Western Bars and Hofs (Korean Bars), Seoul
There are several "Woodstock" music bars in Seoul, even Gangnam. The one I like best is on Yeoksam-dong side of Gangnam station, up the hill towards the second irish pub location. hard to find, but absolutely unique in terms of character. laid back. good music. darts if you like. from what I understood, the place got started as a pure act of love for blues and rock music, with a huge private collection of vinyl. The place just can take you back in time in the best possible way, i.e. by the music you remember from some time ago. A real bar, which is still rare in Korea, and very friendly people in an interesting mix - this is not your typical expat bar. I once lived close by, but will definitely stop by every time I get a chance to travel to Korea again!
Dress Code: no dress code, but you better have a good taste in music
3 Alley Pub is a large European-style bar with many Westerners, a pool table, and a huge selection of beers from around the world. This is one of the biggest and most popular bars in Itaewon and it has a great expat following. This is a great place to catch the rugby or soccer match as the owner is a native German named Gunter Kamp.
3 Alley has a decent menu with a variety of European and Korean dishes ranging from 4,000 to 18,500 Won.
Thursday night is quiz night and that can occasionally be entertaining. Weekends are often packed with the expat crowd from Europe, the US, and Australia. I never became a regular here, maybe because it was always so busy, but we enjoyed a drink or two here on occasion.
I returned in 2013, and enjoyed the clean, comfortable bar and relaxed atmosphere. Unlike some of the other older Itaewon bars, 3 Alley Pub has done a great job keeping their establishment renovated and welcoming. Still a great spot for a beer or a game of pool. I had a Hite beer for about 3,500 Won, an Alley Kat beer for 4,500, and a Hoegaarden for 6,500.
Scrooge Bar is Korean owned, but with a Western feel. It is usually quiet except when the Hashers (Hash House Harriers) show up some Saturday nights. It's also a good place for pool, darts and music. Say hello to Ken (the owner), Kyle (the bartender), and Joo Hyun (the waitress).
This is a newer bar, just opened in late 2003, so still has a clean, upscale feel, even though it is very casual. The owner is one of the friendliest Koreans I know and always greeted us by name and shook our hands when we arrived. Most of the customers are western, except when they have their pool tournaments, then a few Korean pool sharks might show up. They only have one pool table in this medium sized bar, so things can get crowded when it's busy.
As Brits say, this was our "local" in Itaewon. The one bar where we spent more time than any other, and we knew the staff and many customers by name.
I returned in 2013, and Scrooge Bar is still a nice bar with a pool table and dart boards. The bar has expanded to serve food, and it has a rooftop bar.
Nashville Extension is owned by a former American soldier and sits in the heart of Itaewon. Prior to the arrival of Outback steakhouse, the restaurant in the basement boasted the best steaks in town. The second floor has a large western-style bar that tends to be popular with US soldiers from the local army posts. The third floor has a salsa bar called Nashville Caliente, and the roof has an open air beer garden.
Note: In May 2004, the restaurant in the basement closed and was replaced with a country bar with a dance floor.
Seoul Pub is a popular spot on Itaewon's main street. It is a casual American style bar with friendly owner and staff. If you're in for a real treat ask Mr. Jung if you can join the "Seoul Pub Boot Club." They also have good food, darts and pool. This is one of the oldest bars in Itaewon, so it's well-worn but very casual and comfortable.
BTW, the Boot Club is a drinking/betting game where several people pass a giant glass boot of beer around and take sips, swigs, or gulps, and if they feel really lucky, they chug the whole thing. He who finishes the beer wins. Lots of strategy involved as you don't want to try to chug too soon and leave the next guy with an easy victory. But to encourage you to chug, Mr Jung might make a few side bets with you. Keeps the game interesting.
I returned in 2013 and was happy to find Seoul Pub still open. The crowd now seems to be mostly Korean, the beer is cheap (around 3,000 Won for a draft OB), but the bar is in need of a makeover.
A sign at the door in 2013 reads:
I went to a "Robatayaki" (pronounced almost like "rubber ducky") in Jongu with some Korean and American friends. The name of this bar is "O-ya-bung" but the sign is in Hangeul. This is a Japanese-style restaurant/bar with Korean food and drinks. There have western seating in the middle of the room and the edges have Japanese style seats that look like you are sitting on the floor, but are much more comfortable because the floor is cut away allowing your legs to hang as if in a normal chair.
For the food, we had a set meal for 4 that included spicy snails and noodles, haemultang (spicy seafood soup), breaded chicken, and several side dishes (including hard-boiled pheasant eggs). We also had a few bottles of lighter than normal soju, all for under 60,000 won.
Wit's End Bar is a quiet, nice place with a great selection of wine, liquor (good scotch), and beer. Music is tasteful with courteous English speaking staff. Good place to take a date or just hangout.
Dress Code: Modest attire but tasteful.
This is a great establishment with a wide variety of beers and the cuisine is gourmet. Wing night on Tuesday so come early and Quiz night is on Thursday for a little variety in your life! Many Expats hang out there, good pool table and darts area. The English speaking staff is friendly with a no nonsense attitude so don't worry about being around a bunch of fools like other places in Itaewon. Have a shot of Jägermeister or Apfel Korn. People have their opinion but all in all, this place is top notch. If you come, order a drink or something to eat, they just run a tight ship.
Dress Code: Casual
The Loft is one of the old standbys in Itaewon. Good beer and occasional live music. Just avoid Saturday nights when they have hip-hop night... The bar is slightly run down, and the bathroom just plain old sucks, but many people call this place home for the evening, every evening. The local chapter of the Hash House Harriers used to spend a lot of time here until Scrooge's opened...now I think they divide their time between the two.
The Loft is on the second floor with a few tables overlooking Itaewon's main drag. In the center of the large main area is a big oval shaped bar, perfect for mingling around without getting boxed in.
Dress Code: Casual
During the afternoon and early evening, Helios is a nice bar and grill, with some pretty good food. At about 10pm, it becomes a very popular dance club with more Koreans than Westerners. When I was there, it often got a little too crowded, so we generally avoided Helios after about 8 or 9pm.
Thursday is ladies night and seems to be quite popular (http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=140&article=35901&archive=true).
Furthermore, Helios has had way more than its share of negative publicity as the Yongsan Army Garrison declared it off limits for several months, then this beating occurred (http://theseoultimes.com/ST/db/read.php?idx=119).
Nightlife in Apgujeong is mainly for the rich and well dressed wanting to impress.
Apgujeong is known as the Beverly Hills of Korea and is the place to see and be seen. There are many nice restaurants, jazz clubs, American chain restaurants, and major Korean retail stores. The heart of Apgujeong is Rodeo Street (not to be confused with Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills). Apgujeong hosts one of Korea's only microbreweries, the classy Once in a Blue Moon, and has the Hard Rock Cafe.
Our Place is a nice, usually quiet, bar on the 5th and 6th floors of the building on the corner opposite Helios in central Itaewon. The 6th floor bar is half indoors and half outdoors and has a great view over Itaewon and Hooker Hill. Just be careful running the gauntlet of "juicy girls" as you enter the building as the basement and 2nd floors both have risque entertainment establishments!
I have been to a few parties on the large outdoor area of the floor. What a great spot in the summer!
The owner is supposed to be Korean actor Hong Suk Chun, the first big name Korean to publicly announce his homosexuality.
A great find in an otherwise quiet section of town... Those people near Mok-dong and Oh-mokyo will find this 2nd floor traditional pub a great retreat for fresh food and great drinks.
Madigan's Pub is spacious, and directly managed by an Irish American in Korea. The menu is extensive focusing on traditional favorites such as fresh Steaks, Burgers, Shepherd's Pie, Nachos (big !!) and daily specials. All food portions are western in the sense that you won't leave hungry.
Music is mixed and fun. Starting out soft in the evening, blue, old rock and cranking up the volume late at night.
There is a nice pocketball table to try your skill at 8-ball and a large screen TV to catch any sporting events. There are plans to have a weekly pool tournament with a bar contribution.
You can also book Madigan's for special events and functions. Madigan's Pub has its very own private Karaoke room where you can belt out your favorite tunes....
Check it out.... 600 meters from Hwagok Station... walk out Exit #7 and cross street at the large Seoul Plaza Wedding Hall.
Dress Code: Casual...
I recommend that you should visit the bar and lounge "Blush" at Grand Intercontinental Seoul. Cozy sofas, cushions and unique interior design inspired by trees and flowers create an even more relaxing atmosphere. The price is very reasonable. If you order one drink, you can get one extra free drink every Monday. Also, you can enjoy 5 drinks for only the price of W30,000 (around $30) every Tuesday. You should go and enjoy with excellet circumstance.
Dress Code: Any Special dress code is not required.
I would like to advise all foreign women to NEVER EVER go to Ska Bar in Hongae, Seoul. My friend and I were assaulted there on the weekend by one of the male employees. We were punched in the face and the male employee stated it was okay because we were women and men were allowed to do this in Korea. Please NEVER GO TO THIS BAR, YOU MAY BE THE NEXT VICTIM.
Dress Code: THIS BAR ALLOWS MALE EMPLOYEES TO ASSAULT WOMEN CUSTOMERS.