul City Hall, Gyeongbokgung, and Gwanghwamun Square beautifully illuminated by nightfall.

Final thoughts

Have any questions about the Seoul Lantern Festival or your Korea itinerary in general? I lived in Seoul for two years and would be happy to assist with any questions you may have.

Feel free to reach out if you need anything. Safe travels. Annyeong! Melissa xo 


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

6 thoughts on “Seoul Lantern Festival 20223 – A Local’s Guide on What to Expect”

  1. I’ve been into Korean related for the past couple of months so finding this post on twitter was super amazing. can’t wait to read the others. I loved it. I see the lantern festival many times on kdramas, and it’s always looked super outstanding and gorgeous. it certainly does. so glad you had a great time!

    • Thanks for your kind words! It really was stunning. I think that it is one of those things that are difficult to capture the true beauty of on camera. I will be travelling all over Korea in the coming months so hopefully there will be some posts you like!
      I really like your blog by the way. It is such a small world – my sister lives in Leicester just off Narborough Road so I was there a few months back to visit a Turkish restaurant with her!

  2. This is incredible! I’ve never seen a Lantern Festival before, but I think I need to add it to my ultimate bucket list. It looks like one of those experiences that you have to have in life!

  3. Thanks for your good article and photos.

    May I ask if I have to go to Busan from Seoul on 10/11 (Sunday), can I buy the KTX ticket on 4/11 when I arrive Seoul at the lower price at about ₩50,800 or I will be charged of a reserved seat at ₩59,800?

    Thank you and regards!

    Chi Ho

  4. I find this article interesting and helpful. Somehow this boosts my excitement as me and my husband will be going to Seoul in a few days. Definitely, we will have this Latern Festival in our itenirary. With just a few days stay there in Seoul would you recommend that we join a group tour? Any recommendations of where we can avail the best group tour? Thank you.

Leave a Comment