Seoul is an enormous city with a buzzing 24 hour culture. The South Korean capital city’s streets are never empty, though most are far quieter mid-morning than they are at midnight. If you’re planning on visiting the South Korean capital, you definitely want to check out Seoul’s nightlife. These are the five most exciting areas in Seoul when the sun goes down.
Hongdae is a serious contender for the largest nightlife area on the planet. This sprawling area surrounding Hongik University stretches out into nearby areas Hapjeong, Sangsu, Sincheon and the streets surrounding Ewha Women’s University, with each of these being served by their own subway stations.
If you walk the streets behind Hongik University subway station’s Exit 9, you will find buskers and street performers pulling in crowds during both the day and night. There are countless bars, clubs and restaurants in the area with something to suit all tastes.
The largest clubs can be found in the streets running between Hongik University and Sangsu stations, with two of the most famous among Koreans being Cocoon and Noise Basement. Gogo’s caters to a more international crowd, with its basement rock club FF playing rock and indie classics long into the morning. The Children’s Play Park, across the street from the main university building, is a popular hang-out spot. Revellers can grab cheap drinks from any of the nearby convenience stores and watch local bands and even regular Korean freestyle rap battles. If you master the language, you might even consider getting involved yourself!
Thanks to Psy’s global megahit ‘Gangnam Style’, this is the party area in Seoul that will probably be highest on most visitors’ must-see places. A huge tribute to Psy’s single has been erected near Gangnam station Exit 11, making it a popular place for tourists to pose for photographs.
The streets running parallel to the main street near Exit 10 and Exit 11 of Gangnam station are host to the majority of the area’s bars, restaurants and clubs. The most popular clubs here are Mass and Noise Basement – a branch of the same club that can be found in Hongdae.
Many locals and experienced visitors will recommend visiting clubs a little further out, however, with a few of the major hotels in the area having popular clubs built beneath them.
Itaewon is the international area of Seoul and is a favorite hang-out spot for ex-pats of all nationalities. If you’re interested in watching virtually any international sport, you’re likely to find an Irish pub or American-style sports bar that’s showing it. This is the best place in Seoul to sample international cuisine. There are restaurants from just about every corner of the globe here, with the majority of them serving highly authentic food cooked by ex-pats from that nation. There are also a few places that serve fusion Korean- international food. Vatos, a fusion Korean-Mexican restaurant, is one of the most popular – but be prepared to wait a while to get served!
There are also a large number of clubs in this area, with most serving up more eclectic and international music styles than the EDM that is typical of most Korean clubs.
If you’re sick of spending your nights in Seoul partying, Dongdaemun offers late-night shopping and a wide array of both street food vendors and restaurants. In Korea, most stores are open until 10 or 11pm every day of the week, so late-night shopping really does mean late-night shopping in Dongdaemun, where many stores are open until 3am or later.
The area is hugely popular with Chinese and Japanese tourists, with most attracted by the possibility of picking up trendy Korean fashion at bargain prices. But in order to get those bargain prices, you need to be prepared to haggle!
One of the unique things about Dongdaemun is the live stage shows near the largest shopping malls put on outside to attract customers. Expect to see big crowds gathering to watch K-pop groups on the road to stardom perform here at peak times.
Gangnam has a reputation for being upmarket when compared to areas like Hongdae and Itaewon, but Gangnam is a few steps below Cheongdam, where the real rich kids of Korea go to play. This wealthy area plays host to some of the most exclusive clubs in Seoul. You can expect big clubs full of beautiful people, but be prepared to pay a lot more for your drinks for the privilege!
Nightlife With a Local
Seoul is a truly 24 hour city that has something for everyone, whatever the time. If you’re planning a trip to the South Korean capital, you might want to ditch early-morning wake-up calls and instead get with the late night Korean schedule. In fact, you’ll find many coffee shops and restaurants are closed until 10am or later. Unlike a lot of cities in Europe and North America, it’s usually easier to do just about anything in Seoul at 9pm than it is at 9am.
But be careful. Seoul is large and it’s easy to get lost or disorientated if you’re not a native speaker. That’s why having a local show you around is a great idea. Locals can help you easily navigate Seoul and find all the best places to shop, eat, and have fun.
To meet locals, visit Citysurfing.com. On Citysurfing you can meet and book locals in Seoul that are available to help first time travellers and people relocating.
There are Seoul locals that will show you around; locals that offer tour guide services; locals that provide translation, photography, and videography services; and even locals that do pick ups, drop offs and drive-arounds.
It’s a great way to experience Seoul with locals and make new friends at the same time.