When the world was cooking and rotating and God was about to sprinkle coffee, Seoul was right at his face.
Read my prologue here
Back when I was still naive and had a limited view of the world and its many beautiful nations, each with their own striking character, the only dream country that I could think of for travel was Japan. Because anime.
Then, as I grew up and smarter, I became more ambitious. I wanted to go out of the country more. My first out-of-the-country was Singapore, and, reading my old blog now, you can tell that I was really naive, LOL, but I’m linking it here anyway. It’s funny how I developed a bit of resentment in my own country and how I was amazed by Singapore’s “well-ventilated, clean and speedy” trains and “tall buildings.” I was young, so I guess I can forgive myself.
Looking for shows to cure boredom in college, I started watching Running Man, a South Korean variety show that got me literally rolling on the floor countless times. It was also the show that piqued my interest in Seoul, particularly with their episode where Kim Jong Kook’s team walked around Samcheongdong. Samcheongdong really impressed me, with its quaint and laidback neighborhood filled with coffee shops and nice little stores. So, the name of this small neighborhood got tattooed on my mind and became the motivating force for me to go to Seoul one day.
So, when I was deciding on my first solo overseas travel last year, Seoul was definitely my one and only choice.
My trip around Seoul was more easygoing compared to other tourists who require visiting every major tourist spot in the city. A huge part of my five-day trip consisted of walking around quaint neighborhoods and local markets and finding good food and coffee—mostly coffee. All I really wanted was to explore Seoul’s bustling coffee scene.
I started in Myeongdong, where I stayed on my first night. I woke up early just for the divine purpose of coffee and breakfast. The options are limited when you wake up ahead of the city, which is pretty much still dozing at 6 AM.
And then, it was on my second day that I explored Samcheongdong, which is also a late riser like Myeongdong. When I came here around 8 AM, Samcheongdong-gil Road barely had vehicles and pedestrians. And if it could snore, Samcheongdong would be blowing Zs all over the place. Some small cafes and stores would be open at 9, but I think it’s safer to set one’s visit to Samcheongdong around 10 AM, if you want to explore more options for food and shopping. Still, I enjoyed Samcheongdong even during the time I was practically the only person walking on the sidewalk. I was in love with the place. Just like on TV, Samcheongdong was tranquil and idyllic.
Yeonnamdong, which is adjacent to Hongdae, is also a perfect destination in Seoul for coffee lovers, especially Hongdae yuppies looking for a breather. Second to Samcheongdong, Yeonnamdong has also become my beloved place for coffee, a highlight of my Seoul coffee trip. The atmosphere is quite different—the bright, young, hip spirit is strong in Hongdae that it radiates across the adjacent neighborhoods including Yeonnamdong, while Samcheongdong is mostly placid and traditional-cultural.
I scoured other parts of the city, mostly in the Jongno-gu and Mapo-gu areas, and it is not difficult to find a good coffee shop, what with the thousands that have sprouted in the city like mushrooms—no, more like wildflowers overtaking a dull backyard. There are not only stylish cafes but also modest coffee stands that are worth the try. You can find them right in the middle of the city, hiding meekly amid local markets and on narrow alleys, as well as in the city outskirts. Hell, you can even get good coffee at a 7-Eleven!
For these reasons, I fell in love with Seoul even more. I felt like I had found my utopia.
Here are some of the coffee shops I tried (separate entries will follow soon)