(Originally published by The Culture Trip)
Travel wisdom has it that Seoul is to be avoided in July due to the influx of tourists to South Korea’s capital. However, avoid Seoul in the summer would be to avoid three months of fantastic culture, ranging from traditional court music to K-Pop, taking place in both traditional royal palaces and the Zaha Hadid-designed Design Plaza. There is something for everyone this summer, but here are ten highlights.

Art | Gwanghwamoon International Art Festival Part 2

25 June – 8 July

Following the success of the art fair’s first showing in May and June of 2014, the Gwanghwamoon International Art Festival return in July and August to showcase 500 of Korea’s finest patriate modern and contemporary art and a curated selection of international artists. As well as a variety of mediums being represented in the fair itself, including Eastern and Western painting, sculpture, works on paper and engraving, visitors also have the chance to learn some of the artistic methods themselves in a series of hands-on workshops and demonstrations open to all from the curious to the creative.

Sejong Centre, Gwanghwarang, Seoul, South Korea, +82 2 7239 4847

Music | AIA Real Life Now Festival

14 – 15 August

From art to ARTPOP…the stars of Korea’s biggest cultural export, K-Pop, will be out in force for this two day music festival. The first day sees the impressive roster of YG Records’ internationally huge acts perform, including 2NE1 and the multi-billion-times viewed Psy. This is followed by the incomparable travelling pop performance art of Lady Gaga, who headlines the second day. A must see for the dedicated millions of super fans for all the acts, anyone who likes to see a good show, or in fact anyone interested in what is one of the biggest cultural phenomenons of our time.

Jamsil Sports Complex, 10 Jamsil-dong, Seoul, South Korea, + 82 2 2240 8876

Theatre | NANTA Theatre

Performances Daily

If you have not already seen this show, then you must go this summer. After all, NANTA has now been seen by over 15 million people worldwide. From its first performance in Seoul it has been seen by audiences all over the globe, from the Edinburgh Festival in the United Kingdom to off-Broadway in New York. Every day, there are six performances over three Seoul theatres of this non-verbal comedy show, which tells the story of the preparation of a wedding banquet through dance, comedy, magic and traditional samui nori rhythms. So there is really no excuse to miss what has really become a cultural institution in its own right.

Myeongdong NANTA Theatre, 50-14 Myeongdong 2(i)-ga, Seoul, South Korea, +82 2 739 8288

Nanta Theatre, Soeul
Courtesy Nanta Theatre


Film | Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival

22 – 27 July

Now in its 18th year, the Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival (SICAF), looks set to be animated in more ways than one. A real display of the variety of animation being made globally, categories range from internet shorts to feature length animation. This year, however, offers far more than just screenings, with parades, popups and street screening being amongst the many events planned for every from the aficionado of the animated to the cartoon loving kid. If nothing else, it is worth a visit for being the only film festival to have a talking chilli pepper as its mascot.

Seoul Animation Centre, 126 Sopa-ro, Seoul, South Korea, + 82 2 3455 8437

Music | Music at the Royal Palaces

4 May – 13 October

Already an essential visit in its own right, a trip to Changdeokgung Palace is even more rewarding this summer. Every Sunday morning, visitors to the longest-serving royal palace and UNESCO World Heritage Site will be met with musicians playing traditional court music in what was previously the totally private queen’s residential area. This is part of a wider ‘music at the royal palaces’ series that also includes a programme of folk music and fairytales at the Deoksugung Palace and many other events in Seoul’s other beautiful imperial palaces blending court music and other forms of culture, both traditional and modern.

Changdeokgung Palace, 99 Yulgok-ro, Seoul, South Korea, +82 2 762 8261

Design | Coco Chanel: The Sense of Places

30 August – 5 October

As summer comes to an end and people everywhere have to make decisions about their autumn and winter wardrobes, pay a visit to this exhibition celebrating the influences of one of the chicest people of all time. The exhibition considers how locations influenced Chanel’s work, and so it is fitting that the exhibitions is taking place in a pretty spectacular location itself, the fairly recently opened Dongdaemun Design Plaza designed by Zaha Hadid. When the building itself has finished impressing, the exhibition offers many signature Chanel pieces alongside a wealth of archive material to illuminate the fine work of the signature fashion designer.

Dongdaemum Design Plaza, Seoul, South Korea, +82 2 2153 0000

Art | Beyond Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay

3 May – 31 August

Quite simply a must-see exhibition. Tracing perhaps the most important shift in all art history, Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay features works from the entire impressionist era. This means the chance to see works from seminal artists, many in South Korea for the first time ever — Van Gogh, Monet, Cézanne and Gauguin are all represented here to name just four. However, these works were also specially selected from one of the world’s finest collections of impressionist art, Paris’ Musée d’Orsay, a guarantee to their quality and their importance to the impressionist movement, as well as a guarantee that these impressionist works will have an impression on any visitor.

National Museum of Korea, 137 Seobinggo-ro, Seoul, South Korea, +82 22077 9000

Art | Then and Now : The National Academy of Arts’ 60th Anniversary

26 April – 27 July

Faced with blockbuster exhibitions like the Musée d’Orsay show, it can be easy to forget the rich and diverse history of Korea’s homegrown artists. This is exactly the problem the National Academy of Arts was set up to counteract, and the organisation is now celebrating six decades with a blockbuster show of its own. This is a show not only showing the illustrious past of the organisation, but also looking forward into Korea’s seemingly bright artistic future, with the exhibition fairly evenly split between deceased masters of the academy and current members who are driving art in areas well worth visiting this exhibition to see.

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, 30 Samcheong-ro, Seoul, South Korea, +82 2 3701 9500

Film | Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

17 July to 27 July

Taking place in Seoul’s sister city of Puchon (or Buchon), 16 miles away from the capital, the PiFan is one of the world’s foremost genre film festivals which has focused on showing thriller, mystery, horror, fantasy and science fiction films in the 17 years it has been running. This year, the festival’s main theme is ‘Love, Fantasy, Adventure’, an overarching theme that allows a great variety of film types to be shown, a combination of populist and acclaimed film with programmes dedicated to short films, animation, world cinema and a special celebration of the 60th birthday of everyone’s favourite giant monster lizard, Godzilla.

Various Locations, Buchon, South Korea, +032 327 6313

Culture | Culture Day

Last Wednesday of every month

If the idea of many of these events appeal, but the attached admission price does not, then be sure to remember the last Wednesday of every month. To encourage wider involvement in arts and culture, on the day most of Seoul’s biggest institutions are open either for free of for highly reduced costs. This includes not just the museums and galleries (where up to 7000 won per person can be saved) but also tickets for many theatres, ballets and orchestras. The government is even in talks to further this scheme to include reduced price cinema tickets. All in all then, it really is the making of a wonderful (and wonderfully cheap) Wednesday.

Various Location, Seoul, South Korea, +82 44 203 2000


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s