Hanh Nguyen

Discover the golden beauty of autumn in Seoul

Autumn has painted yellow tones in countless places. Both in Europe and Asia, the trees’ changing foliage reminds us to enjoy the most endearing season of the year. Each passing day, I wish the pandemic would end so that international flights could resume, allowing me to grab my suitcase and travel again. More than ever, I dream of returning to Seoul to find the missing piece of a perfect autumn that haunts my memories.

To me, autumn in Seoul is both cozy and captivating. The leaves turn glorious shades of gold and romantic red, while the footsteps of thousands of passerby echo in nostalgic corners. My mind is full of images of a lively and colorful lantern festival beside a stream in the city. Irresistible street foods tempt the busy visitors walking by, urging them to stop for a bite before continuing to explore bustling Seoul…

N Seoul Tower is located on Namsan Mountain, a popular place to visit in the autumn

Like me, you can discover Seoul’s golden autumnal finery from September to November. In this season, must-visit destinations include Nami Island, Gyeongbok Palace, and Namsan Mountain. I also insisted on spending half a day finding my way to Seoul Forest Park, which Korean travel bloggers have voted the best spot to visit in the autumn. Located in Seongdong district, the park is immense and has nearly twenty entrances. Moreover, it’s the only park in Seoul to be named a forest. During the Joseon era, kings and nobles came here to hunt and train their royal eagles. When summer comes, the park turns green and boasts clean and refreshing air. It is considered the lungs that nourish a busy and crowded Seoul. As autumn arrives, the whole forest turns the warm, shining hue of honey, resembling a magnificent landscape painting. Almond trees that stand 20m-high glow as the sun’s rays shine through their leaves. Walking under their shade left deep memories.

The overwhelming beauty of autumn and the best weather of the year seem to have inspired Koreans to throw many festivals during this season. They include both traditional and modern festivals, including those devoted to ginseng, kimchi, mask dances, lanterns, and fireworks.

The Seoul Lantern Festival may not be a long-standing tradition but is an opportunity to preserve and promote Korea’s authentic culture. Each year in early November, a theme is chosen to honor traditional delicacies, distinctive cultural traditions, or heritages. These themes are illustrated via lanterns that depict many things. These lanterns are set to float upon Cheonggyecheon Stream. In 2019, the theme “Your Seoul, Dream with Lights” left me enchanted, as hundreds of splendidly decorated lanterns illuminated the lovely stream. Serving as a cultural ambassador, the lantern festival told me wonderful fairy tales written in lanterns and lights under Seoul’s night sky.

Changing leaves in Seoul Forest

Tasty autumnal treats complete my memories of a perfect Seoul autumn. On busy tourist streets, it’s easy to enjoy iconic street foods. I miss the spicy Tteokbokki and the heartwarming Odeng soup with fish cake skewers served with vegetable broth made from seaweed and radishes. These dishes remind me of famous movie scenes featuring dating couples in iconic Pojangmacha tents beside busy walking streets. As a huge fan of seafood, I was immediately hooked on two famous dishes: blue crabs marinated in soy sauce and grilled sardines. These are specialties in the autumn, when the required spices are harvested. Sweet persimmons are another Seoul gift for tourists to try on-the-spot or buy as a souvenir. In the dry weather, be sure to taste the fresh red persimmons, or nibble a dried persimmon slice as you enjoy a cup of warm tea. This is the perfect way to enjoy Seoul’s sweet foliage!