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Introduction: About Itaewon, Seoul

Most notably hailed the most international neighborhood in Korea, Itaewon is the strip nestled between the Yongsan Garrison and the Seoul Central Mosque in Hannam-dong.

Look down as you’re walking along Itaewon-ro and you’ll see that the sidewalks are engraved with plaques saying hello in a dozen different languages. Longtime expats tell tales of how the neighborhood was once the only place to size 10 women’s shoes and some Koreans may even recall how they believed the neighborhood was “a scary place” to visit just ten years ago. A hub for the LGBT community, many in the Middle Eastern community as well as a second home for those in the U.S Military base just minutes away, Itaewon’s acceptance of diversity had not always been appreciated. In the past few years, however, the promotion of multiculturalism and a hunger for foreign foods has exploded into making Itaewon a hotspot not only for international residents, but locals as well.

Now Itaewon, and perhaps more so neighboring Hannam-dong, Haebongchon and Gyungirdan are some of the trendiest places to be seen on a Thursday (yes, Thursday) night.


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How to get to Itaewon, Seoul

a) How to get to Itaewon from Incheon International Airport (or Gimpo Airport)

  • SubwayAREX to Gongdeok Station, Transfer to Line 6 to get to Itaewon Station. (1 hour)
  • Airport BusesNo. 6030 (1 hour 15min)
  • TaxiYou may show your driver your exact address or asked to be dropped off at Itaewon Station or Hamilton Hotel. Depending on traffic and tolls, your bill will come out to approximately 60,000 won. (1 hour)

Subway Stations

Itaewon Station, Line 6 (Brown Line)
  • Exit 1Take a sharp left after you leave Exit 1 for Itaewon-ro 27ga-gil, the largest concentration of pubs, bars and restaurants in the Itaewon area.
  • Exit 3 Both Exit 2 and Exit 7 will lead you towards the famous Cheongdam Fashion Street.
  • Exit 2Straight outside of Exit 2, you’ll notice the Hamilton Hotel. A familiar landmark for many cab drivers and locals, you may can easily ask to meet someone there or asked to be dropped off there.
  • Exit 3To reach Homo-Hill, you’ll have to walk straight of Exit 3 and make a right as soon as you pass a Mr. Kebab, and before you reach the Line Store.
  • Exit 4Walk straight out of Exit 4 and walk until you’ve almost reached Noksapyeong Station for Itaewon’s underground shopping scene.

Popular Buses : 110B, 110A, 421

TIP : Taking a cab here between the hours of midnight to 3am can be nightmare-ish so be prepared to party all night or take the last subway.


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Where to stay in Itaewon, Seoul

If you are looking for a neighborhood to stay where you won’t have to feel uncomfortable not speaking Korean, Itaewon might be the right fit for you. You won’t necessarily be getting the best bargain, but you will be close to a lot of the nightlife and you could consider all the cab fare you’ll be saving at the end of the night.






Hamilton Hotel Price : $ 101

Hamilton Hotel is right smack in the middle of it all, literally. It’s the center point of the Itaewon area; walk in any direction and you’ll find plenty of bars, restaurants, clubs, cafes and anything else you would want. There’s also an outdoor swimming pool that’s used in the summer for parties with DJs, cocktails, muscles and bikinis. The subway station is a 20 second walk from the front door of the hotel, and the main party strip is right behind the hotel. If you imagine you’ll enjoy Itaewon, this is the hotel to stay at.



Hotel ITW Price : $ 78

Hotel ITW is one of the few non-guesthouse accommodations in Itaewon and is ideal for those that to pay a little more for privacy, location, and comfort. The hotel itself is sleek and fairly new, and the staff are all trained in Hotel customer service for the service you expect at any respectable hotel. Also, you can start your night out at the 1st floor of the hotel at the popular New Zealand bar/restaurant, Mozzie. It’s famous among Seoul expats for a few pints with some shepherd’s pie.



GV Residence

An alternative to those looking for a homier atmosphere, the GV Residence is central but provides everything you need in a home away from home. Several of the rooms in the residence come with a kitchenette. Note that noise levels from weeknight revelers can destroy the home-atmosphere quite quickly.

  • Best for families / couples / friends
  • Home away from home
  • Fully-equipped
  • Itaewon(Line 6)

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The Best Restaurants in Itaewon, Seoul

If you are seeking out foreign food in Seoul, you’ll find yourself dizzy with options¬–many of which have sprung up only in the past two-three years. With everything from burritos, pizza, burgers, pad thai, dim sum and award-winning American BBQ, you can easily hit a craving by doing a simple internet search and you can also bet that there are lots of Koreans doing exactly that. With so many of the Itaewon restaurants exposed to food and dining television shows, there are lines out the door on weekends–leaving you with the option to queue for hours or try to make a reservation. Here’s where to find the best of the bunch and even where to get that elusive good Korean meal hidden in Itaewon.

Plant

One of the most sought-after eateries in the Itaewon-area, a snapshot of the restaurant’s colorful, delicious vegan dishes is a must-have on your Instagram feed. Although there’s seating available for only a dozen or so, and a handful of seasonal meals, the warm, friendly staff and the hearty dishes keep you coming back.  And even before you try one of the local favorites such as the vegan chili, the falafel burger or the tempeh wrap, you’ll be doubtlessly tempted by one of the cakes or brownies on display.

  • Address : Seoul Itaewon-ro 16-gil Yongsan-gu 20
  • Price : ₩5,000 ~ 12,000
  • Phone Number : 070-4115-8388


Linus’ Bama Style Barbecue

Likely one of the most celebrated foreign restaurants in the country, there’s even a Conde Nast article entitled “The Best American BBQ is in South Korea.” If you can wait out the hour-long queues outside the restaurant, you will be rewarded with pulled pork that melts in your mouth and tender brisket smoked perfectly around the edges. The thin, crispy French fries here are also delicious but the restaurant absolutely does not serve ketchup–opt for one of their savory barbecue sauces instead.

  • Address : 136-13, Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-ro, Seoul
  • Price : ₩12,000 ~ 31,000
  • Phone Number : 02-790-2920
  • Subway Station: Noksapyeong (Yongsan-gu Office / Line6)
  • What to order : Platters, Sandwiches, Ribs, Fried Goodies, Sides


Original Pancake House (Itaewon)

If you’re looking for a bit of USA during your Korea stay, there’s no better place to turn to than the Original Pancake House in Itaewon. Although the American-import has another branch in Sinsa-dong, the Itaewon branch has the aesthetic of an all-American diner in addition to classics such as Daily’s Premium Bacon, chicken and waffles, and unlimited coffee. The restaurant’s light and fluffy pancakes served with pure maple syrup is sure to cure any homesickness in a jiffy.

  • Address : 1F, 153, Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-ro, Seoul
  • Phone Number : 02-795-7481
  • Subway Station: Itaewon (Line 6)


Gino’s NY Pizza

There are many in Seoul that would claim that Gino’s NY Pizza is the best pizza you can find in Seoul. Obsessed with crusts, the one on the pizzas here is perfectly thin and crisp–a perfect foundation for the fresh tomato sauce to top it. Early 2017, the pizzeria has extended its venue to include a side-venture that sells pizza by the slice as well as chicken parm sandwiches and garlic knots.

  • Address : 2F, 46, Yongsan-gu, Noksapyeong-daero 40-gil, Seoul, South Korea
  • Phone Number : 02-792-2234
  • Subway Station: Noksapyeong (Yongsan-gu Office / Line6)


Maddux Pizza

With some of the kindest management in the country, Maddux Pizza sells 12-inch New York style slices you can’t find anywhere else. The Bacon, Mac and Cheese is gluttonously heavenly and the Artichoke pizza is the creamy solution to any rainy day–although no one could blame you for getting the simple pepperoni slice here either. Details such as the paper plates in combination with real silverware and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ornaments make Maddux Pizza feel like a second home.

  • Address : 2F, 26, Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-ro 26-gil, Seoul
  • Price : ₩4,200 ~ 34,000
  • Phone Number : 02-792-2420
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


Motor City

From the makers of American BBQ restaurant Manimal comes this Detroit-style pizza restaurant, Motor City. Served on thick, square pieces, one pizza is enough to satisfy two eaters but there’s also a long list of highly praised salads and sides in addition to quality cocktails at the bar. The sauce is likely the most addictive element of Motor City pizzas. It’s enough to make you wonder if it’s legal for it to be that good.

  • Address : Seoul Itaewon-ro Yongsan-gu 140-1
  • Phone Number : 02-794-8877
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


The Halal Guys

If the name sounds familiar, it should. Likely one of the most successful food trucks in the world, The Halal Guys are now cooking up their New York treats right here in Seoul–attracting many a former New Yorker with fond memories of visiting the original location on West 53rd Street. Their lamb and chicken combo over rice smothered in the mystery red and white sauce is a taste you can’t replicate anywhere else so head on over to see what the fuss is all about.

  • Address : 187, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-ro, Seoul
  • Price : ₩7,900~11,900
  • Phone Number : 02-794-8308
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


Jonny Dumpling

A legendary cheap eat in Seoul; Jonny Dumpling now has three locations in the Itaewon area. Dumplings are served Chinese-style and although every variation is loved, the shrimp is a particularly talked about favorite. Come prepared with high expectations about the dumpling peel, but low ones for the restaurant’s interior.

  • Address : Seoul Bogwang-ro 59-gil Yongsan-gu 5
  • Price : ₩7,000 ~ 20,000
  • Phone Number : 02-790-8830
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


Jang Sarang

Looking for Korean food in the Itaewon area can feel like fitting a camel through the eye of a needle–especially if it’s Korean set dishes you’re after. However, at the Itaewon branch of the chain Jang Sarang– you can find all the Korean fixings at an affordable price in a nice atmosphere. For an extra healthy meal, try the gondre-bap, which mixes in Korean herbs into whole-grain rice: It might taste a bit bland at first, but it’s rich in textures and you’ll feel great afterwards.

  • Address : 164-1, Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-ro, Seoul
  • Price : ₩12,000 ~ 26,000
  • Phone Number : 02-790-4640
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


Maple Tree House

Located in the heart of Itaewon, behind the Hamilton Hotel, the Maple Tree House has long been a favorite for businessmen in the area attempting to impress their foreign counterparts. On the all-day menu, there’s high-end meat for no-budget spenders but come for lunch on a weekday, and you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised at the affordable, quality options. The naengmyun (iced noodles) is a must-have during the summer, trust us.

  • Address : 26, Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-ro 27ga-gil, Seoul
  • Price : ₩17,900 ~ 36,900
  • Phone Number : 02-790-7977
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)

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The Best Things to Do in Itaewon, Seoul

With no remarkable landmarks in Itaewon, a trip to this neighborhood is more an insight into how a particular section of the city lives and a peek into a changing Korea as opposed to a place thriving with longtime Korean traditions. As such, you will find that it’s relatively easier to meet people and mingle here than in Gangnam, for instance and shop for foreign products.




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Places to Shop in Itaewon

Forgot your stick deodorant? Broke your one pair of size 10 flip-flops? If you are looking for domestic products, Itaewon is not necessarily the place to shop. Chain stores such as Nature Republic and Artiaum might charge slighter higher prices when compared to less tourist heavy neighborhoods. However, Itaewon is the place to be if you’re in dire need for an imported good or an outlier product.

Itaewon Market

Located in between Itaewon and Noksapyeong Stations, there’ll be no doubt you’ve reached Itaewon Market once you’re bombarded with the luggage men asking you “hello, need a suitcase?” and the stores selling ballroom gowns. At the Itaewon Underground Market, there’s a great variety of Western-brand clothes and shoes available in a variety of sizes.

  • Address : 6, Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-ro 14-gil, Seoul
  • Phone Number : 02-794-5682
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


Itaewon Antique Furniture Street

Walk straight out of Itaewon Exit 4 and you’ll begin to notice all the small stores with beautiful furniture out front. Many of the stores date back to the 1960s when American soldiers sold their goods before leaving Korea and expanded when business owners started to import other products from abroad. Here, you can find lavish wooden tables, vintage Japanese chairs as well as unique decorative items such as sign boards and garden sculptures. For visitors, it’s a nice place to go for a walk when the weather is nice and for residents, the prices are a bit steep but you’ll be afforded the opportunity to purchase a unique item.

  • Address : 91, Yongsan-gu, Noksapyeong-daero 26-gil, Seoul
  • Phone Number : 010-2450-8735


What the Book

Opened to 2003, What the Book is the most well-known foreign bookstore in Korea. Not only does the bookstore consistently have best-sellers on the bookshelves, you can also find used books at reasonable prices. Previously, What the Book also bought used books from foreigners moving out of Korea but that’s been out of practice sine 2016. Books are also available in Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French and German, and you may also order items online for pick-up in an easy to navigate website.

  • Address : Seoul Itaewon-ro Yongsan-gu 151
  • Phone Number : 02-797-2342
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


Line Friends Store (Flagship Store in Itaewon)

An eye-catching store on the main Itaewon street, the Line Friends Flagship Store brings your favorite characters from the chatting application LINE to life. If you’re an avid Line user, there are huge blow-up versions of your favorite characters on the first floor that you must take pictures with. On the top floor there’s a photo zone where you can take some photos with Line friends in more intimate settings. Of course, there are plenty souvenirs you can purchase, such as pencil cases, stationary, mouse pads, phone cases, dolls, pillows, and anything else that can host Brown, Cony, Sally and crew. There’s also a floor dedicated to Line Friends fashion, if you knew there was such a thing. Once you’re done, head over to the 3rd floor where you can hang out at the cafe and relax with a latte with your Line friends. Note: This is the Line Friends Flagship Store, but there are other locations for the other Line stores in Seoul. Click for link and location: Line Store in Myeongdong, Line Store in Garosugil, Line Store in Hongdae,

  • Address : 200, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-ro, Seoul
  • Phone Number : 02-790-0901
  • Subway Station: IItaewon (Line 6)

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The Best Clubs in Itaewon

Just as the center of the world is said to change every few years, so does the center of the partying scene in Seoul. With the 2015 boom of Itaewon, the nightlife scene in the neighborhood has also exploded. Much to the annoyance of locals to wanted to keep their favorite places secret, Itaewon’s clubs are now some of Seoul’s hottest. From hardcore music-lovers to those looking strictly for temporary romance; everyone can find something in Itaewon.

Cakeshop

Likely the most respected hip-hop club in Seoul, Cakeshop proclaims to play everything from Future House to UK Bass, Garage, Disco and RnB. The name borrows from the famous venue in New York but the nightclub has undoubtedly established itself in its own rite. Before the club exploded in exposure, Korean celebrities such as G-Dragon and former 2ne1 star CL have been rumored to hang out here from time to time but it’s undetermined whether that’s still the case. International big names such as James Blake and Nosaj Thing make their way here, but there are a fair number of talented local DJs that rotate shows here as well.

  • Address : 134, Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-ro, Seoul
  • Phone Number : 010-4765-6139
  • Subway Station: Noksapyeong (Yongsan-gu Office / Line6)


Pistil

The second child of the creators of Cakeshop, Pistil is a more laid-back version of the well-known hip-hop club and even the music itself seems more relaxed. The mood here is a bit toned down and they tend to concrete a bit more on the quality of their food and drinks. These days, it feels more like how Cakeshop used to be in the old days–a place for friends to come hang out and enjoy music.

  • Address : 9, Yongsan-gu, Bogwang-ro 59-gil, Seoul
  • Phone Number : 02-797-6139
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


Venue

What does Venue/ have over other clubs that might play better music? It’s free. (And honestly, if you on a good night–the music isn’t bad either.) It’s always been the perfect place for those partying on the cheap as the drinks are affordable as well. The bathroom is cringe worthy but the vibe is always feel-good on the weekends.

  • Address : 165-6, Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-ro, Seoul
  • Phone Number : 010-4142-8553


B One Lounge Club

B One Lounge Club is a great example of how hard locals here can party. Open every night, there’s bound to be a group of 20s or 30s-something colleagues from the same company dressed in tie and suit there to party at 2 o’clock in the morning. If you’re looking to socialize on a Tuesday night, this is where you’ll find the party.

  • Address : Seoul Itaewon-ro Yongsan-gu 179
  • Phone Number : 02-749-6164
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


club MUTE

Although parties here can be hit or miss, it’s a great addition to the weekend nightlife scene in Itaewon. With some of the feel of a Gangnam-club, you have more space than other venues in Itaewon, which are normally underground and smoky. Occasionally, alcohol brands throw parties here and offer free alcohol, and that’s got to be a plus!

  • Address : Seoul Itaewon-ro 27ga-gil Yongsan-gu 26
  • Phone Number : 02-796-6853
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


SKRT SEOUL

A 2016 addition to the Itaewon nightlife scene, SKRT SEOUL runs the fine line between being a music venue and a club. Previous acts here include Bondax and Moon Boots, and there are always a fair number of people who buy tickets online anticipating a great “concert” in addition to those stumbling in from their drinking adventures at 2 o’clock n the morning.

  • Address : Seoul Usadan-ro Yongsan-gu 46
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)

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The Best Bars & Lounges in Itaewon

Even in a 24/7 city like Seoul, it’s not easy to find a neighborhood bursting with young people on a weekday night. At Itaewon’s bars and lounges, people-watching is an easy feat to accomplish–even on a Tuesday night. (Seriously, do these people work?)

Glam Lounge (DISTRICT)

The Glam Lounge is made up of two different venues. Downstairs, there is casual pub called Prost where you can get your hands on a delicious start-of-the-night beer as well as some edible food. Upstairs, you’ll find a glitzy party every night of the week. During the weekends, it might be so crowded that you’ll find it hard to talk (or even walk to the bathroom) but during the weeknights, everyone comes ready to mingle. Though not instantly obvious, the dress code is fairly upscale for Itaewon staandards and getting yourself a table will get you noticed. It’s not uncommon to be bought or buy someone a drink at the prominent bar, which takes center stage so who knows–you just might meet that special somebody.

  • Address : Seoul Itaewon-ro 27ga-gil Yongsan-gu 26
  • Phone Number : 02-796-6853
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


The Fountain

Can’t dance? Feel awkward taking your date out to a club but want to try something different after dinner? Try The Fountain, a barcade that allows you to play a variety of games. A fairly large venue, you can run around trying out each of your childhood favorites.

  • Address : 16-5, Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-ro 23-gil, Seoul
  • Phone Number : 010-8481-8813
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


Volstead

A speakeasy type bar located close to the Itaewon Antique Furniture Street, Volsead is staffed with friendly, knowledgeable mixologists and makes some of the most delicious cocktails in Itaewon. With dim lighting and cozy seating, you can easily take a first date here.

  • Address : B1, 116, Yongsan-gu, Bogwang-ro, Seoul
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


Blacklist

A 2017 addition to the Itaewon nightlife scene, this bar is relatively quiet at the moment. It’s a great place if you want to go somewhere and you actually want to hear them. The cocktails are meticulously crafted and taste delicious and the spicy mixed nuts beat out any other bar food in the neighborhood.

  • Address : 36, Yongsan-gu, Bogwang-ro 59-gil, Seoul
  • Phone Number : 010-2437-1178
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)

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The Best Korean Bars in Itaewon

It may seem easier to find the rare whiskey bottle than it is to find that common green soju bottle in Itaewon, but if you take a good look at the hidden corners, you’ll find that Korean liquor is surely available. During the summer, there are sometimes rows of Korean street-food carts with soju called pochang-machas and all year round you’ll find the restaurant’s stream of them.

Jungle Pocha

Before you enter this bar, you’re greeted with a sign that reads “Welcome to the Jungle.” At the Itaewon location of Jungle Pocha, you’re offered up all the traditional makings of a pocha macha­–five different varieties of soju, large portions of eccentric Korean bar food as well as beer and wine. Depending on what time of night  you arrive, you’ll see locals starting out the night by having food and drinks or finishing it by feeding their drinking appetites.

  • Address : Seoul Itaewon-ro Yongsan-gu 197
  • Phone Number : 070-7757-5598
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


Seoul Bam

Although the aesthetic of Seoul Bam doesn’t resemble that of a typical pocha, Itaewon also isn’t the typical place to drink soju. With a minimalistic, white interior, some of the culinary choices such as the sea snail salad, fish cake soup and semi-roasted cuttlefish will require acquired palates to say the least.

  • Address : Seoul Itaewon-ro Yongsan-gu 143-28
  • Phone Number : 02-6083-8384
  • Subway Station: Noksapyeong (Yongsan-gu Office / Line6)


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The Best Gay Bars and Clubs in Itaewon

LGBT nightlife is hidden in scattered parts of the city–namely Hongdae, Jongno, Edae and Itaewon. A rite of passage for any partying gay man visiting or living in Seoul, Itaewon is a night out at Homo-hill (Usandan-ro 12-gil). Although it’s quite a short strip, the street holds a lot of value for many in the gay and transgender community and it’s been, for a long time, a safe space for same-sex nightlife. However, lesbian women might not necessarily feel welcome at all of these venues.

Eat Me

A well-known bar on Homo-hill, the tight space here is as memorable as the bar’s name. Drinks can be bought as singles or doubles and there’s a lot of winking at each other before the real fun begins at the clubs afterwards.

  • Address : 6, Usadan-ro 12-gil Yongsan-gu Seoul
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


Trance

One of the oldest bars on the Hill, Trance is known for its extraordinary performances by veteran drag queens­–quite likely one of the reasons that the bar was able to survive for so long in Seoul’s transient food and dining business.

  • Address : Seoul Usadan-ro 12-gil Yongsan-gu 7
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)


Queen

Queen starts its night out quietly–a few people at the bar chatting away as the crowd fills up for the night. A somewhat legendary name in Seoul’s gay scene, Queen is guaranteed to get quite full. Unlike other gay clubs where straight men and women may not necessarily feel welcome, Queen is a judgment free venue where humans of all sexual orientations can get loose.

  • Address : Seoul Usadan-ro 12-gil Yongsan-gu 7
  • Phone Number : 02-749-3249
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)





Gray

One of the most talked about gay venues to open in 2016, Gray is rumored to be the hottest places to be seen on the weekends as a gay man. Since the venue is new, there’s a fresh, crisp atmosphere in the air but you can feel free to get down and dirty. Note that it can be quite difficult to get in as a woman unless you really have an “in.”

  • Address : Seoul Itaewon-ro Yongsan-gu 190
  • Subway Station: IItaewon(Line 6)