South Korea is one of the most interesting countries in the world. The history is fascinating, the nature is captivating, the food is delicious, and the nightlife is booming. You’ll find something every night of the week in the bigger South Korean cities. Seoul is undoubtedly the most well-known city in the country, but there’s so much more to South Korea than its capital. From karaoke bars to laidback beach bars, here’s where to find the best nightlife in South Korea.
Best Nightlife in South Korea
There’s no doubt that Seoul has the best nightlife in South Korea. It’s dynamic, exciting, and surprising. The people of Seoul strongly commit to the mantra ‘work hard, play hard’, so don’t try and keep up with the locals – unless you’re up for the challenge, that is. Most nights out start off with a meal, usually a Korean barbecue, before heading out into the abyss of neon lights.
There are a few brilliant nightlife districts in Seoul. University students and 20-somethings flock to Hongdae – it’s loud, vibrant, and full of clubs. Itaewon appeals to a wider demographic – you’ll find people of all ages here, enjoying the international bars and classy rooftop bars. The aptly named Homo Hill is the place to be for gay bars and drag shows. The list goes on, with neighbourhoods like Gangnam, Apgujeong, and Cheongdam-dong being home to some of the country’s most upscale bars and clubs.
Jeju is a mountainous island, just over an hour’s flight from Seoul. It’s a stark contrast to the capital city, however, with a laidback atmosphere. There’s an emphasis on restaurants here, but there are a few excellent bars and lounges. A lot of the bars are on the beach, so you can embrace the tropical vibe of the island. There are some hostels, too, so you’re bound to meet a few backpackers looking for a night out in Jeju, too. One of the most popular things to do here is head to a night market. Arboretum is a particularly enchanting market, with decorated trees, while Dongmum is the place to be if you want a lively market. If you really want to stay up all night in Jeju, the casinos here are open 24/7. Although, interestingly, it’s only foreigners that are allowed to gamble.
Busan is South Korea’s second city. It’s a place of pure beauty – tucked in between mountains, nestled along the dazzling coastline, with the strait running through the neon-lit city. The best place to soak it all in is from one of Busan’s many rooftop bars, admiring the skyscrapers as well as the nearby beach. There’s plenty to do here – nurse a freshly brewed pint at a local brewery, catch a live show, sing your heart out in a karaoke bar, or hit the club for all-night dancing. Haeundae Beach is beautiful during the day, but its atmosphere is even more palpable at night – you’ll find plenty of people drinking along the shore, lit up by the skyscrapers, and backed by hotels and cafes. Just remember to take your litter with you when you leave!
Gwangju is creeping up in popularity, boasting some of the best nightlife in South Korea. The relatively small city has a surprising craft beer culture, leading to a slew of breweries and pubs. The nightlife in Gwangju could be categorised as the gritty side of South Korea, with dark streets lit up by neon-lit bars, which really are everywhere. It’s the place to be if you want to experience life like the locals do, away from the tourists, knocking back the soju with the best of them. There are a few areas in Gwangju that deserve a visit, but it’s the downtown district that has bars, pubs, lounges, and clubs aplenty.
Ulsan is another bustling, sprawling South Korean city. But it’s actually the smallest metropolitan city in the country, despite having a population of over 1 million people. It’s an industrial powerhouse, home to the world’s biggest shipyard and automobile assembly plant. With all of those jobs in the city, you can be sure that the people of Ulsan need an outlet. In the downtown district you’ll find busy walking streets, packed with Korean clubs, pubs, karaoke spots, and bars, going on until the wee hours of the morning.
Daegu is a beautiful city, full of luscious nature, rolling hills, and wide-spanning forests. It’s a super popular place to catch the blossom trees, as well as having some of the best nightlife in South Korea. The nightlife is concentrated in three main areas: Yasi-golmok, Rodeo Street, and the Kyungpook University district. There’s a great mix of bars, pubs, and clubs, as well as a huge cultural scene consisting of opera houses and theatres. There’s something to cater to everyone’s liking here.