Seoul is a city that almost literally does not sleep. Numerous bars and clubs remain open until the wee hours of the morning. However, for those not interested in the all-night party scene in Hongdae or Gangnam, here are several bars offering a low-key environment that are worthy of a visit.
Exterior of Southside Parlor/Courtesy of Rebecca Biage
Bar, Beer, American, $$$
Heaven for a G | Courtesy of Rebecca Biage
You’ll feel right at home in this Texas-style bar, located in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood. The dim lighting above the main bar area is provided by an eclectic configuration of mason jars, with a bulb strategically placed in the middle jar. The location of two dart boards adorned with cowboy hats adds to the rustic, American-style interior. Small, wooden tables are arranged throughout the bar, along with a long table countertop against the back wall that offers a great evening view of parts of the city. As you take a seat at the copper-plated bar, you’ll notice a wide array of liquors and spirits to choose from (a Long Island iced tea will run you about $12), and the kitchen also serves food should you get hungry.
At Itaewon’s Heaven for a G, order from a menu offering stouts, lagers and craft beers in the $6-9 price range. Heaven for a G’s interior is a mix of simple and modern décor. The gray concrete walls and floor give the bar a warehouse feel. Wooden crate barrels serve as tables with wooden stools surrounding them. While relaxing patrons are treated to old school music, courtesy of Stevie Wonder, Al Green, and Earth, Wind and Fire. If you find yourself needing some sustenance, the kitchen can cook a pizza, pasta or calzone (price range $7-15).
With its low, wooden tables painted in multiple colors, Vinyl Bar’s small interior exudes a quirky vibe. Even though it’s a bar, the coziness of the establishment makes it feel more café-like. Post-modern artwork, a ukulele and vintage posters adorn the rustic, orange walls. Patrons can have a seat in one of the animal-print seats, enjoy a vodka cranberry, and peruse the latest issue of Big Issue magazine while waiting for a friend. Drinks at Vinyl Bar are served in plastic bags (similar to an IV-bag) which can be taken away while exploring the neighborhood of Hongdae’s hip boutiques. Alcoholic beverages, such as a tequila sunrise or a peach crush, run about $5-6.
Holly Beer is located in the Konkuk University area (also known as Kondae). The auburn ceiling and metal tables give the place a contemporary yet relaxed feel. Underneath the bar guests can see the silver beer casks tinted in blue lighting. Holly Beer serves a variety of specialty craft beers. The watermelon wheat in particular is a must, with an earthy flavor and sweet watermelon undertones. The brews are priced at around $7. Take a seat at one of the tables near the open patio and people watch the late-night clamor along Achasan-ro.
Located right off of Kondae’s famous Rodeo Street, Chun Ja Bar is a surprisingly pleasant hidden gem if you’re searching for a quieter bar scene. While the beer inventory is rather limited (Cass, Guiness, Corona), people don’t necessarily come here for the drinks, but for the colorful, inviting atmosphere. The interior walls are decorated with drawings of various countries, along with pictures of each country’s beer. An assortment of vibrant, miniature airplanes hang from the ceilings, while tchotchkes decorate the wire-wooden dividers at the tables. The white, twinkling lights that decorate the perimeters of the windows add to Chun Ja’s already cutesy interior.