Cafés are literally everywhere in Seoul; there are at least five in every other street you walk through and sometimes a single building can house as much as three different coffee shops. It’s amazing how crazy South Koreans are over cafés and, for the tourist, it’s probably mind-boggling how so many have popped up in the span of a year. There are now over 17,000 chains and third wave coffee shops all over Seoul alone.
According to one of my Korean friends, one of the reasons behind South Korea’s insane café culture is that it generally isn’t normal for them to have guests over in their homes. It can also be attributed to Seoul’s notoriety when it comes to work culture. South Koreans are known for working long hours, which is why it’s a fairly common sight to see cafés filled to the brim during lunch hour by office workers looking for a quick energy boost. Either way, these places offer a third space for South Koreans to freely socialize and enjoy their free time.
With such stiff competition, Seoul cafés need to get extra imaginative to draw people in. From dog and cat cafés (and sheep, actually) to character-themed ones (Kakao Talk, Line Friends, Lego, Hello Kitty, etc.) to ones where you can try random activities (there’s one in Myeongdong where you can make couple rings while you caffeinate yourself) to the completely bizarre (…poop cafe?), you’ll find almost everything in Seoul. The one thing they all share? They’re all incredibly visually appealing.
If you ever find yourself in the land of K-Pop, here are some beautiful cafés to check out and maybe turn your Instagram feed into #feedgoals with.
One of my friends called this “one of the hippest places in Seoul.” They have more than one branch—the easiest to find is in COEX Mall in Gangnam—and all are very white, brightly-lit, and perfect for Instagram photos. Don’t get distracted by their rainbow cakes (save your money for the next café on the list) and instead order the rose mojito―a fizzy sweet drink with actual roses in it. You can also get either the red velvet cake or the black tea chiffon cake, both just the right amount of sweet.
When thinking of rainbow cakes, Dore Dore is the most popular. Their cakes are massive and can easily be shared by two. Between their two types of rainbow cake, the Feel Good! Cake stands out over the Precious Cake as it uses cream cheese filling instead of regular fresh cream, giving the cake an extra punch of flavor. They are also known for having an amazing carrot cake and very strong coffee. Try to visit the branch in Common Ground as it has very interesting and vibrant decor, not to mention that Common Ground is an experience in itself!
Located in the up-and-coming area of Hangangjin is One In A Million, a trendy café that caters to the millennial who faithfully subscribes to the Tumblr aesthetic. Every corner of its space is Instagram-worthy with its white concrete interiors, greenery, and eclectic black and pink decor. No need to eat elsewhere before coming here as they also offer delicious, photogenic brunch menu items with their coffee and tea. People also can’t seem to stop taking photos of their black and pink cups.
If you are in the Apgujeong/Gangnam area and need to take a breather from all the sightseeing and walking, duck into Manufact Coffee Roasters at the 4th floor of Queenmama Market, an urban rustic lifestyle store that also houses a bookstore. They offer an amazing cold brew and pour over—probably the best coffee in the area—and a beautiful view of the city. Seating may be hard to come by (despite also having a 30-person community table besides normal seating) as this branch of Manufact Coffee Roasters is very popular with a very fashionable and artsy crowd. Try to get a table in the balcony to fully enjoy the atmosphere.
Just a stone’s throw away from Queenmama Market is OUR Bakery Cafe, known for their amazing pastries and their Green Tea Double, a double shot of espresso with matcha green tea (very much like the Teavana Matcha & Espresso Fusion -link should be up to “Fusion”). Boxes and boxes of their baked goods are sold every day! They have a baking schedule up on their Instagram so take a peek to know what time your preferred pastry is available. The space itself is very chic with black walls, clean lines and floor to ceiling windows, perfect for people watching. Their packaging is very pretty, too.
Stylenanda Pink Pool Cafe
On the fifth floor of Korean street style powerhouse Stylenanda’s newly opened Myeongdong branch is their very first brand cafe, The Pink Pool Cafe. The entire building is a visual feast, from the very Grand Budapest Hotel-like facade to each floor having a hotel-related theme of its own. While the drinks aren’t anything special taste-wise, it’s the aesthetics that really draw people in. The cafe looks like an American public pool straight out of the 50s with decor and drinks in saturated colors. They also have a cute rooftop you can lounge in if the weather permits.