I had just traveled for two hours from my home to the Dutch embassy and I thought it would be a waste of the time I spent in public transport to just go back and forth. Then I remembered there is a very special cafe in an unlikely place just two stops from the embassy. It was finally time to check it out.
I'm always on the lookout for new cafes. I make it my mission to avoid the big chains if I can and go to the small independent ones, because their interior is way more interesting to photograph and their coffee is usually better. So when my friend @rikaty, who shares my passion for cafes and coffee, told me about this cafe, I had to check it out.
Coffee Hanyakbang (커피한약방) is not very easy to spot if you don't know of its existence. When you walk around this area nothing hints at that there is a cafe hidden somewhere. The cafe is located in probably the narrowest alley of Seoul. It reminds me of those photos of claustrophobic alleys of Hong Kong I frequently see on the internet; electrical wires hanging out in the open, drainage pipes, windows that look out on to a wall a few meters away from them. Stepping into this alley and into the cafe is almost like stepping into a portal from Korea to China, if not for the Hangul written everywhere.
That atmosphere is very fitting because Coffee Hanyangbang's interior is also influenced by China. I don't know if they saw this alley and decided to design their cafe this way, but it couldn't be a better match. The interior of the cafe is decidedly different from other cafes I have seen in Seoul. The walls and ceiling are rugged and unfinished and the cafe is full of Shanghai antiques. It is refreshing that the cafe isn't styled to the very last detail and full of cute little things, which so many cafes in Seoul are.
I was there around noon and the atmosphere in the cafe was very lively, with people coming in constantly during their lunch break to order a take out or just sit for a few minutes enjoying their coffee over conversation. It just felt like Seoul life was happening all around me while I was sitting back and drinking my coffee. The staff was also very friendly so I really felt welcome while visiting this place.
And the coffee! Black, dark, and strong. Just the way I like it. They roast the beans themselves by hand, which you can definitely taste because the coffee is so fresh. The price is surprisingly affordable with 3800 Won for a simple coffee and 4500 Won for a hand drip coffee with beans of your choice. Apparently, you can even tell them your preference for how strong you drink your coffee and they make it for you. If coffee isn't what you want, they have some tea, fruit juice, and some other drinks as well.
How to get there
Get out at Euljiro 3-ga Station (을지로3가역 Line 2 and 3) Exit 1. Follow the road and turn right at the first opportunity. Walk until you see a GS25. The cafe is in a very narrow alley just before that GS 25. Click here to see a video with directions.
101-34 Euljiro 2 ga, Junggu, Seoul (서울시 중구 을지로2가 101-34)
This cafe was recommended to me by my friend @rikaty. Go follow her on Instagram, because she shows many more interesting places on her Instagram.
If you want to know a bit more background information about this cafe, pheurontay.com has a very informative post on it as well. Go check it out!