Korea

10 Unique Cafes In Seoul – Hidden Entrances, Repurposed Warehouses & Vinyl Lounges

Unique cafes in Seoul, South Korea


It’s common knowledge that when it comes to aesthetics, Seoul is practically the motherland. Naturally, one can also expect their cafe culture to follow that same ethos.

If you’re jetting to Seoul sometime soon, we’ve got you covered. From speakeasy-esque cafes in Gwanghui-dong to indie mum-and-pop ones at Mapo District, here are 10 unique cafes in South Korea to punctuate your itinerary with:


What you need to know before visiting cafes in Seoul


Most cafes accept credit card payment methods. Think Visa, Mastercard, and Amex, but it is always a good idea to bring cash to be safe. Tipping is not commonplace in South Korea and can even be considered rude. If you do want to tip, do so at fine-dining restaurants, where it’s more accepted, and do so directly to your server.

The best time to visit a cafe will be during early morning on a weekday. But even then, expect long queues for the really popular ones. Few cafes in South Korea accept reservations in advance, but you can check the Catch Table app to book a table.

If not, most cafes will have a waiting list where you’ll have to put down your name and Korean mobile number. No number, no problem – sign up for KakaoTalk and leave your KakaoTalk ID with the wait staff. They’ll send a text message when your table is ready. Otherwise, just stand in line – you’ll get a table eventually.


Breakdown of cafes by their themes


Here’s the list of cafes in Seoul and what unique themes they have:

Cafe name Location Theme
Jean Frigo Toegye-ro 62-gil, Gwanghui Dong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea Underground cafe hidden behind a fridge
Coffee Nap Roasters 453-32 Yeonnam-ro, Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Glasshouse cafe with 7,000 bricks
Cafe Onion Anguk Gyedong-gil 5, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea Traditional hanok cafe with modern hipster vibes
Anthracite Coffee Roasted 240 Itaewon-ro, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea Industrial chic cafe in an abandoned-looking building
Cafe Tape 21 Itaewon-ro 14-gil, Itaewon 1(il)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea Galaxy cakes and craft beers
Daelim Changgo 78 Seongsui-ro, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, South Korea Industrial warehouse with art
Soha Salt Pond 21-5 Supyo-ro 28-gil, Jongno District, Seoul, South Korea Salt-flavoured pastries
Rain Report 258-63 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan District, Seoul, South Korea Walk in the rain anytime of the day
House of Vinyl 405-17 Mangwon-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Listening cafe with cosy atmosphere
Foreplan Cafe 30-11 Wangsimni-ro 14-gil, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, South Korea Designed to look like an architect’s office

 


1. Jean Frigo


Underground cafe hidden behind a fridge


10 out of 10 passersby were witnessed giving Jean Frigo a weird look before walking on. At first glance, the entrance of this speakeasy cafe tricks you into thinking it’s just a storage space for fruits and vegetables.

Experience Narnia first-hand when you go through a fridge door to watch a whole new scene reveal itself. The unassuming storefront is actually a secret portal to a whopping 2-level cafe, with themed rooms on each level. 

You will find a one-of-a-kind futuristic dining room, with romantic sunken seating areas and lights that reflect all the colours of the rainbow. The quietly glitzy room makes it a good place to bring a significant other or small posse of friends for some HTHT.

From sides and Italian mains to cocktails, nothing on the menu is run-of-the-mill. Their signature Jean Frigo (KRW16,000, ~S$15.77) cocktail, for example, is made with a smorgasbord of ingredients featuring thyme and dehydrated apples mixed with cinnamon whisky, then garnished with a flaming cinnamon stick.


Ordering involves using a payphone to ring up the cashier on the lower floor

And in true speakeasy fashion, this part-cafe-part bar opens till 3AM!

Jean Frigo
Google Reviews
4.5
(338)
Address
9-8 Toegye-ro 62-gil, Jung District, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours:
Monday Closed Show More Timings
Contact Information

2. Coffee Nap Roasters


Glasshouse cafe with a hill of bricks


Coffee Nap Roasters might be located within a secluded corner of Mapo District, but don’t let its humble exterior fool you. It actually houses a hill of 7,000 bricks in its cosy space. 

English indie music with the likes of Honne and Cigarettes After Sex plays softly in the background as customers lounge on a rusty-red mountain of bricks, which takes up most of the space in the cafe. Feel free to plant your butt down or even lie down at any spot.


From left to right: House baked cookies, cream.B and Blangco.

Other than the usual coffee suspects, there are also unique coffee drinks such as the Blangco (KRW7,000, ~S$6.91 ). Blangco is great for those looking for a sugary midday pick-me-up. It features a shot of espresso, a thick layer of sweet milk foam, cookie crumbles, and a scoop of chocolate chip ice-cream hidden in the dark brown abyss. 

Also on the menu are freshly-baked cookies at KRW3,200 (~S$3.16) a pop. Zoom straight in for the bacon cookie – something we unanimously voted as a favourite with its smokey and savoury undertones. 

The ambience at Coffee Nap Roasters easily tops my list of cafe-hopping expeditions around the globe thus far. However, I made the mistake of being too engrossed with snapping pictures instead of basking in the cool atmosphere. Don’t make the same mistakes I made. 

Coffee Nap Roasters Yeonnam
Google Reviews
4.4
(197)
Address
70 Seongmisan-ro 27-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours:
Monday 10:00 AM - 05:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

3. Cafe Onion Anguk


Traditional hanok cafe with modern hipster vibes


For a cafe experience that’s unique to Korea, you’ll need to pop by Cafe Onion Anguk. With a facade that looks straight out of the Joseon dynasty and a minimalistic interior that shouts hipster, the cafe is a perfect representation of Korea’s rich history and fast-paced modernism.

 

Their delicate pastries and fresh brews also command a perpetual queue. Prices range start at KRW4,00 (~S$3.93) for pastries that include Korean-inspired Injeolmi Scones, Chilli Sausage Pastries, and Chocolat Classic Cakes.

We found ourselves gravitating toward to Scone Ahng Butter (KRW4,000, ~S$3.93), which stood out amongst the rest with its thick slab of butter and thick red bean “patty”.

It’s not all sugar and coffee at Cafe Onion. Order the Mushroom Focaccia (KRW4,500, ~S$4.44) if you’re hankering for something savoury. The bread is pillowy soft and given extra complexity thanks to the addition of pesto and truffle oil.

Cafe Onion Anguk
Google Reviews
4.2
(3,127)
Address
5 Gyedong-gil, Jongno District, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours:
Monday 07:00 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

4. Anthracite Coffee Roasters


Industrial chic cafe in abandoned-looking building


Anthracite Coffee Roasters owns a series of cafes around Seoul, but here’s where things get interesting: Every branch boasts a unique theme, with the one at Itaewon proving to be the most outstanding. 

Anthracite Coffee Roasters is a good case in point to not judge a book by its cover. With the appearance of an abandoned factory, the three-storey building looks almost abandoned if not for the crowd of people streaming in and out of the entrance on the ground floor. But take a closer look through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows and you’ll be impressed. 

The cafe is straight-up industrial chic with its exposed concrete walls and rugged upcycled furniture. The strikingly beautiful garden centrepiece also has an uncanny resemblance to the one at Five Oars Roasters in Singapore.

 

You might not find anything savoury here, but definitely come for their smooth coffee and undeniably good lemon madeleines (KRW3,500). The billowy sponge cake was tactfully sour and encased in a thin layer of crumbly sugar glaze.

Anthracite
Google Reviews
4.2
(770)
Address
240 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan District, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours:
Monday 08:30 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

5. Cafe Tape


Galaxy cakes and craft beers


The galaxy cake trend is nothing new, but the too-pretty-to-eat confections at Cafe Tape will still wow you over like it’s 2016. The cafe’s simple and spacious interior acts as a blank canvas for the three visually impressive cakes on their menu: Strawberry Cream Cheese Cake (KRW6,500, ~S$6.41), Yuzu Cream Cheese Slice (KRW9,000, ~S$8.87), and Hazelnut Chocolate Cake (KRW9,000, ~S$8.87).

Each slice is huge, but that doesn’t mean you will be willing to share.

The beverage menu is more extensive with over 20 drink options and with a small selection of craft beers such as Punk IPA (KRW8,000, ~S$7.89) and Bigwave (KRW8,000, ~S$7.89). If you’re having out and about in Itaewon, you can always count on Cafe Tape to be a place of refuge for some late night dessert.

 

CAFE TAPE
Google Reviews
4.1
(160)
Address
South Korea, Seoul, Yongsan District, Itaewon-dong, 63-5, 2층
Opening Hours:
Monday 12:00 PM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

6. Daelim Changgo


Industrial warehouse with art



Image credit: @chosteofm via Instagram

Walk pass and you’ll miss it; Daelim Changgo is located in a low-key corner of an industrial estate. Changgo translates to “warehouse”, which is what the building was previously used for. While the warehouse has been hollowed out, you’ll see that the cafe has kept consistent with its previous theme, with the faded red bricks on the cafe’s outside to the concrete flooring on the inside.


Image credit:
망초 via Google Maps

The cafe also doubles as an art gallery for you to marvel at paintings and sculptures while sipping on lattes. They’ve occasionally held exhibitions for renowned Korean artists like Nam June Paik and UNESCO award winner Lee Ufan.

They have an array of lattes for you to choose from, such as Caffe Latte (KRW7,000, ~S$6.91) and Einspanner (KRW7,500, ~S$7.40). If you want something to munch on, check out the array of artisanal pizzas, buns, and sandwiches.

Daelim Changgo
Google Reviews
4.1
(2,418)
Address
78 Seongsui-ro, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours:
Monday 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

7. Soha Salt Pond


Salt-flavoured pastries



Image credit: @sohasaltpond via Instagram

The exterior of Soha Salt Pond is certainly eye-catching. There are countless cafes in hanoks, or traditional Korean houses, in the alleyways of Ikseon-dong. But only Soha Salt Pond has salt-harvesting pools decorating the cafe’s exterior.


Image adapted from: @sohasaltpond via Instagram

But the salt isn’t just for show. It plays an important role in amplifying simple flavours in the pastries that are sold here. They’re known for their Salt Bread (from KRW3,000, ~S$2.94), which is a soft bread roll that has been baked with salted butter. It’s good on its own, but their other iterations, such as the Corn Salt Bread and Truffle Salt Bread come with savoury toppings and filling that’re just as delicious.

Soha Salt Pond Ikseon-dong
Google Reviews
4.3
(320)
Address
21-5 Supyo-ro 28-gil, Jongno District, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours:
Monday 09:00 AM - 09:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

8. Rain Report


Walk in the rain any time of the day


It may be summer outside but at Rain Report, there’s a perpetual rain cloud that follows you around. This rain-themed cafe sends showers down on select areas every 15 minutes, but don’t worry, you won’t get wet if you’re just here to get a bite.


Image credit: @petrinahuang via Instagram

If you do want a new profile pic for your social media, you can borrow one of the cafe’s transparent umbrellas and take a stroll in the rain.


Cloud Deep Black.

Image credit: @rainreport_official via Instagram

The cafe doesn’t just set a moody ambience with their thunderstorms, their menu also features weather-themed food. Cloudy Day (KRW7,500, ~S$7.35), which is a charcoal lemonade, and Cloud Deep Black (KRW15,000, ~S$14.71), a black cheesecake taste even better than they look.

Rain Report
Google Reviews
4.5
(20)
Address
258-63 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan District, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours:
Monday 11:00 AM - 09:30 PM Show More Timings

9. House of Vinyl


Listen to vinyl records in a cosy cafe



Image credit: @houseofvinyl_mangwon


If you’ve ever been to the Embrace Hall Cafe in JB or Swee Lee Clarke Quay, you’d know how relaxing it can be to immerse yourself in good music, food,and company.


Image credit: @cafe9gyeong via Instagram


House of Vinyl offers all that in their vinyl-listening cafe. Enter their cosy living area, which has a vinyl player and speakers playing a selected playlist. All you have to do is just soak up the ambience and have a bite if you wish.

Kick back to the many tracks available and satisfy your sweet tooth with their selection of pound cakes. Their Green Tea Pound Cake (KRW7,000, ~S$6.91) is one of their top sellers and appeals especially to those who prefer their desserts “not too sweet”.

House Of Vinyl Mangwon
Google Reviews
4
(1)
Address
405-17 Mangwon-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours:
Monday 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

10. Foreplan cafe


Designed to look like an architect’s office



Image credit: @minimiday_s via Instagram

Most cafes tend to go for the industrial chic look. Think brick walls, exposed wiring, and bare concrete floors. But Foreplan Cafe upgrades that unfinished look for something more polished by designing their space to look like an industrial architect’s office.

That’s because it’s been designed by legit architects, who wanted to give diners a glimpse into their lives. Expect to see boxes, files, scrapbooks, floor plans and floor panels strewn about to set the scene.

Image credit: minnim via Google Maps

One nifty feature that’s sure to earn likes on IG is the foldable wood panel wall at the entrance.  Feel free to play around with the panels to create words and patterns as you wait for your food.


Image adapted from: @foreplan_official via Instagram and Helen Tran via Google Maps

If you’re feeling peckish, munch on their Basil Chicken Sandwich (KRW7,500, ~S$7.40) with a side of Americano (KRW5,000, ~S$4.94).

Foreplan
Google Reviews
4.4
(53)
Address
30-11 Wangsimni-ro 14-gil, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours:
Monday 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

Bonus: Snoopy Garden



Image credit: @klooksg via Instagram


While not situated in Seoul, we couldn’t possibly leave out Snoopy Garden that’s found in Jeju. It’s a cafe with an indoor museum, outdoor park with life-sized figurines, and a merch shop for fans of the smiley beagle. Some souvenirs you can pick up are magnets, mugs, and even bags that all come imprinted with beloved characters from the Peanuts comic.


Spike Pancake.
Image credit: @princess760721 via Instagram

As for the grub at the cafe, it’s a mish-mash of common brunch fare such as Spike Pancake (KRW15,000, ~S$14.87) and Cappuccino (KRW6,500, ~S$6.44), which are decorated with Snoopy motifs.

You’ll need a ticket to enter the garden and subsequently the museum and cafe. Tickets are bKRW19,000/adult (~S$19.18), KRW16,000/teen (~S$16.15), and KRW13,000/child (~S$13.12).

Snoopy Garden
Google Reviews
4.6
(3,258)
Address
930 Geumbaekjo-ro, Gujwa-eup, 특별자치도 Cheju, Jeju-do, South Korea
Opening Hours:
Monday 09:00 AM - 06:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

(Closed) Butter Book


Fittingly named Butter Book, the cafe looks just like a block of butter out of its aluminium wrapper. The walls on the outside are painted a pale yellow and every tile in the cafe is in a calming shade of canary yellow. This cafe is a small 10-odd-seater where most people do quick grab-and-gos.


(Closed) Zapangi


A bright pink vending machine conceals the entrance to Zapangi – a secret cafe that lies in the Mapo district. Don’t forget to ready your cameras to capture that golden “disappearing act” behind the heavy door.


Cafe hopping in Seoul, South Korea

When caffeine runs are just part and parcel of daily life, there’s no reason not hit up a themed cafe and make it a novel experience while you’re at it. The shopping at Myeong-dong can wait. I’ve cast the net wide and eaten at as many cafes as I could to whittle down to these 10 best cafes in Seoul, South Korea to visit.


Travel smart with iShopChangi.com

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Simply collect them right before you board your flight at their 24-hour Collection Centres located in all terminals. Say goodbye to frantic scouting of mobile network operators when you land overseas!

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Their fuss-free one-stop online store saved my sorry butt when I realised mid-packing at 1AM the morning of my flight, that I was missing a souvenir for my BFF on exchange in Korea. A huge goody bag of Irvin’s salted egg potato chips, bak kut teh spices, and bak kwa came to my rescue.

Cart out before you fly with iShopChangi

This post was brought to you by iShopChangi.
Photography by Sharlene Lau and Lim Seng Jueh.
Originally published on 10th September 2019. Last updated by Syahiran Sean on 31st May 2024.

Chiara Ang

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