The Han River has had an important role in the history of Korea, where it has been fought over as early as the time of the Three Kingdoms, and even more recently, during the Korean War. Now the river serves as the water source of the city. A staggering 27 bridges cross the Han River in Seoul, and it's a kind of an open secret that there are cafes located on some. The English information on those cafes is already several years old and because Seoul changes as fast as you change your underwear, not all that information is correct anymore. Interiors changed, cafes changed owners, or in one case even turned into an art atelier. In other words, it is time for an update. Below is a selection of cafes located on (or near) the Han river.
Hannam Saemal Cafe (한남새말 카페)
Hannam Saemal Cafe is located on the south side of the Hannam bridge. It was formerly known as Cafe Rainbow, which had a bicycle theme, but sadly that kind of interior isn't there anymore. Instead, its kind of plain looking with cheap wooden tables and chairs. On the plus side, the coffee is decent and you can still enjoy the view. However, the location that the cafe is built on doesn't give you an unobstructed view of the river. The bridge and highway are between the cafe and the river and therefore obstruct the view somewhat. There are other cafes in this list with a better view of the river.
However, it's not the view nor the interior that makes this an attractive place to have a coffee. If you go down with the elevator or stairs you'll get under the bridge and you will be greeted with some of the finest murals that Seoul has to offer. Be aware that, like all the cafes on the bridges, the cafe doesn't have its own toilet. It is located in the park below and depending on when it was cleaned, it may not be the cleanest toilet in the city.
How to get there
Go to Sinsa Station (신사역) on line 3 and get out at Exit 3. Follow the road until you get to the second zebra crossing on your right hand. Cross just one part, turn left and take bus 140, 142, 241, 400, or 407. Get out at the bus stop on the Hannam Bridge. Click here to see a video with directions.
Address: 708, Gangnam-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 강남구 강남대로 708 (압구정동))
November-February: 10.00-23.00 (Friday-Saturday: 10.00-23.30)
Cafe Goorim (Cloud) and Cafe Noel (Sunset) (구름 & 노을 카페)
Cafe Goorim and Noel are located across from each other on the south side of the Dongjak bridge. These twin cafes look very similar on the outside as well as their interior. They have a neat and clean look, albeit it is a bit simple. The views of the river are thebest of all the cafes on this list. There is a clear view of the river and of the bridge and the Hangang park is also clearly visible. The coffee is very good, although a bit pricey. You can even have lunch or dinner if you would like to because they have a menu with a selection of pizzas and pastas.
The main attraction of these cafes are their terraces. Cafe Noel's terrace gives you a sunset view (hence the name Cafe Sunset) and you can clearly make out 63 Building and Namsan Tower. The cafes are a good spot for a romantic date and even advertise with a special for couples, although I didn't try it so I can't comment on what that actually is.
How to get there
Go to Dongjak station (on line 4 or 9) and get out at exit 1. Walk to the end of the path and make a left turn. You will see a staircase, which you will need to climb as it will take you on top of the bridge. Keep following the road and make a right turn. Cross the zebra and turn left. You will see the cafe in front of you. Click here to see a video with directions.
350 Dongjakdae-ro, Seocho-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 동작구 동작대로 350)
Go to Dongjak station (on line 4 or 9) and get out at exit 2. Don't go down the stairs, but go left just before it. You'll see a staircase going up the bridge. Walk up, follow the road, turn left, cross the zebra, and turn right again. The cafe is now in front of you. Click here to see a video with directions.
355 Dongjakdae-ro, Seocho-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 동작구 동작대로 335)
If you want to get from one cafe to the other, take the elevator down and walk under the bridge.
March - October 10:00- 2:00
November - February 10:00 - 0:00
Nodeulgyeonu Cafe (노들견우카페)
Nodeulgyeonu Cafe is the only cafe on this list that is located on the north side of the river (together with Nodeuljiknyo Cafe, but that one is not on this list because Nodeulgyeonu is significantly better) The cafe is built on the Hangang bridge and you have a nice view of Nodeul Island. Its interior is, like the other cafes on the bridges, pretty basic. The coffee isn't special either, but if this is the cafe that is closest to where you stay, it's a decent alternative to the other ones in this list.
How to get there
Go to Ichon Station (이촌역) on line 4 and go out at exit 3-1. From there make a right turn, walk to the end of the street, and turn left again. Walk until you see a zebra on your right. Cross that zebra and walk towards the main road. Turn right when you get there and walk towards the bus stop. Take bus 6211 and get out at the stop on the bridge. You'll see a cafe right in front of you, but that isn't the right one. Just take its elevator down, walk under the bridge to the other side, and take the elevator up to Nodeulgyeonu Cafe. Click here to see a video with directions.
496 Yangyeongro, Yongsangu, Seoul (서울특별시 용산구 양녕로 496)
12.00 - 0.00 weekdays
10.00 - 0.00 weekends
Cafe Naru (나루카페)
Cafe Naru is the only cafe on this list that is not located on a bridge, but on an island in the Han River. It's on the river side in Seonyudo Park, which is an old water filtration plant converted into an ecological park. The park has kept some elements from its past, which makes it quite a unique. The style of the cafe is also somewhat different than the rest on this list. With its red bricks it doesn't look like a typical Korean building.
It's a decent looking cafe that also doubles as a convenience store and chicken/pizza place. It has three terraces; one next to the cafe, and two on the top floor. All have a nice view of the river.
The atmosphere is calm and it feels like you're not in Seoul. It is a perfect place to get away from busy city life for a while without having to travel very far.
How to get there
Take subway line 9 and get out at Seonyudo Station (선유도역). Walk out of exit 2 and follow the road until you reach the highway. Go left before the highway and keep going until you see a metal railing. There's a path that leads to an overpass, which in its turn leads to a bridge. Cross both and you'll end up at the entrance of Seonyudo Park. Go down the big wooden stairs and look to your left, where you'll see a curve leading to a path that swerves to the right. Take that path and keep following it until you reach the cafe. Click here to see a video with directions.
343 Seonyuro, Yeongdungpogu, Seoul (서울 영등포구 선유로 343)
Riverview 8th Avenue (광진교 8번가)
The only place on this list that isn't actually a cafe, but its on a bridge (actually under) and it's special enough to write about. Riverview 8th Avenue is an art exhibit/cultural center in the middle of Gwangjin Bridge. It was also the set for the Korean drama IRIS. They remind you of that with a sign outside the entrance and a very creepy cardboard cutout of one of the actors, which made me feel like someone was constantly watching me. The building itself hangs under the bridge, with glass panels on the floor so that you can see the river flowing under your feet. Those glass panels are not so pleasant if you suffer from Acrophobia (like myself), because it gives you the constant feeling that you're going to fall off the bridge.
There's also a performance hall where live performances are held on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday nights. Seating for those performances is limited, so you need to reserve beforehand if you ever want to attend one. The views from the bridge and the building are amazing. Although the glass panels in the floor scared me shitless, they give off a nice light from the reflection of the river.
If you want to know more about this place, head over to their website (only in Korean). http://www.riverview8.co.kr
How to get there
There are two ways to get to Riverview 8th Avenue:
1. From Cheonho Station (천호역) on line 5 or 8: Get out at exit 2 and follow the road until you reach an intersection. Don't cross the intersection, but go left and follow that road until you reach the bridge. Keep walking on the bridge until you see a zebra. Cross that zebra and turn left. Walk until you see the entrance and a staircase that leads you down. Click here to see a video with directions.
2. From Gwangnaru Station (광나루역) on line 5: Get out at exit and cross the road. Turn left after crossing and follow the road until it splits with a curve to the right. Take that curve and follow the road until you reach the bridge. Keep walking on the bridge until you reach a zebra. Cross it and turn right. Walk until you reach the entrance and a staircase that leads you down. Click here to see a video with directions.
527-2, Cheonho 2-dong, Gangdong-gu, Seoul (서울 강동구 천호2동 527-2)
Winter (Dec-Feb) 10:00-21:00
Summer (Mar-Nov) 10:00-22:00