Girls' Night Out, Hongdae Style
Nowhere else in Asia (or perhaps the world) does nightlife as well as Seoul, and although there's a party for everyone, there are a number of places designed especially for the entertainment of women. But we're not just talking buy-one-get-one-free drinks and half priced appetizers. Think more along the lines of cute guys in hard hats, sultry stage performances and plenty of places to pamper yourself.
So, round up your girlfriends, book your hair appointment, dig out that little black dress and dust off your dancing shoes. It's time for a girls' night out, Seoul style.
I'll be letting you in on all the places worth checking out around Seoul with your favorite ladies in this new monthly series, but first up is perhaps the city's most legendary nightlife district: Hongdae.
Start your night off with dinner at the Mecentopolis shopping complex attached to Hapjeong Station (Line 2). There are plenty of places to dine (and get some late afternoon shopping in) but my personal favorite restaurant here is Saint Augustin, an upscale Thai restaurant located on the basement level. It's certainly not the best (or most authentic) Thai food in Seoul, but the restaurant's ambiance is nice and the waitstaff attentive, so it works for a girls' night. Also, it's conveniently located near the next stop of the evening, which will undoubtedly be the highlight of your night.
Produced and choreographed by American-born musical director Kolleen Park, Mister Show is a male revue held at the Lotte Card Art Center that combines muscles and music for an unforgettable evening for women of all ages. MCed by an energetic host, the show is act-after-act of entertaining strip tease; the performances, which are themed around concepts that cater to women's fantasies (think samurais and soldiers), won't soon be forgotten.
But don't assume this is some raunchy strip show. All the Mister Show dances are done tastefully (though it should be noted that what Koreans find sexy is quite different than what Westerners do), and the actors interact respectfully with the all-female audience, who are extremely receptive of the show. During my visit, a Korean woman pushing 80 was pulled up on stage for a lap dance. And she loved it.
The performers may not all be Magic Mike, but they are a H-O-T group of former body builders, personal trainers and athletes, and the show is incredibly fun, but could be longer, as 70 minutes goes by way too quickly. It's definitely a place for some laughs and de-stressing with the girls. (Note: This show will only run until July, 26, 2015, so get those tickets now!)
All that estrogen will have you ready to get to dancing, but since things don't really get hopping in Hongdae til midnight, grab some drinks at Gorilla Lounge, which is located in the heart of the district-- about a 20 minute walk or short taxi ride from Hapjeong.
This rather tame sit-down bar (not to be confused with Mama or Papa Gorilla) has outdoor patio seating and a great drink special for the ladies known as "Infinite Cock." Excuse their French. With it, ladies can drink as many cocktails as they would like from a menu of over 20 varieties for three hours (10pm-1am) for only ₩15,000. And don't let the price fool you... these are quality cocktails, which are served with free caramel popcorn. To top it off, the bartenders are super friendly.
Conveniently, Gorilla is just a hop, skip and a jump from Hongdae's most popular dance clubs. On our last night out, my friends and I ventured out to the less than reputable Gogos and Gogos 2 to take advantage of the free cover. Surprisingly, neither bar was overly crowded, the music was good and the people were fun. But since I'm not a clubber, I recommend checking out this list for more options.
One option for single ladies wanting to mingle is Solo Pocha (솔로포차), which operates as what Koreans refer to as a "hunting" bar. This Konglish term refers to the act of picking someone up in a random place and the bar encourages such activity with its welcome sign, which reads, "Come alone and leave with a partner."
The concept is simple. Grab a table with your friends (guys and girls must sit separately) and when you order, let your server, who acts as an intermediary, know which table of guys you want to talk to. The server will eventually bring the guys over, and that's that.
I can't personally vouch for this place, since I've never been, but it must be effective, as it is always packed. Like most hofs, or Korean style bars, you must order both drinks and food. Rumor has it the fruit soju is excellent.
Finally, if you need a bit of a caffeine jolt to keep you going throughout the night (or into the morning), Standing Coffee II, situated near exit 1 of Sangsu Station is known for their good looking baristas, who just so happen to all be polished lads donned in white button down shirts and black pants. Perhaps that's why no female has a problem waiting for in line for take-out coffee, as there is almost always a queue.
If you don't go for the guys, do go for the coffee, as it is reported to be the some of the best in the city. Unlike its original location in Itaewon, this branch has a secret room in the back where you can sit to drink your coffee; it also gives you the option of adding a shot of alcohol to your beverage. Their blue lemonade is especially tasty topped off with some vodka, or try a shot of whiskey in your coffee.
You don't need to make it to every spot on this list to have a fun night out in Hongdae with your girls. In fact, one of the best things about Hongdae is that a good time awaits just about anywhere in this neighborhood -- from the clubs, to the park, to the streets. Have fun exploring all that Hongdae has to offer, and be sure to let me know what you and your girlfriends' favorite hangouts are in the comments below, just in case I left out any good ones.
Mecentopolis Address: 490 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul (서울시 마포구 서교동 490); Hours: 9am-10pm; Get There: Hapjeong Station (Lines 2 & 6, Exit 10) 45; Website: Click Here
Mr. Show Address: Lotte Card Art Center, Mecentopolis 2F (See address above); Show Times: Wed-Sun 8pm; Prices: Ladies Zone (Floor seating, looking up at the stage) ₩80,000; VIP ₩80,000; Cocktail VIP ₩80,000 (the guys will serve you a cocktail!); Regular ₩60,000; Ticket Reservation: Interpark
Gorilla Lounge Address: 408-17 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul (서울시 마포구 서교동 408-17); Hours: Tues-Thurs 5pm-2am, Fri-Sat 5pm-3am, Sun 5pm-12am; Phone 02-322-9107; Instagram: Click Here; Get There: From Sangsu Station (Line 6, Exit 1), walk toward Hongik University. Just before Seven Eleven, turn left. Pass Gogos and just before you reach the main road, take a left. Gorilla Lounge will be down the street and to your right.
Solo Pocha Address: 8 Jandari-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul; Hours: Sun-Thurs 4pm-6am; Fri-Sat 4pm-7:30am; Prices: Food starts at ₩18,000; Age requirement: 20 years and up; Facebook: Click Here
Standing Coffee Address: 315-8 Sangsu-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul (서울시 마포구 서교동 315-8); Ph. 02-333-0427; Hours: 11am-2am; Prices: Coffee starts at ₩2,800. Alcohol shots start at ₩2,000. Get There: From Sangsu Station (Line 6, Exit 1) walk straight for two minutes. It will be on your right.
Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching unless otherwise noted. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.