Seoul Nightlife: 17 Things for Insomniacs to do after dark
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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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 much needed break at a Korean street food stall.
Prepare to get lost and jostled around though – this Seoul night market is huge and seriously crowded.
Gwangjang Traditional Market
Gwangjang traditional market (광장시장) is considered by many to be one of the very best markets in Seoul. It’s open from 8:30AM, but if you truly want to experience all the chaos of a Korean market, visit in the evening hours. You’ll easily be able to check many must eat in Seoul items off your checklist there.
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.
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.
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.
Yeouido Hangang Park is also the main docking point for the Hangang River Cruise. Choose 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.
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.
Read our guide on how to survive extroverted Seoul as an introvert.
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
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.
Go late night Dongdaemun Shopping
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.
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.
WATCH SEOUL TURN FROM DAY TO NIGHT FROM ABOVE
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.
Check out our full guide on visiting the Seoul Sky Observatory.
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. 🙁
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.
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.
Read our full post on visiting the N Seoul Tower.
PARTY THE NIGHT AWAY AT A SEOUL CLUB
In a city that never sleeps, you really can party till dawn. Check out Seoul’s nightlife in Hongdae for a youthful vibe, Itaewon for international flavour, or Gangnam for a luxe experience.
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. Club Octagon Seoul is the most famous – ranked the #7 dance club in the world on DJ Mag’s Top 100 Clubs list, in 2018, but there’s plenty more to choose from. Check out Syndrome, Arena, Ellui, or The-A to find the Seoul club that fits your vibe.
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.
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.
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.
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Finally made it over to HBC for a small taste of Morocco in the city. It did not disappoint. 😁 * The tagines were flavourful, filling and affordable at just 11,000krw. How about opening a location south of the river @morocococafe so we can eat more often! 😉 * * * * * #seoul #morocococafe #itaewon #moroccanfood #haebangchon #seoulfood #seouleats
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, locker rooms, and even larders.
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?
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