In a city such as Seoul in Korea there’s no shortage of things to do at any hour. It does require strong night vision though
Seoul Namsan Tower doesn’t actually stay open until particularly late at night, and actually closes at midnight which makes it a great place to get a birds-eye view of the level of vibrancy of this city. Heading to the top of the tower after dark is a must for a panoramic view over sprawling Seoul, which is transformed into a sea of illuminated skyscrapers and neon-lit streets at night.
Situated on top of a mountain (of course), Seoul Namsan Tower is hugely popular with Korean couples, many of whom leave a padlock shut tight on the railings outside Seoul Tower to signify their endless love (there, see what happens when you cant sleep). Whether you are visiting Seoul with your partner, family, friends or alone, the breathtaking night views from Seoul Namsan Tower make it an essential part of any tour of Seoul’s nightlife and the best preparation for your slow descent in to madness. Here we go…
Koreans are obsessed with computer games. In fact, South Korea is one of the few countries in the world where being good at Starcraft can earn you a decent living and make you into a minor celebrity. But playing these types of games in Korea isn’t the same solitary, bedroom-bound experience that it is in the rest of the world.
Seoul is littered with PC ‘bangs’. ‘Bang’ is the Korean word for ‘room’, so is generally used for just about any group activity within 4 walls. Similar to an internet cafe with the main important difference that all the PCs are loaded with popular games such as Starcraft or League of Legends.
If PC games aren’t really your thing, perhaps a Playstation bang will be more to your tastes. Very few Koreans have a video games console at home, so Seoul provides plenty of places where Koreans can access a widescreen TV and the latest games titles. Evidently, the only game most people really care about though is Winning 11 (the Asian title for FIFA’s rival, Pro Evolution Soccer), and any Playstation bang you visit in Seoul will be full of guys playing it at full volume.
And of course there are some who simply wish to watch a screen as opposed to interacting with it and that’s more than catered for in South Korea whether it’s at a cinema or a ‘DVD bang’, it’s never too late to watch the latest movies in Seoul. Most big cinemas in Seoul will have screenings all night long. If you want a little bit more privacy, along with a far greater range of movies to choose from, you can head to one of Seoul’s DVD or ‘multi’ bangs, many of which are open through the night and from a western point of view it’s not unlike hiring a loungeroom. Comfort is paramount in Seoul’s DVD and multi bangs so most DVD and multi bangs ask you to take your shoes off inside your private room where you’’l generally find a cushioned floor or oversized sofa from which to view the enormous television or wall-projected video.
In Korean culture, it’s unusual for young people to live away from their families before marriage, which has a lot to do with the popularity of these establishments in Seoul; they’re one of the few places young couples can go to spend a night in total privacy.
There are also the 24 hour Gyms or Jimibangs,a kind of spa that is massively popular throughout Seoul and the rest of Korea. You’ll have no problem finding one anywhere in Seoul, no matter what time of day or night it is. Here you can soak in all manner of hot baths, get a rough scrub down from the staff, sweat it out in a sauna and generally purify yourself of the stress that a massive city like Seoul can foster. Jimjilbangs also double as an extremely cheap accommodation option, with a space in a jimjilbang’s sleeping area and full use of its spa facilities costing as little as $5 a night.
Koreans work long hours, with Seoul’s office workers often facing unpredictable requests to do overtime long into the night. As a result, many of Seoul’s facilities operate 24 hours, day and night, so that the city’s massive workforce can access facilities whenever their schedules permit. The overall facilities are much the same as in any western country, but jimjilbangs are a uniquely Korean experience.
Of course, nightclubs and karaoke bars are not so unique, however there aren’t many places (if any) that indulge in them with the fervour of the Koreans. You don’t have to walk far to find a rowdy Korean restaurant or 24-hour kareoke room or Noraebang.Even so, there are three areas in particular that stand out from the crowd as Seoul’s party districts: Gangnam, Hongdae and Itaewon.
Doubtless, you have heard the word Gangnam, a district made famous in Psy’s global smash hit Gangnam Style. What you might not have realised is that the song actually satirises the pretty young things of Seoul’s wealthiest district, who spend their days sitting in coffee shops on streets such as Rodeo street (yes, as in Drive) and their nights tearing up nightclubs such as Answer or Club Octagon where you could, with the right connections, enjoy private VIP bunkers, a swimming pool for the club’s dancers
and a VIP lift.
Not far from Rodeo Street’s conspicuous consumption is Moonjar, a hot spot for Gangnam’s beautiful people with a much more flexible door policy. Here you’ll find a post-modernish collision of old and new in which worn floorboards, old school-style desks and vintage lamps meet contemporary music and attitude. The snacks – a seafood and green onion pancake (haemul pajeon) and spicy octopus – are tasty and the liquor is the very-gulpable milky makgeolli rice wine.
Nearby Apujeong and Chungdam are two of the hottest, hippest night spots in Seoul, but they’re also the most expensive as it’s Korea’s fashion mecca, formed as a cultural zone where you would go for leading fashion trends,international brand shops with high-quality goods, hip hop fashion shops, and accessory shops. Theaters such as Cineplus, and Nanta Theater (non-verbal performances) have also moved into the area so it’s now a full-blown cultural zone.
Leaning more toward the student fraternity (and therefore more affordable) is the Hongdae, which just might be the largest nightlife area on the planet, let alone in Seoul. ‘Dae’ is the Korean word for university, and Hongdae is the area surrounding Hongik University, Seoul’s most modern and cutting edge arts university. With a number of other universities also surrounding Hongdae, this part of Korea has become a teeming network of bars, clubs and restaurants, with young Korean indie bands often playing out on the streets at night time, trying to make a name for themselves. As you do.
Finally, if you’re tiring of Korea, a little slice of home can be found in Itaewon – wherever you come from.South Korea is one of the world’s most ethnically homogeneous countries, but you’d never guess that if you’d landed directly in Itaewon, which hosts foreigners from all over the world. Naturally, these foreign settlers in Korea have brought little bits of their home cultures over with them, so expect to see Irish pubs nestled up beside Indian restaurants, or Mexican food being sold right next to Thai.
Whatever your tastes, you’re never likely to go hungry or bored for long at nightime in Seoul.
With a remarkably low crime rate, the only real danger when indulging in South Korea’s nightlife is that you might not get home before sunrise.