Whether that means drinking a beer at a dive bar on a random Tuesday night, meeting some locals at a house party, or raging all night at the biggest club in town- I’m always curious to see what a local “night on the town” is all about.
It’s my favorite part of traveling.
Over the last few years, I’ve had some seriously awesome nights partying in Barcelona, Berlin, Siem Reap, Lisbon, Stockholm, Athens, Prague, Munich, Belgrade, Dubai, Copenhagen, Bangkok, Singapore etc…
But nothing comes even close to the same level that Seoul is on, which is why I declare Korea’s capital city to be the #1 Party City in the World!
I’ve been living and raging in Seoul since August 2013. I’ve never seen at atmosphere with more energy and more craziness than Seoul has- not even Las Vegas (and I used to live in Vegas). It’s a shame that Seoul doesn’t get as much worldwide recognition that it deserves, but it’s also beneficial because it hasn’t been dominated by tourism (yet).
So, Why is Seoul the #1 city to party in around the world?
The following 5 reasons will give you an idea of why I just can’t get enough:
And don’t forget to check out my Ultimate Guide to Clubbing in Gangnam!
1) Work hard play hard attitude
Businessmen are known to wake up at 5AM and return home at 11PM. Retail employees are overworked from the minute they walk in the front door. The service industry has people hustling and bustling to make an extra dollar. Street vendors will still set up their shops outside when it’s below freezing outside and nobody is around to buy their products. It’s mind-blowing.
And the students? I’ve never seen or heard of a culture that invests more time and money into educating the children. Starting from a very young age, kids go to school, study their butts off and do homework from sunrise to midnight.
I see it with my own eyes everyday at the public middle school that I teach at. The kids arrive at school every morning at 7:30, and stay until 4:30 PM when the final bell rings. After school, students have a short break to practice their hobbies (taekwondo, piano lessons, soccer, etc.) or play video games. Finally, either before or after dinner, most kids attend some sort of “private academy” where they hardcore practice there English and Math skills until their brain is at capacity. Some of these private academys (called hak-wons in Korean) can go until 11PM and then the students are given loads of homework assignments to complete for the next day.
*Side note: The picture you see is the Taekwondo class that I do Monday-Thursday with those middle school kids. It’s fun to get my as* kicked by a bunch of 13 year old’s everyday, but it’s putting me into shape.
The point of me telling you this is that all Koreans work hard during the weekdays, and then go absolutely wild on the weekends (during their time off). It’s almost like they are slightly antisocial during the week, and then are re-born into maniacs on the weekend and have the time of their lives.
I definitely appreciate their motivation to work hard and play even harder.
2) Soju Soju Soju
In fact, Soju is the #1 most sold alcoholic beverage in the world (by a long shot). Over 62 million cases of soju are sold every single year. Some 90% of all liquor sales in Korea is soju. If you’ve never had it, the taste is like watered down vodka that is somewhat similar to sake in Japan. Notice in the picture how they call it “Happy Water” … LOL
Drinking, in general, is considered a social event and a tradition in Korea. Koreans take their drinking so seriously that if an older person offers you a shot, then you MUST take it or it’s considered disrespectful.
Furthermore, the Korean culture is very homogeneous, meaning they all get obsessed with the same products, things and brands. Examples are cell phone cases, shoes, jackets, bulky glasses, plastic surgery, cars and especially Soju.
One of the reasons why soju is so popular is the affordability to drink it. You can buy it in a gas station, restaurants, or grocery store for about $1USD per bottle. Even though it’s only 20 proof (as opposed to 40 proof like most vodkas), drink 2 bottles of soju to yourself and you’ll be pretty drunk.
Soju has a funny way of creeping up on you when you’re not realizing it. Basically, you go from sober –> tipsy –> drunk –> (what happened last night ) before you can blink twice. Then, of course, it will leave you with a horrible hangover the next morning. Nonetheless, everyone drinks it, and drinks a lot of it.
It’s common to see a few older men at a korean BBQ restaurant with 15 empty bottles of soju on the table. It’s not strange to see a couple of young Korean adults pounding bottle after bottle outside of a gas station. I see these things all the time, almost daily.
At my school, we have these frequent “teacher dinners,” where all the teachers go out to dinner together after school. When I go to these dinners, the men drink an unimaginable amount of soju throughout the meal. It’s like they take one bite of the food and then immediately take a shot of soju to wash it down. For 2 straight hours they’ll do this… And every time they offer me a shot, I am obligated to take it…
So, when you wake up the next morning after a night out, you can say:
“So-ju do last night?”
Get it? (say that sentence fast)
3) Techno Music = Dancing Machines
In all areas of Korea, Techno music is literally blasted inside of cell phone stores, shoe stores, jewelry stores and even some small restaurants. In my neighborhood, I hear techno music blasting inside this cell phone store everyday when I walk home from work. I always think to myself “What are the older people thinking when they are shopping for a cellphone and techno music is blasting in their ears?”
The scene is so big that many big name international DJs make their way to Seoul. Huge electronic music festivals like Sensation, Global Gathering and Ultra are in Seoul every year. A good majority of K-Pop (Korean pop) songs are transitioning into all electronic music dance beats. Gangnam Style, anyone?
It’s hard to explain how Koreans dance, because it’s so unique and hilarious. Most of the guys (and some of the girls) do this same rhythmic dance move that you have to see it to believe it.
In a nutshell, they get really into the beat and they bob their heads like a chicken, pump their fists together, and move their shoulders up and down in a groovy fashion.
This probably doesn’t sense to you because you just have to see it for yourself. Fortunately, I’m making a video on “How Koreans dance,” as I’ve been compiling footage of random Koreans dancing over the last 6 months.
You can watch a preview of the video here. (Please excuse the poor quality!)
4) Vegas-style clubs
I’ve been to Vegas over a dozen times in the last few years, and I must admit that the clubs in Seoul are on par with the ones in Vegas. Maybe not the “entertainment” aspect, but definitely the size and quality.
In Seoul, there are at least a dozen multi-level clubs with huge dance floors, incredible sound systems, amazing light shows, and packed to the brim with people. I’ve seen huge DJs perform like Tiesto, Fatboy Slim and Laidback Luke and it gets more and more fun every time. This picture is of Club Answer, one of my favorite clubs in Seoul.
The clubs aren’t cheap. Usually a $20-50 cover charge and drinks are priced like Vegas. For example, a jack and coke is about $15. So, it’s important to drink up before you walk inside.
But the scene is amazing. I love being the only white person in the entire club dancing with a sea of Koreans. I think it’s something that everyone should experience.
If you want to learn more about the clubbing scene, check out my post on the Ultimate Guide to Clubbing in Gangnam!
5) Nothing closes until sunrise
This is really what sets Seoul apart from the other big party cities around the world.
I am dead serious when I say sunrise. I’m not even talking about 4AM or 5 AM. Literally, the sun will be coming up in the morning and people are just stumbling out of the bars and clubs.
Just this last weekend, I was out until 5AM on both nights with my friends. When we were leaving the club, it was still so crowded that it took a few minutes just to get past the crowd on our way to the coat check in the back. Additionally, I’ve had several nights in the past where I looked at my watch and couldn’t believe it was 6AM and the music was still blasting and people were busy dancing the night away. Talk about having good stamina!
Even beyond the bars and clubs, the street food is open 24 hours. Especially in Hongdae, a fun and hipster area where the young college kids party, the food joints and restaurants are packed throughout the night. The street vendors on the side of the street are out serving fried foods, dumplings, and kebabs until someone buys the last one.
It’s honestly like something out of a movie, but it’s real life.
If you come to Seoul, contact me and I will show you a good time 🙂
P.S. Are you looking for a hostel to stay at? Check out S.P. Guesthouse in the Itaewon district. It’s my personal favorite because of the affordability ($15/night), and the positive vibes. The staff is really friendly, and there is always a nice mix of travelers from all over the world. Every time I stay at SP, I make new friends and go out with new faces. Check their website here to book a room!