Seoul Coffee Guide: Where you have to go to get your unique caffeine-fix in the South Korean capital
"Coffee [is one of the] last great addictions" - Lara Boyle
In a country that prides itself on the quality of its tea, you may be worried that a trip to Seoul is absent of great coffee but fear not, the coffee revolution has hit tea town. Seoul's aesthetics, along with the general explosion of Korean-designed goods across the world has turned the small country's capital into a haven for creative types. This, coupled with the country's general English-speaking population has made it an immensely popular travel destination for years and, while a lot no doubt go to experience the local tea culture, there are some itches that only a cup of coffee can fix. Seoul is full of everything, from cat and meerkat themed cafe's to wedding cafe's, and even a cafe with some farm animals (more on that below!), so here goes, our top five cafe's in Seoul!
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Thanks Nature Cafe
We've all heard of of cat cafe's, but what about sheep cafe's? For those of you who think having a sleepy cat in the corner of a cafe is far too mainstream, this may be the place for you. Thanks Nature Cafe in one of the university districts of Seoul features a couple of sheep in an outside enclosure (although photos do show them inside the cafe too!) that you can wander into. Want to get a great photo? Ask the super friendly owner if you can feed them and he'll give you some feed to hand to the sheep who will be all too happy to eat out of the palm of your hand!
This place is more than just a gimmick coffee shop though, featuring a great coffee selection that makes it deserving of a place on a list of the best cafe's in Seoul. Just don't get too close to the sheep with your order - you may find yourself without it!
Caffe Themselves Located in the neon-filled streets between the Jongno-3 and Jonggak metro stations, Caffe Themselves was an accidental find more than worthy of being on an article about the best coffee in Seoul. The huge entrance and slick interior may make the place feel more like a chain Starbucks cafe rather than an actual artisanal cafe but, fear not, there'll be no burnt coffees here. With a wall dedicated to the awards that their numerous baristas have achieved (from roasting the perfect espresso to latte art), Caffe Themselves is a hub of coffee expertise hidden in plain sight. A short peruse of their awards shows that the cafe is almost always represented at the Korean national 'barista of the year' awards - usually placing in the top few positions. Add to that a closing time of 11pm that perfectly suits all of you night owls along with two floors of seating and you'll be glad that you made the trip.
Having looked them up since our visit, I'm still amazed at how little attention this place has gotten so hey, go show them some love and fix that! You won't regret it!
Globo Faktory Coffee
Sitting between the Gyeongbokgung and Changgyeonggung palaces lies the largest - and most impressive - Hanok village in Seoul, a must-see when you're in town. Thankfully though, you no longer have to wander around this village caffeine-free. Surprisingly, this place didn't really pop up in any of the "best cafe's in Seoul" searches that I did before landing (yes, that is a common search when travelling - judge me...), but after wandering around the palaces in the snow, Globo Faktory was probably the best cup in the city. Featuring actual warmth, an aesthetic as hell interior, and a super cool rustic-looking coffee roaster, the place was an absolute lifesaver and the perfect place to recharge before heading out to shoot the Hanok village... Plus I mean the coffee definitely lived up to the billing. 10/10 would go again.
UPDATE: So apparently they also have a really nice terrace to sit on. It was far too cold to even consider being outside when we visited but hey, go try it out when you're in town!
Nestled in the back alleys of Seoul, surrounded by run-down scruffy buildings, sits Coffee Hanyakbang - a cafe that is, probably, one of Seoul's worst kept secrets. Decorated in what looks like a Japanese colonial style, coffee Hanyakbang has become popular among both caffeine addicts looking for the best coffee in Seoul and those looking for one of the most instagrammable cafe's in Seoul alike. Thankfully, the owners have used their popularity to expand into the narrow buildings across the street, but even then we still had a good ten minute wait for a table (well, for half a table as some lovely locals let us share theirs with them!).
Coffee Hanyakbang is just around the corner from the Euljiro-3 metro stop, but is totally within walking distance of Namsan Tower so is the perfect place to rest those feet and plan the rest of the day!
J. hidden House Coffee
Unfortunately there was a private function in one of the seating areas at J. Hidden House coffee when we tried to visit in November so we couldn't actually get a cup of coffee, but the owner let us wander around their small grounds and it was enough to make me wish they were open t the public. Designed in a traditional hanok style, Hidden House Coffee may as well be a portal into a different place and a different time - far away from the bustling streets of Dongdaemon just outside their door. Add to that a sign that says they will give you a free coffee if you're following them on instagram/ tag them in a post and I mean you can't go wrong with a stop