Over the past decade, coffee culture has become a huge phenomenon in Seoul, with multiple cafes found on virtually every street – cafés which fit almost every taste bud and budget range from more modest mom and pop stores to tried and tested franchise chains to luxurious and elegant establishments. It seems café brands and thus, café entrepreneurs, have been looking for new and fun ways to make their place stand out from the rest. Enter the new and unexpected quirky theme cafes that have become an unusual trend to be reckoned with. Offering every theme imaginable from animal cafes to gaming, to be quirkier and more eccentric is essential. Here are five outstanding theme cafes to ramp up your café experience.
At Café Jool, paint your very own coffee mug whilst enjoying a delicious café latte or Americano. An arts and craft/hobby café that allows customers to enjoy a fun, creative activity while filling up on caffeine, Café Jool opened in 2010 and fits in well with the artsy, trendy streets of Hongdae. The first thing to do here is choose the size and style of mug you would like to paint. Each mug is priced differently depending on your choice, ranging from KRW 16,000 – 26,000. After being given a set of paints, the owner – although his English speaking skills are not strong – will give instructions and tips on how paint the mug. With the café virtually full of handmade painted mugs, a variety of different styles provide inspiration for your creation. After decorating, either pick up your mug in two weeks or have it delivered to your door. Café Jool is the perfect café to come alone to enjoy an artsy afternoon or with friends for a fun art date.
Address: Jool Café, 368-26 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Station: Hongdae Station (Line 2, Exit 9,) Hapjeong Station (Line 6, Exit 3)
Directions: Walk approximately 5 minutes until you reach a wedding hall. Turn left and walk up to the top of the street and Café Jool is on the corner.
Cost: KRW 16,000 – 26,000 to paint a mug
One thing Koreans love alongside their coffee is taking pictures or selfies with smart phones. Photographer Min Jun Choi cleverly capitalized on these two trends by opening Coffeegraphy, which combines the Korean love of coffee with photography. Nestled nicely in the picturesque backstreets of Itaewon alongside many other hidden must-see shops, cafes and restaurants, Choi specializes in casual, spontaneous photography, providing customers with props to enhance the photo fun factor. Divided into two (one half being the café and the other being the photo studio), this café has become extremely popular in a short time. Customers often call beforehand to check if it’s busy although reservations cannot be made; it’s first come, first serve. Fortunately, with a great menu of lattes, teas, smoothies and even a few pastries, these can tide you over while you wait. Choi takes photos in several poses and styles so customers have a good variety to choose from after being uploaded to his computer. Choose your favorite ones to print in black and white or color to take home with you. Coffeegraphy is the ideal café for good friends, couples and even families who want to capture their fun, silly side on film.
Address: Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-dong, 63-1
Station: Itaewon Station (Line 6, Exit 4) Noksapyeong (Line 6, Exit 3)
Directions: From Itaewon Station, walk straight until you reach Lush. Turn left and walk until the crossroads and turn left then turn right between dress store and the Greek restaurant and it’s on the right.
Cost: KRW 5,000 – 20,000
Poop Café is in the heart of artsy Insadong and is one of the more eccentric facets of Korean culture. Continuing their strange fascination with poop, Poop Café’s theme is not thrown in your face; who would ever think poop could be cute and pretty? The café is filled with colorful poop-shaped note paper and there is even a tree with the poop-shaped paper used as leaves. Colorful poop-shaped pillows are available for naps and beverages are served in gorgeous toilet-shaped mugs – which can also be bought as a souvenirs. A wide range of flavored lattes and traditional Korean teas also make this a unique Korean beverage experience. Drinks are a bit pricy so be prepared but after visiting Poop Café in Insadong, you may come to appreciate the Korean fascination with poop a little more.
Address: Ssamzie-gil Building, Gwanhung-dong, Jongno-gu, 4F
Station: Insadong Station (Line 3, Exit 6)
Directions: From Insadong, walk until to Insadong Street Market is on your left. Walk for 5 minutes to Ssamziegil and Café Ddong is on the fourth floor.
Cost: KRW 5,000 – 10,000
Miss Lee Café
Miss Lee Café in Insadong is a party for the senses. Filled with love notes, the walls are covered in writing from years past. Also serving as a mini-museum, take a trip down memory lane with many vintage signs, animations, toys and gadgets on show. This café has a very lively and frenetic energy and is usually full of laughter and lively conversation. This is a popular café with a menu that offers unique Korean taste sensations so experience a dosirak (like a Korean lunch box) to experience what children took to school in the 80’s and 90’s. Shake it all up and indulge in a quintessential Korean-style lunch. For snacks and desserts, try a dish from the amazing traditional Korean dessert menu or order one of the many traditional Korean beverages and lattes. This iconic café is a must-do for those who want to get a feel for Korean culture through the decades.
Address: 144, Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Station: Insadong Station (line 3, exit 6)
Directions: From Insadong, walk until Insadong Street Market is on your left. Miss Lee Café is the first café on the right – do not enter the market!
Cost: KRW 5,000 – 10,000
Benedict Cumberbatch has made Sherlock Holmes quite a popular character in South Korea so it comes as no surprise that 221B is a themed café devoted to him. A tasteful homage to both Sherlock Holmes and the UK, this is the perfect café to chill out or get some studying done. Divided into two sections, the back of the café is a contrasting black and white with a TV screen playing Sherlock Holmes reruns, complete with some cozy leather couches. Up front, and a modern décor of wood with splashes of red and black play backdrop to framed portraits and memorabilia of Sherlock Holmes. If you feel like having a lazy afternoon, read a Sherlock Holmes novel from their Sherlock mini-library. Sherlock mugs or even Sherlock coffee beans are on sale – which is rumored to be blended with black licorice. If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, this café will definitely be up your alley.
Address: Gangnam-gu, Hakdong-ro, 43 gil 6
Station: Gangnam District Office Station (Line 7 and Bundang Line, Exit 3)
Directions: From Gangnam District Office Station, walk straight. Turn right at the post office and walk for 1 block. There is a statue of Sherlock Holmes and the café is on your right.
Cost: KRW 4,000 – 10,000