Ok, so it's not an April-specific event, but when better to watch the Deoksugang Palace Royal Guard Changing Ceremony than with warm clear skies? Held three times a day (except Mondays) in good weather (at 11:00, 14:00 and 15:30) in front of the Daehanmun Gate of Deokstgung Palace, the ceremony lasts for thirty minutes and involves traditional musical instruments, a patrol and impressive costumes.
Seoul itself is a very interesting place to visit with plenty to do, fantastic food and some superb luxury hotels. If you have an early departure or late arrival, the Grand Hyatt Incheon is near the airport, but nothing like the standard airport hotel. Within Seoul, chains include JW Marriott, Westin, Park Hyatt, Ritz Carlton and Conrad, so something for everyone!
Busan sand festival, held on the beautiful Haeundae beach, is held each year in June and expected to take place from 10th-14th in 2015. There is usually a huge range of impressive sculptures including buildings, animals and recreations of mythical legends. In addition to the sculptures, the beach also plays host to a volleyball competition and the infamous hot sand baths, said to be beneficial for health and beauty (they involve being buried from neck to toe under the warm sand). In the evening, concerts and fireworks provide entertainment and this is a good opportunity to try the sushi for which Busan is famous.
We haven't visited Busan yet, but would recommend staying in either the Park Hyatt with fantastic views over the city or the Paradise Hotel, a member of Leading Hotels of the World.
We at d2t are huge fireworks fans, so the festival in Seoul has certainly caught our eye and is on the list! Scheduled to take place on October 9th in 2015, this extravaganza features displays from a range of countries, who show a range of pyrotechnics. Held in Hangang Park each year, the event starts at 19:45 and lasts just over an hour. Music, lights and a laser show add to the atmosphere of thousands of fireworks exploding over the Hangang river. The display is rounded into an event by additional activities including face painting, caricature drawing and a balloon art festival.
Note that this is a very popular event with over a million visitors each year, so you will need to arrive early to secure a good viewing spot and take care when using public transport.
During the month of Buddha's birthday, brightly coloured lotus lanterns cover the temples and are strung down the streets. Often, lanterns contain candles and Buddhists write their name and wish on a piece of paper attached to the bottom. The day itself (May 25th in 2015) is a public holiday allowing all to join in the celebrations. It is common for temples to provide a free meal and tea to all visitors (often vegetable bibimbap).
Outside of the temples, people enjoy themselves in parks and gardens, with traditional games and skipping to keep all entertained. Masked dancers and acrobatic shows add to the spectacle and, in Seoul, the evening brings an impressive lantern parade.
The Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated across Asia, particularly by people of Chinese origin. Starting on September 26th in 2015, the festival runs for three days and is a time when families come together, share meals and exchange gifts. Traditionally, the eldest son gives thanks to the family's ancestors and the entire family celebrates by dancing by moonlight, generally wearing traditional brightly coloured outfits.
The first morning, delicious food is prepared from the recent harvest using grains and fruits. Of particular significance are small cakes made from rice flour and filled with sesame seeds, honey or dates. These are often imparted as gifts, which are similar to the Chinese mooncakes.
In addition to celebrating the end of a hopefully bountiful harvest, the festival is a time to worship ancestors. As such, it is common for Koreans to sweep the tombs of the relatives up to four generations back.