Here's the scoop on where to find the best ice cream in Seoul, from acclaimed newcomers to old frozen favorites.
If there’s ever a time and a place to start with dessert first, it’s this place. To compare, I would have to refer to the strawberry sorbet at the famed Berthillon on Île Saint-Louis, Paris (sometimes referred to as “the most delicious ice cream in the world”). Soft and sweet, with the taste of fresh strawberries, it’s hard to believe that this strawberry sorbet has been hiding in Busan for the past three years where they were previously located. Ice creams are available as sorbets, as sorbets in a cocktail-like concoction called a ballon de glacier and as soft, milky variations (equally as good, in their own unique way). Inspired by British rock and quaintly decorated with touches of pink, their menu changes seasonally and includes simple French cuisine (but is limited to 30 dishes a day). Make sure to call in advance (they speak English) about availability, as this place is a must-visit.
There’s rarely open seating at Gelati Gelati, for good reason—their gelato is the best you’ll find in Hongdae (the owner here also studied gelato-making in Italy). They display more flavors than most and you can pick two flavors for a single (downside: no free samples). We’ll just have to come back to try them all. Pictured: Green tea and mango.
Sobok’s stark off-white interior with amber wood accents parallels the simplicity of their menu—they’re all about modern desserts based on Korean ingredients. Their most popular dessert item is the injeolmi iceball, little pieces of chewy rice cake covered in ice cream then rolled in bean powder, which you can order in sets of 9, 18 or 27 (they also come in gift boxes). They’re made fresh every morning. We’re also big fans of the soft serve ice cream, a vanilla with nutty hints of bean powder and sides of dried persimmon, steamed pumpkin, sunflower seeds, a drizzle of honey, and an injeolmi ice ball. Don’t get excited and eat the flower, too—it’s just for decoration. Big props to Sobok for using biodegradable paper cups—anyone who’s walked through Hongdae on an early morning and seen the area strewn with plastic knows how much trash gets carted out of this area every day. We only hope more shops follow suit.
What’s better than being able to craft your own ceramics? Having an ice cream to go with it, of course. Bangbae Mok-jang (meaning farm), reputed as the darling of Bangbae 42-gil, serves ice cream that you can order to go or enjoy while sitting down within their small studio space-cum-café. Here you can order either the vanilla or green tea organic milk ice cream topped with cacao powder, green tea powder, cacao chunks or almond chips. Incredibly smooth without the heavy after feeling, the ice cream is a nice addition to a one-day, two-hour class painting vases or cups. Frequented by children on school nights and couples during the weekends, this is the perfect venue to create something new while eating something sweet.
Back in the day, I used to try interesting snacks and ice-cream from the mom and pop stores, but the Monaka ice cream that I used to eat with my parents at the fancy bakeries was also a big part of my childhood. The Monaka isn't your average saccharine fruit-flavored ice-cream - the milky, crackly ice cream sandwiched between two crispy biscuits...mhmm! Maybe that's the reason why I still find myself going back to reminisce while biting into a Monaka ice-cream from Taegeukdang. Known to be one of the oldest bakeries in Seoul, once you step into the Taegeukdang at the Jangchoongdong location, you'll notice the interior design and typography reminiscent of 1946 when it all began. The magic of leaving a bakery filled with kitschy yet nostalgic breads and ice-cream to return to 2015!
Business partners Baik & Cavallaro opened Il Gelato earlier this year after meeting at gelato school in Italy. You’ll find classics like stracciatella and bacio (pictured here) as well as new flavors like Icheon rice (lightly accented with lemon) and wasabi (careful, it has a kick).
Cacao Boom mostly sells gourmet chocolates (the owner studied chocolate in Belgium) their Samcheong-dong venue has moved to Iteawon-dong also sells gelato. They use the same chocolate made in-house from cacao beans in their gelato—if you like it dark, get the “strong chocolate” flavor. Also pictured: green tea.
Fell + Cole is the darling of the Korean food media, and with good reason—its high-quality, additive-free ice cream and inventive flavors were unprecedented when owner Tristan Choi opened his first location on a Hongdae back alley four years ago. Things weren't always so easy. Fell + Cole changed locations twice before settling in its sunny Sangsu space. They've since expanded to three venues across Seoul. Inspired by the San Francisco food scene (F + C is named after the intersection where he used to live), Tristan whips up a rotating menu in small batches, featuring seasonal ingredients and local influences. Our favorites include makgeolli (Korean rice ale), perilla leaf (a minty herb) and the darkly-addictive agave chocolate.