With a coffee shop on nearly every block, Seoul is famous for its café culture. But perhaps the most noteworthy of the city’s cafés are those that are themed. Featuring everything from monster motifs to poop paraphernalia, here are our picks for the most interesting of the lot.
Ddo-Ong Café (또옹카페)
Cafe, Fast Food, $$$
While poop may not be the most appetizing theme for a café, it’s certainly a popular one, as evidenced by the throngs of tourists who flock to Ddo-Ong Café on a daily basis. Situated on the roof of Insadong‘s Ssamziegil shopping complex, the café serves everything with a toilet twist. Colorful mini plungers hang from trees, squat toilets are placed strategically throughout the shop, and patrons take selfies with somewhat repugnant yet charming pooping dolls. Ddong bbang (poop bread) adds to the motif, and is much more appetizing than it sounds, while the rose coffee latte, which is served in a toilet-shaped mug, is a must-try.
If you’re a nature lover, Thanks Nature Café might just be the perfect place for you. Gorgeously designed, the café boasts a relaxing atmosphere with plenty of greenery and an earthy interior. Hanging on the walls are artistic portraits of various animals, but one stands out from the rest: sheep. In addition to small figures and stuffed versions of the fluffy fauna, there are also two live well-groomed sheep that reside at the café on the outside patio, where they can be visited by patrons as they enjoy their coffee. The café’s menu features a varied selection of beverages, which are all made with natural sweeteners. If you’re feeling famished, try their waffles, which are also particularly tasty. The sheep think so, too, so don’t get them too close to the pen.
As its name suggests, the Hello Kitty Café franchise is a tribute to the world’s cutest cat (er… school girl?) and and is a must-visit for her fans and those of her friends. From the wallpaper and tables to the bathroom mirrors, everything is themed, making it a great photo spot. In addition to serving up plenty of pink and loads of nostalgia, the café is famous for its cakes and drinks, all of which are decorated with the famous feline’s face.
Inspired by classic horror movies, the beautifully executed monster motif at Monster Cupcake makes it feel as if Halloween is every day. The artistry of the cupcakes, which feature torture devices, body parts, and scary creatures, is highly impressive, as are the icing details. Choose from items such as the tombstone tiramisu, vanilla cake topped with a light chocolate-coffee cream and a tombstone cookie, or the café mocha, which comes ornamented with a still-bleeding severed finger. Wash your edible art down with a cup of coffee, or some Monster Blood, which is juice packaged in a blood bag.
In a city that does nightlife a little too well, naps become essential for getting through the day, especially for office workers who are often required to attend after-work drinking sessions during the week. Which is exactly why Café naZzzam has been such a hit since it opened. Also known as the “Nap Café,” the establishment is equipped with comfy hammocks sectioned off with privacy curtains. Each hammock comes stocked with all the goods for a nice nap: blankets, slippers and a hot water bag. Soothing music ups the relaxation factor, and is sure to lure you into a deep sleep within minutes so you can quickly recover from your hangover, or rest from a busy afternoon of sightseeing. For just 6,000 won (US$5.50), you get one hour of naptime as well as a complimentary tea or coffee to help get you through the rest of the day.
Embrace your inner child and let your imagination run wild at Get & Show Café, a dessert bar that celebrates the childhood favorite Lego blocks in every way imaginable. From the giant figure that greets you at the entrance of the café to the large selection of Lego merchandise and kits, it’s hard not to spend hours playing the day away in this Hongdae establishment. If you don’t want to commit to buying a kit, you can rent one for 4,500 won (US$4.25) for 30 minutes. While you create, enjoy one of the café’s tasty drinks, cakes, or their Lego-like chocolate.
Every little girl dreams of one day becoming a princess, and at Princess Diary Café, these dreams can come true! At this popular Edae hangout, patrons can, for a fee of 15,000 to 30,000 won (US$14-$28), rent a ballgown, wedding dress, or hanbok(tradition Korean dress). Of course, there are plenty of photo ops to be had, as the café also boasts various studio-like sets complete with props and accessories. If you’re visiting Seoul with your squad, this is the spot to go to for a fun and flirty afternoon. Or, if your Prince Charming is willing to tag along for a visit, there are tuxedos to try on as well.
Transport yourself from the hanoks of Bukchon to the beaches of Southeast Asia at Mango Ray Philippines Tropical Dessert Café. Serving a variety of beverages and snacks ranging from Carabao mangoes (directly imported from Carabao Island), kaya toast, and Dewberry cookies to a dozen kinds of juices, the café is the perfect spot for a quick stop to relax on a hot summer day. The tropical décor, consisting of flip flops and coconut heads, adds to the theme, making the café extra Instagrammable.
Fans of Sherlock Holmes will immediately recognize this café’s name, as it is the address of the famous fictional detective. True to its name, the Gangnam coffee shop sticks to the theme, inspired by the BBC’s Sherlock, though in a subtler fashion. Displays showcase rotating pictures of the faces of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, while the coffee cup holders and savory cookies also convey the theme. The menu is fairly standard, and the coffee is mediocre, but the unique concept makes the café worth visiting.
A must-visit for LINE fanatics, this uber-cute café is chock full of LINE merchandise and LINE-themed items that will have you squealing for joy. Make your way to the basement, where you can select from a vast menu featuring character-inspired treats such as cookies, macaroons, cupcakes and lattes and enjoy them in a colorful, cartoon-like setting. Don’t forget to cozy up with the 3.2-metre-tall Brown bear for a photo before leaving. Even if you’re not a user of the popular messaging app, you’re sure to quickly fall in love with Sally, Moon, James, and the gang in this charming space.