Hongdae is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Seoul, located centrally in the capital. Its just a short subway ride to most of the popular neighborhoods and sights around Seoul. Hongdae is known as the neighborhood for the younger generation, but what to do in Hongdae? After spending a month in Seoul, a big part of that time, in Hongdae’s streets, this post is my 5 cents on what Hongdae has to offer.
As this was my third time visiting South Korea I felt like basing myself in the capital, explore the neighborhoods better and do a couple of day trips too. After my month there I can safely say that there are more than enough things to do in the capital and my lift of activities was so long I didn’t get through it all. It also helped to spend the time in Seoul with my little sister who’d just spent a year there studying the language and culture. She showed me some spots and told me things I wouldn’t have figured out by myself. Some of this info, I hope to be able to share with you. With this said, make sure to check up my upcoming other posts about Seoul. Now, back to what this article is about, Hongdae neighborhood in Seoul!
Where is Hongdae
Hongdae is located in the Mapo district (Mapo-gu) in the west of central Seoul. It’s famous for its trendy impulses, arts, entertainment, and nightlife.
Hongdae is the place to hang out for Koreans youth and has got its artsy fame much due to the Arts university lying right by the subway station. Hongdae university, or Hongik University in English, was established in 1946 and is known as one of the best architecture and art schools in South Korea.
Map over Mapo District. Hongdae is located centrally in Mapo-Gu
How to get to Hongdae
As to anywhere in Seoul, the Subway is a great way to get to Hongdae. To get to Hongdae, take the subway line 2, the green line, and get off at Hongdae University station, in English, Hongik University Station. You can also take an Uber, but it’s pricier, and may also be slower due to traffic. The only time I would recommend taking an Uber in Seoul is if the Subway is closed at night. If you’re clubbing in Seoul and staying in another district, that may very well be the case. Trust me, Hongdae is a good place to spend a night out!
Things to do in Hongdae
Hongdae is full of life, during the day, Hongdae university, more than anything, is buzzing with life and students fill the streets at lunch hours. Stores are filled with trendy Korean fashion and the bubble tea stores popular at the moment have long lines.
If you’re wondering what to do in Hongdae, you have plenty of options. From walking down Hongdae Shopping street and find somewhere quiet to have lunch, to dancing the night away in one of the many clubs that come to life in Hongdae during the weekend and nights.
Where to go in Hongdae completely depends on what you want to do there. If you’re like me, I suggest trying to get a little taste of everything haha. Relax you definitely don’t have to spend a month in Seoul to make it happened 2 days in Hongdae is enough to get a good feel on how the area is.
Hongdae Shopping Street
Along Hongdae street you’ll be able to find all the latest, most popular trends in Korean fashion. Ranging from clothing to cute accessories to the ever so famous Korean beauty products. These stores don’t close before late at night, so you can basically go shopping here at any hour. Except for the early morning. You’ll come to realize that most things in South Korea are closed before 10 am.
Be aware that a lot of the stores have one size clothing and don’t allow you to try things on. A little annoying, but it still didn’t stop me from shopping.
Visit one of the many cafes in Hongdae
After some shopping pop into one of the cafes in Hongdae you’ll find a bunch of special concept cafes like a cat café, Thanks Nature Café, Hello Kitty Café and of course the regular cafés. What about ordering bubble tea? Or my favorite Korean dessert, Bingsu?
Trick Eye Museum in Hongdae
When you’re tired of shopping, or want to get out of the Seoul summer heat, or the brutal winter cold, visit the trick eye museum. It’s centrally located in Hongdae and you can easily kill a couple of hours here!
Gaming halls in Hongdae
Like most neighborhoods in Seoul, you will find plenty of gaming halls and Pcbang in Hongdae. Naturally, Hongdae Gaming halls are a thing too. They have gaming halls with claw crane machine. Pop in for a look, play a few games or try to win one of the many cute stuffed animals there. If you ask me, it’s impossible, but you’re welcome to prove me wrong! Let me know if you do… There are also plenty of PCbangs in Seoul, that’s basically PC rooms for gaming. So if you’re into that you’ll have no trouble finding a place to play some in Hongdae or anywhere else in Seoul.
What to do in Hongdae at night
There is something to do in Hongdae at all hours of the day, but at nighttime Hongdae comes to life in a whole different way. Flashing lights and crowds filling the streets.
Hongdae Shopping street at night.
Even though it’s late, the stores in Hongdae Shopping street is still open. It’s also called the Hongdae Night Market as some of the shops only opens during the afternoon and night. This is perfect for the summer when the hot days are best spent relaxing in a Jimjilbang or park.
Nore Bang Korean Karaoke in Hongdae
Korean Karaoke or Nore Bang is a beloved activity for Koreans. Partying often starts with some Soju and karaoke. Hongdae is filled with Nore Bangs.
How does Nore Bangs work?
Well, you pay for a room big enough to fit your party, then you decide on the amount of time you want to spend there. However, note that, when you first get started, it never seems to be enough time. A bonus that is very normal is that the karaoke facility starts to give you bonus time at the end of your session. The last time we went, we ended up spending about 40 minutes extra in the room due to bonus time. I absolutely love it. And if you are like me, and think that karaoke is lame; I challenge you. It’s not awkward nor boring, but so much fun!!
Street Performers in Hongdae
As already mentioned, Hongdae’s streets are filled with students and the youth. But a very normal phenomenon to see in the streets is the Hongdae street performers. This is basically Koreans with talent and/or a dream of becoming famous and discovered. Busting in Hongdae has become so popular that people show up early to secure a spot for the night.
The preform both in groups and as individuals. Dancing Kpop choreographs, freestyling, singing and playing. You’ll see that most of them have a sign with their Instagram handle next to them so that people can follow them. Sometimes up and coming Kpop stars also come to dance and practice there. There is also plenty of examples of people who got discovered or got famous from busking in Hongdae. The crowds gathering around the different performers every night is quite impressive.
Best bars in Hongdae
As mentioned, Hongdae is the neighborhood of the youth so you’ll not have any trouble finding a bar to grab a beer or a few shots of Soju, the traditional South Korean liquor.
If you want the local experience, go to a 7 eleven, buy some Soju, beer or and energy drink and go up to a square centrale in Hongdae. The Square goes by the name of “Playground”. You’ll see people playing music, drinking and hanging around. This is one of the places where everyone meets up and grabs a few drinks before the club. The street in front of the square is also filled with streets stands and the perfect place to end the night later when you’re done clubbing.
Best clubs in Hongdae
As for bars, you’ll find all kinds of clubs in Hongdae. Depending on what you look for here are a few suggestions. I have to admit that I personally haven’t been to all of these clubs, but my sister, who as I mentioned spent a year in Seoul have tried them all out. So I trust her judgment hehe.
The playground: Already mentioned, but it deserves a spot on the official list. The Playground is a big square where people gather to start the night, play music and drink. It gets its name from the bar next to the square called Playground Rooftop Cafe & Bar.
Mikes Cabin: Mikes Cabin is located two places in Seoul, one of them in Hongdae. The bar and Club is popular amongst foreigners. There is free entrance before 23.00 and afterward, it’s 10 000 Won per person. There is both a dancefloor and a par area. They play a little bit of everything but focuses on Latin music like reggaeton.
Gabbia: A club you go to when you want to dance. Sometimes the entrance is free, other times it’s about 10 000Won.
Thursday Party Hongdae: The Thursday Party is also popular among foreigners. It’s more of a bar, but you’ll definitely be able to dance there too. Its usually pretty crowded, and there are various beer pong tables there too. The entrance fee at Thursday party is free.
M2: An EDM club. Entrance is 20 000Won.
NB2: Another EDM club. This place is very crowded during the weekends. They have free entrance before 22.00, then 10 000 won until 23.00. then after 23.00 the entrance at NB2 is 15000Won.
Check out these two daytrips from Seoul!
Places to eat in Hongdae
From big Korean BBQ places to small “hole in the wall” dumpling places, Hongdae has it all.
Where to stay in Hongdae
As in most neighborhoods of Seoul, Hongdae has a big range of different accomodation options. From Backpacker, budget hostels to Korean Guesthouses, and proper hotels. You can simply choose your Hongdea accomodation depending on your budget. Use the maps function in your booking platform of choice and make sure that your accomodation is not too far from the subway station and Hongdae Street and you’ll be fine. Among the many Korean Guesthouses in the Hongdae Area, remember to choose something that you’ll be ok with. If you don’t mind walking some, you will also be perfectly fine staying close to Sinchon station. That way you’ll be one subway stop away from Hongdae, but you can easily walk the distance as long as the weather is ok(remember my marks about the extreme heat/cold).
There are plenty of booking platforms available, but as in big parts of Asia, my experience is that Agoda has the best deals and biggest selection. I also occasionally used Booking when I was there, as that’s my normal “go-to” booking platform.
We stayed at this Kpop inspired guesthouse in Hongdae. Definitely nothing luxurious, but central and did the trick.
I hope this information got you inspired to explore Hongdae in-depth on your next trip to Seoul. I sure love this neighborhood and it will be one of my top choices when I choose what neighborhood to stay in during my future Seoul visits.
Spending time in Seoul? Make sure to check out more of my posts about Soul. Definitely consider taking a trip to the border of North and South Korea! Read all you need to know about it in my post about DMZ.