Don’t miss your last chance this year to dine outdoors in the greenery—here are the best restaurants and cafes to catch some flowers and forest.
Appearing like a private residence at first glance, the patio-garden out front is modestly decorated with pink crepe myrtle trees and white mophead hydrangeas that line your way to the entrance. Though perhaps a little too hot during the humid summer months, there’s outdoor seating and even a porch swing with yellow roses at its feet for when the weather gets cooler. The café prides itself on its selection of imported Belgium Corné Port-Royal chocolates. Rich in taste, they pair nicely with Café 105’s signature drink—the tea-coffee (which is infused with Florté: Jardin des Thés’ pink rose bud tea). Inside, there’s regular seating across the first floor counter and several private rooms upstairs to really accentuate the feeling that you’ve just come over a friend’s house in the middle of the day.
With so many cafes to choose from on the popular Insadong to Samcheong-dong course, you might not necessarily look twice at Café Hue based on outside appearances. Coffees are standard and the teas a bit more sugary than average. It’s a combination of the greenery in the front yard and the killer view of Gyeongbok Palace (and its surrounding pagodas) from the café’s rooftop that makes it truly worth going to. Unlike other cafes in the neighborhood, Café Hue’s large space encompassing a patio plus two levels almost guarantees that they will have seating and the luxury to walk around. After being bombarded by one attraction after another, it’s a scenic and stress-free location to sit outside under some shade.
Literally translated from the Korean as “tea-drinking garden,” Cha-teul is a hanok resting on a hilltop that has everything you might want for a tea-café in Samcheong-dong. Quiet classical music plays as you step inside without your shoes on and teas are served with detailed instructions on traditional sets. Looking outside the hanok, there’s an unparalleled view of the small houses that make up the neighborhood and looking within the hanok, there’s a well-kept garden full of flowers and small lights. While beautiful all times of the day, there’s a particular hour right before the sun sets that fills the entire hanok with a touch of gold. The most difficult choice is not what to drink, but which view to rest your eyes.
“Blüte would have been great to write about if it were still open,” a few friends commented when they found we were writing this piece. Though the original Hannam-dong location closed down a few months ago, many are unaware they relocated to a side street in Hongdae. Meaning flower or blossom in German, Blüte is the quintessential garden café to witness both. Outdoor seating means dainty patio chairs under shady trees and potted flowers while sitting inside makes for picturesque flowers, both recently bloomed and dried. Though not necessarily comfortable for lounging around and drinking, a small garden shed beside the main building best defines “lovely.” Hundreds of yellow roses hang from the ceiling and recreate a scene from the famous 2003 Korean drama Summer Scent. Beware the power-bloggers galore, but the café is still quite lovely.
The name of this tea-café, “Suyeonsanbang” literally translates into “a small home in the forest where literary people used to meet” and the title’s appropriate as it was once home to late Korean author Lee Tae-jun. This hanok home served as the backdrop to several of his short stories and was the main setting his 1943 novel, "HaebangJeonhu" as well. Hidden on the side slope of a hill and tucked behind a rainbow of flowers and a small forest of trees, it’s not hard to imagine how a writer could draw inspiration whilst in this charming hideaway. Talked about on media outlets in Japan, France and the UK, the home consists of several rooms and chairs around the space. The tea collection on the menu is impressive and their ability to take something like medicinal herb ssanghwa-cha and make it delicious, even more so.
Looking for the cafe with the biggest garden to relax in? Lee Jae-hyo's sculptures planted there may look like spoiled donuts, but artwork aside, it’s a nice garden cafe that sits in the middle of Sungok Art Museum sculpture park. The trees don new colors, creating a million-dollar scenery of nature and art. Those doubtful might question whether it’s really worth it with an entry fee of 4,000 won, but trust us, there’s something to be gotten out of it. The ticket includes a free beverage (although we can't guarantee the quality of coffee), so we'd say it's a pretty sweet deal.
With straw grass peeking out from potted boxes that sit on the sidelines and red wine being poured gracefully into tall glasses, if there’s ever a time for the words “upscale” and “countryside” to be together, it’s here. You’d almost forget that you’re right in the heart of the city, actually on Namsan, except for the spectacular view of downtown right at your feet—it almost looks like an advertisement straight out of a European travel agency magazine. Unlike many fancy Italian restaurants that are experimenting with sauces, Harvest Namsan’s menu consists of simple dishes such as aglio olio, carbonara and mare pomodoro that they’ve done well. Although brunch food is rumored to be equally good, opt for a reservation at the sunset just for the view.