Gay Seoul Guide: The Essential Guide To Gay Travel In Seoul South Korea 2018
Gay Seoul is one of the world’s most underestimated travel destinations, overlooked continuously for its more famous East Asian neighbors. Better know for Samsung and political tensions with North Korea, there is a thriving queer scene here hidden right in plain sight – you just need to know where to look!
Fast-paced and utterly obsessed with fashion and technology, the dynamic city of Seoul is also profoundly traditional with peaceful palaces, temples and mountain trails. Skyscrapers overshadow elegant hanok (traditional wooden homes), green spaces and cycle routes soften industrial hard edges and K-Pop can be heard blaring on almost every street corner. Seoulites have a lot to be proud of in their 24/7 city – where you can get whatever you want, whenever you want – and their gay scene here is no exception. We just wish the society at large would be more accepting…
South Korea as a whole has a far less accepting view of its LGBTQ community than most of the rest of Asia – and while the strength of conservatives and the Christian fundamentalists wanes slowly, things are still not where they need to be. LGBT acceptance as however rapidly grown in the past decade, especially in the younger generations, thanks to international influences, more queer events, and a louder presence of the local LGBT community including –rather famously – celebrity Hong Seok-cheon, coming out in public.
Many in Korea believe they have never met a gay person, and it is a topic not often talked about, with political parties avoiding discussion of LGBT rights and many people burying their heads in the sand. As a visitor you are extremely unlikely to experience any outright discrimination but be aware, many queer locals lead double lives and succumb to the overwhelming societal pressure to keep their sexuality private.
South Korea is undoubtedly one of the more conservative countries in Asia, but even here it technically illegal to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation. Still many members of the LGBT community still face difficulties at home and work, meaning Gay Korea has a long way to go still to catch up with its more progressive neighbors – Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and increasingly Vietnam.
The gay scene in Seoul, however, is growing every year and has plenty of fabulous queer fun to offer. International party boys looking for mixed foreign/local fun will want to head to the famous Homo Hill in Itaewon, long associated with gay nightlife but locals are more likely to frequent the central district of Jongno. Synonymous with skyscrapers, the bustle of Insadong and street barbecues, there is actually a hidden-in-plain-sight gay scene here with more bars, karaoke joints, gay sauna and cafes than we could count.
Not many tourists ever venture to Gay Jongno but know if you do that in the bars and clubs you will always be welcomed with a smile. Sadly, the same can not be said for Seoul’s gay sauna’s and cruise clubs scene which actively discriminate against and bar anyone who is non-Koreans – no matter how familiar with customs or the language you are. We hope this changes in the future and have some tips that might help, but in this respect the gay scene in Seoul still very much has some growing up to do.
Still, with over 10 million people, Seoul is one of the biggest cities on Earth and has something for absolutely everyone. Food, design, culture, history and wild nightlife – this sprawling metropolis has it all!
Gay Seoul Guide: The Essential Guide To Gay Travel In Seoul South Korea 2018
Naturally being gay does not define which attractions most of us will want to see in each city and most queer travelers will simply want to check out the top things to see in Seoul during the day!
There is so much to do here – but we found our favorite memories were wandering through getting lost on back-streets, visiting all the weird cafes, hitting up Lotte World and wandering through design studios!
Still – it helps to have some idea what is going on, so here are the best things to do in Seoul, according to us!
Things To Do in Seoul
Traditional Korean Bathhouse – Not into the gay sauna? Uncover a unique and family friend part of the Korean culture in a beautifully decorated and traditional Korean-style bathhouse. Unwind from a stressful day of sightseeing – or night or partying – in a traditional oak wood sauna, and enjoy access to all saunas and steam rooms that include various salt and minerals treatments for your skin. For more extravagance why not treat yourself to a massage, facials or body scrubs. Even though the bathhouse is open 24/7, be sure to book in advance any special treatment options to avoid missing out.
Myeong-dong – An diverse shopping & casual global dining destination, the Bustling Myeong-dong is packed with international fashion brands, luxury department stores, and homegrown cosmetics shops.
Korean Cooking Class – Discern Korea’s inimitable culinary heritage and traditional cooking practices with this stimulating class. Start with a visit a customary Korean market and search it with your guide for fresh produce to use later on. Then its back to school to learn how to make an assortment of authentic local dishes such as Kimchi, Pajeon (Korean Pancakes,) and more. Perfect for showing off at your next dinner party when you return home! Cook inside the house of a qualified Korean chef, who will happily give you step-by-step instructions that you can repeat later, and don’t forget to ask as many questions as possible to get insight into Korea’s unique gastronomy.
Cheonggyecheon – A landmark of new urban restoration and ecological rejuvenation this park space featuring a revived / ‘day-lighted’ stream with walkways, bridges & greenery.
Fireman Show – An remarkable display of acrobatics & dance, this much-acclaimed show uses a mixture of performance styles to express the strains of being a fireman. Weird we know, but you will see why when you are there. Observe impressive acrobatic lifts and flips, learn about the importance of fire safety and awareness – and being a non-verbal show it is well-suited for all language speakers. Feel the affirmative energy brought by the melodramatic yet comical entertainers that portray vivacious characters.
Bukchon Hanok Village – A beautiful heritage village with a proud 600-year history dating back to the 14th century. Fill your camera with selfies featuring narrow streets lined with restored traditional homes.
Love Museum – A quirky museum of interactive erotic art, this is Seoul’s first and so far only museum for adults – but we are sure others are eagerly being planned. Watch sensory stories of passion and desire unfold right before your eyes, get a chance to try your hand at pole dancing – if you haven’t already – and discover the different moments of newlyweds’ life through interactive artworks. There are six-themed galleries, each with an unusual attraction for you to find – and trust us, gay, straight or unicorn …You won’t ever have seen anything like this before!
Lotte World – No trip to Seoul would be complete without a visit to Korea’s top theme park, Lotte World! Lotte World tickets are surprisingly discounted exclusively for foreign visitors, so don’t miss the chance to visit this fun two-part theme park with outdoor thrill rides and a ‘Magic Island’ castle area. During the colder months take a jacket or have fun with the adrenaline-charged indoor attractions in the ‘Adventure’ area, plus attend the numerous parades and shows. If you want to do more, there is a Lotte World + Aquarium combo ticket to also include a visit to the world’s largest ocean ecology tank at the Lotte World Aquarium, showcasing over 650 marine species across 13 distinct zones.
Jongmyo – A UNESCO World Heritage site and shrine to Joseon dynasty kings & queens. Ritual ceremonies still take place at this Confucian shrine dedicated to Joseon dynasty royals. Today Jongmyo is the perfect escape from the urban hustle-and-bustle and an intriguing looking into Old Seoul
Seoul’s Palaces, Temples & Markets – Spend a day sightseeing and ticking off Seoul’s most popular sites. The President’s pad, Blue House (or Cheongwadae), the changing of the guards at the spectacular Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeok Palace and stopping by the National Folk Museum to learn more about Korea’s rich history from the dynasties up to the present day. Also not to be missed is the soothing Jogyesa Buddhist Temple and bargain hunting at the famous Namdaemun Markets.
Discover Seoul Pass– Get easy access to a mixture of 35 top Seoul tourist attractions with the Discover Seoul Pass. Choose from a 24/48/72 hours pass so you can enjoy discounts and freely customize your Seoul trip with this flexible admission ticket and transport card from the Seoul Tourism Organization exclusively available to foreign tourists.
Korea Rail Pass (KR PASS) –Discover South Korea outside of Seoul by traveling on over 80 routes and to over 600 stations with the Korea Rail Pass. Take unlimited rides on most Korail trains for 3 or 5 consecutive days or any flexible 2 and 4 days with this discounted that is only available for foreign nationals.
Naturally, a city the size of Seoul has plenty more to explore!
We recommend getting a full guidebook if you are staying for more than a night or two. It probably won’t have any information on Gay Seoul – that’s what we are here for – but it will have useful tips and an exhaustive list of the best attractions across South Korea to assist you on your fabulous adventure!
Korea Queer Film Festival (KQFF) – An annual event in July dedicated exclusively to screening gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer films. KQFF has been held annually since 2001 with the stated aim of encouraging diversity in Korean culture while improving LGBT human rights and acceptance. One of the most critical Asian forums of international LGBT film/video and if your dates coincide if a way to experience a more sophisticated level of gay life in Seoul.
I AM Seoul – Korea’s largest circuit party brand, I AM launched in 2015 and has rapidly become one of the most popular circuit events across Asia. Now, I AM continues to entice hundreds of gay travelers from across Asia and the globe to Gay Seoul. I AM boasts three days of club parties, pool parties and after-parties filled with music and the hottest guys. You can expect an unforgettable experience with a killer DJ line-up from all over the world and super go-go boys on stage. Normally held in August, I AM is entirely worth planning a trip around.
Korea Queer Festival Party | Pride Parade – Korea’s largest LGBT festival, this annual modern Korean festival, whose theme is LGBT rights has many highlights including a pride parade, film festival events, art, discussions and club party events. The festival lasts for a week or two and usually takes place in late May to early June. The parade was banned in 2015 attracted international attention to the event, with most of it being critical of the progress made regarding LGBT rights in South Korea. Once again taking place, there is now some support from smaller Korean political parties and celebrities, but major parties and the government-at-large takes a neutral stance. Unlike many other Pride festivals worldwide, the Seoul Pride Prade actively limits the ability of attendees to take pictures or videos and asking photo-takers to blur participants’ faces before publishing pictures online. This is done to reduce the chance of accidental outing of participants, who still face significant discrimination in Korean society. While the organizers have big plans to grow the event to the biggest in Asia, Seoul’s Queer Culture Festival shows in many ways South Korea is in the Stone Age. 120,000 LGBT people openly participating in 2018 – the biggest ever – but 200,000 signatures were also gathered to stop the Parade, and thousands of anti-LGBT protestors turned out. Still, it’s amazing to see NGO’s and brands getting on board as the event grows. In a country where modesty around outsiders is paramount and sexual preference is not something to be flaunted, we can only hope increased visibility in the future helps new generations of South Koreans feel comfortable enough to be who they truly are.
Gay-friendly and Gay Hotels in Seoul
Although Korea and Seoul might be less politically progressive and gay-friendly than say, Bangkok, Tokyo or Taipei, it is still safe to assume queer travelers will have no issues checking pretty much any hotel in Seoul. Sadly, however, there are no exclusively gay hotels in Seoul to check into.
Seoul is a global mega-city with a shortage of space, so room sizes are smaller than almost everywhere else in the world – but as plenty of gay men know, it’s not all about size, but how you use it! We are talking about design, functionality and views darling!
Having said that, everyone likes to be surrounded by people with common interests, and as such there are a few well-known gay-friendly hotels in Seoul that are hot spots for gay travelers to stay – either because of their location or their design and inclusive vibes.
Hotels near Homo Hill, the foreigner-friendly queer enclave in Itaewon are extremely popular with gay travelers – especially travelers who only speak English but Jongno in the Nagwon-dong neighborhood, is actually the gayest area of Seoul though more popular with locals than visitors. You might also consider staying in the tourist-popular Myeongdong / Seoul Central often said to be the heart of Seoul or in the world-famous Gangnam district, a.k.a the ‘Beverly Hills of Seoul.’
The following hotels in Gay Seoul have all have glowing recommendation from gay travelers in the past, but of course, there are hundreds of other hotels in Seoul if these are not quite what you are looking for. Whether you want a fun and social hostel, a cheap place to crash after a night of partying or an ultra-chic designer option to sip cocktails and surround yourself with fabulous people – Gay Seoul has something for everyone!
Gay-friendly Hotels in Itaewon
Hamilton Hotel ☆☆☆☆ – A landmark in Seoul’s Itaewon, this relaxed hotel in a modest redbrick building is only a minute’s walk from the subway station with unfussy rooms, free Wi-Fi and helpful staff. You almost never need to leave with eight different dining options including a glossy Italian restaurant, 2 LGBT friendly nightclubs, outdoor rooftop pool – popular with peacocking muscle gays-, 24-hour sauna, gym, and even a small shopping center. Recently renovated from top-to-bottom and still just a short stumble from Homo Hill, HOMPA by Le Queen and Club HIM.
IP Boutique Hotel ☆☆☆☆ – Located in Seoul’s cosmopolitan shopping and entertainment district, Itaewon, IP Boutique Hotel presents a new lifestyle experience for gay guests. Featuring exceptional design and magnificent ambiance, the hotel offers 133 guestrooms, a café restaurant, and unlimited use of their fully equipped fitness room. Excellent value, IP Boutique Hotel is only a short walk to the Always Homme gay bar and Club HIM by Pulse adding to its gay-popularity.
Hotel ITW ☆☆☆– A clean, modern, attractive hotel in Itaewon with prices as good or better than most other places in Seoul. We loved that it was within convenient walking distance of the gay restaurants, pubs, and shops that make Itaewon such a pulsating and appealing part of Seoul. Hotel ITAW is however up to a steep hill and located on a narrow one-way street which is challenging after a night of drinking.
Sp@Itaewon Guesthouse ☆☆☆ – The perfect hangout for the social traveler with private rooms, affordable dorms, and regular BBQ parties. Expect a fun happening atmosphere with a recently renovated common area, with plenty of slightly crazy staff, and clean, comfortable facilities after you’re ready to turn in. Opened with the understanding that the best accommodation you can find while traveling isn’t necessarily the highest class or the most expensive, but it’s defined by the people you meet and what you explore around your destination that counts. Save money without the sacrifice.
Gay-friendly Hotels in Jongno
Four Seasons Hotel Seoul ☆☆☆☆☆ – A stylish, luxury hotel located in the heart of Seoul’s ‘hidden in plain sight’ gay scene. This contemporary offering brings the Four Seasons experience to Korea for the first time, inviting you to indulge in complete serenity at their urban Spa, take a dip in the year-round pool or savor Michelin-starred cuisine and Seoul’s bourgeoning craft-cocktail scene – all without leaving the hotel. The opulent rooms are flooded with natural light thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows; there are lovely Italian marble bathrooms and oh-so-much room.
JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul ☆☆☆☆☆ – Enjoy a luxury getaway with elegant accommodations, this spacious hotel is filled with 5-star amenities to leave you wonderfully relaxed and in total bliss. Featuring floor-to-ceiling windows, the sophisticated rooms offer free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and room service 24/7 – upgraded rooms even have access to a lounge offering daily complimentary breakfast. There is also a refined steakhouse, a trendy rooftop bar, indoor pool, gym, spa, and a sauna/steam room. What more could you ask for?
Top Hotel & Residence Insadong ☆☆☆ – A simple aparthotel offering affordable studios, each with a small kitchen equipped with a stove, fridge and washing machine. There is a 24-hour front desk offering free luggage storage and concierge services, and guests can relax on a public terrace or enjoy daily live jazz concerts from 7 pm until midnight at the ground floor bar. If you are looking for a more local experience, wanting to host and avoid the international gay circus that Homo Hill can sometimes offer, this is an ideal option.
Makers Hotel ☆☆☆ – An incredible value boutique hotel which welcomes everyone and features room decorated with unique accessories, furniture and decorations in hope to add little more of happiness to your travels. Offering a place with a1800s vintage styled look, Makers is very gay-popular with a stylish café, an enviable location and regular live music for nights when you really don’t want to head far for the night’s entertainment.
ibis Ambassador Insadong ☆☆☆– Conveniently located, the Ibis hotel chain is always gay-friendly and is a perfect option for budget travelers who don’t want any surprised. This location is decorated in warm earthy tones, but as always all rooms are fitted with a flat-screen TV, seating area and writing desk. There is also a relaxation area with a sauna and a public bath. Perfect if you want your privacy (or to host) but don’t need any fancy extras.
Other Gay-friendly Hotels In Seoul
Signiel Seoul ☆☆☆☆☆ – The world’s newest ‘so-called’ 7-star hotel found in the lofty heights of 87th through 101st floors of Lotte World Tower, the fifth highest building in the world. Signiel Seoul has rapidly established itself as the most lavish (and costly) hotel in South Korea. All 235 hotel guest rooms offer panoramic views of Seoul, including 42 suites rooms to bring you a whole new experience that cannot be found anywhere else in Korea. Enjoy Signiel Seoul’s exquisite fine-dining that will offer the ultimate experience for top-class customers from all over the world, from Yannick Alléno’s French cuisine to contemporary Korean cuisine, and relax at the most prestigious refreshing zone including Evian Spa and Salon de Signiel. There is also a ritzy champagne bar, refined lounge, luxury sp, and an indoor pool.
Park Hyatt Seoul ☆☆☆☆☆– A gay-popular extravagant hotel option in world-famous Gangnam, the Park Hyatt Seoul guarantees an exceptional experience, promising elegant and cordial service with plenty of personal touches. From remarkable gourmet options to soothing spa services, you will enjoy an unequaled level of contentment and classiness that surpasses every expectancy. The luxurious and modern rooms all offer wonderful floor-to-ceiling windows as well as free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and tea and coffee making facilities. The relaxing bathrooms offer soaking tubs and tempting rainfall showerheads – with enough room for two! Regarding dining options, there is a grilled seafood restaurant, a Korean lounge, and a Japanese eatery with three separate bars depending on your mood. Along with a fitness center, you will also find the admired indoor infinity pool, a sauna, and a steam room. What’s not to love!
Hotel Cappuccino ☆☆☆☆ – An urban lifestyle retreat where every day brings new surprises and motivation. Located in Gangnam, the energetic southern heart of Seoul, Hotel Cappuccino is a flawless home away from home for international gay travelers seeking a new experiences, fun, boutique touches and a cause-driven hotel. The spirit of Hotel Cappuccino strives to foster shared value with all its guests through engaging and eye-catching spaces filled with attentive detail – You are sure to be amazing, delighted and inspired, just as we were! This hip hotel offers serene, minimalist rooms with monochromatic décor, free breakfast, a top-floor retro eatery with inspiriting city views, and a fashionable rooftop bar that is sure to be an instant hit.
Aloft Seoul Myeongdong ☆☆☆☆ – A fashionable new hotel with a sophisticated limestone exterior in the popular tourist-area of Myeongdong, the capital’s fashion district. Designed for global travelers who love open spaces, open thinking and open expression, this is where travel creates possibilities. Relaxed rooms come with complimentary Wi-Fi and flat-screens, some have sweeping city views plus there is a 24-hour snack pantry, a trendy bar, garden terrace, and an on-site gym if you feel the need to work out.
L7 Myeongdong by LOTTE ☆☆☆☆– A lifestyle hotel with chic sentiments and an undisturbed atmosphere. Open-hearted accommodations at the soul of Seoul that blends the needs of guests lifestyles with the local culture to create a unique experience that exceeds all expectations. Minimalist rooms designed with all the latest in modern conveniences in mind, this hip hotel also offers a breakfast buffet, a rooftop cocktail spot with panoramic views, an open-air foot spa and beauty salon.
Hongdae Lazy Fox Hostel ☆☆ – Are you looking for a special guest house to meet other travelers, or just wanting to watch your budget? The Hongdae Lazy Fox Hostel is the right place, as staying here you will meet a lot of travelers, how are sure to quickly become new friends. Found in the center of Seoul’s heart, just about everything is on your doorstep including exciting food, bars, clubs, shopping, and music! Sure, you might have to share a dorm – but that’s part of the adventure right?
Gay Nightlife in Seoul
With Seoul being one of the most gay-friendly destinations in Asia – joined by the likes of Taipei, Bangkok, Phuket, and Hong Kong – you would expect an incredible gay nightlife scene, and luckily Seoul does not disappoint. Depending on your mood you can find anything here from a relaxed cocktail in an upscale bar to an all-night dance rave surrounded by your queer family!
The epicenter of international gay nightlife in Seoul is found at the famous Homo Hill in Itaewon, just a short way from the subway station. More gay bars and most of the gay clubs in Seoul are found here with most spots open late. Dance parties rarely get going before 2 am here. The other gay area of Seoul, Jongno, is actually the original Seoul gay village and more popular with locals – but foreigners are very welcome. Here you will find a more laid back scene filled with gay bars, karaoke, and fabulous restaurants.
A night out in Gay Seoul is guaranteed to be absolutely insane and unforgettable – just go with it!
Homo Hill / Itaewon Gay Bars
Lollipop – If you want fierce glitter realness and colorful drag shows, a large dance floor and no cover charge check out this new gay bar in Itaewon. Only open Friday’s and Saturdays, the owner (who features in the drag show) really sets the scene with his hyperactive personality and knack for making everyone always feel welcome.
Queen – All hail the Queen! Often named simply the best gay bar on Homo Hill, Queen is notorious for its hot-and-heavy dance floor filled with even hotter guys. There is a nice terrace to escape the fire with large glass windows looking back in, but you won’t want to stay outside for long – there is too much mindless dancing to be done.
Q-Bar – Seoul’s newest, premier LGBT venue with three separate areas, shows at 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays and a party that goes until 5 am. Pure sophistication with a fun lounge area and VIP room, epic DJs, dancers, and performers – check their Facebook page for weekly events which add even more excitement.
ALMAZ – Another cozy watering spot to start at in Gay Itaewon, with plenty of space for quiet conversations thanks to its location in a renovated private residence. Drinks are affordable with loyal customers, many of who have been coming here every weekend since ALMAZ opened in 2001. Now a core of the local Seoul gay scene the friendly owner and staff are more than happy to answer any questions for a first-timer in gay Seoul so ask away.
Always Homme – A small yet erudite bar with extroverted regulars and a constant invasion of foreigners keeping things interesting. The owner Paul is quite the character, ensuring everyone is having a good time and playing Cupid with his patrons. You are all but guaranteed to end up with friends from all over the world if you let him work his magic. The staff speak English, the music isn’t too loud and there is a nice selection of cocktails and beers to get you going.
Why Not? – An archetypal Tokyo-style whiskey bar resettled into the gay heart of Seoul. Popular with both locals and foreigners offers fun K-POP on weekends and house, techno and pop during the weekdays. There is a cover charge but admission includes one drink. Modern and clean with reasonably priced drives and an owner who encourages staff to chat and make patrons feel welcome, it is easy to see why Why Not is a popular watering hole to start a night out on Homo Hill.
Bottoms Up – An upscale new gay bar with a trendy fit-out and wonderful views over the surrounding gay scene. Fun drink specials, well-mannered guys and plenty of fun every Tuesday – Saturday.
Oz – A casual gay bar with no gimmicks where you can have a real drink and a real conversation. Poplar with a more mature crowd but very, very welcoming to all. Try the delicious house special drink “The Cotton Candy”.
Warehouse – Another no-frills gay bar in Seoul with limited space, cheap drinks, and cute bartenders. Very affordable cocktails though and the staff are happy to help with your song requests if you fancy setting the mood.
PROST Pub & Grill – If you are looking for a meal and conversation more than intimate drinks, Prost is a gay-owned bistro with contemporary Italian food, relaxed pub food, and an extensive cocktail menu. There is a DJ on deck later and night and special events frequently listed on their Facebook page.
Jongno Gay Bars
OWOO Jongno – Breathing new life into the old-school Jongno neighborhood, this trendy establishment attracts young gays who just are not into the party-rock vibes of Itaewon. Most other gay bars in this area are small and cramped, making Owoo so much more refreshing with its Nordic styled interior (think Helsinki or Copenhagen) with plenty of space. Judging by the persistent lines outside, its fair to say Owoo has been quite the hit.
Wallpaper – A small but popular gay karaoke bar hidden away in an alley – if you want to belt out the latest K-Pop or Gaga, plan to arrive early as getting a table is almost impossible later in the night.
A\V Take-C – A stylish gay venue with a long bar and expansive glass windows at one end with nice views over the area. Popular with adorable Korean bears but foreigners are very welcome, A\V Take-C is also known for its strong drinks and amazing soju cocktails.
VIVA – A contemporary basement bar with a surprising amount of room, lots of tables and space to dance. Mostly friendly Korean guys but foreigners are welcomed by the owners and everyone else here. There is salsa dancing every second Sunday, open mic nights, K-POP and more, perfect for a relaxing night of fab queer fun.
The Nine – Not for those on the latest fad diet, this “bar of trans fat” unapologetically serves high-calories munchies alongside copious amounts of soju and beer. Their specialty is the house deep-fried chicken in butter and hot pepper sauce – and they are one of the only bars in the area with Sapporo on tap. Tucked away in an alley close to Wallpaper bar if you want to steal glances at the cute guys coming and going…
Torio Torio – A simple/ traditional Korean bar with a loyal gay following of bears and their admirers. Cheap drinks, delicious food, and a very relaxed atmosphere.
Pocha ALMAZ – The second outpost of the fantastic gay bar ALMAZ over in Itaewon, with this location opening in 2016. A good selection of Korean soju, beers and cocktails, modern interiors and fun K-Pop music every night of the week.
Shortbus – A clean and fun gay bar with an owner and staff how are very friendly to all customers and very efficient servers. Customer service is generally non-existent in Korea so Shortbus is a welcome exception with staff who try there best to engage in English whether you are sitting at the more sociable triangle-shaped bar or on the tables. A slightly older crowd with house/lounge music interspersed with old-school diva songs.
BB Bar – Jongno is far more popular with locals than international party gays, but many gay expats make themselves right at home in BB Bar a Western-style gay lounge bar popular with bears and their admirers. The owner is Korean American and speaks perfect English should you need any help with navigating the often confusing local gay scene.
37°2 – A new gay bar + modern fusion restaurant concept recently opened in Jongno.
Shimya Jongro– A little downstairs gay bar that is more like a small restaurant hidden in your best friend’s house. Socialize, read, drink or stuff your face, the friendly (and well-traveled) owners will be happy to welcome you as you are. It might be better to take a date – or anyone – with you however as most patrons come for a light dinner and the bar is empty more often than not.
Bar GNOME – A small but fun gay bar hidden in a side alley with a welcoming Korean owner – very much a one-person operation. Only a few customers ever seem to be in here, but are generally friendly and willing to try to navigate a conversation with any foreigner who manages to stumble in here. There is also a nice rooftop view and affordable cocktails.
Bar Friends – A local gay bar but one of the few outside Homo Hill whereas a foreigner you can still hang out by at the bar by yourself and not feel unwelcome. Go for the delicious cocktails, friendly staff and relaxing atmosphere.
Gay Parties & Gay Club in Seoul
Trance– The oldest gay club in Seoul and an icon of Itaewon / Homo Hill. Traditionally a home for the socially marginalized, this queer hotspot operates as a normal bar during the weekdays but in the weekend really gets the party started with transgendered unni (“big sisters” in Korean) performing wildly popular lip-sync performances for an adoring crowd. Never a boring night, the over-the-top shows are the main attraction making Trance a stand-out destination that always receives enthusiastic reviews from locals and foreigners alike. Theirs is a reasonable cover charge with one drink included with admission. Not to be missed!
Shade @ CakeShop – A fabulously extravagant mixed / LGBT dance party, with impromptu drag shows and smoldering go-go dancers. Shade brings together hundreds of souls, of all persuasions, for what is quickly becoming Seoul’s premier and most forward-thinking LGBT night. Check Facebook for upcoming events.
GRAY Club– One of the best gay party spots in Seoul, establishing its reputation thanks to its themed party nights. Their Bear Ball is particularly infamous, but whatever is on there is always sexy go-go boys and guests DJs on the stage and podium. Don’t bother heading here until 2-3 am when it gets really packed with gorgeous party-goers.
SOHO – Opposite Queen Bar on Homo Hill, this crowded dance club is filled most weekends with a young and international gay crowd who come for the pop hits and remixes – with an occasionally K-Pop song thrown in. You can cool off and socialize on the outdoor patio or show off your dance moves on stage, although sadly the service from the attractive staff is very hit-and-miss.
King – A K-POP & club music club for men run by the same team as Gray Club. Excellent drinks, beautiful people and somewhat efficient staff, but obviously not the place to go if you are after international music.
Club QuBIC – A recent addition to the gay clubs on Homo Hill, but very welcome. The highlight has to be the stage with shower facilities for the hot gogo show, or the NYC-style house music and crowded dance floor. Happy Hour is from 11:30 pm til 1 am every night, and there is no cover charge on Fridays.
HIM by Pulse – Pulse was previously Seoul’s most popular gay dance club, but after closing down in 2017, the same team opened HIM. Featuring techno, house and pop music from talented DJs who are on decks til 7 am every Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Feels a bit like a circuit party with many muscular guys in their 30s and a few bears /cubs.
HOMPA by Le Queen – The notorious Le Queen gay club closed a few years ago but has been reincarnated as an after-hours gay club and late-night venue with a busy dance floor, upscale lounge area and regular themed nights. Attracting a good nice of foreign and local guys, with DJs and go-go boys drawing in crowds earlier than most other spots in Gay Seoul – around midnight for the show is when things kick off.
Meet Market @ Club MWG Seoul– A safe space party for the local queer / LGBT community + friends with live shows, burlesque, drag and plenty of dancing. A celebration of queerness welcoming everyone popular with both local Koreans + expats. Check Facebook for upcoming event dates and themes. Meet Market is taking place at the always supportive and always safe Club MWG.
Glam Lounge – Not a gay club but a fashionable for fashionistas and pseudo-celebrities to hang out, so as you would imagine it is LGBT+ popular. Luxurious décor, an extensive drink menu and Asian tapas set the scene, with frequent international DJ’s pumping techno and house music helping establish Glam Lounge as one of the ‘It’ places to be in Seoul. Located in the large District building, a stone’s throw from the Itaewon gay nightlife.
Club Octagon – Simply put, Seoul’s best dance club found in the upscale Gangnam district attracting huge crowds of the young and trendy. You will have to use your gaydar here but its worth it to dance the night away in pure euphoria with two epic floors, two DJ’s, lasers, and a pool.
Gay Spa and Man Massage in Seoul
Don’t care about the sights or just want to take advantage of high-quality gay spas in Seoul?
Then why not get a sensual male massage in Seoul – there are plenty of options! There is simply too many to list, but we have selected a few of our favorites dotted around to tempt you with.
Healing Massage – Found in the Gay Itaewon district, this gay massage service offers a variety of mid-20s masseurs of various tribes for special treatments. Seem to struggle to keep appointments, however, are generally high-quality when they follow through.
SPY – An all-male massage spa for gay men in Itaewon offering professional treatments and a relaxing hot tub 365 days of the year. One of the cheapest options for male massages in Seoul, though like most places masseurs can be flakey and do not always look like their pictures. Contact on LINE / KakaoTalk @ SPYKOREA
Wild For Men – Amen’s professional massage shop that you can feel incomparable to anywhere else. Featuring a range of muscular Korean male masseurs on their website with up-to-date pictures, Wild For Men is the best option for a gay massage in Gangnam.
Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul– Not a gay spa but the perfect place to let expert Korean-inspired treatments soothe your soul. Offering a delightful range of time-honored traditions infused with local ingredients, find your getaway at Banyan Tree’s luxury spa in Seoul in the heart of the fast-paced city.
Gay Cruising in Seoul
Had enough of gay cruising in Seoul – either in the bars or elsewhere? For those who want a bit more guaranteed action, the gay saunas in Seoul will not disappoint you (unlike all those faceless Grinder accounts…) – although they are not quite as high-quality as Taipei, Ho Chi Minh City or Bangkok.
Since most cruise venues and gay sauna in Seoul are open 24 hours, it is not uncommon for men to spend the night sleeping in their private cabin afterward, so as the night goes on moaning changes to snoring! If you are nervous about visiting, read our gay sauna etiquette guide.
While the gay sauna generally accept foreigners, the cruise club in Korea almost only service locals and most deny entrance to anyone else – a discriminating policy we think needs to end. Older, hairy or chubbier guys also complain of being ignored in some saunas, and some foreign guys talk about getting attitude from some locals. You can also be an object of curiosity and desire, so it does work both ways. You will have a fun night, just don’t expect anything likeTokyo or Hong Kong!
Gay sauna or not, in any sexual encounter, please take adequate precautions. No matter what your intentions are in while traveling, you should bring your own condoms and lube to play it safe. Take home a hot guy or a hot memory, not an STD.
Besides, you never know what other fun surprises your trip might have in store for you...
GM Sauna – One of our favorite gay sauna in Seoul, known to be foreign friendly. With four large floors of fun, and attracting many bears and more mature guys, GM Sauna is often crowded yet friendly and very satisfying. Being 24/7 you can sleep here later at night after enjoying as much fun as you can handle in their showers, XXX video lounge, cabins and mirror maze. There are also lockers available, coffee, personal hygiene products, and internet access – perfect for a sleep over upstairs in the sleeping rooms where blankets are provided.
Hyundae Sauna – The biggest gay sauna in Seoul, conveniently located in the Itaewon gay district. Confirmed foreign-friendly, but a mixed bag in terms of crowds – best to try later in the evenings or weekends. There is a sauna, video room, private cabins and showers, but the overall quality has dropped in recent years. Many guys will simply be sleeping here so don’t expect as action-packed night as the gay sauna in Europe but even on a quiet Monday, you can normally find a few cute guys to play with.
Mun Hwa – A more local sauna in Korea popular with older men. Rather cheap and run-down, but there is a dry sauna, hot baths and a steam room. If you are not a local or younger, expect to get a lot of a stares but generally, you will be welcome. Not our first choice but if you are staying near Jongno 3-Ga station, you might want to try.
Gay Cruise Clubs in Seoul
Equus – A popular Seoul cruise club conveniently located close to Itaewon , the gay nightlife district in Itaewon. While there are no saunas, there are lockers, a large cruising area, fun dark rooms, and playful cabins. Open 24/7, there are various themed nights including S&M, Naked and Underwear nights if you have a particular preference check their website in advance. Try not to visit to late as the cabins are more occupied by guys trying to sleep then an action.
Prince – A 24/7 gay cruise club located in the Sinchon area, that prefers Koreans or East Asians. Foreign / Westerners are likely to have trouble entering without local help, but if you are physically above average and young, there is unlikely to be any issues. What can we say – We don’t make the rules! Inside there are lockers, a XXX video room, dark spaces, private cabins and showers.
Shelter – A run-down gay cruise club aimed at muscle jocks/bears but really – its a very normal/mixed crowd of local Korean guys inside. Sometimes you must show your body at check-in, a weird practice and honestly the lack of focus on hygiene and facilities means we would skip Shelter as well. Located quite far away from Itaewon, the gay district of Seoul but with lockers, dark rooms, cabins, showers and 24/7 opening hours on the weekends.
Black – Infamous for its strict policy of only admitting Korean men, and the (very occasional) muscular and fit East Asians. Don’t waste your time visiting unless you area a local. There are lockers, showers, private cabins and dark rooms, but honestly these discriminating and out-dated practices are just ridiculous and should not be supported.
Just add an adventurous attitude and plenty of smiles - they go a long way - and that about covers it all! Now go out, find your global rainbow family and don't forget to share your best gay stories with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram...We'd love to hear from you!