5 Cool Cafés to Try in Seoul

Seoul is one of the world’s most vibrant capitals, welcoming its visitors with a mix of modern and traditional.

BY TANYA NANETTI
SENIOR ONLINE CORRESPONDENT

Photos by Tanya Nanetti

It only took a few hours in the city for Seoul to steal our hearts. Gorgeous and vibrant, with its towering skyscrapers mixed with traditional villages and trendy neighborhoods flanking imperial sites, Seoul is a city to explore in its entirety, catching all its beautiful facets.

But South Korea’s capital is not just a beauty for the eyes. It’s a city to experience with all five senses, with a K-pop band playing in your headphones while you sample some of the local delicacies like tteok-bokki and bibimbap, washed down with soju and makgeolli. But for those who want to explore another delicious beverage, many specialty cafés and roasters brew delicious coffee in stunning locations scattered throughout the city.

The front entrance to Fritz has stairs leading up to a glassed in front room, and a wooden sign outside with their cute seal (the animal) holding a coffee cup.
Fritz Coffee Company offers pourovers and fresh-baked pastries in its welcoming café locations.

Fritz Coffee Company

I knew about Fritz Coffee Company even before I visited Seoul, thanks to its endearing seal-shaped mascot that pops up from time to time on social media. After a long red-eye flight, this was the first coffee stop of the trip; I opted for the Dohwa location in Mapo-gu district. I was captivated by the beautiful space: a hidden courtyard, a traditional two-story building, and a warm interior that smelled of freshly baked pastries and freshly brewed coffee.

I happily started the morning with a flat white and a chocolate scone, and later had a V60 and a kouign-amann cake. Fritz quickly became my go-to breakfast spot in town, alternating the Dohwa café with Wonseo, another beautiful location that shares space with the Arario Art Museum.

Dorae Knot has gray marble countertops and walls, and a black espresso machine.
Owner Ryan brewing coffee at Dorae Knot.

Dorae Knot

In Seoul, the best coffees seem to go hand in hand with the most beautiful locations—as is the case at Dorae Knot, a design space not far from the trendy Hongdae area. Named after one of the most traditional Korean knots, Dorae is a neat space, all gray marble, wood, and glass. It welcomes customers with its quiet, warm ambiance and beautiful 1960s soundtrack—a perfect place to spend hours reading a book or spending time with friends. Ryan, the young owner, is the perfect host: Friendly and knowledgeable, he is happy to oblige if you’re interested in learning more about the delicious coffee he makes.

And if you are in the area later, come back for a glass of natural wine paired with homemade ice cream. You won’t regret it.

A man pours water into a pour over with a goose neck kettle.
Hyunwoo Jang prepares coffee at his shop, Flick On Coffee.

Flick On Coffee

Also in the Hongdae area, Flick On Coffee was a wonderful surprise to discover after lunch. This bright space focused solely on coffee (as is the case with many establishments in South Korea) is a one-person show. Owner Hyunwoo Jang prepares tasty light-roasted coffees from around the world like Japan’s Leaves Coffee Roasters and Denmark’s La Cabra. Alongside a perfectly brewed filter, at Hyunwoo’s suggestion I tried an ultra-fruity double espresso from Ethiopia served with 2g of brown sugar to balance the acidity with a bit of sweetness—an interesting twist.

A bright room with low wooden bench with small white tables and black chairs, and built-in bookshelves.
Inside the “hidden“ mezzanine room at Namusairo.

Namusairo

Namusairo is one of the oldest specialty coffee establishments in the entire country, with more than two decades under its belt. This is another of those extraordinary places that somehow seems to be so common in Seoul. The space is simple, a perfect mix of traditional wood and modern white furniture. A small patio divides the counter room from the seating area and a small mezzanine that lies almost hidden on three small wooden steps.

But it’s not just the space that makes Namusairo special. The baristas are kind and knowledgeable, the coffee on offer is impeccable, and the complimentary batch brew is a small reminder of how unique Korean hospitality can be.

Hanging strings of glass or crystal in the entrance of a cafe.
The Seongsu-dong neighborhood is known for stylish spaces, and the crystal entrance at Puff Out is no exception.

Puff Out

Seoul has many trendy neighborhoods, but none probably feels as exciting as Seongsu-dong. Considered by many to be the “Brooklyn“ of Seoul, here old warehouses and auto repair shops are scattered among new hip cafés and colorful boutiques.

In just a few blocks, many cafés compete to be the coolest space in the neighborhood. While it is impossible to find a winner, surely Puff Out stands out as one of the coffee shops with the most striking design, especially thanks to its entrance that looks like a shower of crystals.

Inside, the space is hip and cozy, and the coffee offering consists of creative signature drinks served alongside classic espresso drinks. It’s an ideal place to start exploring the neighborhood coffee scene.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a specialty-coffee barista, a traveler, and a dreamer. When she’s not behind the coffee machine (or visiting some hidden corner of the world), she’s busy writing for Coffee Insurrection, a website about specialty coffee that she’s creating along with her boyfriend.

Cover image of the April + May 2024 19th Anniversary Issue

Subscribe and More!

Out now: It’s the April + May 2024 issue of Barista Magazine! Read it for free with our digital edition. And for more than three years’ worth of issues, visit our digital edition archives here.

You can order a hard copy of the magazine through our online store here, or start a subscription for one year or two.

About baristamagazine 2104 Articles
Barista Magazine is the leading trade magazine in the world for the professional coffee community.