6am in Hongdae, you’re sober, and you’ve gotta find a taxi home. I think a lot of young people who are from or have been to Seoul can relate to that scenario. Depending on where in Seoul you are, you might just have to wait till the bus or trains start to run again and you see the sun rise–maybe you’ve been waiting in a 24 hour coffee shop, a noraebang (places people go to sing karaoke), or a pc bang (game cafe). You finally make it back and crash, knowing you’ll probably wake up sometime in the afternoon the next day. The catch is, you can go out on any night in Seoul-yes, even on Sunday.
My heart hurts a bit even thinking about it – there’s no bonding like bonding in Korea. From chi-maek (chicken and beer) on the Han River to going to a pocha (bar) with your friends, there’s an intense culture there of being out and about with your friends. I never had one school club meeting that wasn’t followed by people going out together to spend more time chatting and having fun. Of course, I was nervous about meeting people- would they like me? Make fun of my Korean? Etc, etc. And, of course, there will always be people you don’t click with and- at that time- my Korean wasn’t at the level it is now (2 years in, as opposed to only 1 semester). But, honestly, I got lucky and fell in with a crowd that was so kind and fun to be around. I remember one girl in particular who tried to teach me phrases and, at the end of the semester, the school club I was a part of gave us gifts and took pictures with us before we left for Hong Kong.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, talking about leaving for Hong Kong. I have a wealth of places I bookmarked in my Naver Maps app and I want to share them and talk a bit about why they were some of my most-frequented places.
Coalmine Coffee Shop
Chances are that if I had a quiz the next day, you could find me here. The coffee shop is on the edge of Hongdae where Hapjeong begins. I love it because it’s a quiet space where there always seems to be room. It has a cool hip-hop/skater aesthetic, the baristas were always infinitely cool/aloof–well, except for this time I said “cheese” with an American accent and confused them.
This was actually one of the first cafes I ever went to in Korea. It holds really important memories for me. I was always taking friends there after dinner for coffee or to kill time before going out. Monoblock sits on top of a hill in Hongdae and has gigantic paned windows, plants, and a lovely patio to sit on when the weather is nice. On top of my favorite vanilla latte, the also had delicious food. One odd feature was a stuffed giraffe in the corner. I think they were going for explorer-vibes.
Clouds with Sky
If you only get one thing out of this — please go look at this dog cafe’s adorable Insta. Whenever I was stressed or needed to get out, I headed here. My favorite dog’s name is Sky in Korean and she’s a giant dog who looks like this:
Petting these dogs was always something I looked forward to and you could grab a decent coffee too while you were there. Some of the dogs belonged to the cafe owners but others were just brought in by their owners for some play time.
Fantastic Burger is owned by a famous rapper named Loco. As far as decor, the place is a throwback to a classic 50s looking American diner. Whenever I was feeling a little homesick, I would head here to grab an avocado burger. The staff is hella nice and they play great music, too.
This is the club I was at the most during my time in Seoul. If you like hip-hop, this is your prime spot. It’s got a really convenient location if you’re coming from being out in Hongdae or Hapjeong. I was almost always coming from my favorite pocha, so it was an easy walk past all the buskers. I always loved the dancing and atmosphere here.
I want to close things out with a place, neither a coffee shop or a club, that is a must visit. I have to shout out my friend Jennifer Lee for getting me to go with her! From Sky Park you can see all of Seoul. The park has a plateau where there’s a gorgeous field. Tons of people go there to take walks and I would consider it a photo destination too. It’s the perfect place to catch a sunset. I went when it wasn’t very busy and it was incredibly peaceful.