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The best cafés in Gangnam

Walk into the wrong place in this hood and you'll end up paying incredibly high prices for sub-par coffee. So walk into these amazing cafés instead…

Dior Café

On the 5th floor of Dior’s flagship store sits a peaceful yet glamorous café. Once the doors of the space open, it can be slightly intimidating as one is ushered towards the elevator located near the back of the first floor. The café is known for serving up-scale desserts crafted by world famous pâtissierPierre Hermé, the Picasso of pastry. Notable on the menu is the Glacee Ispahan, which is served in a wine glass ornately filled with a mixture of red, pink, and white creams and sorbets.

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Kobalt

Out on the main street of Garosugil, it’s hard to find a quiet café—even on weekdays during office hours—much less one that also manages to feel cozy and elegant at the same time. However, here at Kobalt, located near Saerosu-gil, you’re invited to come sit, order a coffee and read a magazine (Time Out Seoul is also available here, wink wink). Kobalt, which used to be on the main road of Garosugil, relocated here in 2012 and with the reopening, added a café as well. Assistant manager, Geena Woo, who spent some time in London said: “Once I came back to Korea, I realized how few spaces exist where one could sit and read for hours.” The menu includes a variety of drinks that range from simple coffee to the Double Espresso Chocolat and several yogurt parfaits to alcoholic beverages, such as mulled wine. For those that come to the café empty handed, there are a variety of goods, such as several editions of Monocle books, fashion and lifestyle magazines, journals and calendars, for sale upstairs at the Kobalt Shop to occupy one’s time. It is safe to say that Kobalt is one of our new favorite venues.

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Collection Café and Lounge

Walk into the first floor and café of Collection Café and Lounge’s three-story building and it’s hard to imagine that the building was originally a kindergarten. The bright corner space faces a large seating area for you to enjoy your coffee while you admire the collection of LPs arranged on the wall. In stark contrast, but keeping with the kitsch and vintage feeling, there’s a lounge hidden downstairs in the basement level where a stronger sense of playfulness pervades. A different type of artwork, reminiscent of a jungle theme, occupies each dark nook. On weekends, DJs come to spin music that flows out until 3’o clock in the morning (incredibly late for Apgujeong lounge standards), while professional baristas prepare exquisitely detailed cocktails. The second floor is reserved for smaller exhibitions. Collection’s CEO, Shin Yoon-ju, says they would like for the space to become “more than just a café” and plans to hold cultural events, concerts and pop-up stores for local designers.

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Rubrica

Rubrica café is one of the most popular cafés in Cheongdam at the moment. It is located on the 4th floor of Boon the Shop and also runs a restaurant in the same building. They serve up tasty cakes, cookies and sandwiches with simple but chic presentation. Some of Rubrica's pastries, like their butter ring cookies with jam or cookies made with half a dried fig and cream cheese, are unique and hard to find in other places. Coffee is quite expensive (upwards 9,900 won for an ice Americano), but the fact that it can be refilled once and includes two hours of free valet parking service in the heart of pricey Cheongdam somewhat softens the blow. The open view, uncommon in this crowded city, its tasteful furtnishings, and the bright smiles of the staff all contribute to a time well spent.

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Sinsa-dong

Mr.Holmes Bake House

If New Yorkers talk about Magnolia Bakery, then Californians talk about Mr. Holmes Bakehouse. Originally from San Francisco, this Seoul location is the first to branch outside the U.S. Customers are limited to a max of two products each and this place doesn’t even have a signboard. But people still stand in line to eat here. In their bakery in San Francisco, people stand in two different lines—one for cruffins and the other for baked goods. The cruffin has a Croissant-like texture and the flavor of a muffin. Meanwhile, their brioche donut (a French donut made of butter, eggs and sugar) comes in at a close second favorite. To ensure likeness in quality, the bakers working in Seoul received two months of training in San Francisco. The neon sign inside mimics the one in San Francisco reading, “I got Baked in Seoul,” reflecting the atmosphere and wit of its main branch in the U.S. 

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C-Four Cake Boutique

Café La Lee, a landmark in Apgujeong, has reopened with a renovated patisserie. Not too long ago, Café La Lee was known as one of the hottest meeting spots in the area rivaling that of a hotel coffee shop, with patrons being turning back for lack of seats. Now reopened with a new name in Sinsa-dong, C-Four Cake Boutique is living up to its reputation as yet another hot spot. The interior may be a tad old school (we can't help but wonder if that's intentional), but its coffee, poured in a large showcase cup, is still worth every penny. If you're feeling dainty, you can also opt to sip your coffee from one of their charming petite cups instead of from a big mug. The tarts and cakes using seasonal fruits are all tempting, but the cream cheese strawberry tart with its generous heap of strawberries is our favorite.

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Sinsa-dong
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Fika

Fika is said to be the first venue to introduce Scandinavian café culture to Seoul. Its owner worked at GM, Saab, Cadillac and HSBC Premium, sending him on business trips around the world, including Stockholm, where he found the inspiration to open this café. Lovingly decorated in the Scandinavian style, the three story shop also sells furniture and stationery. Enthusiasts of Scandinavian style will find the place more than satisfying. The second floor café serves coffee brewed from Lindvall coffee beans, the coffee suppliers to the Swedish Royal House, as well as various desserts. This is an excellent place to try novelties like Swedish style egg coffee and semla (traditional buns with cream).

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Sinsa-dong

Rubrica

Rubrica café is one of the most popular cafés in Cheongdam at the moment. It is located on the 4th floor of Boon the Shop and also runs a restaurant in the same building. They serve up tasty cakes, cookies and sandwiches with simple but chic presentation. Some of Rubrica's pastries, like their butter ring cookies with jam or cookies made with half a dried fig and cream cheese, are unique and hard to find in other places. Coffee is quite expensive (upwards 9,900 won for an ice Americano), but the fact that it can be refilled once and includes two hours of free valet parking service in the heart of pricey Cheongdam somewhat softens the blow. The open view, uncommon in this crowded city, its tasteful furtnishings, and the bright smiles of the staff all contribute to a time well spent.

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Sinsa-dong

Bloom and Goûté

One of the original places that ushered in the booming cafe and restaurant scene of Garosugil, Bloom and Goûté is the joint effort of a florist who worked in UK and a patissier who built his career in France. As its name suggests, it is a place where café meets flower shop. Nowadays it's actually not that uncommon of a sight, but this was a novel experience back when it first opened. And luckily for us, the lovely flower center pieces on each table and cakes freshly baked in-house everyday are still as eye-catching and tasty as they were at opening. It was originally situated on the main road of Garosugil but has since moved to a quieter nearby alley a few years back. The terrace where you could once sit and soak in the ambience of Garosugil is now gone, but the energy and delightful ambience of the old Bloom and Goûté is still there. They also revamped their menu with the move, adding brunch and organic teas as well as detox teas.

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Sinsa-dong
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The Pancake Epidemic

Originally from LA, The Pancake Epidemic is special in many ways. First of all, their focus isn’t breakfast, as the name may suggest, but on being the only place in Korea that serves Stumptown Coffee, one of America’s best coffee roasters. Secondly, The Pancake Epidemic didn’t actually even start out as a cafe—it was initially a gathering for advertising creatives who would get together to have conversations over Stumptown coffee. Now Seoulites can have their creative conversations over Stumptown coffee, too, whether its espresso, cold brew, pour over or French press. You can also buy Stumptown beans and cold brew coffee, which make unique gifts (we especially love the cold brew bottle design). Their recent collaboration with Korean street fashion culture brand Kasina lends a hip flair to the cafe, and since they recently began serving pancakes, you really have no excuse to not enjoy a little breakfast and pretend, for just a little bit, that you’re in LA.

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Sinsa-dong

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