▲ Seogwipo’s nightlife is “very different in character from the neon cityscape to the north,” says James Hill. Dongmun Rotary, above, is a main transport hub. Photo by Douglas MacDonald
(More of Douglas MacDonald's photograhy can be found here at his Flickr stream. - Ed.)
Unlike the roaring lion of economy and commerce nestling north of the mountain, Seogwipo is not known for its bustling streets or concrete skyline. While Jeju City presents a concentrated, well-serviced city centre, Seogwipo is significantly more diffuse, and generally less demanding.
It’s not a surprise, then, that casual observers sometimes describe the nightlife as sleepy. The city is, after all, famed for its natural beauty and proximity to all kinds of nature-orientated, daytime activities. Scratch a little deeper, however, and you will see that it is not an absence of nightlife that marks Seogwipo, but simply that the nightlife is very different in character from the neon cityscape to the north.
While there are no nightclubs, and little in the way of bustling bars, there are a smattering of smaller and unquestionably cooler drinking holes brimming with their own character.
The bulk of activity in Seogwipo takes place just south of the Olle Maeil Shijang, or “everyday market.” Lee Jung-seop Street, named for the famous Korean artist whose works are sometimes exhibited along the road, is the central axis for ‘downtown’. This semi-pedestrianised area, lit by decorative lamp posts, hosts the bulk of sundown activities and food and drink flows freely. Food options here abound, so take your time and have your fill.
Once you’ve lined your stomach, it’s time for the business end of the night: social drinking. The bar/café scene here excels, from the relaxed to the upscale. Perennial favourite and live music venue the May.B Cafe is a quirky, brightly lit place that spills onto the street and provides beers, wines, coffees and teas, as well as cakes and other goodies.
For those of a more alternative bent, Goofy Foot is a surf bar that plays a mix of pop and rock, serves some mean cocktails, contains a pool table and menus made of mini surfboards. It also shows sports and has surf tour videos on constant loop on its big screen tv.
An honourable mention also goes to the Beer Garten, a favourite with the 20-to-30s Korean crowd. In addition to the modern decor, it has an awesome table set up with refrigerated beer holders built into your table to keep your beer cold: always an excellent addition for those hot summer months.
▲ “May.B Cafe is a quirky, brightly lit place that spills onto the street and provides beers, wines, coffees and teas, as well as cakes and other goodies.” Photo by Douglas MacDonald
Most bars stay open pretty late, but if you’ve not had your fill yet, then it’s time to take it to the next level. Southside, that means one thing: Noraebang. Seogwipo has a fine selection of singing rooms, but the two largest are Music Town and Music Bank. Both carry the same generous selection of English songs, but there are differences: Music Bank has fancy dress, while Music Town features a stream running through the main lobby. The choice is yours.
“But I’m in Seogwipo,” you cry, “I don’t want to just hang around a town centre, however charming it is!”.Well, hypothetical person, you may be strangely picky, but you’re not wrong, and Seogwipo caters to you in a special way. A little away from Lee Jung Seop Street, the harbour also bustles with activity, and this is where your night is going to focus.
Seseom Galbi is an award-winning restaurant overlooking the harbour, with great views of the famous illuminated bridge. Next door is Milano’s, a cafe/bar with a relaxed atmosphere and the same great views. But the real gem of Seogwipo lies on the harbourside itself: Rosemarine’s.
Rosemarine’s is a small, one-story place that sprawls along the harbour, and yet is unobtrusive enough that you could walk past it and never know it was there. It contains a large outdoor area with picnic benches along the waterfront, as well as a large patio area and a fair bit of space inside.
Here, drinks are bought out of fridges, the prices are low, and the whole place has a no-frills charm to it that is hard to beat. It’s a favourite spot to drink a few bowls of makgeolli and watch the world turn, or to drink long into the night, and both will be awesome.
Finally, take a few drinks and go exploring. The coastline provides a myriad of options to stop and admire on a starry night. Just remember to clean up after yourself!
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