As December is the last month of the year, and it’s always the hardest one. We are eager to meet our deadlines, sum up our progress, and make plans for the next year. Needless to say, it is pretty stressful for everyone. And, no matter how much you’ve worked during the year, you deserve to stop for a minute, find a place to center yourself, and just reflect on all you’ve accomplished. In my opinion, nothing is better for this activity than one of Korea’s many lovely Hanok Cafes.
I wanted to spend some time alone, without friends; just me, myself, and time. Taking some time to just go to lovely places alone helps me put my thoughts in order. Normally, I love walking around parks and forests. But December isn’t the best month for long-distance walking, especially in Seoul. I wasn’t ready for such bitter cold, and am not a fan.
So, I searched for nature walk alternatives. That is how I stumbled onto the idea of spending time at Hanok cafes. The natural wood and neutral tones give the same soothing feeling as a nature walk. As a result, Hanok cafes have become my place of choice to de-stress during the winter months.
Over the last few years hanok guest houses, cafes, and hotels have become very popular not only among tourists but also among local residents. The original meaning of the word “hanok” is housing where you can feel at home. They are wooden and tiny, creating a wonderful and warm atmosphere. Such an experience allows you to plunge into the long-forgotten atmosphere of living along with nature. Hanoks have an inner space that directly connects with nature. Guests can open the doors to the “madang” or courtyard and enjoy the outdoors from within the shelter of the building. After all, initially, hanok was the embodiment of the desired union between nature, home, and people.
And so, here is my recommendation for some of the best Hanok Cafes in Seoul.
The first cafe is called Shinleedoga (신이도가). Bet you’ll be surprised when I tell you that it’s located not far away from the popular Hongdae street! Amid this lively modern neighborhood is a lone traditional building.
It hides in the narrow alleyway and you will probably have some difficulty finding it, but it is worth it. As an architect, I love the idea of connecting a traditional Hanok to a newly built, modern space.
In this particular Hanok, there are two sitting areas that you can choose between. First, is the outside courtyard. Second, is inside, looking out to nature in the courtyard.
The menu is fairly typical of cafes in Korea. My favorites were the latte and the red velvet cake!
Lifehack: if you visit it before noon, it’ll be easy to find a free table and also fresh baked goods. Also, you can take a marshmallow and grill it on the open fire in the courtyard. Does it sound winter enough?
Shinleedoga (신이도가) Address: 20-12, Jandari-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul Korean address: 서울 강남구 선릉로157길 25 B1F Operating Hours: 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM
The second cafe is in one of my favorite places in Seoul – Ikseondong. Soha Saltpond (소하염전) is quite large and seems to be very popular among locals, so you may have to wait in a queue. I love the little salt pond they made in the inner courtyard. You can also find a little mill there! It has such a nice and lovely courtyard that makes you feel somewhere in the suburbs, not in the center of Seoul.
Here some of the highlights, other than the architecture, are the size of the coffee and the bakery. Fresh baked goods are made daily and their cups are huge! Everything combined makes it one of my favorite places in Seoul!
Lifehack: take your seat not at the ordinary tables, but in the bar. Under the glass countertop, you’ll see water and salt. Real magic! P.S. try this tasty coconut cream pastry – it also looks like a little salt hill.
Soha Saltpond (소하염전) Address: 21-5, Supyo-ro 28-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul Korean address: 서울 종로구 수표로28길 21-5 (익선동) Operating Hours: 09:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Next on our list of Hanok cafes is Cafe Onhwa. It is not far from the one mentioned above. The space is large and bright. Unlike the others, it is better for meeting friends rather than going alone. But if you’ll come by yourself, it will still be a good experience.
Lifehack: try their souffle pancakes and flat white. This is a first, something that I found for the first time here in Korea.
Cafe Onhwa (카페온화 익선점) Address: 21-10, Supyo-ro 28-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul Korean address: 서울 종로구 수표로28길 21-10 Operating Hours: 12:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Last but not least, Boot Cafe. It has two locations in Seoul, one in Paris, and quite a curious history. The first cafe was actually opened in Paris and came to Seoul.
It has a funny label with one boot and the atmosphere of little France (which is kinda crazy as it’s located in a traditional Korean house). The hanok itself is small but it’s a great opportunity to spend some time alone listening to unobtrusive music and reading books.
I am totally in love with the peaceful and romantic atmosphere and design of this hanok! I just keep coming back to it again and again.
Lifehack: The coconut latte is totally worth trying – it’s made of coconut milk, not sweet syrup.
Boot Cafe Seochon (부트 카페 서촌) Address: 46, Jahamun-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul Korean address: 서울 종로구 자하문로 46 Operating Hours: Wed - Sun: 11:00 AM - 8:00 PM
I hope you can find a place where you feel at peace with yourself and can just take some time to relax. When you visit some of these places, remember to turn off your head and try to enjoy good coffee, nature, and yourself.
Want to learn a little bit more about Hanok architecture? Click Here for more information.