When you hear someone talking about cafe and coffee culture (in other words, a group of people with a mild obsession with drinking coffee and going to inevitably overpriced cafes), what comes to mind? Probably somewhere in Europe sipping an espresso on the patio of a quaint cafe overlooking a busy side street. I bet you probably wouldn’t have thought that there is a massive cafe and coffee culture in South Korea! In Seoul and other cities alike, you will find cafes of all sorts: small to big, chain to independent, unique to mainstream.
Unlike Canadian cities, where you have a Starbucks and Tim Hortons at every block, Seoul not only has a larger quantity of coffee shops, there are also lots of independent cafes that are quite unique in appearance. Don’t get me wrong, all other cities have these smaller cafes scattered about, but it was the sheer quantity of cafes, the hoards of locals that flocked to them, and their aesthetic design that really had me intrigued.
Some of Seoul’s most popular cafe chains are The Coffee Bean, Caffe Benne, Hollys Coffee, and Angel-in-us (just to name a few). You’ll find these branded cafes just about everywhere you go. While there’s nothing wrong with them in general, I much preferred the more uncommon cafes that had a lot of character to them.
These tiny cafes each have their own distinct decor. Some of these cafes have a theme throughout (pets, toys, stuffed animals, famous figures, etc.), while others are much more humble in their appearance, and are a cozy place to read a book or magazine while sipping on a flavoured coffee with cool foam art, of course.
I found going into one of these smaller cafes to be bizarrely intriguing (in case you didn’t already get the hint, I loved every second of it!). You can enjoy a cup of coffee surrounded by books, board games, giant teddy bears, toy dolls, or even hoards of purring cats (hopefully you won’t find their fur in your coffee though!). There’s definitely a cafe for everyone!
These photos below were taken at a few tiny cafes in the Hongdae area:
Besides these smaller cafes, you’ll also find popular themed cafes like the infamous Hello Kitty Cafe and Charlie Brown Cafe. Everything outside and inside these two cafes were entirely themed – from the decor and furniture to the food and drinks. Going inside these cafes, especially the Hello Kitty Cafe, made me feel like I stepping into a cartoon television show or I was at the venue for someone’s Super Sweet Sixteen birthday party. A little good, a little weird, a little overwhelming, and a little exciting.
Hello Kitty Cafe:
Charlie Brown Cafe:
Next time you’re in South Korea, be sure to visit some of their thousands of cafes and let me know what your experience was like!