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Seoul nightlife, Seoul at night

Seoul is a city that wakes up late. She’s groggy, confused and wearing last night’s make-up. She gets up grudgingly, desperate for an iced americano fix – slave to the monotonous schedule of a city full of workaholics that lays before her.

Why? Because Seoul at night is a pulsing, breathing, living thing of beauty full of sparkly lights, noisy restaurants and crowds of people. She literally never goes to sleep, and the options are endless.

Seoul’s nightlife is legendary because it’s one of the world’s only true 24 hour cities. You’ll have an absolute blast discovering just how much there is to do after dark. To get you started, here are 17 tips for where to go in Seoul at night – from insomniac travel bloggers who love the city, and night owl expats that call her home.

Go hiking in Seoul at night

If you visit Korea, and fail to go hiking, you’d be missing out on a passionate national past time. A full 70 percent of the country is mountainous, and the hikes around Seoul, not surprisingly, are the busiest. Hikes on the city’s most popular mountains and trails is notoriously crowded, but go hiking in Seoul at night instead, and you’ll find the solitude nature intended.

For all night hiking in Seoul, there are a few things to keep in mind. All gates for national parks, like Bukhansan, close around 4PM so hiking there after dark is at your own peril. Also, the Seoul subway closes around midnight. Taxis in Seoul are super cheap though, and there are some 24 hour bus routes.

Here’s a few suggestions for where to go hiking in Seoul at night.

seoul city lights at night, next to an old fortress wall

Seoul Fortress Wall

Seoul is hurtling so quickly into the future, sometimes it’s hard to believe it actually has a long and ancient past. Walking next to the remnants of a 14th Century, 18 kilometre Seoul fortress wall is a captivating reminder.

Start your night hiking in the city at the section of the Seoul Fortress wall that runs along Bugaksan Mountain. You can enjoy stunning views of modern Seoul ablaze with lights along the way.

Access is via bus from Anguk Station.

Gwanaksan (관악산)

632 metre tall Gwanaksan sits on the southern boundary of Seoul. It has a few gorgeous temples and marvellous views of the cityscape below. It’s also incredibly convenient to get to, making it one of the busiest mountains in Korea.

There are multiple routes up and down the mountain, but for a hike in Seoul at night, stick to easier paths, rather than scrambling dangerously up rocks. Start near Seoul National University subway station on the west side of Gwanaksan, and descend near Gwacheon Station in the east (or vice versa).

hiking in seoul at night, with a view of the city lit up below

Watching Seoul come to life from the top of Gwanaksan after a night hike (photo by Dawn Kang).

Visit a traditional Seoul night market

Want to know where to go at night for Korean street food, local colour and some of the best shopping in Seoul? Get a window into a traditional way that Seoulites spend the night by visiting one of the markets that can be found all over the city. Many of them are open into the wee hours of the morning.

Namdaemun Market

No visit to Seoul is complete until you’ve entered the bedlam of Namdaemun Market. It’s the oldest and largest traditional market in Korea, and it’s open around the clock. There are thousands of places to explore in the market’s many buildings, but I’d say the real charm of Namdaemun lies in wandering the endless array of street stalls staffed by vendors pitching their wares at the top of their lungs.

> Looking for a unique experience? Fire live rounds with 22mm, 38mm and 9mm guns at the Namdaemun Shooting Range.

Shop for clothes, accessories, housewares, plants, glasses, or pretty much anything else your heart desires. You can try your hand at bartering with skilled vendors, before taking a break at a much needed Korean food stall.

Prepare to get lost and jostled around though – this Seoul night market is huge and seriously crowded.

Seoul night market

Interesting goods on display at the Namdaemun Seoul night market

Gwangjang Traditional Market

Gwangjang traditional market (광장시장) is considered by many to be one of the very best markets in Seoul. And it’s recent feature on Netflix’s South Korea episode of Street Food, has only made it busier. It’s open from 8:30 in the morning, but if you truly want to experience all the chaos of a Korean market, visit in the evening hours.

RECOMMENDED TOUR

Eat at Gwangjang Market on a fully guided night tour, that also includes evening visits to the N Seoul Tower, Changyeonggung Royal Palace, and Jogyesa Temple.


Click to book a night tour of Gwangjang Market

If you’re hungry and need a fun place for dinner, check out Gwangjang Traditional Market in Seoul. It’s one of the oldest and largest markets in Korea.

Walking through the area is sensory overload as there’s Korean street food everywhere. There are rows and rows of vendors selling similar types of foods and lots of people eating and browsing. All you need to do is follow your nose to decide where to eat, sit down at the counter, and enjoy.

a vendor selling food at Gwangjang Market - unique things to do in Seoul at night

Gwangjang Market offers a window into traditional Seoul nightlife (photo by Jackie Szeto & Justin Huynh)

Since there are many food options, you can consider visiting more than one vendor for dinner. Gwangjang market food stalls serve common Korean street foods like gimbap (seaweed and rice roll), sundae (blood sausage), Korean tteokbokki (rice cake with spicy sauce), and bindaetteok (mung bean cake). There’s also sashimi, sushi, and more. Besides eating, you can also shop in the market for household goods, bedding, furniture, clothing, and groceries.

Read more from Jackie Szeto and Justin Huynh at Life Of Doing.

seoul at night - skyscrapers lit up

Seoul at night is full of bright lights and energy

Party the night away at a Seoul club

In a city that never sleeps, you really can party till dawn. Check out Seoul nightlife in Hongdae for a youthful vibe, Itaewon for international flavour, or Gangnam for a luxe experience.

Gangnam Nightlife

Sure, Gangnam was made famous by Psy, but there’s much more to the area than Gangnam Style. There’s so many things to do in Gangnam at night, you’ll get frazzled just trying. Shop amid giant skyscrapers, hang out in a swanky lounge or wine bar, karaoke it up, or dance the night away in a Seoul club.

Some of the best Seoul nightlife is located south of the River, and visiting a club should be at the top of your list of things to do in Gangnam. Check out Syndrome, Arena, Ellui, or The-A to find the Seoul club that fits your vibe.

Undoubtedly though, the most famous club is Club Octagon Seoul – it was ranked the #7 dance club in the world on DJ Mag’s Top 100 Clubs list, in 2018. And it should be on every serious club goers list of places to check out.

PRO TIP

Don’t wait in line! with these exclusive skip-the-line tickets for Club Octagon ONLY on Trazy.


Click to get skip-the-line tickets and drink deals for Club Octagon.

Itaewon Nightlife

Start your night out in Itaewon with a meal at one of the Seoul restaurants that specializes in foreign food. Many of them are owned by expats and you’re more likely to find authentic versions of your favourite international meals here.

I recommend Morococo Cafe across the street in HBC for delicious and affordable Moroccan cuisine. It’s totally worth the small trek over. Once full of fuel, get your groove on till the wee hours at one of the popular Seoul clubs in Itaewon. Check out B-One, Soap Seoul, or Cakeshop.

PUB CRAWL

Tour 3 pubs and 1 club in the Itaewon or Hongdae area + get an entry wristband for 10 MORE clubs in Seoul to explore on your own.


Join a Seoul Pub Crawl and make new friends!

Hongdae Nightlife

Hongdae is touted as a must visit if you’re interested in Seoul nightlife. Surrounded by a number of universities, you can expect lots of live music, street performers, bars, Seoul clubs and restaurants… along with thousands of people.

That is not an exaggeration. This district has blown up in recent years and it seems like ALL of the young and young at heart are flocking to the area on the western side of Seoul. Check out indie bands, K-pop dancers performing in the streets and then head to a restaurant for dinner, and then another place for drinks, followed by another spot for hangover stew. Seoul nightlife is famous and there are vendors that never close, so you could stay out in the area from sundown to sun up… if you want.

Hongdae nightlife - band performing in a Seoul club

Hongdae Nightlife (photo by Hallie Bradley)

If you want to go hard Korean style, try to go five rounds and last until sunrise. Good luck out there!

Find out how to survive a night of drinking in Korea from Hallie of the Soul of Seoul.

Seek out a Seoul night view at a Hangang Park

There are 12 separate (but connected) Hangang Parks lining the Han River in Seoul. Your best bets for an incredible view of Seoul at night are at Banpo Hangang Park, and Yeouido Hangang Park.

For a unique experience, I recommend cycling between the Hangang Parks, and checking out Seoul’s night views along the way.

Yeouido Hangang Park

Yeouido Hangang Park is one of the best places in Seoul to get an epic night view of the city’s skyscrapers. The 63 Building and IFC Seoul Complex form a magnificent skyline that looks even better after the sun has set.

It’s also a great place to feel the vibrancy of Seoul’s nightlife, with locals and tourists converging on the area for picnics and the weekly Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Market.

Seoul at night - fireworks over Yeouido Hangang Park

Yeouido Hangang Park plays host to the International Fireworks Competition every year

Yeouido Hangang Park is also the main docking point for the Hangang River Cruise. Book the Moonlight Cruise, Music Cruise or Fireworks Cruise for amazing views of sleepless Seoul in all its night time glory.

Be sure to get a photo of the city’s tourism slogan sculpture, “I Seoul U,” before you leave Yeouido Hangang Park.

Banpo Hangang Park

Banpo Hangang Park is such a hub for Seoul nightlife, you could easily visit over and over without getting bored. The glowing Some Sevit floating islands, and the Banpodaegyo Bridge rainbow fountain are especially spectacular things to see in Seoul at night.

> Read our Ultimate Guide to Banpo Hangang Park to find out about everything you can do there.

Cycle between both Hangang Parks

If you’re really ambitious, and fancy a little exercise, consider renting a bike and cycling from Banpo Hangang Park to Yeouido Hangang Park or vice versa. Cycling between Seoul’s Hangang Parks, is one of my  absolutely favourite night time activities in Seoul. Bike paths are quieter, the whole city is brilliantly lit up, and there’s a certain solitude about those twilight hours that makes the introvert in me VERY happy.

sunset next to the Han River, with a view of Namsan Tower in the distance

Watching the sun set over Namsam and N Seoul Tower while cycling

The bike rental outlets in the Hangang Parks demand that bicycles are returned by around 7:30PM, so borrow one at any of the Seoul Bike locations around the city. As an added bonus, you can return these bikes to ANY location, so you don’t necessarily have to make a return trip.

Explore Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)

Seoul’s DDP is iconic at any time of the day, but at night, it really comes alive. Here’s what to do in Dongdaemun after the sun goes down.

See the DDP LED Rose Garden (temporarily closed for renovations)

The field of 25,550 Dongdaemun LED flowers glow softly at night, providing a romantic background for visitors. It’s a selfie hotspot and one of the top things to do in Dongdaemun.

The DDP LED Rose Garden can be seen every night of the week from 5:30 to midnight. Find them in the Grass Plaza area of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza.

DDP LED Rose Garden - Seoul at night

The DDP LED Rose Garden is a selfie hotspot

Go late night Dongdaemun Shopping in Seoul at Night

When you travel to Seoul, it’s easy to hit 10,000 steps on your pedometer every day. But this sleepless city offers an exciting nightlife that makes it too tempting for all you night owls to rest in your hotel room at night. For a serious shopaholic like me, late-night Dongdaemun shopping is one of my favourite ways to enjoy Seoul nightlife.

Dongdaemun is a huge shopping district with 26 shopping malls and 30,000 shops. Even if you’re not a shopper, visiting Dongdaemun is quite the experience to feel Seoul’s restless energy at night. This shopping town operates day and night. It has some of the best shopping in Seoul. Although overnight shopping is geared towards wholesale, you can still shop for clothing and accessories at a reasonable price (slightly higher than the wholesale price) at the Dongdaemun wholesale market.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza - Seoul nightlife

Seoul’s Dongdaemun Design Plaza is particularly beautiful lit up at night

Things to keep in mind: Some malls require you to purchase at least three pieces, so consider bringing your girlfriends and sisters. Not all parts are open overnight; make sure to do your research before heading out. The shopping district is massive. I’d recommend starting your shopping expedition at Doota, Migliore, and Hello apM.

Read more of Chloe Koh at Chloe’s Travelogue.

See the Korean palaces aglow

Seoul has five main palaces and the most popular of them are Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung. Gorgeous during the day, there is something more intimate and beautiful about them if you see them in Seoul at night.

Seoul at night - Korean palace gate illuminated

Seoul’s palaces are especially gorgeous at night

Throughout the year, the palaces are opened at various times for night viewing. The main halls are lit from within and to make the ambiance even more special, traditional performances are staged throughout the complexes. From spring to autumn, visitors have the opportunity to enjoy the lights in the crisp spring air, warm summer nights or in the autumn breezes. If dressed in a traditional Korean Hanbok, attendees can also enter for free.

It’s a fabulous way to experience Seoul nightlife in a more historical and traditional manner.

Watch Seoul turn from day to night from above

During the day, Seoul can look like a mass of concrete blocks, but as the sun sets, it transforms into a neon spectacle of lights. From a perch high above the city, you’ll get a real sense of just how big this mega-city is.

Seoul Sky Observatory at Lotte World Tower

Seoul Sky is an observatory located on the top 7 floors of Korea’s tallest skyscraper. From its 555 metre lofty heights, you’ll see panoramic views of the entire city laid out before you in every single direction. Head there around Seoul’s sunset hour on a clear day, and watch the magical sight of Seoul’s nightlife illuminating the city.

> Get tickets for the Seoul Sky Observatory in advance and read our full guide on visiting the Seoul Sky Observatory.

lotte world tower next to the Han River and apartment buildings lit up in seoul at night

Watch day turn to night at the Seoul Sky Observatory (Photo by Sunyu Kim on Unsplash)

N Seoul Tower on Mount Namsan

From the top of Mount Namsam, you’ll have panoramic views of Seoul below you, and the N Seoul Tower above you.

Aim to reach the top of Namsan Mountain by sunset, so you can watch the N Seoul Tower come to life. You’ll know how good the air quality is in Seoul by what colour the tower is. Blue means that all is well in the city, green signals that you should be cautious and probably wear an air pollution mask, and red is just plain bad. ๐Ÿ™

Be sure to check out the thousands upon thousands of love locks that have been placed all around Namsan and the N Seoul Tower by couples declaring their eternal love for each other. You can even try wearing traditional Korean hanboks together there for a romantic photo shoot!

Namsan N Seoul Tower at night

Namsan Tower at Night (by Ciaran O’Brien on Unsplash)

It’s a relatively easy trek up to the top, but if you’d prefer, you can take the N Seoul Tower cable car, or an electric bus to the peak.

> Get discounted tickets for the N Seoul Tower here and read our full post on visiting this Seoul icon here.

Low-key Seoul Nightlife

When you’ve completely exhausted yourself and need a rest, but still can’t sleep, head to a PC Room for couch potato entertainment or a jjimjilbang for rejuvenation. Morgan Gibbs from AlienEating has the scoop on where to find low-key nightlife in Seoul.

a lot of neon signs representing Seoul's busy nightlife

Seoul nightlife will eat you alive if you’re not careful. Get some rest.

Live the Korean Bang Life in a PC Room

PC rooms are a fast-internet addict’s dream. It’s the perfect place for lazing around in Seoul at night when you don’t want to be cooped up in your lil’ box anymore. What’s there to complain about when you have a big screen, a luxurious throne-chair, and noise-cancelling headphones for all your computer-related needs?

And get this, you’ll get all that pampering for just a dollar an hour. On that note, there’s not much you can’t do at the PC room. Watch movies? Check. Play computer games? Check. Eat a snack? Check. Plan world domination? Check.

Sure it might come with a side of Korean boys raging over their latest PubG loss, but the ample variety in snacks more than makes up for that. Ramen, fried rice, corn-dogs, ice cream, and sausages galore will fill your belly. So if you’re searching high and low for your next couch-potato-lazy-boy adventure, don’t look too far.

seoul at night from above

Seoul is the most wired city in the world, with the fastest internet. You know what that means…a lot of boys playing video games.

Jjimjilbang in Seoul

If you’ve never been to Korea, you’ve probably never heard of a jimjilbang. But if you’re looking for a comfy, relaxing night out in Seoul, these giant bathhouses are the way to go.

There are cubbies to hold luggage, pyjama sets that match everyone else’s, showers, hot tubs, and basic saunas. It’s basically adult-ergarten. It’s not just a wooden room with half-naked sweaty people. I mean it can be, but there are up to 20 different rooms to sweat out and freeze up those nasty germs.

There’s a salt room to lay in piles of salt and season yourself, or a room full of tiny red balls to swim around in like a ball demon. Rooms range from 20°C to 140°C – there’s ice rooms, jade rooms, dugout rooms, and locker rooms available for your use.

> Get discounted tickets to Dragon Hill Spa – one of the most famous (and foreigner friendly) jjimjilbangs in Seoul.

It’s something unique and you can’t leave Korea without at least trying one once. Where else are you going to find a room circulating charcoal air, with old guys snoring for $10 per night back home?

Looking for even MORE night time activities in Seoul? Check out some of the most popular evening shows, tours, and attractions.

> CHEF combines the unlikely combination of beatboxing, breakdancing and bibimbap, into one incredibly entertaining show. This is a nonverbal performance, so absolutely everyone can enjoy it. Get tickets to the CHEF show.

> Visit 4 different restaurants popular with locals. Fully guided with explanations about local eating and drinking customs. Click to book a Korean Night Dining Tour.

> Got your heart set on seeing Everland all lit up at night? Get a hassle-free package that includes a one day pass AND an optional round trip night bus that leaves Everland at 8:30PM. Book the night bus option to Everland ONLY on Trazy.

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Comments:

  • August 11, 2018

    i must visit this amazing city one day!

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  • August 11, 2018

    Wow! I think I’ll need a month there to cover all this. It sounds amazing – especially the night hiking, but lots of the other ideas as well. If I ever get to Seoul I’ll be checking out this post for what to do. And knocking on your door ๐Ÿ™‚
    Alison

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  • August 11, 2018

    This really is quite a bit to do in Seoul at night, and from what you’ve described it’s not just a club partying kind of city. In fact, it seems far from it. Amazing to hear that hiking at night is quite popular! Understand that some of the hikes are at your own peril but I suppose if you want some outdoor adventure then why not ๐Ÿ˜›

    That is quite a few Mario keychains in the photo you took at the markets! If the night markets have this much things and so much more, then no wonder they are packed with people. In these night markets I’m guessing some people don’t mind waiting and standing in line for food lol.

    Going back to clubbing, it seems that the clubs in Seoul are quite hip and well, full of life and attract both the young and professional middle age bracket. That statue, Gangnam Style immortalised XD

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      • August 12, 2018

        Haha, I’m not into partying and clubbing at all. Even the nights of going out non-partying and clubbing are far and few lol. Staying at home is what I love best XD

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  • August 11, 2018

    Out of all the wonderful options you gave, my favourite is hands down going to a Jjimjilbang! I love Korea, and it’s a bit easy to pick up on the language too! Like -Dong would be like arrondissement (Dongdaemun, Myeongdong etc.) and -Bang means room, like PC Bang and my favourite: Noraebang (Karaoke room!) ๐Ÿ˜€

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  • August 11, 2018

    “Sheโ€™s groggy, confused and wearing last nightโ€™s make-up”…love that description of Seoul, a city which sounds like it can match New York or London for nightlife. Inspiring post.

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  • August 11, 2018

    Gotta get back! And next time I need to bring my skeptical husband whose last visit to Seoul was in the 90s and not as pleasant as mine a few years ago. The night hiking might be the kick he needs to give your city a second chance!

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        • August 12, 2018

          We watched the video! Very cool overview of what’s going on these days in Seoul; it’s such a fascinating mix. (Had to love the snippets on plastic surgery!)

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  • August 13, 2018

    I loved Seoul so much but my visit was way too short. I’d love to go back and really explore more of the city. I’m not sure what it was about Seoul but both Aaron and I were like, “We could totally live here!” Hopefully we’ll get back soon!

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  • August 16, 2018

    Wow, what a fascinating place! I’ve never been to Korea but it sounds amazing- especially at night! :p

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  • Chloe's Travelogue

    August 22, 2018

    I’d love to check out the Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung during their evening opening. I heard it’s beautiful and romantic!

    I didn’t know one can hike Bukhanshan in the evening. Isn’t Bukhanshan pretty steep? How was the lighting?

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  • September 15, 2018

    Jim Jil Bangs at $10/night must be the most affordable and the most unexpected Seoul accommodation I think. Some of them have amazing views of the city, some get so hot in common sleeping areas that a cold winter’s night is quickly forgotten. And then you have drunk ajoshees ๐Ÿ˜›

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  • September 17, 2018

    I love the way you talk about Seoul – like she is a strong woman! I love your article and your answers to the comments because it is like a love declaration too ? it is refreshing indeed to read someone who feels this strongly about this place (if I am not mistaken?)
    I am a newbie… Been here only 6 months but I see what you see and now I need to tick off the stuff on this list I haven’t done yet (like jjimjilbang – I didn’t want to try alone for my first time โ˜บ๏ธ)… With that said Thank you for this!

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  • September 17, 2018

    I agree with you that Seoul is amazingly beautiful, even at night. I had a walk in the stream, and Seoullo 7017 for night photography. I also visited Deoksugung and DDP for night lights. I’m looking forward for the night food and street market near Hangang River.
    Thank you for sharing your list and it was well written and very helpful for all travelers out there.

    reply...
  • September 17, 2018

    Reading your description of the Jimjilbang, and the red balls and salt that you can season in, I wondered which Jimjilbang you were referring to. You have clearly visited more exciting ones than I’ve encountered. Your night pictures, especially the DDP and the Seoul city wall, are stunning. I never want to visit a PC room. Ever. Haha.

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  • Wendyflor

    September 18, 2018

    ahh.. this explains about your Gwanaksan comment in my post, hahaha.

    Seoul is one dynamic place, especially at night! I seldom go out at night so when I do, I am in awe and fearful of the noise and the lights and everything that comes with it. But I should do this nighttime hike at least once!

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  • September 18, 2018

    Thanks for including some of my links! What a fun post. I would NOT want to be hiking in the dark though. Something about that just makes me nervous. I’m already known for tripping and stumbling on the way down. Add darkness and that would just be all kinds of trouble.

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  • September 18, 2018

    That first paragraph might be the best description of Seoul I’ve ever read! Nailed it!

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  • September 19, 2018

    Hey,
    your blog is just wow. You have described all the things so nicely and all the pictures are stunning. It’s great blog and I must say this is the best blog that i have ever read on Seoul. Thanks for sharing such a good article!!

    reply...
  • September 25, 2018

    Sigh~ these photos are spectacular. I have been to several of these spots (mostly the markets) but never tried hiking (ain’t that equipped for it?). Makes me miss living in a bigger city where everything is. Thanks for making me experience Seoul even more with this post!

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  • November 25, 2018

    This was just what I needed. Booked marked this page. Love it.

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  • April 3, 2019

    Beautiful place and we’ll written. So much information

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  • jada

    April 30, 2019

    Hey guys! Come join our parties in Club Vera in Hongdae!? For free entry and free drinks contact me on kakaotalk: jadawelin or dm me on instagram @vera.jada !??

    reply...
  • Milleficent

    May 16, 2019

    I love the way you described Korea. I’ve just been there last April for 6 days but realized it was not enough. Would love to try hiking at night but I’m just a solo backpacker so I wouldn”t know if that would be a good idea. Food is really great

    reply...

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