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Exploring Seoul’s Unique Cafe and Bakery Scene: A Guide for Foreign Visitors

tartine barkery


Seoul’s café and bakery culture uniquely blends traditional Korean flavors with innovative modern culinary trends. This vibrant fusion has made the city’s cafés and bakeries a central part of daily life and a must-visit for foreigners seeking authentic and distinctive culinary experiences.

Traditional Korean Cafés

Beautiful Tea Museum in Insadong offers a traditional Korean tea experience set in a renovated Korean house. The museum showcases an extensive collection of tea-related artifacts spanning from ancient times, providing a historical context to the tea experience. Visitors can enjoy a variety of teas in a serene setting, which also includes options like coffee and green tea lattes, making it a perfect spot for both tea novices and connoisseurs.

kyungin museum
Kyungin Museum of Fine Art

Kyungin Museum of Fine Art, also located in Insadong, complements its art exhibits with a traditional tea house in its courtyard. Here, visitors can enjoy traditional Korean teas and snacks surrounded by art, offering a cultural experience that bridges the traditional with the aesthetic.

Modern and Specialty Cafés

Anthracite Coffee Roasters in Itaewon is known for transforming old factory spaces into chic coffee spots. The café serves up freshly roasted beans in a trendy, industrial setting, appealing to modern tastes and styles.


Zapangi, located in Mangwon, stands out for its unique entrance through a pink vending machine door, leading into a space that’s highly popular on social media. Known for its visually stunning drinks and desserts, Zapangi offers a quirky twist on the café experience that’s both modern and Instagram-worthy.

These highlighted spots offer just a glimpse into Seoul’s diverse café and bakery scene, each providing unique experiences that reflect both the traditional heritage and modern.

Fusion and Theme Bakeries

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in Apgujeong : Originally from San Francisco, Mr. Holmes Bakehouse has become a phenomenon in Seoul, particularly famous for introducing the cruffin (a croissant-muffin hybrid) to the local bakery scene. The bakery infuses unique local flavors into this signature item, offering fillings like matcha and black sesame to cater to Korean tastes. The bakery’s chic, minimalist interior, coupled with its innovative approach to traditional pastries, makes it a popular spot among both locals and tourists seeking a taste of San Francisco with a Korean twist.

tartine barkery
Tartine Bakery in Itaewon

Tartine Bakery in Itaewon : Another San Francisco transplant, Tartine Bakery in Itaewon excels at blending its famed bread-making prowess with local ingredients. The bakery offers a range of breads and pastries that incorporate Korean elements, such as kimchi ciabatta or red bean buns, providing a unique culinary experience that merges Western baking techniques with Eastern flavors. Tartine’s commitment to organic ingredients and artisanal methods has earned it acclaim in Seoul’s bustling culinary landscape.

Artisanal Coffee Shops and Roasteries

Fritz Coffee Company in Mapo : Known for its meticulous approach to coffee, Fritz Coffee Company roasts its beans on-site to ensure freshness and quality. The café is a favorite among coffee aficionados in Seoul, appreciated for its robust selection of single-origin coffees and expert brewing methods. The interior, reminiscent of a traditional Korean home, provides a cozy, inviting atmosphere that complements the rich aromas of freshly brewed coffee.

onion cafe
Onion in Seongsu-dong

Onion in Seongsu-dong : Housed in a renovated warehouse, Onion is an industrial-style café known for its artisanal bread and specialty coffee. The café retains elements of its industrial past, which adds a rustic charm to the dining experience. Onion’s commitment to quality is evident in its homemade bread, baked daily, and its carefully crafted coffee, making it a must-visit for those seeking a blend of industrial aesthetics with gourmet artisanal fare.

Vegetarian and Vegan Options

plant cafe
Plant in Itaewon

Plant in Itaewon : Plant is a beacon for the plant-based community in Seoul, offering a completely vegan menu that includes a variety of pastries, meals, and desserts. Known for its commitment to sustainability and health-conscious dining, Plant serves up dishes like vegan burgers, wraps, and a delectable range of vegan baked goods that prove plant-based eating doesn’t compromise on flavor. The café’s friendly atmosphere and consistent quality have made it a staple for both locals and expatriates.

The Bread Blue in Sinchon : Renowned for its vegan-friendly offerings, The Bread Blue provides a wide selection of breads, pastries, and cakes that are completely free from animal products. Highlights include vegan versions of traditional Korean pastries, making it an excellent spot for vegans and those with dietary restrictions to enjoy without worry. The bakery’s commitment to quality and inclusivity has garnered a loyal following within Seoul’s vegan community.

Each of these venues not only offers quality and innovation in their culinary offerings but also exemplifies Seoul’s dynamic and evolving food scene, making them essential stops for anyone wanting to experience the city’s modern tastes alongside traditional influences.

Café and Bakery Etiquette in Seoul

Navigating the café and bakery scene in Seoul involves understanding and respecting local customs, which may differ significantly from those in other countries. In Seoul, the café culture is marked by a few key etiquettes that enhance the experience for everyone involved:

Tipping Practices : Unlike in many Western countries, tipping is not customary in Korean cafés and bakeries. The service fee is usually included in the price, and offering a tip might confuse or surprise the staff.

Conversation Volume : Korean cafés often double as study or workspaces, and as such, maintaining a quiet environment is considered essential. Patrons are expected to keep their conversations at a low volume to avoid disturbing others, reflecting the broader cultural emphasis on respect and consideration for others.

Practical Tips for Café Hoppers

To make the most of your café hopping adventure in Seoul, consider these practical tips:

Best Times to Visit : Cafés in Seoul can get particularly crowded during weekends and lunch hours. To avoid the rush, consider visiting on weekday mornings or late afternoons when the ambiance is quieter, and you’re more likely to secure a good spot.

Useful Korean Phrase s:

  • “Coffee, please” – 커피 주세요 (Keopi juseyo)
  • “One more, please” – 하나 더 주세요 (Hana deo juseyo)
  • “Check, please” – 계산서 주세요 (Gyesanseo juseyo)
    These phrases will help you order and pay for your items, even if the staff doesn’t speak fluent English.


Seoul’s cafés and bakeries offer a unique window into the blend of tradition and modernity that characterizes the city. From traditional tea houses preserving centuries-old practices to ultra-modern cafés showcasing the latest in coffee brewing technology, each establishment offers a unique taste of Korean culture. Visitors are encouraged to explore these diverse offerings, not just for the delicious treats and brews but also to connect more deeply with the local culture and lifestyle. Whether you’re a coffee aficionado, a tea lover, or someone in search of a cozy corner to unwind, Seoul’s café and bakery scene is sure to enrich your travel experience.



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