What to Do, Eat and See in Hongdae, Seoul’s Hippest Neighborhood
Hongdae is one of the young and hip neighborhoods of Seoul in South Korea. The name “Hongdae” comes from Hong-Ik University (in short) in the area. With the college best known for its arts program, it is only natural that Hongdae became the playground for the young and hip to appreciate urban arts, underground culture, and indie music.
If you are looking for something fun and creative things to do in Hongdae, Seoul’s hippest neighborhood got many on the list for you. And this article covers what to do in Hongdae, my favorite Hongdae food and restaurants, unique Hongdae cafes, trendy Hongdae bars and clubs, and where to stay in Hongdae.
I’m excited to introduce Hongdae, not only because the ultra-hip hood exudes liberal and creative vibes, but also because it is a nostalgic place for me.
I studied at nearby university and lived in Sinchon for a few years. Hongdae used to be my neck of the woods. Although my time was before Hongdae exploded like today and the area has changed a lot since, Hongdae always had the artsy and indie scenes even back then. I would say it has lost a bit of edginess with commercialization. However, the creative spirit and livelihood are still there to continue attracting the young crowd.
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Seoul Travel Essentials
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What to Do in Hongdae
Enjoy K-Pop Performances on Hongdae Shopping Street
Hongdae has been the playground for underground bands and indie musicians for decades. Along with Daehak-ro, this area is always frequent by street performers and artists.
While you are shopping along the Hongdae Shopping Street, enjoy busking and support K-pop star wannabes and other artists.
These artists liven up the area in the early evening through night. You will see more diverse performances on weekends. But during the weekdays, you can also enjoy busking with fewer crowds.
Go Hongdae Shopping: What to Buy in Hongdae & Where
Hongdae is one of the best places to shop in Seoul. If you are looking for unique things to buy in Korea without breaking the bank, you would want to shop here.
While you can find millions of clothing stores all over Seoul, Hongdae fashion gears toward the young and hip. Most of the “street fashion” in Hongdae is affordable, fun, and unique. If you are in your 20s to early 30s, you might find lots of clothing items you like here.
Note that these fast-fashion items are not always the best quality. They would last maybe two good seasons. Regardless, I love window-shopping in Hongdae to see all the cool designs. I usually buy cute T-shirts or trendy accessories for the season.
By the way, if you want the best quality and design, you should check out department stores in Korea. But you will most likely get a sticker shock!
Good to know: At road shops, some of these clothing come in “free” size, which means one size fits all, while others may have small, medium, and large. Some stores do not let you try on clothing, either. It may require some guessing games for the right fit and style.
You will find many jewelry stores from big-name brands (J. Estina, Mini Gold, etc.) to independent shops. In the hip neighborhood like Hongdae, I like to check out independent accessory shops for their unique designs and handmade jewelry.
Are you a fan of character goods? Then, you might be delighted to know Hongdae has both Kakao Friends and Line Friends flagship stores. Be ready for the cuteness overload.
These stores have cute character goods from stationery to clothing to electronics to lifestyle products. I never go in intending to buy anything, but I always come out with something.
Kakao Friends, 162, Yanghwa-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Line Friends, L7 Hotel 1F, 141, Yanghwa-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Lifestyle Design Goods
Hongdae is also a great place to find lifestyle design goods. From stationery to cell phone accessories to daily necessities, independent shops design and sell unique items, both beautiful and functional. They are great souvenirs to bring home or gifts for friends.
You are welcome to check out my favorites below, but be warned you might want to buy more than you expect.
Artbox, 19 Hongik-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Lifestyle Store Object (Object 생활연구소), 13, Wausan-ro 35-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
KEY (생활창작가게 KEY), 48-5, Wausan-ro 29-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
BCOE, 51, Wausan-ro 29-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Thenine Mall, 15, Wausan-ro 20ma-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Hongdaeap Art Free Market
Hongdaeap Art Free Market is another excellent place to hunt for unique souvenirs. Opened on Saturdays, you will find many handmade goods and arts here. To be clear, they are not free (the name can be a bit confusing, though) but affordable.
Hours: On Saturdays from March to October: 1 pm ~ 6 pm
Address: Hongik Cultural Park (In front of the main gate of Hongik Univ.)
Visit K-Beauty Concept Stores
For K-beauty fans, Hongdae is a great area to shop for all your beauty needs. All of the major drugstores such as Olive Young, LOHB’S, and Lalavla have a presence in Hongdae. You can also find famous K-beauty brand shops such as Etude House, A’PIEU, Club Clio, Innis Free, Tony Moly, Too Cool for School, etc.
Most importantly, you should not miss these three beauty concept stores in Hongdae!
Espoir Makeup Pub
Espoir Makeup Pub is a pub-concept beauty store. You can sit in a bar to play with the hottest makeup products, or get a makeover done by a makeup artist. They even offer Today’s Artist Look menu you can choose for your makeover.
What makes Espoir Makeup Pub stand out, though, is its customizable foundation bar. Regardless of the brand, Korean foundations usually come in two primary colors. So if you don’t have the typical Korean skin tone, most likely, you would not be happy with the outcome. If that’s your experience, this is the place to go. You can tailor your foundation color that wears like your true skin at the makeup pub. Yep, instead of draft beer, bar nozzles dispense liquid foundation from the “beer keg.”
Location: 10, Hongik-ro 6-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
>> If you would like a complete hair and makeup makeover in trendy Korean style, try this beauty salon at L7 Hotel. I always get satisfied with styling at Korean hair salons!
Stonebrick is a new beauty brand by E-mart that I just discovered on my recent trip. The brand focuses on color makeup (no skincare). At first, I got overwhelmed with all the colors available at the store. But with the help of self-color consultation on the computer, I found two lip colors that work great on my skin tone. I have been going all over town to find the right colors for me!
I also love their magnet packages. They are not only designed to be spill-proof (disaster if the lipstick cap opens inside your purse!) but also stacked up like a Lego block.
Location: 34, Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
>> Are you interested in making your lipsticks? Join this workshop in Hongdae to create skincare products or lipstick that work best for you.
Stylenanda 3CE Pink Pool Cafe
3CE is a hot makeup brand by an online hit fashion brand, Stylenanda. 3CE has a few concept stores in Seoul, and Hongdae got one in the form of a cafe.
If you are like me and love pink (have you noticed my theme colors?), this is your dream place. You will be surrounded by pretty things in pink everywhere inside the cafe. The cafe with a pink pool (hence the name) is an Instagram hot spot. And yes, you can shop Stylenanda clothing, accessories, as well as 3CE makeup.
I visited another flagship store in Myeongdong, “Stylenanda 3CE Hotel” (photos above). Their cappuccino was surprisingly good! So, after makeup shopping, don’t forget to try their desserts and coffee.
Location: 23, Wausan-ro 29da-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Take Selfie Shots at Photo Booth
Have you been to a wedding with a photo booth? Wasn’t it fun to take photos and celebrate the night with friends?
Koreans do not wait for a special event to do that because it’s super easy to find an instant photo booth on the streets of Hongdae! If you see one, pop in for a photoshoot. Taking an impromptu photo with travel companions (or by yourself) is a great way to commemorate your trip!
See Your Future with Tarot Cards
Fortune teller cafes used to be popular in Korea. I thought they were out of fashion (and business) by now. But to my surprise, last time I visited Hongdae, I saw more than a dozen of tarot card cafes with young fortune tellers. As my mom always says, fashion circles back every 10 years. Who knows?
Anyway, if you want to read your fortune, why not give it a try in Hongdae? Do you have boyfriend issues? Do you need a job? Ask away. Whether you genuinely believe in fortune-telling or not, it’s fun, at least.
Heading to Seoul?
If you are traveling to Seoul, check out 20+ unique experiences in the capital city of South Korea. This list includes places to visit, food to eat, and things to do for your planning.
Watch Hongdae Nanta Show
Nanta is a long-running show in Korea that I highly recommend for international travelers.
The percussion show follows drama in the kitchen, using unique percussion instruments and rhythm from Korean folk music – samulnori. The upbeat music would make you want to bust out your moves along with the rhythm.
What’s better, you don’t need to understand a single word of Korean or Korean culture. Although the performers would occasionally shout out simple English words here and there, like “cabbage,” it is a non-verbal show. It is easy to follow the plot; the show is quite comical as there is a universal humor code that makes anyone laugh.
I took the Big O to the show about 10 years ago. Although he did not speak any Korean at the time, he had lots of fun and laughter. Check it out yourself!
Hongdae Nanta Theater, 29, Yanghwa-ro 16-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Stroll along Gyeongui Line Forest Park
Gyeongui Line Forest Park is beautiful urban greenery in Yeonnam-dong, often called “Yeontral Park” (i.e., Yeonnam Central Park). The city developed this cultural park where the Gyeongui Line train tracks used to run.
Since the park was created along the 6.3 kilometer-long train track, the promenade is long – rather than a big square, lined with cool restaurants, cafes, dessert shops, and bars. It is an excellent place to stroll and snack in Yeonnam-dong.
You can find seasonal flowers and lush green. My favorite time is the fall when yellow ginkgo trees beautifully decorate the park.
Location: Yongmun-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Culture Yourself at Gyeongui Line Book Street
Gyeongui Line Book Street is a part of Gyeongui Line Forest Park. The book-themed street is dotted with unique book stores, book cafes, and literature museums.
There are many literature programs and workshops in this area. However, these events require you to understand Korean. Still, if you love books and literature, this would be a fascinating place to explore.
Location: 50-4, Wausan-ro 35-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Play VR Games
Virtual Reality (VR) Games have taken off in Korea. It is not too surprising to me, considering the massive video game market in the country. Video games are considered a significant social activity. And PC cafes are widespread, where friends get together to play video games for hours.
The growing trend is VR games. You can ride a roller coaster, fight off zombies, raid a building to shoot criminals, walk on the wall of a skyscraper, etc.
If you are watching others play, you would think they are exaggerating, and it’s quite funny. Unless you experience yourself, you will never know how scary and real VR games can get, fully knowing it is all fake.
Sing Your Heart Out at Noraebang
Going Noraebang is a quintessential Korean experience. Koreans love to go singing at Noraebang. Don’t worry if you are not a great singer. Korean Noraebang takes place in an intimate setting – i.e., a private room (“bang”).
In Hongdae, Su Noraebang is quite an entertaining place. The entire building has a full window view peeking into the rooms. People from the street can see (the silhouette of) you sing and dance, but they cannot hear you.
Su Noraebang, 37, Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Experience Indie Music Scene on Hongdae Live Club Day
Back in my days – when I was going clubbing in Seoul, Hongdae Club Day was a monthly club-hopping event, where one pass would get you into the area clubs and one free drink. It ended a long time ago.
The new thing now is Hongdae Live Club Day. Last Friday of each month, Korean indie musicians perform at different Hongdae live clubs. Music fans can join the monthly music festival. Tickets range from ₩10,000 – ₩30,000.
For more information, check their Facebook page (in Korean only).
Visit the World’s First AG Museum: Trick Eye Museum
The Trick Eye Museum is a painting gallery with 3D optical illusion arts. Using the AR (Augmented Reality) technique to create optical illusions, the paintings appear 3D and allow you to take epic photos of you getting eaten by a dragon, walking on the bridge over volcano erupted lava, etc.
Although there are many Trick Eye Museums in Korea and Asia now, Trick Eye Museum in Seoul is the world’s first AG Museum.
Also, Hongdae Trick Eye Museum is in an entertainment complex with Ice Museum, Love Museum, Hit VR, and CaFace Cafe, which makes it easy to dedicate your half-day for entertainment in Hongdae.
Trick Eye Museum, Seogyo Plaza B2, 20, Hongik-ro 3-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
What to Eat in Hongdae
When I walk into random Korean restaurants overseas, I often get disappointed. However, in Seoul, I rarely feel failed. Of course, Koreans would make the best Korean food. But my hunch is that places like Hongdae with the premium rentals, only the best survive. So your chance of failure is significantly lower.
While I am confident you can explore the Hongdae area and enjoy your meals no problem, I want to share a few of my favorite Hongdae restaurants and what to eat in Hongdae as a pointer.
Insider Tip: Seoul changes fast. Restaurants come and go in a matter of months. Before you go, check if they are still in business.
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Korean Fried Chicken
Your trip to Korea would not complete without trying Korean fried chicken. It’s a fail-proof choice because I am yet to meet anyone who does not like Korean fried chicken (KFC).
Best Restaurant to Eat in Hongdae: Kyochon Chicken
There are more than a dozen KFC brands and mom-and-pop shops. However, Kyochon Chicken is one of my favorites that you can easily find in Seoul. The Hongdae store is foreigner-friendly with the English menu. It is always packed in the evening with people dine in or take out.
My favorite flavor? Hmm…Garlic Soy!
Location: 6, Yanghwa-ro 16-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Gamja-tang, or Pork Back-Bone Stew, is a spicy Korean pork stew. The main ingredients are pork back-bone and potato. It is one of my favorite dishes to eat in Korea, especially in winter.
Best Restaurant to Eat in Hongdae: Yeongdong Gamja-tang
In Hongdae, I like to go to Yeongdong Gamja-tang (영동감자탕). Their Gamja-tang is super tasty made with the hand-down family recipe that uniquely uses ground beans. This dish typically serves 2-3 persons and up and is meant to be shared. But this restaurant allows you to order a single size, and even if you are traveling solo, you can get the taste of it here.
Location: 17, Worldcupbuk-ro 5-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Tteokbokki is a spicy stir-fried rice cake (“tteok”) and fish cake (“eomuk”). This national favorite snack food (and my favorite!) is best paired with Sundae (or Korean blood sausage) and assorted fries.
Best Restaurant to Eat in Hongdae: Hongdae Jopok Tteokbokki
If you are a fan of spicy food or simply want to try Korea’s national street food, I’d recommend checking out Hongdae Jopok Tteokbokki (홍대 조폭 떡볶이). The restaurant brand started in Hongdae before getting popular nationwide. For the generous portion, it’s one of the most affordable restaurants you will find in Hongdae.
Location: 38, Hongik-ro 6-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Bulgogi, or marinated beef stir fry, is another fail-proof meat dish that any meat lovers would enjoy. Like other Korean dishes, you can easily find many restaurants serving this popular beef menu. However, Hongdae has a unique restaurant that is slightly different from other bulgogi restaurants.
Best Restaurant to Eat in Hongdae: Sandeomi Bulgogi
Sandeomi Bulgogi (산더미 불고기) is a 24-hour restaurant and bar, where you will find its famous bulgogi mountain as well as other menus with various cuts of meat such as spicy braised short ribs, pork belly, spicy pork, etc. As the name suggests, bulgogi mountain offers a generous portion of marinated beef topped with shredded green onion.
Location: 47, Eoulmadang-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Bean Sprout Rice Soup
Rough night at Hongdae? You will be glad to know, as much as Koreans love to drink, they have created diverse hangover food. One of them is bean sprout rice soup. The spicy soup with rice soothes the stomach, and bean sprouts help break down alcohol in the body.
But even if you are not drunk, the bean sprout rice soup is still tasty. Try it next time when you are sober or drunk; it will be an interesting comparison.
Best Restaurant to Eat in Hongdae: Hyundaeok Hongdae
If you are looking for hangover food in Hongdae, Jeonju Hyundaeok (현대옥) is one of the best restaurants you can go to the morning after. Hyundaeok Hongdae is a satellite restaurant of its main restaurant in Jeonju, Jeolla-do. Their bean sprout rice soup, along with Jeonju Bibimbap, is one of the two most popular local dishes in the province known as Korea’s best food destination.
By the way, if you cannot handle spicy soup, ask the kitchen to remove jalapeños.
Location: 2F, 115-2, Eoulmadang-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Yum, pork knuckles. If you haven’t had it, it might not sound appetizing. But you really should give it a try. Especially for ladies, all the collagen you can consume, your skin will thank you.
Best Restaurant to Eat in Hongdae: Mawang Pork
For the first-timers, I would recommend Mawang Pork (마왕족발). Unlike the traditional recipe of braising, Mawang Pork offers barbecue pork knuckles. They bake pork knuckles to maximize tenderness while keeping it moist and lean. Their menu also provides a variety of recipes and sizes you can choose.
Location: 1F, 136-18, Eoulmadang-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Have you visited a Korean bakery? You might have noticed that Korean bread is different from that of other countries. Some of them are savory, but most are on the sweeter side while not as sweet as desserts. There are many franchise bakery brands available nationwide, but I’d like to try independent bakeries in a different neighborhood.
Best Bakery in Hongdae: Bakery Bonggyo
Technically not a restaurant, but I wanted to include Bakery Bonggyo (봉교 베이커리) in the Hongdae food list. I tried more than ten different pieces of bread in three days. They were all excellent quality and delicious!
My favorite of all was Camembert Fig Pretzel, which comes out after 11 a.m.
Location: 42-3, Dokmak-ro 19-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Best Cafes in Hongdae
One of my favorite activities in Korea is to visit different cafes. Cafes are not just for coffee lovers in Seoul. Korean cafes are unique and cute, and there are many theme cafes in Hongdae where you can enjoy a variety of activities over a cup of java.
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Hongdae Cafes for Coffee Lovers
Millo Coffee Roasters
It is a well-known coffee shop among serious coffee connoisseurs. Montblanc and hand-drip coffees are their signature menus. I love their Montblanc with soft, sweet cream on top.
Location: 1F, 36, Yanghwa-ro 18an-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Hongdae Cafes for Activities
Archery Cafe Robin Hood
This cafe is a fun place to learn or practice archery with friends. The staff is a trained archer who patiently teaches beginners like me. Archery was more difficult than expected, but it is lots of fun once you get the hang of it.
Location: 3F, 31, Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
How special would it be to craft your silver rings in Seoul? It would be a unique way to commemorate your Seoul trip with your significant other or friends.
Escape Room Seoul
This cafe is not for claustrophobics. But if you love to play intellectual games, you can voluntarily lock yourself in, challenge yourself with a series of puzzles and quizzes until you can escape the room.
Location: 3F, 156, Wausan-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Hongdae Theme Cafes
943 King’s Cross, the Harry Potter Cafe
This is for all the Harry Potter fans. The cafe is a mini-replica of the movie sets from the Hogwarts Express to the flying broomsticks to the Muggle props. You can also get a taste of Butterbeer.
Location: 24, Yanghwa-ro 16-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Be Our Guest
To be honest, I was more excited about Hello Kitty than Happy Potter. Then, I heard the disappointing news that Hello Kitty Cafe in Hongdae is permanently closed. Instead, I learned that Beauty and the Beast-themed Be Our Guest Cafe has opened. I haven’t been yet. But in case you are a fan of Beauty and the Beast…
Location: 20, Jandari-ro 2-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Hongdae Cafes for Instagrammers
If you have been looking for cute desserts and drinks perfect for your Instagram, this cafe is it.
Location: 1F, 22, Wausan-ro 29ma-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
This cozy cafe with a lovely terrace is famous for its Cotton Candy Latte. Fine, you see I tried many cotton candy coffee as it was the thing in Seoul at the time of my visit. But seriously, this place is more than just a cafe. Beautiful flowers and plants are not only part of the decoration but also for sale.
Location: 1F, 45, Eoulmadang-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
How would you like your face printed on your latte? CaCafe creates latte arts using your photo, among many creative designs. The underground cafe is slightly tricky to find, though. Look for it in front of the Trick Eye Museum.
Location: Seogyo Plaza B2, 20, Hongik-ro 3-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Arriate Flower Cafe
Sip a tea surrounded by thousands of blooms! And take a photo in front of the flower walls. You can also buy a drink+flower package.
Location: 2F, 30, Hongik-ro 6-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Best Bars in Hongdae
As for the bustling neighborhood full of the young crowd, Hongdae has many trendy bars. Even during the weekdays, these bars get busy. On weekends, many bars don’t accept reservations, which means you might have to get there early or put your name down on the waiting list.
Here, I will introduce a few of my favorite Hongdae bars, where local Koreans go. While I am not suggesting Koreans would not go to any western-style bars, I preferred to stick to “Korean-style” establishments in my hunt. But that’s just my preference. Hongdae bars have different vibes and styles, so you have many options to choose from that fit your taste.
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Hongdae Bars for Makgeolli Drinkers
Makgeolli is a milky sparkling rice wine that tastes sweet and tangy. I love makgeolli because it goes down smooth and tastes much sweeter than soju – Korea’s most popular choice of alcohol beverage. Hongdae has excellent choices of traditional and modern makgeolli bars.
Sanwoolim is my favorite of the favorite bars in Hongdae! This unique bar serves a wide selection of Korean traditional liquors and makgeolli. Some of the selections they have are “exotics,” rarely found in other places. The kitchen also prepares traditional Korean bar food with a modern twist. These creative Korean foods are tasty and pair well with Korean spirits! If you must pick one bar in Hongdae for Korean booze, let that be Sanwoolim 1992.
Location: 60, Seogang-ro 9-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Sanwoolim 1992 is a traditional pub, whereas Makgeollism is a specialized makgeolli house in a modern, eclectic setting. Besides the most popular original-flavor makgeolli, the bar also offers unique makgeolli cocktails with yogurt, cream, candy bar, cherry blossom mixtures, as well as makgeolli champagne. I’d say, Makgeollism appeals to girls more so than guys.
Location: 3F, 33-21, Donggyo-ro 38-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Slow Brew Pub
Slow Brew Pub is a makgeolli bar with multiple locations in Korea. Although it is a franchise, their makgeolli is not mass-produced like the ones you find at a convenience store. Each pub brews its makgeolli on the spot, which you can see through the glass window. Slow Brew Pub offers four different makgeolli (spring, summer, fall, and winter) with flavors varying by the fermentation time. The food pairing is also excellent.
Location: 2F. Hongik-ro 5an-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Hongdae Bars with Great Bar Food
Dongbaek Sanghui is a retro pub near Gyeongui Line Forest Park. This pub is set in the Parasite-style semi-basement suite and decorated with an indoor pojang macha (tent bar) theme. It takes you back to the 70s Korea with round metal tables, food on green marble sets of plastic plates, hand-written menus on the wall, etc. It kind of looks like a hole in the wall, but you will have the best food pairings here with soju and beer. Try their seasonal seafood or soju-steamed scallop. Two thumbs up.
Location: 3, Donggyo-ro 30-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
We stumbled upon Moon Kitchen, another semi-basement bar in Hongdae, although its modern-chic style creates an entirely different atmosphere from Dongbaek Sanghui. We loved their plum liquor and lemongrass gin & tonic, paired with Korean-Thai fusion food. I highly recommend it.
Location: 34, Donggyo-ro 46-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Jeonju Sanghui is a small retro bar with only a few tables. But the restaurant bar is known for its delicious bar food that pairs well with alcoholic beverages. It is popular, and the wait is quite long on the weekend. We gave up after waiting outside for an hour in the freezing weather. Consider dining and drinking here if you can get a seat.
Location: 195, Seongmisan-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Robatayaki Isekai is a Japanese izakaya bar in Hongdae. Because of its alluring exterior and the location, it is hard to miss. If you prefer Japanese bar food to Korean, Isekai can be another great option in Hongdae.
Location: 41, Eoulmadang-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul [Open Kakao Map]
Best Clubs in Hongdae
If you like to go clubbing in Seoul, there are three neighborhoods you should remember: Hongdae, Gangnam, and Itaewon. Each area features different vibes and attracts different crowds. But it is not hard to guess that Hongdae clubs attract the young and the hip in their early 20s.
That said, you might have guessed that I have not been to these clubs for a while. So I cannot claim I am the best person to advise you on Hongdae club scenes. However, I asked my cousin in Seoul, who just graduated from college. So here you go!
- Vera: A popular Hongdae club that plays EDM.
- M2: Another lively club that plays EDM.
- MB2: A hip-hop club managed by YG Entertainment. Expect to hear lots of music by YG Family such as Big Bang, Black Pink, Winner, etc.
- NB: Plays a mix of hip hop and EDM.
- The Henz Club: Trendy hip hop club.
- Cocoon: By the way, this famous Hongdae club is permanently closed.
Insider Tip: The U.S. clubs have a minimum age limit, whereas, in Korea, there are both minimum and maximum age limits. The minimum age is legally 20, while the max age is not legally bound and varies by the area and club. Don’t get shocked if you are in the mid-30s and turned down. The key is to look hip and hot, though, not your real age.
Where to Stay in Hongdae
Luxury: RYSE Autograph Collection
RYSE Autograph Collection (4*) is a boutique brand of the Marriot Hotel Group. If you are gravitating towards Hongdae’s creative and artsy vibes, you will love the experience at this trendy hotel. >> Compare Rates to Book: Booking, Agoda
Upscale: L7 Hongdae
L7 Hongdae by LOTTE (4*) is a chic business hotel near the Hongdae subway station. The complex offers a variety of entertainment, shopping, and restaurant, as well as a rooftop bar and swimming pool for guests. >> Compare Rates to Book: Booking, Agoda
Mid-Range: Nine Brick Hotel
Budget: Hotel Baroato
Hotel Baroato is a modern-chic hotel near the Hongdae subway station. The hotel offers family, couple, and single rooms, as well as a dormitory. It is an excellent value for budget travelers. >> Compare Rates to Book: Booking, Agoda
Hostel: The One Hostel Hongdae
How to Get to Hongdae
The easiest and best way to get to Hongdae is via subway. Hongik University Station can be reached on the Seoul Metro Line 2 (Green line) or AREX (Airport Railroad Express).
You can take a bus, too. Bus lines depend on where you are coming from. From Incheon Airport, hop on bus #6002, either from Terminal 1 or Terminal 2.
Flagging down a cab on the street should be easy in Seoul. If you prefer to call a cab, use the Kakao Taxi app (iOS, Google). Just know that you might get stuck in traffic on weekends and depending on the time of the day.
What to Do Next in Seoul
- 15 Things to Do in Insadong
- Day trip to Nami Island and the Garden of Morning Calm
- 20 Unique Experiences in Seoul
- How to Eat Korean BBQ Like a Local
Korea offers many beautiful cities featuring different sceneries from Seoul. Add my favorite cities to your Korea itinerary: