Culture on a budget – free trips, museum admissions and discounts

Fish shaped lanterns on the lantern festival in Seoul

The Culture Day in Korea offers free museum visits and discounts, the government invites foreigners to free trips, and national holidays await you with many activities and festivities. Sounds good? Then you should read the following blog post.

Korea has a lot of cultural sides to offer with its own traditions and modern pop culture – even though the country was influenced by many different Asian countries, especially China but also the USA. Particular Seoul offers a lot of museums, palaces, festivities, and events you should not miss. I have been on two free trips for foreigners and visited a bunch of museums for free. Let me tell you how.

Culture Day and free entrance to museums

Since 2014, every last Wednesday of the month is Culture Day. This particular day offers discounts or sometimes even free entrance and extended opening hours for all kinds of museums, galleries, and other cultural facilities. Usually, on Culture Day, most museums including the king’s palaces have free admission and cinemas offer a discount. I really love the idea behind it and I think it is such a good experience to explore a lot of Korea’s culture on a budget. I have used Culture Day to visit a bunch of museums in Seoul including the Seoul Museum of History and the National Museum of Korea.

Riders on horses on the lantern festival 2016
Free events, festivals and attractions
Peacock at the Lantern Festival 2016

Besides Culture Day you should also take a look for free events, festivals and attractions. Especially South Korea’s capital Seoul has a lot to offer. One of my favourite ones was the Lantern Festival at Cheonggyecheon, the little river starting at the city hall. The festival returns every winter with free admission. Another big festival is the Seoul International Fireworks Festival at the Han River at the beginning of October. Every year, two to three changing countries plus Korea create a show of fireworks. During the day, there is a programme, in 2016 there was a K-pop concert as well (with B1A4, I.O.I., 24K, and Mamamoo), and in the evening there was an after-party with a DJ. The festival was very well organised and even with traffic control on the subway to make sure that the subway is not getting too full and everyone gets home safe.

Public holidays for discounts

You should also take a look at the public holidays in Korea because they also bring free entrance, festivities or discounts. The biggest holidays are Seollal (설날) – the Korean New Year on the first day of the Korean calendar, and Chueseok (추석) – the Korean harvest festival in autumn. When I was in Korea we got a 50% discount as foreigners on Chuseok to visit famous amusement and water parks in Seoul (the downside, it was pretty full because of the holidays). Another holiday you should watch out for is Buddhas birthday in late spring. It is the perfect day to visit one of the Buddhist temples because they celebrate the day with different festivities and beautiful lanterns.

Tips for the king’s palaces

If you visit the Gyeongbokgung and Deoksugung Palace in Seoul make sure to attend the changing ceremonies of the royal guards. The shows are for free and right in front of the king’s palaces (before you enter). If you visit the king’s palaces wearing a Hanbok (Korean traditional clothing) you also get free admission. Otherwise, you can save money by buying the Integrated Palace Ticket to visit more than one sight. For more information read my post about Traditional Korea.

Free trips for foreigners

When I visited South Korea back in 2016, I was lucky enough to attend two free trips in the South of the country. The idea behind the trips is to bring foreigners closer to the Korean culture and improve tourism by offering them free tours and cultural events, which are sponsored by the government. On my first trip, we went to the Great Battle of Myeongnyang Festival, the Korean Minhwa Museum with traditional Korean paintings, and the little island 가우도 (Ga-u-do). The second trip included the visit of the Naeso Temple in Buan, the Gomso Salted Sea Food Festival, the International Integrative Medicine Expo and Woodland in Jangheung. The latter is a cypress forest and offers a bunch of activities and facilities. Apparently, it is also a known spot for TV productions as the K-drama Faith.

Free tours and silkworm pupas
Beondegi (Korean silkworm pupa)

Just a little story from one of the trips: at the Sea Food Festival, my roommate Jazz convinced me (plus two other US-Americans and two Koreans who apparently never tried it before) to eat our first (and for me at least also last) Beondegi. This is a silkworm pupa, a Korean snack. What can I say, I thought it would be crusty – well it was not. I guess the worst part was the juicy consistency and the knowing of what I actually ate. Probably I would not recommend it (little fun fact: in 2019 I became a Vegetarian).

❗️ I did the free trips with Kim’s Community Travel. As far as I know, nowadays it is a combination of free tours and really cheap trips overnight. Another fun fact: The organiser of Kim’s travels Dongryeong also founded a community house. It was a shared flat with foreigners from around the world. Given that sharing flats are not a thing in Korea the shared flat got national attention when the TV channel KBS made a reality series out of it. You can find Kim’s Community House on Facebook as well.

First written on Friday, September 16th, 2016, you have read the blog post Culture on a budget – free trips, museum admissions and discounts on My Travel Journal-Blog.

Jeju – The vacation paradise of South Korea Pt. II

After waterfalls, new fruits and a visit of the famous Seongsan Ilchulbong, I travelled to the Western side of the island. At the third day, I visited the Hallim Park and Hyeopjae Beach.

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Day 3: Sea, K-Dramas and museums

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The Oedolgae Rock

At the third and last day of my trip on Jeju, I wanted to use my time to visit the Western side of the island. I met a Korean a day before and we decided to travel together. On our way, our first stop brought us to Oedolgae Rock. From there one has a nice sea view. Different loop roads guide along the rock cliffs. The setting is really nice which is the reason why it is not surprising that this background was also used for some K-Dramas. In general, Jeju is one of the favourite places for shooting programs. Oedolgae Rock was also the setting for the K-Drama “Daejanggeum”. The TV series was broadcasted in 2003.

The second really shortstop brought us to the “Jungmun Tourist Complex”. Here are several museums as Ripley’s “Believe it or not! Museum” which is a chain from the US and shows different curiosities, wonder of nature and records. Furthermore, there is a Chocolate Museum and a Teddy Bear museum. Visitors of the “Alive Museum” can make funny pictures and play with optical arts and  “Play Kpop” is a museum about K-Pop music with hologram- as well as 3D-concerts. But I don’t want to make too much advertise here. If you like museums, have a bit of time and/or rainy days, this place is perfect for you.

At the Oedolgae Rock
 
 
 
 
 
Ripley's "Believe it or not - Museum" at the "Jungmun Tourist Colplex" - already the building looks a bit crazy.
 
The K-Pop museum at the "Jungmun Tourist Colplex"
 
At the  Hyeopjae Beach
 
 
 
 
 

Hallim Park – palms, caves, and tropical birds

Hallim Park is named after its location near to the Hallim-eup. The park was founded in 1971 and is a famous tourist spot next to the popular Hyeopjae Beach. Hallim Park reaches almost 100,000 square meters and has many different gardens with plants, animals, and caves.

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Feeding the small parrots

After the “Palm Tree Avenue”, visitors can see the “Wild grass & Flower Garden”, the “Jeju Stone & Bonsai Garden”, the “Stone Exhibit Hall” and the “Water Garden”. The “Hyeopjae & Ssangyong Caves” are known as the only two-dimensional caves in the world. The “Jae-Am Folk Village” dscn9745includes several traditional houses. Visitors get the chance to feed small parrots, see beautiful peacocks and ostriches in the “Bird Garden”. Here some birds are also allowed to walk freely through the park. In the “Subtropical Garden” live different types of animals as turtles, snakes, and lizards. I liked that the birds had the chance to walk freely. But – and I don’t want to start a long and tiring discussion now- but I had the feeling that the terrariums in the “Subtropical Garden” were a bit too small for the animals. And I think that’s a pity because the gardens are really beautiful but, in my opinion, visitors can enjoy their visit so much more when they have the feeling that the animals feel well in the park (whereupon I also do not want to impute something).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Besides the listed gardens, there are also smaller ones which are open in different months as the “Cherry Blossom Garden” in April. We dscn9618were almost three hours in the park, I really underestimated the size of it. The entry fees were 10,000 Won ( ~9$). I would recommend the park, it was really beautiful and fun to see all the plants and animals. My highlights were feeding the small parrots, the avenue with the little Grandfathers at the beginning of the “Wild grass & Flower garden”, but also the “Bonsai Garden” with little trees which were several hundred years old, the “Palm Tree Avenue” and the little houses of the “Jae-Am Folk Village”.

White sand beaches and clear blue water

Our last stop for the day brought us to Hyeopjae Beach (협재해수욕장). I already wrote in my last article about beautiful beaches with crystal clear blue water which looks like they were stolen from a high glossy magazine. Yes, with this sentence I meant the Hyeopjae Beach on the Western part of Jeju. I don’t know how full the beach is in a high season since we were there in mid of October. There were still several people relaxing at the beach. The coast is around nine kilometres long, has beautiful white sand and lava rocks. The water is for a long time very shallow when you walk in. I think swimming is only allowed with a lifeguard in high season.

Click here to read part I:
Jeju – The vacation paradise of South Korea Pt. I