8 Ways to Survive the Sweltering Seoul in Summer

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Photo by travel oriented via Flickr
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Words by Conor O’Reilly

Heat and humidity in Seoul in summer are unbearable. Complaining about it is the activity of choice for many a Seoulite during the hot season. Here at 10 Magazine we want to shun this negativity. We won’t succumb to these anti-summer feelings any longer, and neither should you! But what can be done to thrive without spending a fortune on air conditioning and ice cream?

By being positive and active of course! Getting out and embracing all the city has to offer is a sure-fire way of making the most of the summer heat.

Tips for Surviving Seoul in Summer

Get wet

What better way to cool down than a splash at a park? In Seoul, there are three options. First, you can stop at one of the many popular pools along the Han. Second, take a dip in one of Seoul’s hotel pools – Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon (line 6) and the Grande Walkerhill Seoul offer good options. A third option would be a trip to one of Korea’s many water parks.

Head to your local market

They’re hot, sweaty, and have low air circulation, but what makes markets worthwhile for a hot summer are the seasonal fruits and vegetables on sale for a steal. Not only are watermelons at rock-bottom prices, but Korean yellow melons, cucumbers, and tomatoes are sold at half the price of supermarkets. Local markets are also the best places to find unpackaged seasonal plums, peaches, and grapes. Refrigerate for added refreshment.

Cold noodles (냉면)

noodles cold naengmyun

Seoul caters the best in climate-appropriate sustenance, and August’s specialties are cold noodles, perfect for lunch on a stifling day. The always-popular mul-naengmyeon (물냉면) and spicy bi bim-naengmyeon (비빔냉면) are available everywhere. Savory makguksu (막국수) is made with fuller buckwheat noodles and includes a hearty dollop of gochujang. Check out our list of Top 10 Korean Delicacies to Battle the Heat.

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Go shopping

Walking around shopping in Seoul during August isn’t a big deal, provided you choose carefully where you shop Seoul’s vibrant, eclectic, and air-conditioned shopping malls are the new face of old Seoul, offering everything from international and Korean style essentials to electronics and books. A brief list includes Coex Mall at Samseong Station, the award-winning D-Cube City in Sindorim, Times Square in Yeongdongpo, Enter 6 in Wangsimni, and I-Park Mall in Yongsan.

Samgyetang (삼계탕)

Yes, it’s true – that is, the Korean rumor that boiling-hot samgyetang soup will help you cope with Seoul’s energy-sucking humidity. This hearty dish of boiled chicken stuffed with rice, ginseng, and other local roots and herbs has a home-cooked goodness that will leave you licking the bowl. Ideal for replenishing your electrolytes, samgyetang fires up the kick in your step needed to get through long and hot summer days. For other healthy summer eating tips, read 5 Tips for Healthy Summer Eating.

Head down to the Han River

seoul hangang river park

There are tons of fun things to do and activities at the Han River during summer. Slicing Seoul in two, the giant Han River Park serves as the perfect escape from the busy city streets. Bike and walking paths pass the manicured parkland, ideal for enjoying the cooling river breeze. Bring a basket and have a romantic summer picnic as the sun sets over the 63 Building. For a list of parks in Seoul, check out our 10 Magazine Parks Directory Listings.

Patbingsu (팥빙수)

Patbingsu is described perfectly as a “frozen dessert bibimbap.” Other than a mountain of shaved ice and sweet red beans, there are no set ingredients in patbingsu. Topping variations include nuts, fruit, rice cakes, condensed milk, and candy. Servings are made for two or more, so bring a friend and share! Good patbingsu is available at many coffee shops during the summer.

Get out of the city

Korea’s August traffic is infamous as everyone races to leave the asphalt-covered city. Skip the highway by opting to use the metro and public buses to nearby destinations (for a list of apps to download, check out The Top 5 Apps to Download If You Live in South Korea). Incheon’s west coast island ferries to Deokjeokdo or Ijakdo are accessible via line 1, and real makguksu in Chuncheon is a skip and a hop away on the ITX line. You can also head north to Bukhansan National Park on lines 1 and 7 or Gwanaksan Mountain via Line 2.