Cafe Hopping in Seoul
Words and Photographs by Johanna Quinn ©
If you are a fan of coffee or Korean culture, you may have noticed that coffee shops often appear out of nowhere in Seoul, South Korea. What was a pizza restaurant one week could be a cool and trendy cafe the next. Those who are avid caffeine lovers will often keep an eye out for these developments and be the first in line when a trendy new spot opens.
One of the key factors driving the rise in trendy cafe spots in Seoul is the widespread use of social media, especially Instagram. A good way to gauge if the cafe you are seated in is cool or not is to see how many of the customers are posing in front of a camera for their Instagram followers. If that number is more than five, then you have found yourself one cool place to have a cup of coffee in Seoul.
In the summer months, cafes in Seoul open their doors to waves of sweaty, caffeine-deprived customers who need to beat the humid Seoul heat. Drink prices can range from anywhere between 2,000 to 6,000 KRW ($1.65 - $4.95 USD) and you can expect to find a lot of speciality coffee if you know where you are going. Finding a great place to have a coffee is never too difficult if you just do a quick search on Naver or filter through different hashtags on Instagram.
16 Eoulmadang-ro 1-gil, Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Subway Station: Sangsu (Line 6)
Hours: 9:00 - 24:00 (Closed Tuesdays)
Located down the street from Dukes, Perception Coffee is an architectural cafe experience that is a must-see if you are in the Mapo area of Seoul. The laser-cut ceiling alludes to the natural world, while the peaceful soundtrack and interiors allow you to fully relax with your cup of tea or coffee. In a bustling city like Seoul, finding such a tranquil place to sit down for a few hours is a rare thing.
Customers are able to order their ‘Flannel Drip’ coffee pots for their tables for a unique coffee experience. Their coffee selections include hand drip coffee from Colombia and Ethiopia. The teas are also served in pots alongside beautiful, dainty glassware. People sitting in the cafe all seemed to be lost in their own worlds without a worry in the world. The cafe also has a small collection of cakes as well as a wide range of drinks from coffee and teas to ades and other refreshing drinks.
It is hard to concentrate on the tea’s quality and flavour when all that comes to mind is the beautiful design of the cafe. The price for a cup of coffee is around 5,000 KRW and 5,500 KRW for a pot of your choice of tea. The hand drip coffee pots are around 6,000 KRW.
Duke’s Coffee Showroom
10 Eoulmadang-ro 2-gil, Dangin-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Subway Station: Sangsu (Line 6)
Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00 - 18:00
Weekend 11:00 - 19:00
Walking through the friendly yellow door at Duke’s Coffee Showroom is like being transported to the store’s flagship location in the heart of Melbourne, Australia. The stool seating at the bar gives the space a warm feeling and allows the baristas to keep a close eye on everyone’s cups of coffee.
The baristas at Duke’s try to educate their customers by telling them about the coffee, the producer and even the altitude the coffee was produced. This creates such a warm connection between the baristas and the customers and shows just how much they care about their coffee. They also have individual cards designed for each type of coffee that you can take home as a keepsake. Each card is designed beautifully using colours based on the flags of each bean’s country of origin.
If you have ever wanted to experience this kind of warm, familial coffee experience with people who have a real passion for coffee, this is the place to go in Seoul. Customers sit alone or in groups but all have one thing in common: they cherish each sip of coffee and show no signs of wanting to leave. With limited seating, you might find yourself seated next to a stranger and end up in a long conversation.
46 Poeun-ro, Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Subway Station: Hapjeong (Line 2)
Hours: 11:00 - 22:00 (Closed Mondays)
Motif Coffee Bar is a design lover’s playground, with everything from bicycles to walls adorned with Dieter Rams quotes. The cafe has a wide range of coffees to try and is located in a very trendy area of Mapo-gu in Seoul. If you’re also a book lover, there is a ‘Motif Books’ store on one side and the cafe on the other.
20 Yeonmujang 5(o)-gil, Seongsu 2(i)-ga 3(sam)-dong, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Subway Station: Seongsu (Line 2)
Hours: Monday - Thursday and Sunday 8:00 - 23:00
Friday - Saturday 10:00 - 23:00
Formerly known as Arco Cafe, this unique site in Seongsu has redefined cafe concepts here in South Korea. With a wide-open space on the ground floor with coffee, desserts and also alcohol, the second floor houses an art gallery and clothing display that can only be described as 2020 avant-garde. The front windows span the height of two floors and are decorated with colourful geometric shapes.
In the summertime, the outside has been turned into a patio to make room for this cafe's many customers. They can sit outdoors, sipping on their deliciously made coffees and enjoy the atmosphere of the cafe. The ground floor almost feels like a university cafeteria wherein everyone sitting is somehow connected by the space they are in. Strangers with one single thing bringing them together.
Raw Coffee Stand
28-2 Wangsimniro 4(sa)-gil, Seongsu 1(il)-ga 2(i)-dong, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Subway Station: Ttukseom (Line 2)
Hours: Monday - Friday 8:00 - 18:00, Saturday 10:00 - 18:00 (Sunday closed)
Raw Coffee Stand is a hole in the wall, on-the-go cafe in Ttukseom on the East side of Seoul. The cafe itself is located in a small alleyway which gives it the feeling of being a hideaway spot.
As for the coffee, it's possible to go there and get your caffeine fix for a relatively low price. The experience felt very personal and special because of the layout of the cafe and its proximity to the rest of the bustling streets.
Going there on a quiet Sunday morning is the perfect way to kickstart your day to be energised for a day of exploring the surrounding areas.
Whether you are coming to Seoul for a week or staying here indefinitely, you’re going to end up becoming a cafe critic regardless of how you feel about coffee. Korean cafe owners put so much thought into their cafe concepts. Going these extra miles means that customers are bound to love their cafe experience and are more likely to tell their friends about them. Because so many cafes are competing for business, these details are extremely important here in Seoul. Furthermore, because of Seoul’s vast square footage, if a place is popular enough, people are willing to travel far and wide to discover the best places to drink a cup of coffee in Seoul.