Want to dip your toe into the wonderful world of trendy and unique cafes in Seoul? Considering I both live for cafe culture and Seoul is one of my favorite major cities in the world, I like to think I’ve compiled a pretty good list of recommendations!

In the original version of this post, I said I’d never encountered a country with such an incredible cafe scene. I do have to say Vietnam gives Korea a run for its money, but both countries take their coffee shops very, very seriously.

When it comes to Seoul, Portland hipsters wish. I mean, even Korea’s budget, franchise options are fun! You can find a Paris Baguette in even the most rural of destinations, not to mention Tous le Jours, the “fancier” Paris Croissant, Cafe Benne, Ediya… I really should do a whole separate post on Korean franchise coffee shops because they are extensive.

Of course, Seoul, which sits at the very center of Korean culture, is the ultimate mecca for coffee addicts and Instagrammers alike. I’ve visited this city more times than I can count, and on every trip I’ve visited at least one cafe. Below are some of my absolute favorite cafes in Seoul!

Quick Seoul Guide

  • Stay: To be near trendy cafes, your best bet is to stay in Hongdae. Top hotels include RYSE and L7 Hongdae by Lotte and more affordable stays include Cocoa Guesthouse and Hotel Baroato.
  • Getting in: Don’t spend a ton of money on getting a taxi into Seoul. Just use the subway which is super nice and easy to use from all of the airports, train stations, and bus terminals. If you do need a private transfer, just book ahead.
  • Stay in Touch: Korea has the best thing ever – eSIMs! No need to worry about losing your physical SIM card anymore. Just buy here and you’ll be emailed a QR code which will set you up!
  • Where to Book Activities: I always like checking Klook or Trazy for the best deals on anything related to tours and day trips in Seoul.
  • Getting Around: When it comes to Seoul, you’ll most likely do a combination of subway and walking (so much walking). Under each cafe I have a little bit on how to get there.
  • Absolute Needs: Good walking shoes; there’s so much more walking in Seoul than you’d think. I like Birkenstocks or just a cute pair of white sneakers! Also if you also don’t respond well to dairy, make sure to bring with or stop by a pharmacy (약) for lactaid pills. A lot of the smaller cafes won’t have milk alternatives.

Some Updates on Cafes in Seoul

So if you’ve found this post before April 2022, boy, do I have some big updates for you! Seoul is always changing even in normal times, so there’s a lot of new things to be aware of.

1. Many cafes offer milk alternatives now

Not all but now when I go to a cafe, I can ask for soy, oat, or sometimes almond milk and… they might actually say yes. You have no idea what a revelation this is! It used to only be Starbucks that didn’t look at you like you were crazy, and even then they only offered soy milk.

2. A lot of cafes did not survive the big C

Going through this list, I discovered a lot of cafes that simply no longer exist anymore. When I clicked through to KakaoMap, I kept getting an error. If you’re wondering about specific ones you’ve seen here, I have a little RIP Cafe list down below.

3. I took out the quirky cafes

Again, editing this list I realized how many cafes I put in that weren’t particularly trendy. I’d say they’re more on the quirky side (i.e. the poop cafe), but they’re more something a tourist would visit for fun, not really a cafe you’d find local Seoulites frequenting or starring on their KakaoMap app. I’ll also note them below just so you know you were hallucinating when you originally saw them on this list.

Trendy Cafes in Seoul

Now for my favorite trendy cafes in Seoul! I’ve listed them alphabetically so they’re easy to find. Below each description is also a link to KakaoMap (which is what you should use instead of Google Maps for accurate navigation) and a link to their Instagram if it exists. If you’re like me and my friends, we save things in Instagram and star spots on KakaoMaps to remember them for later.

Cafe Layered, Yeonnamdong, Seoul, Korea

1. Cafe Layered (레이어드)

Area: Yeonnam-dong || Instagram: @cafe_layered

Located in a pretty brick building in the every trendy Yeonnam-dong (연남동), Cafe Layered is pretty much everything sweet and girly! I stopped in quickly with my friend, Angie, on my way to the metro and was delighted by all the wonderfully fancy desserts! I picked up a salted caramel scone, which was delicious.

Get There:

  • KakaoMap Location
  • Quick Directions: The closest subway station is Hongdae Station (홍대입구역). Exit 3 is the closest exit, and then you have about a 15 minute walk along the park. (The park is called Gyeongui Line Forest Park, but its nickname is Yeontral Park, like Central Park lol).

2. Cheongsudang Gallery (청수당 – 갤러리)

Area: Garuso-gil in Sinsa-dong || Instagram: @cheongsudang_gallery

My friend, Raquel, introduced me to this cafe! We went here after getting cheesesteaks in Garosu-gil. They have some really cool drinks, including this matcha cream drink we both got. The best thing about this cafe, though, is the very cool design. I don’t really know how to describe it! It feels like it’s got a bit of Japanese nature inspiration with some cool, earthy interior decor that incorporates elements like sand and rock.

Get There:

  • KakaoMap Location
  • Quick Directions: You can get to Cheongsudang from either Apgujeong Station (압구정역) or Sinsa Station (신사역), and I’d say they’re about equidistant.

3. Coffee Nap Roasters (커피냅로스터스)

Area: Yeonnam-dong // Instagram: @coffeenap_roasters

Fun fact, I think this is actually where I first met Hallie! She sent me this spot to meet because the design was pretty intriguing. Basically it’s a cafe built around a mound that as then covered with brick. Very random but very funky.

Get There:

  • KakaoMap Location
  • Quick Directions: The closest subway stop for Coffee Nap Roasters is Gajwa Station (가좌역). You’ll want to leave from Exit 1 and walk for about 10 minutes. Bus-wise, the Gyeongui Line Forest Park Entrance (경의선숲길공원입구) stop is even closer.
Cong Caphe, Yeonnam-dong, Seoul

4. Cong Caphe (콩카페)

Area: Yeonnam-dong // Instagram: @congcaphe_kr

I had add Cong Caphe! If you traveled or lived in Vietnam, you know Cong Caphe is a mini-franchise there, so this isn’t anything particularly special. However, if you’ve never been or have experienced a long absence from the country, you’ll be as delighted as I was when I saw those familiar army green colors. This is where I was introduced to the beautifully delicious cà phê cốt dừa, a frozen coconut coffee drink that is more dessert than coffee!

Plus, all Cong Caphes have a cool design, and the one in Seoul is no exception. They basically have all these Vietnamese-inspired military decor and each cafe is different from the other. Definitely grab a table outside for the full effect.

Get There:

  • KakaoMap Location
  • Quick Directions: Cong Caphe is quite buried in Yeonnam-dong, so either Hongdae Station (홍대입구역) or Gajwa Station (가좌역) will still put you almost 20 minutes away on foot. If you can, try to get a bus to Eden Jiwoo Apartment (에덴지우아파트) stop to be only a few minutes away.

5. GrainSEOUL (그레인 서울)

Area: Yeonnam-dong // Instagram: @grain_seoul

Angie took me to their old location a while ago and I always remembered it for the good food and cute setting! You basically create your own tray and pick from a nice selection of breakfast and brunch options. This is a good spot if you want something with substances and not just sweet treats. I even requested we meet up at their new location on my most recent trip because I remember loving it so much!

Get There:

  • KakaoMap Location
  • Quick Directions: If you use Hongdae Station (홍대입구역) and come out Exit 2 or 4, it should be about a 25-minute walk over. You could also use Gajwa Station (가좌역), but it’s like a 20-minute still.

6. Green Mile Coffee (그린마일커피 북촌점)

Area: Bukchon Hanok Village // Instagram: @green_mile_coffee

Green Mile Coffee is very pretty looking cafe in one of the loveliest areas of Seoul – Bukchon Hanok Village. The real selling point is its rooftop which gives you a nice view of the tiled hanok roofs and even out to Namsan Tower on a clear day. I also really liked the drink, and the interior has some warm, traditional elements that make it a pretty cafe to visit even if you don’t make it up to the roof.

Get There:

  • KakaoMap Location
  • Quick Directions: If you take Anguk Station (안국역) and leave through Exit 3, it should be a straight shot up Bukchon-ro for about 10 minutes.

7. Nakrangpara (낙랑파라)

Area: Near Hongdae Station (홍대입구역) // Instagram: @nrparlour

Angie took me here after we ate at Grain to do a little work. It’s so nice and cozy, and she said she used to come here often to study for her exams. They also have some vintage things for sale while you wait for your coffee!

Get There:

  • KakaoMap Location
  • Quick Directions: If you leave Hongdae Station (홍대입구역) from Exit 2 or Exit 4, it should be less than a 10 minute walk.

8. Ongozisin (온고지신)

Area: Near Seoul National University // Instagram: @ongozisin

So Papago tells me the name of this cafe comes from a verb, “온고신하다” which basically means looking to the past as a guide for the future. I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of Japanese influence as well.

The cafe has a more rustic feel and when we went one of the baristas spokke English! Of course, the main feature is this big, circular window. We got some milk teas here if memory serves and is just a nice vibe all around. It does fill up on the weekend, just a warning.

Based on their IG, it also looks like they have some other locations now as well. I’m actually not sure if this one is still open since it’s not listed on their Instagram but is still on KakaoMap! You’ll have to message them to see.

Get There:

  • KakaoMap Location
  • Quick Directions: Use Seoul National University Station (서울대입구역), leave through Exit 1 or 2. Then it’s a 8-10 minute walk.

9. Perception (퍼셉션)

Neighborhood: Hapjeong-dong (합정동) // Instagram: @perception.coffee

Hallie sent me this fun cafe to meet her at when I landed in Seoul one visit. I literally got off my plane, soaked in a sauna, and ditched my suitcase in a subway locker before headed over! This cafe is just a super, quiet space tucked away in Hapjeong where we got to catch up. The ceiling is the main focal point of design!

Get There:

  • KakaoMap Location
  • Quick Directions: The closest subway stop is Sangsu Station (상수역). Use Exit 4, and it should be less than a 10-minute walk.

10. Project Seoul ( 프로젝트서울)

Area: right near Seoul National University // Instagram: @projectseoul

What a funky a little cafe! Hallie took my friend and I here, and when we first walked in, it was like stepping into an Instagram Twilight Zone. There was a rose wall, a bed, trendy seating, a giant pink unicorn… I could have easily shared like ten more photos from the different angles! I recommend the rose lemonade.

Get There:

  • KakaoMap Location
  • Quick Directions: Get off at Seoul National University Station (서울대입구역) and leave through Exits 1 or 2, and it should only be bout a 5 minute walk and on the 4th floor of the building.

11. Stylenanda Pink Hotel Cafe (핑크호텔) & Pink Pool Cafe (홍대플래그쉽스토어)

Areas: Hongdae and Myeongdong // Instagram: @pinkpoolcafe

I wrote about both cafes here, but I’ll say it again — there are two locations and when I was researching them they just kept coming up as one place. However, one is more of a hotel theme and the other is a restaurant/pool theme! The hotel one is in Myeongdong, and it’s also the one with the rooftop area. The Hongdae one is the one with the mini pool (that you don’t swim in) and the pink restaurant vibe that looks like that famous London cafe. I would say if you could only choose one, the Hongdae location is better!

Get There:

Thanks Oat, Seoul, Korea

12. Thanks, Oat (땡스오트)

Area: Yeonnam-dong (연남동) // Instagram: @thanksoat

What a cute little place in Yeonnam-dong! Hallie wanted to go here, and I can see why. It has delicious yogurt bowls and just has this countryside feel once you step inside. It even smells delicious in there. Great cafe if you want some healthier food options.

Get There:

  • KakaoMap Location
  • Quick Directions: Thanks, Oat is in the same area as Coffee Nap Roasters, so the closest subway is Gajwa Station (가좌역). You’ll want to leave from Exit 1 and walk for about 10 minutes. Bus-wise, the Gyeongui Line Forest Park Entrance (경의선숲길공원입구) stop is even closer.

13. Ver’s Garden (벌스 가든)

Area: Yeonnam-dong (연남동) // Instagram: @vers_garden

Ver’s Garden has to be one of the prettiest cafes in Seoul! It’s decorated with tons of dried flowers and plants and overall just a nice, relaxed vibe. Actually, if you live here, this is a great spot to buy your houseplants! My friend, Angie, told me about this cafe years ago since she used to live nearby, and I’ve been wanting to go ever since. I managed a few hours working with her here. The coffee is delicious and the vibe is very relaxing – hard to believe just a kilometer way is the busier part of Hongdae!

Get There:

  • KakaoMap Location
  • Quick Directions: Ver’s Garden is also in the same area as Thanks, Oat and Coffee Nap Roasters. You can use Gajwa Station (가좌역) and leave via Exit 1 if you want walk for about 10 minutes. Bus-wise, the Gyeongui Line Forest Park Entrance (경의선숲길공원입구) stop is even closer.

Cool Cafes Near Seoul

14. Akira Coffee (카페아키라) in Incheon

Area: Incheon, close to Chinatown & Incheon Station // Instagram: @akira__coffee

Akira has a few locations but the one we went to is right near Incheon Station and Chinatown. It’s a Japanese-inspired cafe with very relaxing vibes, a nice rooftop, and the CUTEST dog. Just a warning – kids are not allowed inside but they’re okay outside and on the roof.

Get There:

  • KakaoMap Location
  • Quick Directions: Once you exit Incheon Station (인천역), it’ll be about a 7-minute walk.
Gardenus, Paju, Korea

15. Gardenus Cafe (가드너스) in Paju

As part of Paju’s Hyeri Art Village, Gardenus is a super cool, spacious cafe! My friend, Jamie, drove us here to meet Hallie and Angie, and we parked nearby, but I added public transport options below. The cafe has a cool, concrete design and really feels like it goes on and on! I remember getting one of their macarons with a coffee, and then we all just hung out on one of the blue or yellow seats.

Get There:

  • KakaoMap Location
  • Quick Directions: So, the easiest way to get to Hyeri Art Village besides driving is get a bus from near Hapjeong Station. Right outside Exit 1 is the Hapjeong Station Bus Stop (합정역 정류장). Look for Bus #2200 and ride it to Hyeri Gate 4 Bus Stop (헤이리4번게이트 정류장). From there it’s about a 4-minute walk to Gardenus.

16. Dreamy Camera Cafe (꿈꾸는사진기) in Yongmun-myeon

Area: Yongmun-myeon (용문면) // Instagram: @dreamy_camera_cafe

Ok, so this isn’t in Seoul, but you can visit easily through the subway and a taxi ride. And it’s just so lovely and charming, I highly recommend visiting! I wrote a post about the cafe here if you want more information.

Get There:

  • KakaoMap Location
  • Quick Directions: The closest station is Yongmun Station (용문역); from there you can get a taxi! If you click that KakaoMap link, you can see just how remote the cafe is.

Cafes No Longer On this List

No Longer Open:

  • Boulanger Maison Bukak
  • Dore Dore – The brand still exists but their 90’s beach party-themed location in Sinsa-dong is no more.
  • Greem Cafe – The iconic 2D café! It’s in a number of places in Korea now but sadly seems to no longer exist in Seoul.
  • Midlevel – I took one of my favorite photos right outside this cafe! I’m not too surprised it no longer exists, though, it was a bit too trendy for longevity.
  • Seoulism – I wrote a whole post about them; they’ve closed as a cafe but should be open as a bar now.
  • Banana Tree
  • Kyul by Bean Brothers
  • Remicone
  • Understated Coffee
  • Zapangi – Same, I wrote a whole blog post and it’s gone.
  • Orbit
  • Space Shinseon
  • Real Factory 1998 in Paju

Quirky Ones I Took Off:

  • 943 Kings Cross
  • Poop Cafe
  • CaFace
  • Osulloc

And there’s my list of trendy cafes in Seoul… for now! I know this is a small, small number in the grand scheme of cafes, so please let me know if you know of any cool places I need to add for my next visit!

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All the coolest and trendiest cafes in Seoul, Korea

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13 Comments

  1. Love your whole website, I have spent hours reading it and collecting information for my upcoming trip to Seoul in November. I will be visiting solo for 3 nights before joining a tour group (booked with a Swiss travel agency). I prefer solo travel, but decided to join the tour after seeing the itinerary. I hope to get the best of both worlds.

  2. Hello Samantha!!!!!!!!

    I am Olga, from Spain. I know you wrote this article many time ago, but I am so thankfull for it because it helps me a lot with my investigation of the sweetest places in Seoul.

    I am thinking to go alone, so I think my first question is… Do you think is it safe, travelling alone to Corea being a woman? I am thinking to move around, going to Daegu, Gyeongju, Busan, Jeju an, finally, Seoul.

    And my next question is about the article… It is able to pay by card in most of the places, even if you only take a coffee or by cash is most often?

    And this places have the option of “take away” or only “eatting in”? I know the better thing is to eat in and enjoy the atmosphere of the place…. but I have many places, I want to see them all and try the typical things, but some times is going to be impossible because, for example, when I am in Yeonnam-Dong I have kind of 5 places to go… I can do that, but maybe I can not eat in all of them… Can I buy the things to take away and them eat them during the day or at the hotel?

    1. Hi Olga!

      You should be totally fine traveling alone in Korea; I’d say it’s one of, if not THE safest country I’ve ever been to. Obviously, use normal precautions but I’ve honestly never felt unsafe or uncomfortable, and I’ve often gone places on my own at all times of day.

      It’s definitely possible to pay by card. I’d say all of these places are card-friendly. Off the top of my head the only places in Korea that might not be are really lowkey mom and pop shops where you pay like 5,000 KRW to get some dumplings. I also don’t know how the subway is these days but last I visited, I had to use cash at the subway machines and to top up my subway/bus card.

      As far as I’ve experienced every cafe has take away options; just let them know when you order with “Take out” or (테이크아웃). If they don’t understand you, say it with a Korean pronunciation – tay-keh ah-oot) or if they really don’t understand you, show them that bit of hangul or say “ka-da” which is “to go”.

  3. Hi, I just wanted to let you know I wanted to go to Café Orbit today but there was a sign saying „The café is gone“ (in English even). :( Too bad! The hotel is still there, though.

  4. Hello Samantha,

    I love your write up.

    I’m actually traveling to Seoul next month and I have been indecisive on where I should stay. Either Gangnam or Hongdae at the L7 hotel chain.

    I live in the heart of Los Angeles, specifically in Koreatown.

    Where would you honestly suggest for someone who’s in their late 30’s but looks mid-20’s? Enjoys the city, fashion and living life to its fullest?

    My friend suggested I stay where I’m “comfortable” which I interpreted being comfortable while Black lol but she meant being comfortable without being “on” all the time.

    Also, what are the distances typical in terms of time that it would take to transport to Gangnam, Itaewon and Hongdae by taxi?

    Humble Regards,

    Amber

    1. Hi Amber! Luckily Seoul is absurdly easy to navigate via its subway so ultimately it doesn’t matter where you stay :) As it’s also a major city, you’ll be a bit more comfortable as a foreigner here especially in the main tourist areas!

      I wrote a post on where to stay in Seoul here which has more of a breakdown (need to update it though!): https://thereshegoesagain.org/where-to-stay-in-seoul-neighborhoods/

      Based on what you want to do, I’d say Hongdae, Insadong, or Myeongdong are your best bets!

      Hongdae – kind of the university area which means it’s got a lot of cool, trendy spots, good eateries, and fun shopping (though warning if you’re over a size 2 shopping in Korea is… limited). Also it’s closest to the airport (still an hour away), so I like to stay in this district either right when I come or leave Korea. (https://thereshegoesagain.org/hotels-in-hongdae/) Hotel wise – RYSE or L7

      Insadong – the “traditional” part of Korea near the palaces. Very cool if you want to be more near the cultural stuff! Personally one of my favorite areas. (https://thereshegoesagain.org/hotels-in-insandong/) Hotel wise – I’d look into one of the hanok ones.

      Myeongdong – this is the shopping area and also very trendy. It’s also the most central of the shopping districts while still having good food options and things to do. I’d say this is my pick and where we were going to base our 3 day Seoul extension on our Korea tour. (https://thereshegoesagain.org/best-hotels-in-myeongdong/) Hotel wise, we booked Hotel28 for our tour!

      I would recommend against staying in Gangnam or Itaewon. I’d only recommend Gangnam if you’re in on business or getting plastic surgery lol. It’s not very central and only has a few things worth seeing! Itaewon is known as the foreigner district. It’s fine but also not particularly central and feels the least like Korea or Seoul.

      Transport wise — I’m always a fan of the subway. It’s clean, fast, cheap, and easy. Like better than the taxis; I even take it when I’m coming in from the airport! If you do need taxis, get the KakaoTaxi app, it’ll be better for getting a taxi when you need it. Also I don’t know how things are and haven’t experienced first hand since I’m East Asian, but I do know friends (anyone non-East Asian) have one or two instances where the taxis ignore them or stop and leave when they realize they’re foreign.

      Hope that helps!!

  5. This article was amazing! I really loved all the pictures included as well :) thanks for your help!

  6. Hi Samantha

    Thank you so much for this great article. I spend a lot of time searching and surfing the web to find some of Seoul’s cafes. and finally, you save me at the last minute thank you for the help.

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