[Weekender] Seoul and adventurous after-hours

By Rumy Doo
  • Published : Aug 18, 2017 - 15:59
  • Updated : Aug 23, 2017 - 16:41

It started out with cabarets and discotheques in the 1980s, when Korea saw an unprecedented economic boom. Seoul’s nightlife has been growing and thriving ever since, giving birth to a myriad of clubs with different themes.


Back then, nightclubs were places for people to dance and performers to put on shows. Cabarets were home to the middle-aged, usually featuring a live band and bluesy tunes. Dubbed “colatheques,” some venues would offer upbeat music and a lively social atmosphere without alcohol.

Nowadays, clubs specializing in Western hip-hop and electronic music dominate Seoul’s night scene. But nightlife venues with unique themes have been all the rage lately among slick urbanites to whom the familiar evening of clubbing and drinking feels blase.

These clubs and bars that introduce different themes can offer a fresh injection of fun for those jaded by routine nights out.

Casino-themed bar

If the ordinary bar or “hof,” as beer-focused eateries are called in Korea, seems banal, you may want to foray to Hongdae’s Jackpot Lounge, which combines the casino experience with drinking.

Upon entry, visitors are awarded several chips to start out with. Under the purple haze, there are blackjack, roulette and poker tables where visitors can enjoy games with a drink in hand. Dealers explain the rules of the games to first-timers.

Chips can be exchanged for drinks up to twice a night, but are not refundable for cash.

The unique venue has been caught up in investigations due to its ambiguous identity, however. Because it was registered as a restaurant and not a casino business, police cracked down on the establishment in February on charges of violating relevant registration laws.

Authorities are concerned the venue could encourage gambling. But the owner has filed for an administrative trial, saying the chips cannot be redeemed for cash so the activities do not constitute gambling.

The bar is still up and running as normal.

Location: 3, Jandari-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul

Beer pong (iStock)

Party like a college kid

Buzzing with an international clientele, Thursday Party boasts an energetic atmosphere. A la the American college experience, games of beer pong and foosball are in full blast at the bar’s corners. It’s an unpretentious place where everyone under the roof gets along like a big group of pals.

Various foreign beers and cocktails are available. Fried, salted spaghetti noodles are provided as a free snack.

Next to the game zones, visitors can sit on high-seated tables and enjoy their drinks more calmly. In the center space, people are free to dance to the music, mostly a selection of upbeat pop.

The freeing, casual atmosphere is the key attraction of Thursday Party. The crowd is usually an eclectic mix of tourists, exchange students, locals and artists, among others.

19-12, Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Itaewon: 6, Itaewon-ro 27-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 

(Damotori 5)

Dance and sing to corny K-pop

Imagine a tour bus full of friends singing along shamelessly and dancing uninhibitedly to dated dance tunes. That’s the atmosphere of Damotori, a chain of club-like bars scattered around the Shinchon area.

Like your average club or bar, there is music, dancing and drinking, but the clientele is younger and the venue less daunting.

The throbbing music selection is bound to make even the stiffest partier shake their shoulders. It consists mainly of beat-heavy, addictive K-pop tunes sung by idols like EXO, Sistar and Big Bang, as well as older groups like g.o.d, Shinhwa and Super Junior.

The signature drink is the Jagerbomb, a mix of Jagermeister and energy drink Hot Six that will have you jumping up and down all night. 

Bewitching drag

In a scene in K-pop diva Lee Hyo-ri’s “Miss Korea” music video, the songstress can be seen dancing on a vintage-style stage, accompanied by two transgender dancers. This background is Itaewon’s famed transgender club Trance.

The club’s show, which starts at 3 a.m., features an alluring and witty one-hour performance presented by the club’s hostesses and drag queens. It’s an enjoyable experience for all -- with jokes, dancing and often covers of K-pop choreography.

The audience is a varied bunch, from couples to groups of friends. 

(D. Bridge)

Cheongdam chic

If you’re seeking the creme de la creme of Seoul’s socialite scene, and to party in style like a K-celebrity, D.Bridge lounge bar in the affluent Cheongdam neighborhood could be the place for you. It prides itself on being the epitome of Seoul’s upscale nightlife.

The venue, which opened two years ago and gained renown as a favorite party spot for Korean celebs, has now come to be known as the “it” place for exclusive fun and chic meet-ups.

A swanky clientele of businessmen, professionals and stars in their mid-20s to late-30s can be seen here, networking or dancing to the trendy DJs. Drinks are concocted by award-winning bartenders.

Fees to reserve luxurious private rooms start at 1.2 million won ($1,050). 

Location: 21, Seolleung-ro 152-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

By Rumy Doo (

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