I visited Korea again earlier this year during winter, and there was such a huge contrast compared to my previous visit during spring. Seoul holds a special place in my heart as it was the first place I travelled to, but being there a second time made it clear to me that it’s a destination you can visit over and over without getting bored – because there’s so much to do and see and EAT!
Seoul has a huge cafe culture – there’s cafes and coffee houses literally everywhere. And for some reason, coffee always tastes so much better when I’m in Seoul (is it because of the cooler weather?). We ventured out cafe hopping a few times during our trip, but honestly the only cafes we intended to visit were Bau House and Thanks Nature Cafe. The rest were purely accidental! We chanced upon these cool cafes while exploring Seoul.
Here’s a list of 6 awesome cafes I strongly think anyone heading to Seoul should consider visiting.
1. Cat Playground
If you’re a cat person, you’re gonna love this place. We chanced upon this place while shopping in Myeongdong. We didn’t even know this place existed, until we saw this curious character roaming the streets.
He pointed us in the right direction, and we followed the signs (they’re hard to miss!)
We came up to a shophouse, and the cafe was located up on the second floor if I remember correctly. The lift was down, so we climbed the spiral staircase and there it was! We had to remove our shoes and place them on a rack outside, and sanitize our hands with hand sanitizer. They also gave us each a plastic bag for us to place our bags / barang barang inside, just in case – all these simple measures to ensure that the place is kept clean and safe for the cats.
40 of them, to be exact! Here’s six of them having an evening nap.
There were cats of pretty much every breed I knew of, and they were all very tame and docile, allowing us to pose with them for pictures! I fell in love with this white beauty though.
The cafe was really clean too, which was a huge plus. I was expecting a ton of people, but surprisingly it wasn’t too crowded and we managed to get time with plenty of the kitties. The entrance fee of 8,000₩ also comes with a free drink, which you can choose from an extensive menu. And I chose coffee. (What’s new?)
Cat Playground is definitely a must-visit cafe if you’re a cat lover – be sure to check it out the next time you’re in Myeongdong.
Myeong-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul (8) 37-14
서울시 중구 명동8길 37-14 3층
Opening Hours: 12pm – 11pm
Entrance Fee: 8,000₩ (includes one free drink)
Check Cat Playground out on Facebook!
Take the subway to Myeongdong Station (Line 4) and get off at Exit 6. Turn left, and head straight. Turn right on the second junction. The cafe is on your right hand side – look out for the signages! Otherwise, keep an eye out for the cheeky guy in the cat costume!
2. Bau House
If you’re more of a dog person, don’t worry – Seoul has you covered. There are a couple of dog cafes in Seoul, but one of the more famous ones would be Bau House, located conveniently in the Mapo-gu neighbourhood.
Plenty of “dog cafes” in Singapore are dog-friendly, but they don’t really have resident dogs. Here at Bau House you’ll find almost 25 resident pups and seniors, ranging from 1 year to 15 years of age. Some of them probably have been here since the cafe’s conception in 2001! Visitors are also welcome to bring their own furkids along, so it can get a little hard to distinguish between the resident and guest dogs. They have this helpful little chart to identify their resident dogs (although the chart flew out the window when I saw puppies and picked them up without realizing they belonged to a diner. OOPS! :D)
When we got there, there was a huge line that had already formed – we had to wait about half an hour before we got in. The entire place is safely gated so that dogs will not be able to escape. There are two areas you can choose to hang out at: one for small dogs, and a much larger area with the big dogs.
The small dog area only had about 5 or 6 small tables, and this was where we saw a lot of couples presumably on dates. This is also where the food/drinks counter is (to the right, near the green gate), and also where there are a few shelves selling pet accessories and cute knick knacks. There is also a shelf just filed with dog treats, which you can purchase at a small fee to feed the resident pups. Do note that guests are not allowed to feed the dogs with your own treats, for the safety of the dogs.
Further into the cafe is another gated area, this one purely for larger dogs. There are larger sofa seats here, which are really good if you’re just looking to hang out for the afternoon and chillax. The whole place has a really cosy and warm atmosphere, so I can see why it’s so popular!
Check out the cube in the middle of the room dedicated solely to toiletries and mops and the like. I was really impressed at how clean the whole place was despite having a gazillion dogs running around!
On to the doggies!
I did buy a pack of treats from here to feed the dogs, and let me warn you – you’ll be swarmed with a pack of gluttonous canines haunting you with puppy dog eyes. *swoons* I felt like a superstar, lol. But of course their interest died the moment I ran out of treats, haha. This was actually our last stop before we headed back to our Airbnb apartment and packed up for home! We were here for about an hour and a half, but I wish we could have stayed much longer to spend more time interacting with the dogs. Very clean, doesn’t smell bad, and the coffee was decent too. Bau House is a must visit if you’re a dog lover who happens to be in Seoul!
Jeil Bldg. 1F, 394-44 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
서울특별시 마포구 서교동 394-44 제일빌딩 후면 1층
Opening Hours: 11.30am – 10.30pm
Entrance Fee: No fee, but you must purchase a drink to gain entry.
Check Bau House out on Facebook (not the official FB page, but plenty of customer reviews and pictures!)
Take the subway to Hapyeong Station (Line 2 / Line 6) and get off at Exit 3. With the buildings on your left and the road on your right, keep walking towards Exit 4, and look out for the black building in an alley to the left. Bau House is located on the ground floor of that building (Jeil Building).
3. 1Q84 Churros
Having originated from Spain, churros has spread to pretty much all corners of the earth and is one of the hottest trends in food right now. This popular snack features warm, deep-friend dough fritters rolled in cinnamon sugar, and is typically dipped in chocolate sauce.
While exploring the Ewha Womans University neighbourhood, we chanced upon this quirky little shopfront.
We pretty much got seduced by the model churros outside, and decided to head inside to have a warm snack.
But after entering the shop, we got seduced by something else…
That’s right – hot server on the loose! This guy looks like he’s straight out from a Korean boyband or K-drama series. Whoever employed this guy was a smart fella, because the cafe seemed to have primarily female customers. I wonder why.
But with all seriousness though, I loved the design of the place, which paid homage to vintage industrial design styles while still maintaining a modern and minimalist feel.
The churros are pretty interesting too. Instead of a dip, the chocolate sauce is slapped onto the churros itself, making it a really convenient on-the-go snack. Plus, the churros are made on the spot when you order! Freshly served dough sticks for everyone! They also serve other yummy stuff like churros on soft serve ice cream, churfaits (ice cream with fruits, chocolate sauce, and churros), and specialty coffees.
There are apparently other outlets in Samcheong-dong and Itaewon as well. We passed by the Samcheong-dong store, but the guys weren’t nearly as cute 🙁
경기도 의정부시 의정부1동 196-14, Euijeongbu, Kyonggi-Do, Korea 480-843
Check out 1Q84 Churros on Facebook!
Take the subway to Ewha Woman’s University Station, and get off at Exit 3. Walk along Sinchonyeokgil, you’ll see Kopitiam and Juno Hair on your right – and that’s as far as I remember. What I can tell you from memory is that I know we hit the campus gates area, before we made a left and another left, and 1Q84 is somewhere after that. Sorry guys – I didn’t take a namecard and for the life of me I can’t find their verified address online. Their Facebook page (link below) seems to have an address in the Ewha vicinity, but I’m unable to drop that location into Google Maps. But if you check out the map provided on their FB page (screenshot below), hopefully you can find them. The Ewha area isn’t that big, so if you have time to spare exploring the area, you should find it pretty easily.
Otherwise just look out for hot guys and warm sugary sticks 😉
4. Thanks Nature Cafe
If you’re in the Hongdae area, there are a huge assortment of cafes and restaurants and bars to choose from. But here’s one you probably won’t see everyday – a cafe that has a pair of fluffy, adorable, white-as-snow SHEEP. Yes, this offbeat cafe actually has actual SHEEP! They have their own private pen outside the cafe and all. And get this – their names are Anna and Elsa!
As you can probably tell by now, I’m an animal lover! Anna and Elsa were snuggling up together in a corner of the pen. When the owner saw us standing outside, he came out to give us some hay to feed the fluffy duo. And they immediately got up and trotted over to us to be fed! *melts*
There was a slight odour from the sheep, but nothing unbearable. I was actually more mesmerized by how cute and round they were! Literally a ball of wool, omg. I read reviews online before visiting Thanks Nature Cafe, and learnt that the owner cleans them and their pen very regularly and meticulously. Anna and Elsa are two lucky lambs!
We didn’t have a chance to head in and try the food though, but it looked like another cosy place to keep warm and escape the cold winds outside. The general decor theme was green, and there were also a number of sheep-themed decorations lying around the place. I’ll definitely visit again the next time I’m in Seoul!
486, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seogyo Prugio Apartment Store B121
마포구 서교동 486 서교푸르지오상가 B121, Seoul, South Korea 121-842
Opening Hours: 11.00am – 10.00pm
Entrance Fee: No entrance fee. Regular menu available in the cafe area. Sheep pen is out in the open, outside the cafe, and available to public.
Check Thanks Nature Cafe out on Facebook!
Take the subway to Hongik University Station (Line 2), and get off at Exit 9. Turn left and walk uphill. You’ll pass by a Tourist Information Center – keep walking. There will be a building to your left. Keep your eyes peeled for the “Thanks Nature Cafe” or “Sheep Cafe” signage. The cafe is located in the basement, down a short flight of stairs.
5. Mango Six
I saw this cafe several times along our trip, and finally on the last leg of our trip, we chanced upon this place in the Hongik University area. We were looking for a place to warm up and escape the cold, but boy – it was a good choice. Mango Six has a wide variety of mango desserts, topped with deliciously fresh mango. Plus, for coffee lovers like me, they also have an impressive range of lattes and frappucinos to suit every palette.
I know I was in a mango-specialty cafe, but I really wanted to try the banana toast. And… ta-da!
Doesn’t it look amazing!? This is peanut butter banana toast, drizzled generously with honey and topped with a mountainous dollop of whipped cream! *drools* It was so yummy too! I’m a sucker for toast, french toast, or anything similar, so this was heaven to me. The toast was light and fluffy too. Loved it!
They also serve other cool treats like Mango Patbingsu, served with your choice of fruits (sounds absolutely refreshing – would be awesome to try if you visit Korea in the summer), fresh juices, shakes, waffles, churros, soup, bagels… you name it, they probably have it! Wish we would have tried more stuff from their menu, but we were already pretty stuffed by this point lol.
There’s “alfresco” seating too – on an outer patio overlooking some smaller streets. While we were there, there was a magician performing outside and there was a small crowd gathered around him watching intensely. The perfect place to sit and people watch on a slow afternoon.
There are plenty of outlets littered throughout Seoul though, so chances are you’ll pass by one while out and about!
The one we visited was at Honggik University Station (Line 2, Exit 9) – you’ll see it when you’re on ground level.
6. Retrona Pie
This might be one of the coolest surprise finds we had in Korea! While exploring the artsy and crafty streets of Samcheongdong, we got hungry and decided to hunt for a mid-day snack. We didn’t get too far before we chanced upon this quirky storefront.
Welcome to Retrona Pie!
Retrona Pie’s interior follows the vintage american diner style, something you’d see perhaps in the 1960s or early 70s, with lots of cool colors and psychedelic patterns. I really love the level of detail that went into the interior decor here. There are 3 floors to this cafe, each bearing its distinct vintage style. You’ll have to make your order downstairs on the first floor, then head upstairs to either the second or third floors where the seats are. There are comfy sofas as well overlooking the streets of Samcheongdong. A great place to people watch – even the window and view outside looks retro!
There were a ton of different pies and tarts out on display on the first floor – took me a while to decide what to order. I got myself a latte to warm myself up, and we also ordered a couple of sweet treats for us to share.
Retronia Pie also serves an assortment of tarts and pastries. The crust is very light, buttery and flaky, and melts in the mouth 😍 The egg tart looks unique too, with its caved-in center, and it tastes wonderful! It’s more like a portugese egg tart with the caramelized spots atop the egg custard.
39, Palpan-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Take the subway to Anguk Station (Line 3), and get off at Exit 1. It’s a long walk north, but you will pass through the Bukchon area which is famed for its architecture, cafes, and quirky shops.
Or, explore Gyeongbokgong first, exit by the east gate, and head north towards Samcheongdong. Head into Palpan-gil and look out for Retrona Pie along the way.
So the next time you’re in Seoul, be sure to check out these awesome cafes! Whether you’re looking for new furry friends, good pies, or just a place to sit and watch the world go by, Seoul has it all covered. Ann-yeong!