Boooo, the weekend is almost over.
Sorry for the delayed post – I was pretty sick and didn’t do the best job of taking care of myself…as usual. And I had to plan a 40 lesson English winter camp by myself, so, yeah. ANYWAYS I’m back and have a *hopefully* helpful post to help you navigate Korean nightlife.
If you’re planning on visiting Seoul anytime soon, or if you’re just curious about Korean nightlife, or if you love me and want to support my blogging efforts, keep reading! I’ve compiled a list of sorts for typical places to go out to over the weekend when in Seoul:
- Drinking Holes (is that an appropriate translation..?)/술집 – These are the basic spots you’ll see in most neighborhoods all over the country. It’s a pretty inexpensive way to drink if you go with a group of people. *Note* This is NOT like a typical western bar; you cannot go to one of these places to try to mingle with new people. Everyone is sitting in groups with their friends and keeping to themselves. It’s honestly more like a restaurant set up and there’s not much space to walk around and talk to people. If you have a group of people you want to drink with, these spots are perfect. Another note, you HAVE to order food at these places. So either plan on having your dinner once you get there, or eat a small dinner beforehand so you still have room for the anju/안주 (drinking food..?) you’re going to be forced to buy, lol. Also, the anju is usually a pretty big plate of food that is generally 17,000-20,000 won per plate. On the menu, there’s almost always chicken, fries, fruit, and soup options. Depending on how many people you have, you’ll be asked to order more plates.
- Places of note: If you see the words “hof, soju”, you’re looking at a drinking hole. When you walk down the streets, be sure to look up as well as oftentimes these places won’t be on the first floor. ALSO if you happen to see the words ” room, hof, soju” these are cool places where your group gets their own little enclosed room 🙂 I’ve had up to 8 people in one of these, but I wouldn’t recommend many more than that.
- What to drink: Don’t go to one of these places if you’re trying to find anything outside of Korean beer, soju, and bottled makkeoli. That being said, if you like fruity stuff, you can get flavored soju (grapefruit, apple, and green grape are the most frequently found flavors). OR if you hate the taste of alcohol and just want some spiked juice, try cocktail soju! These come in pitchers and are usually in slushy form. They’re super sweet but will definitely get the job done; my friends and I usually order an extra bottle of regular soju and add it to the pitcher.
- Clubs – Clubs in Korea aren’t very different from those in the States from my experience. The men still suck, perhaps a little less, and the music is bumping. Music types will vary by neighborhood and so will the patrons. You can expect to pay 10,000-20,000 won for a cover but you will almost always get a free drink with this. Some clubs are buy one entry, get one free; read more about this below. In the winter, take advantage of the coat checks and bring some cash for it with you. You no longer need to suffer for beauty, haha.
- Places of note:
- Hongdae: Expect a younger crowd in Hongdae – think exchange students, English teachers, and their Korean counterparts. Most clubs here play hip hop/top 40 with hints of EDM. As for places to go to, check out hip hop clubs NB1 and NB2. Get in the short line at NB1 and pay 15,000 won to get in. You’ll get a card for 1 free drink there and then your wristband will have a little slip that you can use at NB2 for a free drink there, too. You can now skip the long line at NB2 and shimmy amongst the masses.
- Gangnam: Expect a very Korean crowd and don’t be surprised if you see signs saying that foreigners are not allowed. Don’t fight it, there are no anti-discrimination laws here Club entries are expensive (up to 30,000 won) and the music is almost 100% EDM. You’ll see some fancy (rich) people while out and the people watching is interesting. Gangnam is a big area, though, so some neighborhoods to check out are Apgujeong, Sinsa, and Cheongdam. As for clubs, Octagon and Ellui are very popular.
- Itaewon: Itaewon is the foreigner district in Seoul. You’ll see a lot of different kinds of people here and many more Western style bars. If you’re looking for a chill place to pre-game cheaply and meet new people, check out Thursday Party. It’s about half korean, half foreign and I always have a good time. Cakeshop is a really fun, small, club that plays a cool mix of electro and hip hop; entry is 20,000 won. Also, be sure to drink before going.
- Places of note:
- Convenience Stores/편의점 – So going to a convenience store to turn up before going out is a pretty foreigner thing to do, but it’s so freaking cheap that I’m not even mad about it. Korea has no open container laws, so buy a couple of bottles of beer or soju and mixers if you please. Soju goes for about 1,500 won (just over $1, y’all!) per bottle and beer isn’t much more. You can also grab paper cups at the counter for free and a straw if you’d like. It’s beautiful, just beautiful. If you’re trying to uh, get the job done the most cost-effective way, this is definitely it. Convenience stores are literally everywhere so pop into one and have a good night! Just be sure to clean up after yourself and don’t be the belligerent foreigner that makes us all look bad, please.
- Karaoke/noraebang/노래방 – Okay, so noraebang is my favorite past time. It is usually round 3 in the sequence of going out activities. Dinner first, then go for drinks at a drinking hole or convenience store, and finally noraebang. Noraebang is nothing like western style karaoke. You pay 1 price for a private room, usually about 15-35,000 won (but this divided between you and your friends – I’ve never paid more than 7,000 won for my portion) for an hour’s worth of singing. No singing in front of a bunch of strangers, and you don’t have to wait 10 years to sing 1 song. Now, I often try to butter up the attendant and say nice things about the atmosphere of the noraebang and the attendants almost always give me “service”. Service is a konglish word meaning freebies! At a noraebang, the service is extra singing time without having to pay more. I was once given an hour and half more of extra time, that man was so nice. As for drinking, people usually go to noraebang tipsy so there’s no need to drink while you’re there (let it be of note, however, that I like to noraebang sober, haha). Also, in Seoul I’ve noticed that verryyyy few of the noraebangs sell alcohol nor do they let you bring it in. Not an issue for me, but just thought I’d let you know. At some point, I’m going to write a more in-depth post about noraebang, so keep a look out for it!
Okay, so now that I’ve written a novel, I hope that those traveling to Seoul will find this helpful! I will have a (much shorter) part 2 to this post coming up later this week in regards to nighttime transportation.