There is definitely no shortage of coffee in South Korea. There are many areas in Seoul that are known for having streets lined with cute and unique coffee shops / cafes; like Garosugil and Hongdae. I actually considered spending a whole day going to coffee shop/cafe hopping because there were so many I wanted to visit. In the end, we chose to go to coffee shops/cafes in between destinations or when we needed a break (there was just too much to see and do).
At home I would simply go to my nearby Starbucks Coffee to grab my Iced Coffee or Iced Green Tea (no water, no ice, no sweetener — when I need a little more caffeine in my system), but in South Korea there are a couple (a lot) more options. There was not one day, we did not have coffee or stop by a coffee shop during our two weeks visit in South Korea.
With the number of coffee shops in South Korea, I can only conclude that Koreans are coffeeholics! And I think I’m a coffeeholic (perfect match). After being in South Korea for a couple days, you will start to recognize several coffee outlets that just keep popping up in front of you. Just off the top of my head, I remember Caffe Pascucci, Caffee Bene, Holly’s Coffee, Angel-in-us Coffee, Tom n’ Toms, and Ediya Coffee (and many of them right next to each other). With all of those major coffee outlets everywhere, it is hard to imagine how they survive with all of that competition and yet there is more. Independent Coffee shops can be found right next to many of these big chain coffee shops (I’ll share about my visit to the Hello Kitty Cafe in my next post).
And note that if you want some coffee right after a hearty Korean meal, you don’t necessarily need to stop by a coffee shop. Most restaurants have a coffee machine that will serve little cups of coffee for free (some may charge; but definitely less than a cup of coffee at a cafe).
For this trip, we decided not to get a phone. Instead we brought our own phone, put it on flight mode, and connected it to a portable wifi modem. The wifi modem worked great most of the time but when it did not work (when it’s out of battery or simply not working!) it is time to stop by a coffee shop for some free WiFi. Most are password protected, so don’t forget to ask for the WiFi password when you are getting your drink. Note that it did NOT help that the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaves in Dongdaemun did NOT have wifi, so don’t try to stop there for internet (but it is a good place to just hangout and people watch).
Unique and Themed Cafes
As mentioned earlier, apart from the chain (the boring?) coffee shops, you will find a myriad of unique cafes everywhere. When I was doing my research to plan my trip I came across many lists of unique and top cafes to visit, which was why I wanted to spend a day to just go cafe hopping. Most cafes are well decorated and with a specific style or theme, so it won’t hurt to just have a seat, relax, and just enjoy the company of your friends. But if that is not enough, you can always stop by some interesting cafes (perfect for dates) that are just a little more than a stop for coffee. We managed to make it to the Hello Kitty Cafe in Hongdae, and as mentioned I will talk all about it in my next post.
There were just too many things to do, and too little time (and even less time to get ourselves lost looking for specific places) to make our way to more cafes. But the following types of cafes were just some of the unique ones I found when I was doing my research before going on my South Korea trip. Although I did not make it to any of the following cafes, I am going to make it a point to go next time I am in South Korea (hopefully soon!). Have any of you been to these cafes? Which ones would you recommend to go to first?
Cats, Dogs, and Sheep! You basically pay for a drink, have a seat, and if you’re at a cat cafe you will see cats just hanging out at the cafe. You are welcome to play with them. I think it is a little different at a sheep cafe; I don’t think they’ll be wandering around as freely but it’s the same concept. Speaking of animals, how about a Dr.Fish Cafe. You basically dip your feet into a tub of fish that will eat all of the dead skin off of your tired feet. Yes, totally scary, but another things on my list to try (once in my life).
There are other cafes where you can play dress up and try on whatever costumes they have. I think I’ve seen pictures of girls trying on wedding dresses (is that bad luck?), hanbok (traditional korean dresses), etc — I think this would be fun for the ladies.
And if all of that is not enough, we also have all the other international coffee and tea places. Stop by Gong Cha for some Taiwanese bubble tea (or boba) or Kopitiam for some Singaporean/Malaysian teh.
To sum it all up, check out this post from Seoulistic with a list of 15 unique and interesting themed cafes (It has videos of the cafes too)