By Drew Goldberg of The Hungry Partier
The lifestyle in this city is incredibly fast-paced, yet amazing in every aspect. The food is mouth-watering, the people are kind and the fascinating culture teaches me something new every day. But most of all, I’ve never experienced a city that has a more exciting and energetic nightlife than Seoul.
I’ve been to over 40 countries since 2012. I spent 5 months studying abroad in Prague. I’ve partied in almost every big city in Europe, the USA and a large majority of Asia. Nothing that I’ve experienced is even close to Seoul. Who knows, maybe the volume of people (25+ million) alone has something to do with it. In any regard, if you are a party animal like myself, then book your flight to Seoul as soon as possible to join the fun.
Aspects of nightlife are ingrained into Korean culture. Drinking booze is a common social event, as it can be seen in restaurants and bars on a daily basis. This really gives Seoul such a special vibe- where the locals are the partiers. There are too many cities that I’ve been to where the expats and tourists make up 80% of the nightlife scene. While this can still be fun, it slightly takes away from the authenticity of a night on the town. No matter where you go around Seoul, you are bound to see locals clinging glasses together and getting (almost) drunker than they can handle.
They say that New York is the city that never sleeps. Every time I hear that, I just cringe inside because no one ever hears about the potential of Seoul. Around the city, there are 5 major nightlife districts. On any given night, you can expect bars and clubs to be open until 8AM or until the last person walks out the door. Moreover, some of the bigger clubs have “after hours” until 10AM where people can be seen dancing until they physically can’t move their bodies anymore.
But my favorite part about Seoul’s nightlife are the Korean BBQ restaurants that stay open 24 hours, to cater the needs of drunk people stumbling out of the clubs. If I come home before the sun rises on a weekend day without a hearty Korean BBQ meal in my belly, then something doesn’t feel right.
No matter whether you prefer electronic music dance clubs, chill rooftop pubs, swanky bars or any combination of the three, you are guaranteed to find more venues than you can imagine around this magical place.
The 5 major nightlife areas around Seoul are Gangnam, Itaewon, Hongdae, Sincheon and Apgujong. I will briefly describe each below:
Gangnam– As made famous by Psy’s Gangnam Style pop song, this area is the main district for Seoul’s luxurious and posh nightclubs. Gangnam is compared to the “Beverly Hills” of Seoul with it’s wealth and fashion. Basically, this is where all of the celebrities and rich folks hang out and spend ridiculous amounts of money, but’s also trending for young 20-somethings who want to party all night. All the best clubs are here.
Itaewon– Itaewon is the foreigner district of Seoul, but it’s also gaining popularity for young to middle-aged Koreans. Here, you will find several bars (some fancy, some casual), as well as various night clubs and pubs. The healthy mix of foreigners and locals gives Itaewon a unique feel that’s always full of energy.
Hongdae– This is the ultimate hipster area of Seoul. Go here to see young Korean trends and fashion at it’s finest. Hongdae is like a college campus, because there are several big Universities around the area. Everything in Hongdae is cheap, and there are more bars and clubs than I can count. It’s always crowded, and the street vendors/local restaurants stay open 24 hours.
Sincheon– Sincheon is nearly an extension of Hongdae. It’s just one metro stop away, and this area also has a college feel to it. There is a main strip lined up with bars and clubs that are cheap and fun. It’s always a good idea to start the night in Sincheon, and then head over to Hongdae (or visa versa).
Apgujeong– This area is another trendy nightlife hub, that’s located next to Gangnam. Rodeo drive is where all the craziness happens, with some of the priciest clubs and deluxe hotels in Seoul. If you’re not on a strict budget, then go to Apgujeong for dinner and drinks before heading out to Gangnam (but seriously prepare your wallets).
With that being said, here are 4 more reasons why I claim Seoul to have the #1 nightlife in the world!
1. Night Clubs like Las Vegas
The clubbing scene in Seoul (particularly in Gangnam) is as good, if not better, than Las Vegas. And if you haven’t ever been clubbing in Vegas before, I am talking about the multi-level venues with massive dance floors, world-famous DJ’s, top-notch sound systems, lazer beams, and packed to the brim with young partiers. The scene makes Seoul one of the most attractable cities for famous DJ’s to play shows, as the crowd is wild and out to have a good time. I love being the only foreigner inside the club, and dancing in a sea of Koreans.
However, it’s important to note that the clubs are not cheap. Cover charges are typically $20-$40 (depending on the event), and drink prices are outrageously expensive. Luckily, your admission ticket always comes with a drink!
From my experiences, it’s easy to meet someone who is on the guest list. Most of the time, you just have to say a name of a person and you can get into the club free of charge. That being said, if you are coming to Seoul anytime soon, contact me and I’ll give you my connections!
2. Work Hard, Play Hard Mentality
Korean people are arguably the most hard-working of any culture in the world. Their strong work ethic can be seen in their long over hours of work, striving to make the extra dollar. But it’s efficient work, not lazy procrastination. Street vendors will set up shops when it’s below freezing outside. Businessmen wake up at 5AM and get home at 12AM. It’s pure dedication.
But they all start at a young age, especially with the education system. At my job as an English teacher, I see first-hand how students are extremely overworked. Kids go to school in the morning, then after school they will go to a private academy where they will study until night. Then, they’ll do homework until they fall asleep. They barely have enough time to eat or enjoy any of their hobbies.
Why am I telling you this? Because all of their hard work makes them go absolutely wild on the weekends. It’s like Koreans are antisocial during their jobs, and then transform into party maniacs on the weekend.
3. Soju- The Famous Korean Liquor
Soju, oh Soju. What a love-hate relationship we all have with you.
For those who have never heard of soju before, it’s a Korean rice liquor that is the #1 most consumed alcoholic beverage in the world. Even more impressive, some 62 million cases of soju were sold last year, as it accounts for upwards of 93% of all liquor sales in Korea.
The taste is somewhat similar to sake of Japan- a dry watered down-vodka taste. The alcohol content is only 20%, so it’s about half as strong as your average rum or whisky. But the best part about it all? An entire bottle of this stuff (360 ml) is about $1USD.
Yes, you read that correctly. One United States dollar can buy you one entire bottle of soju. Drink 2 or 3 bottles to yourself, and good luck walking home.
Now you can see why Koreans drink so much – it’s almost like someone is paying you to drink soju! Walk into any Korean BBQ restaurant and see dozens of soju bottles on the tables, with people taking shots in between every single bite of meat. It’s bizarre. I’ve really never seen anything like it in my life.
So, as you might imagine, Korean people’s love for drinking can be related to the lively, energetic and uplifting nightlife scene.
Koreans aren’t messing around when it comes to having fun!
4. Everything is Open Until Sunrise
Every day of the week, most bars and clubs in the major nightlife areas will remain open into the wee hours of the morning. Especially on weekends, they stay crowded into the sun rises.
There have been times where I was out partying at a club until 9AM (yes, nine in the morning), and I had to push my way to the exit door because it was so crowded. It’s become a normal experience to walk out of a club to bright morning sunlight, and immediately seek out the nearest Korean BBQ joint.
If your not ready to go home yet, then step into a karaoke room with a group of friends. They are seen all over Seoul, and they are also open 24 hours. Pay a small fee, and get a private room with snacks and beer delivered to you on trays.
All night partying is the Korean way of life, and it’s the best.
Are you sold yet? If you are a social person who enjoys a fun night on the town, then add Seoul to your Asian bucket list. And call me when you get here, if you want a local to show you around!