Almost every city in Korea has a district, or several districts, which are famous amongst young people for their cafés and buzzing nightlife. Unlike the west, most cafés in Korea stay open very late so they can be visited at almost any time, meaning they add to the nighttime scene. For the coffee-seeking traveller, we’ve written up a thorough guide detailing our favourites. That, coupled with our Aficionado’s guide will have you on your way in no time.
Nestled amongst these café districts are many attractions and other activities on offer. So in between your café-hopping adventures, there is always something to do or see. Here, we’ll take you through some of the most famous café districts in three of Korea’s largest cities; Seoul, Daejeon and Busan.
Hapjeong, Seoul (합정, 서울)
Most visitors who have ventured through Korea know of the famous Hongdae area of Seoul. It’s an area famous for its fashion, food and lively vibe due to its street performers and many bars. However, right next to Hongdae is an area much quieter, called Hapjeong. Hapjeong is absolutely full of cafés and even has a street known amongst koreans as Hapjeong’s Café Street. So when you’re tired of the Hongdae crowds, Hapjeong is only a short walk away. While cafés may be your main focus, there are also many shops; especially shops dedicated to arts and crafts. The nearby Hongik University is a famous arts university so you can often find many students buying their art supplies at these specialists shops. For any art lover, these shops are worth a visit. You can find three floored shops filled with every craft supply, some with a whole floor dedicated to selling textured papers. Since these shops are aimed at students, the prices are very affordable too. If you are feeling adventurous you can also take a Korean cooking class in Hapjeong. K-cooking class provide a morning or afternoon for individuals or small groups showing you how to make tasty Korean dishes from scratch. Instruction is given in english and the sessions can be booked online at k-cookingclass.com.
Yeoksam, Seoul (역삼동, 서울)
Yeoksam is an area in the south of Seoul, between Sinnonhyeon (신논현역) and Gangnam stations (강남역). There are many famous cafés in this area, including Thesis (떼시스), the café best known for their tiramisu latte. You can also find many Instagram-worthy restaurants in this area such as Laundry Pizza (런드리피자), the pizza restaurant decorated like a 60’s launderette, and many many more. This area is also fairly close to Bongeunsa Temple (봉은사), one of the largest Buddhist temples in Seoul. You can see many lanterns and traditional items in the temple, making it feel somewhat tranquil, even when it is in the heart of the city. From the top of the temple there is a great view out across Gangnam, offering a great contrast between traditional and modern Seoul. If you love to shop, directly opposite Bongeunsa lies the famous COEX mall. COEX is over 150,000 square metres making it one of the largest shopping malls in the world.
Insadong is an area famous for tradition. In Insadong you will find many streets filled with Hanok (traditional Korean home) cafés, tea houses and cafes selling food and drinks made with fusions of modern and traditional flavours. You will also find markets selling traditional themed items, making Insadong the perfect place to buy souvenirs or gifts. A must-visit is the famous Ssamzigil (쌈지길), a market composed of three levels, selling a range of handmade products and unique items. Insadong is a true collision of modern and traditional Korea, with many people still living in Hanok style homes. Just above Insadong is Bukchon Hanok Village, an area where residents still live in traditional style Hanok homes. If you take a short walk up the hill of Bukchon Hanok Village you will be transported through time. At the top of the hill you will see an amazing view of Namsan Tower and on a clear day, across most of Seoul. You’ll also find one of our origin coffee recommendations, Fritz coffee, in this area which you should definitely check out. If you do visit this area however, please be aware that many families still live in these houses, so try to keep noise and disturbance to a minimum.
Yuseong District, Daejeon (유성구, 대전)
Yuseong-gu is right next to Chungnam National University (CNU) (충남대학교). Due to the high amount of students coming from CNU and the nearby KAIST universities, this somewhat newly rebuilt area is home to many uniquely-themed cafés. There are flower cafés, European themed cafés and many more. The cafés have a modern minimalist feel about them due to the new buildings, making them very Instagram worthy. The majority of the cafés are concentrated along Juk-dong road (죽동로), but you can find them spread all throughout Yuseong. This area is not very well known amongst tourists so it’s a good spot to visit if you’re looking for a quieter cafe trip.
Jung District, Daejeon (중구, 대전)
Right next to Daejeon’s main station you’ll find the Jung district (중구). This area is filled to the brim with cafés, restaurants, arcades and shops. The area particularly comes alive at night when the famous Skyroad (스카이로드) is illuminated. This is a huge LED canopy that runs the whole length of Junggyo-ro (중교로).
Fun fact: If you send a message or a picture to the phone number posted on the Skyroad, your message or picture will be displayed for everyone to see.
Gwangalli Beach, Busan (광안리 해수욕장, 부산)
Gwangalli is the second largest beach area of Busan, after the famous Haeundae Beach (해운대해수욕장). Gwangalli is still a vast beach area but is much quieter than the chaotic Haeundae, meaning it is somewhat nicer as a café destination. There are many restaurants, cafés and bars to be found right on the beach allowing you to get a great ocean view. In the evenings and through the night, many street performers venture onto the beach providing many hours of free entertainment. Koreans like to buy chicken or other food at nearby shops and take it onto the beach, where you can sit for hours with friends. The renowned Gwangan Bridge (광안대교) is lit up at night and stretches across the horizon, making Gwangalli a really beautiful scene at night.
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Featured Image: ©Insadong, kyerim-che, 02.04.19, pixabay.com