When you head to a place like Seoul, you normally have an itinerary, or a vague idea of what sort of trip you’d like to have. I met up with a friend this weekend with the idea that we would visit some art museums and go to her tattoo consultation. A very artsy weekend indeed.
I met up with her Saturday morning. She had taken the train up the night before. I appreciated the few solo hours I had to look around and be a tourist. I really enjoy those quiet moments. I see so many little details that I miss on a daily basis.
We met up at the Olympic Park. It’s been on my wish list since before I came to Seoul. Sports generally aren’t my thing – especially watching them. The Olympics are a different story. The ceremony and variety appeal to me. If I get bored with one sport, there’s five more to watch. Weirdly, kayaking is my favorite to watch. I remember watching it during the 2012 Summer Olympics and thinking, ‘How can these guys battle the current?’ That takes skill! Also, the track is pretty amazing. If I become insanely rich, I want a kayaking track in my backyard.
We weren’t at the park for the Olympic history though. The art museum within the park is curating an exhibit of Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s work. I had never seen Kahlo’s work in person. The museums back home have had some wonderful Spanish art exhibits, and Georgia O’Keefe is a mainstay in the area; but other exhibits pass you by. No photography was allowed near the art. That was fine with me. I’d rather experience it. Patrons could bring out their cameras around the clothing displays.
Several of Kahlo’s outfits were being presented . Oh boy, I love clothes. It’s one of the first things I notice about people. How they put themselves together, and present their personal image to the world. Frida had impecccable taste. The hand embroidery was exquisite. I wanted to get my hands on the dresses to see how they were constructed.
A display of Contemporary Mexican art was in a separate hall. This art was much more up my ally than Kahlo and Diego’s work. Historically, it’s interesting, but I’ll take the Pre-Raphealites, or 19th-21st century book illustration any day. I prefer certain themes. You know you have a certain style when someone tells you, “This is creepy. I bet you like this.”
After the museum, we headed to the palace in the center of Seoul.
It’s lovely at the palace. Entrance is free for the month of July if you are planning to visit Seoul!
The rest of the day was spent looking at tattoo prices and eating fish tacos. I’ve missed them. I didn’t even realize how much until we went to Coreanos Kitchen, in Itaewon. Highly recommend it if you love Baja Mexican food. To me, it tasted like home.
On to the main event! My friend left early the next day, and I had the time to myself. I’ve seen many of the major attractions in Seoul. It being Sunday, the ones I hadn’t seen were closed. There’s always next time. What with me being who I am, I decided to do a whirlwind tour of Mapo-gu district’s cafes. Going to most of Seoul’s cafes in a day is a bit too ambitious. I’ll have to go district by district as time permits.
Location: A five minute walk from Sinchon Station
I visited this cafe on my first day in Seoul. It deserves to be included though, because the layout was so cozy. As the name suggests, this place specializes in macarons. I spotted this place on our way to the tattoo parlour, and had to check it out during my friend’s consultation.
The place did not disappoint. The pumpkin drinks were out of season, but the green tea latte was very good. Not too sweet, not too bitter. If you too are a fan of all things pumpkin, wait to come here in the winter.
The owner brought me a citrus macaron as service. Yum! There was citrus jam in the center, and the cookie wasn’t overly sweet.
The layout was the original draw for me. This place is made for rainy days.
Location: Seoul, Mapo Gu Seogyo Dong, 408-27번지, Near Hongik University
I started out my caffeine tour the next day at Cafe Comma. It had great reviews on Foursquare. We had passed it the previous day, and I knew I had to visit. Every wall is a bookcase! Seriously, I need to live in cafes. Or turn my house into a cafe in the future.
The coffee was very good. No bitter aftertaste, and this was the best latte art of the cafes I visited. When I told the barista “Pretty!” in Korean, he grinned at me. I think he appreciated my love of the latte arts.
The green tea macaron was also a nice way to start the day. The green tea flavor is very light for those who are a little wary of the green tea powder.
Location: 마포구 잔다리로 105, Seo gyo dong, Seoul, 121-842, South Korea
Cafe Conhas was by far the most visually appealing of the cafes I visited. It’s made of storage containers and an old, ripped up house! What’s not to love? In face, I want to live here. Even if I don’t live in Seoul, I want this house transported to my next location.
This dog had the run of the cafe. He stayed by the entrance and chilled while I was there. I tried petting him, but he just wanted to keep to himself. Understandable when so many people are coming and going throughout the day.
There were two types of coffee to choose from- Everyman and Bittersweet. I went with the Bittersweet. Nice full flavor. No nasty aftertaste. I would order this again. The coffee had cooled by the time they brought it to me. The two baristas had their hands full, but I’ve got to knock them a few points for that. Coffee is meant to be just below boiling when it arrives. Also got a chocolate cranberry scone. Not the best, but still good.
Cafe Something Else
Location: 마포구 연남동 250-10
I stumbled upon this place on my way to the next cafe. It was cute, the wind was blowing. I figured why not.
As you can guess by the sign, this place had a relaxed music theme. Spanish jazz played in the background, with several photos of musicians on the wall. Lots of plants brightened up the place. The atmosphere was better for business meetings and solo work than dates.
Cafe Something Else is a small roaster. You don’t see many of those in Korea. I asked what the best coffee is, and the guy recommended an ice americano for summer. That is a sign of a good roaster. If the plain coffee can’t speak for itself, don’t trust the coffee lurking in those sugary drinks.
Location: Mapo Gu, Yang Hwa Ro 7 Gil 53
Considering this is the fourth cafe I had visited in a day, you may have guessed I was twitching by now. You would be right. The caffeine was getting to me. I could have flown to this cafe if I’d tried hard enough. No, wait. Let me never get that caffeinated.
I couldn’t stop drinking coffee! This place was also a roaster. If I went to a roaster and had the smoothie or tea, I couldn’t live with myself. Who knows when I’d be back? I could never have a chance to try their roast.
I’d never heard of a Cafe Saigon, so I had to try it. Unsurprisingly, it’s Vietnamese Coffee. I’ve only had this sort once before. Back in California, it had way too much syrup. This was much lighter. Still too sweet for my taste, but very good.
I left after a short while, and the barista was kind of enough to pour the rest of my coffee in a take out cup. Except, my eyes were beginning to dilate from all the coffee. Seriously, the reason I had to leave is because I couldn’t stop moving. The caffeine demanded I run a marathon.
Cafe de Leia
Location: Mapo Gu Seo Gyo Dong 395-98
I found this place as I was shaking off the jitters. It had a cute interior, specialized in green tea, and had solid food. That was enough for me. Anything but coffee!
This place was the perfect break in between the caffeine binge. I got to charge my phone and enjoy the quiet. I watched a random Korean guy chase a puppy up and down the street, and listened to friends gossip in a language I barely understand.
Location: 용산구 보광로 76, Bo gwang dong, Seoul, 140-823, South Korea
I couldn’t leave Seoul without stopping by this place. It has part of my name in its title! Admittedly, so do a lot of things. Hell is a pretty common word in the English language. The Hell Cafe isn’t even in Mapo Gu, but I had to make an exception.
I ordered the Hell Latte, because why not? So glad I did. This was hands down the best coffee of any of the cafes I visited. The other places were good, but I didn’t have to sit and think about the universe after the first sip of those coffees. This stuff was amazing. I sat right next to the work area, so I got to watch the process. The two baristas put so much love and attention into each cup.
If you are in the Itaewon area, head to this place. No. Just go right now. Whatever you are doing, get a flight to Seoul to drink this coffee.
I bought a bag of espresso beans there, which I have not opened yet. I’m saving them for a special occasion. Like the birth of my firstborn child, or the publication of my wildly successful novel.