South Korean Nightlife

Like a good party? You’re in for a treat. Seoul is arguably one of the unsung super-spots of the Asian nightlife scene, and has an even growing international pull, drawing in more and more world-class musicians and DJs. The superclubs are growing, too, especially around the Itaewon (expat) area, the Hongdae (University) district and the upmarket Apgujeong region. Nights out run very, very late and can cost surprisingly little (if you’re not in Apgujeong).

In fact, a good night in Seoul can easily roll on until breakfast. Many’s the time we’ve partied until the subway began to run again at 5am, and most of the bars will happily stay open to accommodate us, staying open until the bulk of the crowd’s left. Other cities also have impressive nightlife, though Seoul is undoubtedly the king on the partying side of things.

If you want to party on a budget, beer and the local spirit Soju are the way to go. In many places, you’ll pay around W3000 for a pint of beer, though imported beer costs a great deal more. Soju comes in at an astonishingly cheap W1000 for a 500ml bottle, which considering the liquor is typically around 20% alcohol is a pretty potent purchase. It’s often drunk alongside beer by locals, with the beer washing down the chemical taste of the Soju. It’s traditional to start the evening with a meal out, which is also far more affordable in Korea, and head on to the abundant pubs and clubs afterwards.

Of course, if you want to be flashy, Seoul’s going to cost like anywhere else, but then again you’ll get what you paid for. Some of the more luxurious bars are really special, such as the Ice Bar in the Hongdae district (which includes and ongoing competition to stay in the bar the longest, with some really impressive records) and Monkey Island, an Apgujeong intitution that feature fire poi and plenty of live music. If you prefer to slum it, the ever popular FF in Hongdae has a great local music scene.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a night out abroad without sampling the bizarre, and South Korea has plenty of its own unique liquor. The slightly more expensive Chungha is a sweet and far more palatable version of Soju, while there’s plenty in the way of creamy rice wine to be had in the more traditionally restaurants. Be sure to drive the flavored Soju, too (yoghurt’s a real beauty).

If you’re heading out of Seoul, you’ll find many of the venues are a touch less original, but also less expensive. The smaller towns are the perfect places to test out those summer Soju tents, or explore the variety of local beers on offer, as well as testing the various odd local liquors – from plum wine to sugarcane liquor – on offer regionally. If you wanted to, you could party the night away every single evening in Korea and still spend less than a big weekend back home. Plenty of expats do, indulging in everything from the super clubs to drinking outside the convenience stores, a strange Asian fashion. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!