Perhaps it’s due to geographical isolation, but South Korea has gotten pretty good at bringing the world to its shores. Korea is an incredibly hospitable country full of friendly locals, and its thriving capital is no exception.
Seoul, a booming city home to roughly 10 million people, loves to throw a party. A perfect example; the Hi Seoul Festival. Held in both May and October when the city is at its loveliest, Hi Seoul is a fantastic global art experience, and a great to opportunity to enjoy all this thriving metropolis has to offer.
First celebrated in 2003, the Hi Seoul Festival is a perfect balance of art, entertainment, history and culture – popular with natives and international visitors alike. Surprisingly, it was Seoul’s turn as a World Cup host city which inspired this annual global arts extravaganza. Although it’s a bit of a marketing tool, it’s a good one. Despite being a major global city, Seoul tends to be overlooked by international travelers, and Hi Seoul is a great way to bring this diverse hub to the forefront.
The city already boasts a solid arts scene, and Hi Seoul is a perfect way to show it off. In addition to the plethora of global groups and performers, local non-verbal acts are particularly popular with Korean audiences.
Expect a wide array of miming, magic, acrobatics, b-boy performances and other rhythm and dance acts. If literally being part of the action is what you’re looking for, take advantage of the all ages drumming and movement workshops.
The festival’s top draws consistently include dramatic performances, traditional ceremonies, impressive light shows, and – of course – international cuisine. However, past festivals have also featured giant puppets, circus performances, parades, live jazz, fireworks spectaculars and thumping percussion shows – so who knows organizers have on tap for the coming year.
Performances are staged at various spots along the Hangang River, including lovely Yeouido, Seonyudo and Banpo parks. There, visitors are treated to gorgeous views of the Hangang (Han for locals), which snakes through the entire length of the city. Street theatre events, live music and other cultural attractions are also scattered throughout smaller venues and squares throughout Seoul.
Although the main events are tucked along the Han River, don’t forget the action at Gwanghwamun Square, also known at Seoul Plaza. A favorite date and relaxation spot among Seoulites, the area is also home to the lovely Cheonggyecheon Stream and promenade. Throughout the Festival, the Cheonggyecheon is home to some of the most unique art installations the event has to offer. It’s a perfect place to take a small break from the main action and see a very visitor-friendly part of the city.
Seoul has an excellent transportation system, and arriving from either Incheon International Airport or Gimpo is a snap via the AREX train. Once in the city, rely on the fantastically easy subway system for most of your travels between Festival sites. However, cabs are extremely affordable and many offer translation services if necessary.
Seoul is brimming with moderately priced hotels, but if you’re an adventurous traveler try couch surfing or spending the night in a 24 hour sauna.