Photo: Night view of Gangnam-daero Street (top) / Delicious, late-night street snacks are the 'soul food' of Korea that every tourist enjoys (bottom)
Embarking on a delicious excursion is one of the many activities every traveler will come to encounter in Korea. The foods eaten will lead you to break into a reminiscent smile long after you return home. In particular, exploring Seoul late at night feels entirely different compared to traveling during daylight, as the city offers an interesting nightscape for all, bustling with interesting sights and things to experience.
Night owl or not, you're highly recommended to partake in this adventurous yet unique late night travel by hopping on one of Seoul's late night buses. These buses provide travelers with the best means of touring the city without having to worry about excessive cab fares for the return trip.
Thanks to the service, not only visitors from abroad but many local tourists arriving late in Seoul won't have to miss the chance to not only see the city's attractions but also to enjoy them at their fullest. These include places for entertainment, food, shopping, or activities only available after sunset. Read on to learn more about these late night tours to discover more fun and great eats by riding on a night bus!
Late night buses in Seoul refer to buses operating from midnight to early dawn. These buses are a great way of moving around town on public transportation during the hours when regular buses are not in service. Currently, eight late night bus routes are in operation including N26, N62, and more ('N' in the bus number stands for 'Night'). These late night buses cover the high traffic areas around popular tourist areas such as near Gangnam Station. As of November 2015, the fare is 2,250 won when paying with cash.
Photo credit: Seoul Transport Operation & Information Serivce (TOPIS)
♣ Operating hours: First bus at 00:00 / Last bus at 03:10 / Intervals: approx. 40 min.
♣ Major bus stops: Gangseo Bus Transfer Center (강서차고지) → Songjeong Station (송정역) → Balsan Station (발산역) → Deungchon Station (등촌역) → Hapjeong Station (합정역) → Hongik University Station (홍대입구역) → Sinchon Station (신촌역) → Jonggak (종각) → Dongdaemun Station (동대문역) → Sinseol-dong Station (신설동역) → Cheongnyangni Station (청량리역) → Sangbong Station (상봉역) → Jungnang Bus Depot (중랑공영차고지)
Photo: Hapjeong-dong Café Street
Hapjeong-dong is often referred to as a hip and artistic zone, dotted with dozens of vintage coffee shops, dessert cafes, pubs, wine bars, and more establishments all gathered together in a melting pot-like theme. These businesses are not only popular spots to wine and dine with great eats, but also cultural spaces where visitors can witness the true aspects of modern Korea.
The mix of unique cultures has created a small international society within Seoul, comparatively quieter than that of Itaewon-dong's atmosphere. Shops in this area are more distinct from each other and each has a charming ambiance, therefore constantly drawing crowds of young people and foreign tourists looking for newer places to rest their minds and bodies.
☞ Address: Eoulmadang-ro 5-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Photo: Dak-galbi (spicy stir-fried chicken)
Sinchon is becoming well known for delicious dak-galbi (spicy stir-fried chicken) through word of mouth among epicureanists. Dak-galbi is a dish made of chicken and a variety of vegetables including cabbage and onion that is covered in a spicy seasoning and stir-fried at the table in front of you.
In bustling Sinchon, restaurants specializing in this dish are thriving, selling everything from the original style to dak-galbi mixed with cheese or seafood combos. There are even some restaurants serving all-you-can-eat dak-galbi so be sure to come with a big appetite! With the many dak-galbi and fried chicken restaurants in the area, Sinchon is a must-visit place for lovers of chicken.
☞ Address: Yonsei-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
Photo: Walking path along Cheonggyecheon Stream (left) / Cheonggyecheon Café Street (right)
Cheonggyecheon Stream is full of visitors all year round. The stream is dotted with people dipping their feet in the cool waters to escape the unbearable heat of summer nights, and in fall, beautiful lanterns reflect off the stream during the Seoul Lantern Festival. The length of Cheonggyecheon Stream is lined with cafes, making it easy to stop for a cup of coffee while enjoying the relaxing view of the stream.
☞ Address: Cheonggyecheon-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Photo: Saengseon-gui (grilled fish)
In the vicinity of Dongdaemun Shopping Complex is a narrow alley, densely packed with small restaurants selling saengseon-gui (grilled fish). Your meal will pass quickly as bite after bite of freshly grilled saengseon-gui and warm rice sates your appetite. All the restaurants here get their fish fresh daily so you can be assured of the best taste. The fish are grilled in advance, and lightly grilled again after an order is placed. Thanks to the skilled servers, no matter how busy you are, you can still enjoy a warm meal in record time.
☞ Address: 5, Jong-ro 40ga-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Photo: Dak-kkochi (Chicken skewers) (left) / Tteok-bokki and various fritters (right)
It’s easy to find pojangmacha (small tented eateries on wheels) on the streets of Dongdaemun at all hours, as the wholesale fashion market is open until the early hours of the morning. Among the variety of late-night snacks available, most foreigners prefer dak-kkochi (chicken skewers), tteok-bokki (stir-fried rice cakes), and gopchang-bokkeum (stir-fried tripe). Dak-kkochi are made by skewering pieces of chicken and spring onion onto a stick, which are then grilled and coated in either a sweet soy sauce or a spicy seasoning for a taste loved by all.
Another popular food is Gwangjang Market’s famous mayak gimbap (literally translated to “narcotic gimbap” because it is that delicious) dipped in spicy tteok-bokki sauce and eaten in one bite. A secret menu item of the many pojangmacha in the area is jechegi-guksu (literally meaning “sneeze noodles” in English). Noodles, squid, cabbage and other ingredients are mixed with a special sauce, fried on the grill, and then served with a spicy sauce or mayonnaise. The spiciness will make your nose tingle, as if just about to sneeze!
☞ Address: Jangchungdan-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
♣ Operating hours: First bus at 00:00 / Last bus at 03:10 / Intervals: approx. 40 min.
♣ Major bus stops: Garak Market Station (가락시장역) → Irwon Station (일원역) → Hangnyeoul Station (학여울역) → Yangjae Station (양재역) → Gangnam Station (강남역) → Sinsa Station (신사역) → Jonggak (종각) → Hongje Station (홍제역) → Bulgwang Station (불광역) → Jingwan Bus Depot (진관공영차고지)
Photo: Kal-guksu (handmade knife-cut noodles) in pojangmachas
Those in the know match the image of Yeonsinnae with that of kal-guksu due to the heavy population of kal-guksu pojangmachas occupying the nooks and crannies of the area. Kal-guksu is a bowl-full of handmade noodles that substitutes for a single meal. While it used to be a very folksy dish, it has now come to take on a more formal role, a la carte.
Regardless of its transformation, people in Korea still love to enjoy the original form and taste of the noodle dish from Yeonsinnae Pojangmacha Alley. The thick noodles in eomuk (fish cake) broth and spicy seasoning make the perfect late-night meal to appease your appetite, especially during cold winter days.
☞ Address: Rodeo Shopping Street in Yeonsinnae, Galhyeon-ro, Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul
Photo: Avenue of Youth near Jonggak Station
Lit up as bright as day all through the night, the Avenue of Youth at Jonggak Station is the top spot for enjoying Korea’s night life. Many young Koreans get their first taste of the drinking culture at the pubs here. There are also many restaurants serving various foods from samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly), galbi (short ribs) and other barbecued meats to chicken, kimchi-jjigae (kimchi stew), jeon (pancake), hoe (sliced raw fish) and more. All you have to do is decide what delicious Korean food you want to eat!
☞ Address: Jong-ro 12-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Photo: Saengseon hoe (raw fish; sashimi)
Garak Market is the nation’s largest agriculture and marine products market. Fresh vegetables, fruits, seafood and other products are brought directly to the market from the countryside and sold in auctions from evening until dawn. If you’re looking for a unique experience, watch the products going so fast that it will leave even bystanders breathless trying to keep pace. For dinner, visit the marine products section, where you can pick the seafood you want to eat at prices cheaper than anywhere else in the city.
☞ Address: 932, Yangjae-daero, Songpa-gu, Seoul
♣ Operating hours: First bus at 23:40 / Last bus at 03:00 / Intervals: approx. 40 min.
♣ Major bus stops: Yangcheon Bus Depot (양천공영차고지) → Mokdong Station (목동역) → Deungchon Station (등촌역)→ Hapjeong Station (합정역) → Hongik Univ. Station (홍대입구역) → Sinchon Station (신촌역) → Jonggak (종각) → Dongdaemun Station (동대문역) → Dongdaemun History & Culture Park (동대문역사문화공원) → Wangsimni Station (왕십리역) → Konkuk Univ. Station (건대입구역) → Gunja Station (군자역) → Myeonmok-dong (면목동)
Photo: Bingsu (shaved ice with sweetened toppings) in various flavors and combinations
Bingsu was originally a summer-exclusive dish, but is now loved and enjoyed by people year round. Dessert cafes in the area around Hongdae (Hongik University Street) are especially popular among young people for offering unique bingsus that fill the senses. From cheesecake bingsu topped with real cheesecake to bingsu shaped like a snowman or sweet bingsu made from frozen fruits, the offer of charming and delicious bingus is non-stop!
☞ Address: Hongik-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Photo: The famous Sindang-dong tteok-bokki
Sindang-dong is so well-known for tteok-bokki that the two words have become synonymous, starting in the late ‘70s. Many of the food vendors here remain open 24 hours so you can find people enjoy the sweet and spicy snack at all hours of the day. The shops all make their own sauce, making the taste unique to each vendor. They also sell sets with toppings to choose at will such as eggs, ramyeon noodles, mandu (dumplings), fish cakes and more. Choose your favorite toppings and chow down!
☞ Address: Toegye-ro 76-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Photo: Kondae Food Street
All kinds of food are available at Kondae’s Food Street, from Korea’s beloved grilled samgyeopsal and galbi to western foods. Recently the area has seen a rise in popularity due to many trendy dessert cafes opening their doors here. The restaurants and cafes remain open late into the evening, drawing customers into their bright and warm interiors.
☞ Address: Dongil-ro 22-gil, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul
♣ Operating hours: First bus at 00:00 / Last bus at 03:25 / Intervals: approx. 40-45 min.
♣ Major bus stops: Nowon Station (노원역) → Hagye Station (하계역) → Taereung Station (태릉입구역) → Dolgoji Station (돌곶이역) → Cheongnyangni Station (청량리역) → Sinseol-dong Station (신설동역) → Dongdaemun Station (동대문역) → Dongdaemun History & Culture Park (동대문역사문화공원) → Sinsa Station (신사역) → Gangnam Station (강남역) → Samseong (World Trade Center Seoul) Station (삼성역) → Jamsil Station (잠실역) → Garak Market (가락시장) → Songpa Bus Depot (송파공영차고지)
♣ Operating hours: First bus at 00:00 / Last bus at 03:35 / Intervals: approx. 48 min.
♣ Major bus stops: Ui-dong (우이동) → Banghaksageori Four-way Intersection (방학사거리) → Ssangmun Station (쌍문역) → Suyu Station (수유역) → Gireum Station (길음역) → Sinseol-dong Station (신설동역) → Dongdaemun Station (동대문역) → Jonggak (종각) → Seoul Station (서울역) → Sinyongsan Station (신용산역) → Noryangjin Station (노량진역) → Jangseungbaegi Station (장승배기역) → Sindaebangsamgeori Station (신대방삼거리역) → Sillim Station (신림역) → Seoul Nat'l Univ. Station (서울대입구역) → Sadang Station (사당역)
♣ Operating hours: First bus at 00:10 / Last bus at 03:45 / Intervals: approx. 40-45 min.
♣ Major bus stops: Dobongsan Station (도봉산역) → Banghaksageori Four-way Intersection (방학사거리) → Ssangmun Station (쌍문역) → Suyu Station (수유역) Gireum Station (길음역) → Hyehwa Station (혜화역) → Dongdaemun Station (동대문역) → Dongdaemun History & Culture Park (동대문역사문화공원역) Seoul Station (서울역) → Yeongdeungpo Station (영등포역) → Guro Station (구로역) → Onsu Station (온수역)
♣ Operating hours: First bus at 23:40 / Last bus at 03:40 / Intervals: approx. 45-50 min.
♣ Major bus stops: Gangdong Bus Depot (강동공영차고지) → Myeongil Station (명일역) → Gangdong Station (강동역) → Cheonho Station (천호역) → Gunja Station (군자역) → Sinseol-dong Station (신설동역) → Dongdaemun Station (동대문역) → Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (동대문역사문화공원역) → Seoul Station (서울역)
♣ Operating hours: First bus at 23:50 / Last bus at 03:50 / Intervals: approx. 30-45 min.
♣ Major bus stops: Yangcheon Bus Depot (양천공영차고지) → Gaebong Station (개봉역) → Sillim Station (신림역) → Seoul Nat'l Univ. Station (서울대입구역) → Sadang Station (사당역) → Seoul National University of Education Station (교대역) → Gangnam Station (강남역) → Samseong (World Trade Center Seoul) Station (무역센터∙삼성역) → Konkuk University Station (건대입구역) → Gunja Station (군자역) → Taereung Station (태릉입구역) → Hagye Station (하계역) → Nowon Station (노원역)
* This column was last updated in November 2015, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here.
<Last updated on November 26, 2015>