Café culture is a huge deal in Korea nowadays. You will find numerous cute cafes with all sorts of specialty coffee all around the country, even in smaller towns, nothing to say about major areas of Seoul and Busan. I honestly haven’t seen this number of cafes and almost always busy in any other country.
Needless to say, café hopping was one of the major parts of my Korea itinerary.
Following these itineraries, we actually visited at least one café a day and more like 3-5 a day 😀 So I’ve got a big list of recommendations. I can’t say that my suggestions are the top 30 or whatever cafes, as I definitely would never be able to check all cafes out and there could be so many more amazing ones out there. But these are some of the more popular and/or very cute places you can check out 😊
Before I start listing the cafes we did love and didn’t so much like, I have to give you some tips, that may help you while visiting popular cafes:
- Many cafes in Korea are less of a “grab a morning coffee” kind (I don’t mean the chain ones, that I am listing below, but the local unique ones). You will find some cafes that do open early at 7-8am, however, that are far more of them which open only at 10 or even later. So if you need your morning coffee fix, make sure to double check opening times of the cafes near your hotel or in the area you are visiting in the morning.
- Most of the well-known cafes have a “one person – one drink” rule. First time we heard this, we stared at the waitress blankly, having no clue what it meant, as we never heard anything like this elsewhere. So the idea is that anyone sitting in the café should order at least one drink (or another item on the menu in most cases). So I couldn’t just order my cake in the evening, as hubby also had to order something, even if he didn’t want to.
- Most cafes don’t have toilets on the premises, but nearby. Ask the service staff to give you directions. These public toilets usually do have toilet paper (sometimes at the washbasin, so you have to take it inside), but just in case keep some tissues in your bag.
- If you definitely want to visit some cafés, especially in the Seoul Bukchon Hanok village area, pick the right time – weekends, especially late morning-early afternoon are the busiest times. Early morning on a weekday or late afternoon-evening would be quieter times and give you a better chance. But of course, this is not always easily arranged when you are in the area at a busy time. However, most cafes (unless it’s Bukchon village area) should not be so crowded that you can’t get in after a 15 minute wait.
- The names of most cafes on Google and Naver maps differ. I will try to give links of the cafes I am listing in both maps, however, some of them may not be on Google maps (and some newly opened ones on Naver either).
List of Lovely Cafes by City
Here are my lists of mainly independent coffee shops of either popular or less well-known lovely places:
The lists are of course my opinion and what we could find. There are certainly hundreds of other amazing ones we didn’t know of or where out of the areas we managed to visit.
List of Chain Cafes
There are also some lovely chain cafes (Korean and foreign), which need mentioning. If you don’t find an independent nice coffee shop nearby, while you crave coffee, cakes or snacks, here is the list of a few chain cafes, which you will find all around the country. When you find those names, you can trust they will have good coffee or sweets:
- Twosome place – a big chain specializing in coffee and cakes, as well as some sandwiches.
- Sulbing – a chain known for Korean shaved ice sweets – bingsu. You won’t find an English language sign usually, so look for the small print saying “Korean dessert café”.
- Paris Baguette – I frequented this chain, especially when taking a train. You find them in quite a lot of places. They have good coffee and sandwiches (although the sandwiches lack salt, as almost all food in Korea).
- Angel-in-Us coffee – is known for its bright environment.
- Anthracite coffee – with relatively less locations than any of the others mentioned above. They have good strong coffee, which I definitely recommend.
Other chains, I didn’t much like:
- Ediya coffee – these cafes can be found at every corner (it actually has almost 3000 coffee shops around the country, which is insane). They are known for their cheaper coffee. Honestly, I didn’t like it, but you may give it a chance.
The coffee chains we have been seeing at many places and heard were nice, but we didn’t manage to try:
- Komm coffee – apparently some of its branches were even featured in K dramas, but not sure which ones.
- Tom N Toms
- Paik’s coffee
- Café Pascucci