Before leaving Korea to move on to Vietnam, we stayed in Seoul for a few days waiting for our visas. This happened to coincide with the Seoul Lantern Festival. It takes place along Cheonggyecheon stream in mid November. This stream is one of the top places to go for a stroll in Seoul, and a major attraction on Trip Advisor. This was our first time visiting the stream area. Admission to the festival was free, and we reached the stream by taking Subway line 2 to the Euljiro 1-ga station and walking for about five minutes. The festival starts at 5:30 pm, after dark. Even though we had to take the kids when we are typically winding down for the night, it was worth it to see the stream lit up with all sorts of lanterns!
There seemed to be a few different types of lanterns at the festival, split up into separate areas. The term “lantern” did not really describe all of the displays on the stream. They were some actual lanterns, but more were light displays with colored fabric. There were lanterns sponsored by companies or promoting tourism to various countries. Some were completely 3D with different things to see on each side of the stream, while others were meant to be viewed only from one side. They were all very colorful and the reflection off of the water was magical.
This series of fish lanterns was at least 20 feet long. All of the fish were strung together and looked like they were swimming through the stream instead of hanging above it! The vibrant colors were awesome as well!
After the sponsored lanterns, there were more historical lanterns that told a story. The theme of this year’s festival was the history of the Han river. The Han runs through the middle of Seoul and as obviously played a huge part in sustaining and building up the city of Seoul from ancient times until now. Lanterns told the story of the river- how these water carriers would walk to the Han and then sell water to Seoulites who lived further away from the river. On a bridge over the stream about halfway down the festival walk, a hot-air balloon was available for “hot-air balloon rides.” Since it is in the middle of the city, the hot-air balloon stayed tied to the bridge, and just went up and down slightly. I guess the main point of the ride would be to see the lanterns on the stream from above. Landon did love watching it fire up and go up in the air though. With it all lit up, it looked like a giant lantern!
Many of the lanterns in this more historical section had signs in Korean and English explaining their significance. It was nice to know what each lantern meant.Landon loved trying to figure out the story behind the lanterns, and Owen just liked all the bright colors.
As we walked along the stream, we kept seeing kids with these light up bug balloons. Typically, these balloons cost and we were not about to buy one for Landon. Much to his delight, we found the booth section of the lantern festival and one of the business booths was giving out the balloons! I think for Koreans, they had to sign up for something, or give them an email address or something, but they saw Landon and Owen and gave them balloons right away. The boys were both thrilled!
Across from the balloon booth was an area to make our own lanterns. These floating lanterns started out as a piece of paper with a plastic shell underneath. We each wrote our wishes on the top, and then put it together and launched it into the stream with a candle in the middle. I wished for a healthy family (I was worried about Vietnam), Landon wished to be a good big brother, Austin wished for prosperity and I made Owen’s wish- to see his soon. Some of our wishes have come true!
We watched our lantern float down the stream as we made our way back to the subway. Even though our kids were up later than usual, this was a wonderful way to cap off our time in Korea. The lanterns were beautiful, whimsical, and informative. I would recommend this festival to anyone in Seoul in mid November. It was a fun night for everyone!