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My favourite thing about Seoul was the nightlife. South Korea is the top nation for drinking alcohol per capita and you definitely see that in Seoul, every night of the week! Previously, I have only felt truly welcome as a solo drinker in bars within the United States, but Seoul made every night a fun-filled and unexpected adventure.
However, some bars were better than others, particularly going it alone, and it did take a little bit of trial and error to find somewhere I would happily stay for more than one drink. So here are my top recommendations for drinking in Seoul as a solo traveller, where you can sit at the bar, make friends, and of course feel a bit of luxury.
One of my pet hates of drinking in Seoul was the cover charges. I am used to paying a cover charge when live music is playing, but to pay literally to sit down in a bar did not sit well with me. And often you knew nothing about the charge until the bill comes! Tipping is generally not required in South Korea, so you could argue it is just a tip. But just under £7/$9 added on when you are solo, generally paying £16.50/$21 for a drink, and you were only planning to stay for one really hurts!
So all of the bars featured here are cover-free (as of October 2019)!
I’ve also included the address in English, but also in Korean, as many travel apps and taxi drivers need the Korean address in order to get you to the right place!
1 Pussyfoot Saloon
Pussyfoot is my Number 1 favourite bar in Seoul. But boy, it was hard to find! The address will take you to a street where you think you must have taken a wrong turn. But follow the sound of life into a boring-looking building and take the stairs to find yourself in a wonderful locomotive-style bar that feels half inside, half outside. The bar was bustling when I arrived around 11pm on a Friday, but a very generous man with his girlfriend offered up his seat to me. When would you see that in the UK?!
The cocktail list is extensive and inventive and always refreshed by guest bartenders from all over the world, putting their own stamp on the menu. All cocktails are priced at about 25,000 Won (£16.50/$21) which is typical for Seoul. You can also request a drink off-menu (I had great fun leaving my drinks up to the fantastic guest bartenders Dominik and Sergii!). Note you will pay slightly more for off-menu.
I ended up staying for about 4 hours! The company at the bar was wonderful, with a young, friendly crowd who are more than happy to chat to a stranger! The bartenders were excellent, somehow managing to work at break-neck speed whilst still holding a conversation with you.
If you are going to Seoul, alone or with someone, you simply must go to Pussyfoot!
2 Burn Cigar Bar & Lounge
I stumbled upon Burn during a beer crawl of Itaewon (I don’t feature any of the beer bars I visited here, the beer was great, but the vibe didn’t really suit solo drinking and making friends).
Nestled on a street of beer bars, jazz clubs and establishments thoroughly aimed at ex-pats and lacking any real class, is Burn. Which was a welcome find. I’m not a cigar smoker (although I did end up smoking quite a few!) but I am a whisky drinker which Burn has in abundance!
It isn’t cheap, but you can get a glass or a bottle from a huge array of whiskies at many price points. You can perch at the bar, but will probably be invited to join the conversation on the lounge-style sofas and chairs.
I met Americans who make a point of visiting Burn whenever they are in Seoul on business, even if they only have 12 hours! I also met a lovely couple visiting from Singapore. And of course, met Hal, the wonderful owner who seems to have as much fun in his bar as the patrons!
Burn is the type of bar you intend to pop in for one and end of staying the whole night, just as I did.
3 Marque d’Amour at L’Escape Hotel
In my review yesterday I mentioned one of the best bits of the hotel, the wonderful bar on the 26th floor. Staying in the hotel, it was a no brainer for me to visit the bar, but I had no idea it would be so good. After a rather disappointing few hours wandering around Gangnam (going it solo in Gangnam on Halloween weekend turned out to be a not-great idea), I decided to give up and just go for a drink at the hotel. And that is when my night began!
The top floor bar is gorgeous in hues of deep blue and touches of gold. The cocktail menu is concise but inventive. I was spoilt for choice and ended up having three, just to, you know, make sure they are all good. My favourite was the Kiss The Bubble, which is fruity but not too sweet, bursting incredible aromas when it touches your lips!
It was a pleasure to meet guest bartender Simone Caporale who was a joy to be around and also bartender Max who made my fantastic cocktails. The drinks are the most expensive I had priced at 29,000 won (£19/$25) but for a special drink in wonderful surroundings, I’d say it’s worth it. You may also get a super cool welcome cocktail too, for free!
4 Southside Parlor
Southside Parlor was the first bar I visited and I would absolutely recommend it as the first place to go when travelling solo is Seoul. It was a little bit tricky to find, inside an unassuming building right at the top of the stairwell, but once I was in, I instantly felt relaxed.
Owned by two Americans, the bar is aimed at ex-pats, and okay, it isn’t the most adventurous place to go, but the Old Fashions are great, it’s a bit cheaper (I think around 15,000 won/£10/$15 if I remember correctly) and the staff are so so lovely.
Plus, you are going to make friends. For sure. The bar is big and set in a U-shape, encouraging people to talk. I instantly got talking to Steve, a super-friendly American living in Seoul for work. And got a ton of recommendations! The staff also helped me with bar recommendations (it’s how I ended up at Pussyfoot!)
One again, I meant to pop into Southside for one, and ended up there for over 2 hours!
5 Charles H at the Four Seasons Hotel
What tour of Seoul’s luxury bars would be complete without a visit to the Four Seasons? The Charles H, hidden behind a secret door in the hotel, exudes luxury.
You will find yourself in a dark, romantic bar, feeling like you are in a secret tunnel. I wasn’t expecting to be able to sit at the bar in this type of place, but you can!
Also surprising, the drinks aren’t super expensive and I even got a little champagne welcome tipple too. Cocktail prices vary, but generally, sit on the average for Seoul ranging from 23,000 (£15/$19.50) to 29,000 won (£19/$25).
Honestly, although this is rated the best bar in Seoul, the drinks did not stand out as much for me and the staff didn’t have quite as much chat. But Charles H is on my list for the true feeling of luxury it gives you. I left feeling oh-so-classy.