24 venues open 24 hours in Seoul
In Seoul, no one goes home by midnight.
In fact, many of the city's night owls emerge around then, to enjoy the nocturnal entertainments that keep this perpetually lit city humming till dawn.
The unintended side effect of this city-wide insomnia is that travelers from another time zone don't have to feel alone when they wake up at 2 a.m. and crave breakfast.
They can join the thousands of other Seoulites on the street, who, despite their lack of jet lag, apparently feel the same way.
Because nighttime fun doesn't have to be all about partying -- although there are parties aplenty (most clubs and bars stay open until 6 a.m.).
You can shop for clothes at any one of the malls in the Dongdaemun area, such as Migliore, which closes at 5:30 a.m. Nothing like a bit of shopping after a pint (or three), when your judgment is just impaired enough to make everything you try on look stunning.
So for anyone prowling around the city at random hours, here are 24 places in Seoul that never close.
The Medi Spa
The Medi Spa, run by the Riverside Hotel in Jamwon-dong, is a mecca for stressed and worn-out males who find regular spas a little too feminine -- both in decor and clientele.
Originally an all-male spa, Medi Spa occasionally accepts female clients as well. The menu is too good to limit to one gender, whether you go for the two-hour VIP massage (₩140,000), any one of three different kinds of 80-minute massages (aroma, sports, and healing, all ₩100,000), or the 40-minute or 50-minute partial massages (₩60,000).
Packages are another option if time and money permit. You can get a full body massage (either aroma, sports, healing, or VIP), a full body scrub, a glass of juice and a cup of tea for ₩125,000 (₩170,000 for VIP massage), admission fee included.
2/F Riverside Hotel, 6-1 Jamwon-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 서초구 잠원동 6-1 더리버사이드호텔 본관 2층); +82 2 6710 1127
This barbecue restaurant serves some of the best skirts and galbi-tang (beef stew) in the city (see our best barbecue restaurants roundup for more recommendations), and has the exorbitant prices to prove it.
Rib eye and outside skirt both cost ₩52,000 for 150 grams. Galbi-tang is ₩12,000 per bowl.
Gangnam-gu Cheongdam-dong 124-3 (강남구 청담동 124-3);+82 2 545 7708;www.pdgn.co.kr
Shindong’s DraQura PC Castle
Korea has the fastest Internet in the world -- as of 2011, South Korean Internet speed was well above the world average of 580KBps at 2,202KBps, according to a study from Pando Networks. With such efficient Internet, it's fitting that there are also more than 10,000 PC bangs (rooms). These Internet cafés are actually de facto gaming centers (although a small percentage of the population goes for other reasons) where visitors can play multiple varieties of multiplayer computer games for a small hourly fee.
Most PC bangs in Korea are open 24 hours, but some are more interesting than others -- take, for example, Shindong’s DraQura PC Castle, which is actually run by K-Pop idol Shindong of Super Junior.
As the name of the PC bang suggests, Shindong’s DraQura PC Castle is a Dracula-themed PC bang with a "Transylvanian castle-like interior design" (and, of course, pictures of Shindong in a Dracula costume hanging everywhere).
The service fee is ₩1,500 per hour for non-members and ₩1,300 for members. Snack menus are crammed with the likes of fried chicken, ramen, rice with various toppings and steamed dumplings.
180-2 Jamsil-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul (서울특별시송파구 잠실동 180-2)
There is something strangely comforting about being nestled in a comfy movie theater seat with a box of fresh popcorn in your lap, staring into that wide, glaring screen. Especially if it’s very, very late at night.
Sadly, most movie theaters’ last showings are around 1 a.m. (not late enough!). But here’s the good news -- Megabox Dongdaemunscreens flicks as late as 3:10 a.m.
With eight screens, a smoking room, a VIP zone and a snack bar, this all-night multiplex is the perfect place to catch up on the latest films after a shopping spree (or simply after a couple of hours of tossing and turning in your bed).
9/F Good Morning City, 18-21 Euljiro 6-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul (서울특별시중구 을지로6가 18-21 굿모닝시티 9층); +82 1544 0070; www.megabox.co.kr
Labono hair and makeup
The brightly lit main alley in Nonhyeon-dong is famous for its nightlife, and features a stretch of 24-hour hair and nail salons that are primarily known for their patronage by women who work as escorts in the Gangnam area.
The staff at these salons are not only skilled but also extremely fast, and specialize in hair extensions and blow-outs. And sweet talk.
Rates for hair start at ₩15,000, rates for makeup starts at ₩40,000.
Gangnam-gu Nonhyeon-dong 182-22 (서울 강남구 논현동 182-22); +82 2 545 0396; labonohair.com
From the basic combination pizza (beef, mushroom, pepperoni, Canadian ham, bell pepper, onion, olive -- ₩19,900 for a large size) to the Lugano gold shrimp pizza (chili, salsa, cheddar, sweet potato mousse, shrimp, string cheese -- ₩31,900 for a large size), Lugano Pizza sports more than a dozen different menus as well as a selection of side dishes, including baked chicken, barbecue pork ribs, three different kinds of spaghetti and cheese sticks (side dishes are deliverable from ₩10,000)
Lugano Pizza currently has two stores -- in Dobong-gu and Jongno-gu -- and delivers to Nowon-gu, Dobong-gu, Gangbuk-gu, Sungbuk-gu, Jongno-gu, Jung-gu, and Dongdaemun-gu.
Call 1577 9456 for sizzling hot pizza made with Imsil cheese, a Korean cheese made in Imsil-gun, Jeollabuk-do.
687-43 Changsin-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 창신동 687-43); +82 1577 9456; www.lugano.co.kr
Hong Kong Banjum 0410 (홍콩반점)
Hong Kong Banjum 0410 is no ordinary Chinese restaurant chain -- and by Chinese restaurant, we mean a Korean-Chinese restaurant, not an American-Chinese restaurant. Unlike the many Chinese restaurants in Korea, Hong Kong Banjum does not have jajangmyeon on its menu.
Specializing in jjambbong (Chinese-style spicy noodle soup with vegetables and seafood) and jjambbong-related dishes (like jjambbong rice and fried jjambbong), Hong Kong Banjum 0410 has more than 80 branches in Korea.
“The jjambbong here is one of the best I’ve tasted,” says frequent patron Mi-jung Oh, 49.
The Jamsil Shincheon store of Hong Kong Banjum seats around 70 people and is open 24 hours.
179-1 Jamsil-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 송파구 잠실동 179-1번지); +82 2 418 0410
48 Cheongdam (청담 48번지)
This restaurant and bar in swanky Cheongdam sells jewelry and serves fancy fusion dishes like "Grilled scallops with Omija jelly and lime vinegar sauce," (₩16,000) and all in a spacious, unfussy interior with neutral colors and wood accents.
This ambience makes 48 Cheongdam bright and inviting by day, and respectable and dependable by night.
This year, the bar is running a special deal for Chinese zodiac dragons: either a complimentary glass of house wine with your meal, or Kumazawa cheese bread with your coffee or tea.
48-1 Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 강남구 청담동 48-1번지); +82 2 512 4648; www.48st.co.kr
We've all had those days, when you just don’t want to move a single muscle in your body -- if only a genie would magically appear and do all of your errands and bring a double-shot, extra-hot caramel macchiato (or a hot bowl of sundae soup, depending on what you’ve got a hankering for).
Haejuseyoprovides customers with seemingly boundless services -- from delivering food items that are normally non-deliverable to carrying out odd jobs. Sounds like the life!
But naturally it's far from cheap. The basic rate for a delivery in Gangnam district is ₩6,900 (plus the price of whatever is being bought and delivered, and rates go up per block outside of Gangnam). Half an hour of chores will cost ₩30,000.
Depending on how desperately you want things done, you might either find that to be a great deal or the tiniest bit overpriced.
Haejuseyo; +82 1544 5478; blog.naver.com(Korean)
Calyx -- part café, part gallery and part exclusive members-only club -- encourages high spending.
The selection of things to do -- whether it is sampling a ￦50,000 cup of Kopi Luwak coffee, sipping expensive teas and Champagne, listening to orgel music, or admiring the collection of framed photographs by Michael Kenna, furniture -- is intriguing, if oddly random.
But perhaps the randomness is what gives the place an edge.
"Calyx isn't simply a café," says assistant manager Mun Seung-ho. "With unique items from all over the world, we have a variety of entertainments designed to delight the eyes and ears."
Ritz Building, 6-5 Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu (서울특별시 강남구 청담동 6-5 리츠빌딩 1층); +82 2 518 0075; www.calyxseoul.com
M Plus Multibang (엠플러스 멀티방)
The M Plus Multibang is a mashup of various types of bangs, or rooms. With six items on the menu -- Wii, VOD, Karaoke, Movies, Live TV, and Internet -- it is the bang to end all bangs.
Combine the entertainments of above with the comfort of your own office. Subtract filth (any of the above, or your own room, if you're that kind of guy), the smell of stale cigarette smoke (PC bangs), and those strange crusty white patches on cheap vinyl sofas (DVD bangs). Add nifty little services like a snack bar with unlimited coffee and drinks.
The result is the multibang, popular with 20- and 30-somethings looking for a bit of privacy -- just not the NSFW kind.
"We get a lot of couples on dates," says proprietor Park Dong-hoon.
After all, relationships cannot live on make-out sessions alone. They sometimes need Wii.
"This is the new trend," says Park, confidently. "I like to think that our multibang is somewhat more 'luxury' than other venues. And clean -- definitely much cleaner."
Rooms start at ₩15,000 for an hour or ₩24,000 for two hours.
3/F Sinjin Builing, 818 Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 강남구 역삼동 818번지 신진빌딩3층); +82 2 567 9222; www.멀티방.한국
12 Bun-ga (12번가 or 12번 구운가)
Gopchang is edible intestine. And whether fried or stewed, it's so popular that many establishments will serve this surprisingly healthy food 24 hours a day.
But if popularity and health benefits are not reason enough, 12 Bun-ga serves neatly cooked pork gopchang delicious enough to win over the most squeamish of gopchang virgins.
"At 12 Bun-ga, we cook our gopchang on a brazier at 1,000 C, flipping the meat 12 times," says Kim Young-soo, director of SLFNB, the company behind the 12 Bun-ga restaurant and brand.
"This method of cooking drains most of the grease -- and the calories -- and leaves a chewy, delicious meat with a smoky flavor, rich in collagen."
The best part? "We use a unique, patent-worthy cooking process that rids the meat of of any overpowering smells," says Kim. "So even gopchang beginners will come to us and say they enjoyed it."
#302 Royal Building, 1654-15 Sillim-dong, Gwanak-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 관악구 신림동 1654-15 로얄빌딩 302호); +82 2 065 5946
Culcom Book Café
Lined with books available for reading free of charge, Culcom Book Café is geared towards students who wish to "study" in a more casual atmosphere than that of a library or a school classroom.
“I loved going to Culcom when I was learning Chinese,” says patron Stacy Chang. “I would come here often with a group of friends and stay for hours without any pressure to leave from the staff. It was one of the better alternative options to a library."
Unlike most book cafés, Culcom sells food, including pizza, salad and sandwiches and also rents out iPads: any paying customer is allowed to borrow an iPad for two hours, free of charge.
It also runs study classes. For ₩69,000 a month, students can sign up for an English speaking-class called "Bagel Speaking" -- a free bagel and cream cheese thrown in with each class.
The drip coffee’s not bad either.
40 Jongno 2-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea (서울특별시 종로구 종로2가 40); +82 2 744 0553
For travelers who find themselves in desperate need of everything from emergency painkillers to pregnancy tests, Orange Pharmacy in Gangnam is open all hours of the night.
And yes, they do sell various different versions of the magical “hangover elixer.”
#103 199-5 Nohyeon 2-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea (서울특별시 강남구 논현2동 199-5 103호); +82 2 549 5011
Makekineko Noraebang (karaoke)
There's no better way to end a night of bar-hopping than belting out some drunken tunes at your local noraebang.
Manekineko Noraebang offers Japanese, Korean and English songs on two different systems. In the summer, the family-friendly joint also hands out free ice cream to its customers.
Need another reason to visit Manekineko at random hours? The norebang rents its regular rooms dirt-cheap at ₩1,000 an hour between 6 a.m. and noon. During those hours, premium rooms cost ₩2,000 and VIP rooms cost ₩3,000 respectively.
From noon to 6 p.m. a regular room costs ₩15,000; from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the price rises to ₩20,000.
#603 32 Hyoryung Building, Mugyo-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea (서울특별시 중구 무교로 32 효령빌딩 603호); +82 2 755 3052; www.manekineko.co.kr
Dragon Hill Spa
Many a Korean celebrity's rags-to-riches story features nights spent sleeping at a jjimjilbang (Korean-style sauna) because he or she couldn't afford the money for a hotel. And indeed, in the wee hours of the morning, most patrons at jjimjilbang can be seen sleeping with a towel draped over their faces.
Jjimjilbang Dragon Hill Spa in Yongsan is more akin to a wacky amusement park than a spa, with a gym, cafeteria, relaxation room, sauna, game room, PC bang, outdoor pool (heated in the winter) and skin care and massage services.
The fee between the hours of 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. is ₩10,000 for the first 12 hours.
Every additional hour costs an extra ₩1,000. Late-night visits between the hours of 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. cost ₩12,000 per hour.
40-712 Hangang-ro 3-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea (서울특별시 용산구 한강로3가 40-712); +82 2 792 0001; www.dragonhillspa.co.kr
International Health Care Center Severance Hospital
Yonsei Severance Hospital, one of the best hospitals in the country, offers a 24-hour emergency service in both Korean and English.
Thank goodness you bought that traveler's insurance at the airport, eh?
International Health Care Center Severance Hospital 250 Seongsanno (134 Sinchon-dong), Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 120-752, Korea (120-752 서울특별시 서대문구 성산로 250); +82 10 9948 0983; www.yuhs.or.kr
Dal.komm coffee is a 24-hour café that serves more than coffee. This isn't due to any inadequacy in their menu, which features Americanos of several degrees of richness, "Cube," a drink with coffee-flavored ice cubes submerged in milk or the chocolate version of the drink, where you have warm milk stirred with sticks of chocolate.
Sounds cozy? There's more. Dal.komm is aggressively pursuing a "multi café" approach, where a cup of joe isn't just a cup of joe. It's a cup of joe with a carefully curated playlist selected to fit the time and the mood.
"I know a lot of cafés play music," says public relations manager Minjung Shin. "But we specialize in something called 'soundblending,' which is our name for the way we put together our playlists, including songs that people wouldn't ordinarily hear in cafés."
With one wall decorated with speakers in a generally sleek interior, and white “ball chairs” -- kiosks where guests can listen to a variety of music not currently playing in the café -- Dal.komm is “all about the combination of music and coffee," says Shin.
Dal.komm is 24 hours from Tuesday to Saturday. On Sunday it closes at 11 p.m. and opens again on Monday at 8:30 a.m. Parking (valet) is ￦2,000 for 2 hours.
737-20 Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 서초구 반포동 737-20); +82 2 511 9101; www.dalkomm.com
Baek Jong (백정)
Former professional wrestler and now temporarily retired comedian Kang Ho Dong owns this reasonably priced and therefore popular 24-hour Korean barbecue restaurant chain.
The traditional Korean-style joint dishes up domestic pork, imported beef, soups, noodles, and a traditional lunchbox of rice with a cooked egg on top.
The meat is cooked over a charcoal grill and the special grill has side pockets for the garlic and onions and another separate pocket for whisked egg.
3/F, 672-6 Deungchon 3-dong (서울특별시 강서구 등촌3동 672-6 3층); +82 2 1577 3678; www.baekjeong.co.kr
Yongdong Seolleongtang (영동 설렁탕)
Surprisingly spacious and clean despite its run-down entrance, this seolleongtang joint has been serving deeply satisfying beef broth for more than 30 years.
The soup is served within five minutes of placing the order, and the clientele is divided into folk who drop by in a hurry (policemen, cab drivers) and others who stay for hours, downing multiple bottles of soju along with their steaming bowls of soup.
“It’s a great place to go late at night,” says drummer Ha Hyoung-Ju who comes with his friends after long hours practicing. “It’s one of the most famous places in the area although you’d never guess it from how it looks from the outside.”
₩9,000 per bowl.
Seocho-gu Jamwon-dong 10-53 (서울특별시 서초구 잠원동) 10-53; +82 2 543 4716
Paid designated drivers (대리운전)
Seoul's fantastic public transportation system reduces a lot of drunk driving, but it certainly doesn't eliminate it.
In order to provide another safe alternative to drunk driving, a number of companies offer substitute driving services around the clock, which may or may not be the best thing that ever happened to the streets of Seoul.
Revelers under the influence can call in around the clock and get a driver to pilot their car home for approximately ₩10,000-₩15,000.
Card Daeri, +82 2 1599 0000; www.1599-0000.co.kr
Not only do these McDonald’s and Lotteria joints offer their greasy goodness at all hours of the night, but they also deliver right to your door.
Lotteria:659-12Chang-dong, Dobong-gu, Seoul, Korea (서울특별시 도봉구 창동659-12); +82 2 1600 9999; www.lotteria.com
McDonald's: 286 Chungryang-dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul, Korea (서울특별시 동대문구 청량동 286 동광빌딩); +82 2 957 3394; mcdonalds.co.kr
Whether it's because you just flew in from the other side of the globe, because you work by night and sleep by day, because you're a natural insomniac or because you simply hate the sun, you might find that your sleeping patterns don't exactly conform to that of the majority.
But sleeping through breakfast and lunch, and waking up around dinnertime, however bad it sounds, doesn't necessarily mean you're lazy. For those with unconventional sleeping patterns who wish to keep fit, Iris Fitness is open 24 hours Monday through Friday.
This gym actually seems favor the morning people: There's a 60 percent discount for clients who come in between 5 a.m. and noon.
On Saturdays, the hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sundays and Holidays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Check out the "Personal Trainer" section of their website (Korean) for profiles of their muscled, smarmy trainers.
2/F Dongil Building, 737-7 Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 서초구 반포동 737-3 동일빌딩 2층); +82 2 545 0400; cafe.naver.com/irisfitness
Spa on Air
Traveling to a far-off country is no easy thing -- add an unexpected five-hour delay at the airport to your already long day and you’ve got yourself dreaming about a hot shower and a relaxing massage.
Cue Spa on Air, conveniently located at the east side of Incheon International Airport. Spa on Air offers various massages and has a shower/bath/sauna system, and of course, it is open 24/7.
Massage programs include a refreshing foot massage (₩40,000 for 30 minutes), a 30- or 60-minute back and shoulders massage (₩60,000 and ₩80,000, respectively), and a 80-minute full body massage (₩120,000).
Spa on Air also has a nap room, a meeting room, a snack bar and a heel bar, and the lounge is filled with comfortable chaise lounges and sofas as well as the latest magazines to flip through.
The admission fee is ₩15,000 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and ₩20,000 from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Spa on Air, B1 East Side, 2850 Unseo-dong, Jung-gu, Incheon (인천광역시중구운서동2850); +82 32 743 7042
Also on CNNGo: Seoul: 24 hours, 24 adventures