“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.”
-Vincent Van Gogh

Dongdaemun Design Park at night
Dongdaemun Design Park at night

Seoul is an amazing metropolis–the towering buildings and modern architecture make it seem overwhelming at times–with history, culture, and international commerce mingling in the streets. It’s fascinating to watch the people throughout the day among the backdrop of skyscrapers.

Admiral Yi Sun-Sin in Gwanghwamun Square
Admiral Yi Sun-Sin in Gwanghwamun Square

While this busy city is lively enough during the day, it’s the evening that shows the colors and beauty of modern Korean culture. The people roam the streets in search of outdoor food and drink stands–during the summer, they sit outside restaurants and take over the sidewalks. Off in a parking lot lined with street food vendors, plastic tables are set for customers to watch the local baseball game on a projection screen as they order more beer and snacks.

Dongdaemun at night
Dongdaemun at night

Each neighborhood has its own character as the city returns home from work–the noise of expats and locals in the bars and restaurants of Itaewon, the shoppers in Dongdaemun and Hongdae, and the quiet awe in front of Gwanghwamun and Gyeongbokgung Palace with Admiral Yi Sun-sin and King Sejong watching over the center of the city. The character of one neighborhood during the day is not identical after the sun sets–it offers a split personality of sorts.

King Sejong in Gwanghwamun Square
King Sejong in Gwanghwamun Square

LED and older neon signs flicker along the streets and alleys, inviting the throngs to join in the activity of Seoul–coffee shops are still bustling into the evening as the salary men and women order more beer and soju from the myriad variety of restaurants and bars that equal the quantity of coffee shops (Seoul boasts more Starbucks outlets than any other city, and there are plenty of other local and international chains).

The aromas from the restaurants fill the streets as patrons filter in–there are more meals after dinner; the public demands sustenance after rounds of beer, soju, and makgeolli. The establishments expect people to eat more throughout the night before the office towers and residences turn off their lights that illuminate the metropolis.

Pillars before King Sejong in Gwanghwamun Square
Pillars before King Sejong in Gwanghwamun Square

To gain a real feeling for a city, a traveler needs to embrace the nightlife and the culture that changes with the passing of daylight.

How do you feel about wandering cities like Seoul in the evening?

2 COMMENTS

    • The mornings are for hiking and historic sites that get crowded in the afternoon. Also, I didn’t finish work til 7pm, so I ended up on long walks in Dongdaemun and the surrounding area.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here