Popular Spots for Expats
There truly are just too many places to mention. Seoul’s night life is by far some of the best in the world. There are new places that spring up nearly every hour and nightly specials on everything from costume parties at posh clubs with world renowed DJ’s to thirty cent buffalo chicken wings on Tuesdays. Much like NYC you have to stay on top of the social scene in Seoul otherwise you will be left behind, and the native Seoulites are some of the best in the world at this. Below you will find just a few but to the only way to really know what is hot each week, is to pick up an expat magazine or ask around.
Of course, being expat central, Itaewon is an extremely popular area for expats to meet. Foreigners living in Korea either live in the Itaewon area or they come there often for the international cuisine, the nightclubs, the bars and the special events like quiz nights and fundraisers. Aside from two other places in the city, Itaewon is the most gay-friendly place. You can find some bars in Jeongno or Hongdae, but Itaewon has an entire “hill” strictly reserved for gay-friendly establishments including cafe’s and restaurants.
These are just some of the places in Itaewon that are popular with expats:
Geckos Terrace: Good Western style food and sheer popularity make this pub almost impossible to squeeze yourself into on weekends. If you want to sit down, arrive before 9 PM!
The Wolfhound Irish Pub: Arguably the best Irish fare in Seoul. Quiz nights during the week and board games if you want a quiet night out with friends (don’t count on that on weekends, though).
Panchos: The most popular place in Seoul for Mexican food (though not necessarily the most authentic). They make pretty excellent margaritas, though.
Scrooge’s: Where rugby fans like to go for the big games on the big screen. There are two floors so fans of opposite teams don’t have to mix. The food is ok and the beer flows freely (but not for free!).
Hollywood Bar and Grill: This pub is also a favourite of sports fans. If you want, you can watch European sports late at night while sipping your cosmopolitan; though that’s not a likely combination. The food gets pretty good reviews.
Directions: Exit from Itaewon subway station on the right side. You’ll be outside the Hamilton Hotel when you enter onto the sidewalk. If you’re facing the Hamilton hotel, walk to the right for about 200 meters. Hollywood is on the top floor of a three story building.
B1: Hookah smoking, dance music and excellent cocktails make B1 a favourite among Koreans and expats alike. The “Red Room” is more relaxed while the main area is used for dancing.
The Bungalow: Relatively new compared to some of the old staple clubs, The Bungalow is a perfect balance of being relaxed without losing it’s “club” appeal. Excellent drinks, foot baths and sandy floors make this bar an instant favourite among expats.
Between: If you are looking for a more posh experience try Between. Their excellent menu for tapas, lunch, dinner, and brunch combined with their chic martini/house music atmosphere in the evenings make this place an ideal location.
Rockey Mountain Tavern: Canadian style beer, food and tunes. Live music on weekends (mostly Canadian). There is also an Itaewon location, and they have great brunch on the weekends (and hockey).
Keep in mind that while Itaewon is popular with foreigners it is the exact opposite with Koreans. Speak with any co-worker or Korean friend and most will tell you that in their entire lives they have visited the area maybe once or twice. That is not to say that Itaewon doesn’t have its own charm, it’s just not a place where most native Seoulites would be caught dead on a Friday or Saturday night (or ever). However, if you are looking for a “never a dull moment” kind of place then this is just the neighborhood for you.
The business district of Gangnam is home to many expats, and even more places to shop, eat or drink. Expats like to come to Gangnam to get away from the inherent flashiness and military presence in Itaewon and hang out in places that are actually popular with Koreans as well as expats.
Some hot spots in Gangnam:
Rainbow Bar: Pillows for seats, silk on the walls and hookah smoke in the air – Rainbow Bar is a favourite for easy going clubbers in Gangnam. A nice mix of foreigners and Koreans frequent the bar and they make great cocktails.
Woodstock: There is also a Woodstock in Itaewon but this location is by far the best. The walls are covered from floor to ceiling in old record covers and rock and roll posters. The DJ has an extensive collection of vinyl, CD’s and MP3’s and works on a request only basis. The drinks are reasonably prices the bar staff is some of the friendliest in Seoul. (02)-749-6034
Castle Praha Bar: Dark, small and medieval in style, this bar is located right on Gangnam’s main stretch and is the perfect place to go for an intimate evening out. The beer is microbrewed and a nice change from the usual Korean drafts.
Big Rock Brewery: This place is much better known for its excellent Western style brunches than its night life, but it’s still worth mentioning. Do you miss bacon? How about eggs and hashbrowns? Big Rock makes a great all you can eat brunch on weekends (11 AM to 2 PM, 12,000 won). The beer is imported from Canada if you want to go out at night and you can catch NHL hockey games while eating brunch the next morning.
Telephone: 539 6650
Dos Tacos: Arguably the best Mexican food in Seoul!
Club Heaven: Models, international DJ’s, theme nights, the best sound system in Asia, and state of the art lasers. This is where you go when you want to feel like a true celebrity.
Hongdae is by far the coolest, hippest area of Seoul. A true university area, Hongdae fully embodies the Korean counter culture with its art, music and full acceptance of anything weird and wonderful. It also has some of the hippest clubs and bars in Seoul! Through the hundreds of side streets and twists and turns in Hongdae you will stumble on cafe after bar after live music venue, restaurant, the list goes on and on… The best way to get the most of of Hongdae is just to get lost and see where you end up.
Favourite haunts in Hongdae:
Ska Bar (2): This is a tiny hole in the wall with an expensive cover charge, but Ska 2 plays some of the best music in Hongdae, drawing a large expat crowd.
Location: Just down the street from the Rocky Mountain Tavern.
Club FF: Completely packed on Friday and Saturday nights, Club FF is not for the feint of heart. Great tunes and lots of dancing!
Freebird: For those who are into more rock and less K-pop, this is a great place to have some drinks and listen to live music on the weekends.
Telephone: 02-333 2701
GR8: The ubiquitous hookah bar with pillows on the floor – only this one’s in Hongdae. Great, relaxing atmosphere.
More information: http://www.seoulstyle.com/bars-clubs/nabi-hongdae-bar.htm
The classiest and most expensive area in Seoul is Apgujeong. It’s the perfect place to have a great meal and go out for quiet drinks with live jazz in the background. While it’s not as popular with expats as the other areas already mentioned, Apgujeong is where the professional, mature and wealthy like to frequent. Even if you aren’t any of these things, it’s still a great place to hang out. For a great article on Apgujeong you can visit this website: http://english.seoul.go.kr/gtk/news/reports_view.php?idx=1246
Hot spots in Apgujeong:
Once in a Blue Moon: Live jazz and amazing cocktails. The perfect place to go for a quiet night out with friends.
Club Answer: One of the newest and coolest places to go for a night out in Apgujeong. Great DJ’s and theme nights make this one of the most fun night clubs in Seoul.
Seoul is chock full of expat clubs, including but not limited to: hiking groups, salsa dancing, yoga, American Women, British Women, various music groups and, of course, intramural sports clubs like touch rugby, soccer and basketball.
You can find a lot of these clubs and get updates on their next planned meetings/excursions on meetup.com. Just go to this website, search under Korea-Seoul and you’ll be amazed at the amount of diversity with these meetups. Chances are, you’re going to find a group of expats with similar interests and make some amazing friends.
Most people shy away from these kinds of meetups, but there’s a lot for you to get involved in as an expat in Seoul – just do it!
While meetup.com is the easiest way to find out about expat clubs and groups, you can also look through expat magazines and newspapers (The Korea Times, The Korean Herald, Groove or Eloquence Magazine). For the latest news on Seoul happenings, you can also check out Seoul Style (http://www.seoulstyle.com/).