Metropolises tend to have a specific district unofficially reserved for their nightlife culture. It’s Hongdae for Korea’s capital, Seoul.
*HONGDAE AREA, SEOUL
There’s many “party centrals” within cities around the world such as Miami’s South Beach, Spain’s Ibiza Town and Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong. Hongdae’s actual size and recognition may pale in comparison but the clubbing intensity and partying spirit rivals them all.
My personal experience in nightlife culture is fairly extensive both recreationally and professionally so I say with confidence that Hongdae nightlife is a beast.
Many clubs, bars and even entire districts are required by local law to shutdown not too long after midnight and other places simply die out naturally just as early. Hongdae nightlife is alive and strong way before dusk to well after dawn, often on weekdays as well.
The parties end whenever they damn well please.
‘Hongdae Playground’ is a park with an actual children’s playground (that’s been heavily urbanized) that holds various events all week. Ideally located with shops, eateries and clubs just meters away.
Party related or not, once nightfall hits, hordes of partiers and chillers arrive to mingle, pregame or just enjoy whatever may be going on.
Throughout the course of a night, the Playground also serves as a central meeting point or a place to take a break from all the clubbing.
Whatever the reason for visiting Hongdae, making a stop at the Playground on a good night will give you a good taste of this unique nightlife.
The Hongdae nightlife is more than just a legion of parties, there’s also an equally impressive subculture of independent art, music and shops everywhere.
No doubt a product of Hongik University, which is where the “Hongdae” name comes from.
Indie musicians and acts play randomly throughout this “mini city”, further enhancing the ambiance of the Hongdae-wide street party. One does not need to have to go to a club or a bar to party while in Hongdae.
Just walking around is an experience in itself.
Despite Hongdae nightlife’s strong independent music culture, the (dance) clubs themselves are not music driven, which is often the most important factor in what makes a club “good”. Regardless, the venues in Hongdae are world class in terms of raw partying, energetic vibes and simply having a good time.
Free admission events aren’t difficult to find and the cover at premier nightclubs are just 5000 to 10000 Won ($5 – $10 USD) which usually includes a complimentary drink ticket.
Another clubber-friendly feature of Hongdae is the relatively rare allowances of reentry once you’ve paid – stamp or bracelet (makes a great souvenir).
Furthermore, there are even “multi-clubs” where you pay a single entry for several clubs such as the Papa Gorilla + Mama + Big Baby trio. It’s not just a single club split into 3 either, all within walking distance are vastly different from each other for a bit of club hopping.
The nightlife is a bargain in Seoul.
On any given night there will be far more Korean locals than foreigners which makes Hongdae a more authentic experience to travelers as suppose to Itaewon.
This other “party district” in Seoul is more of a bar scene and lacks the cultural and artistic aspect of Hongdae. What it does have is significantly more tourists and foreigners, diluting the experience.
You may go out together with other travelers but the goal should be to meet the locals and party with them.
The Hongdae area is perfect for such interactions.
The city of Seoul has much to offer but the reason it draws me to come back (4 times so far) is the nightlife and the amazing friends I’ve made in Korea.