When we talk about weekend cafes in Seoul, Samcheong-Dong (삼청동) is always on the list if you don’t mind the endless queues and the milling crowds. Those that been there during weekend probably will understand me — It is quite impossible to do a cafe-hopping there at Samcheong-Dong in a weekend because of the overwhelming crowd. I like the upscale and polished atmosphere at Samcheong-Dong, but not during the weekend as I need to ready myself for another round of challenges when Monday arrives.
So the other alternative of mine is taking a bus down to the Buam-Dong nearby, a less developed neighbourhood with quaint characteristics, and more importantly, lesser crowds. It is a place that provides a space for one to indulge in the magnificent views of one of the busiest city in the world while having a peace of mind.
Known as the filming location of the Korean drama Coffee Prince, this mansion beckons the K-drama fans every single day. However, for a not-so-hardcore K-drama fan like me, the astonishing view from the mansion made the whole trip uphill worthwhile.
Nestled in between Inwang and Bugak mountain, Buam-dong (부암동) is a quiet neighbourhood in central Seoul once occupied by writers and artists. This probably explains how and why the area brims a distinctive charm that makes it stands out from the rest of the art & cafe districts in Seoul.
Alighting from the bus at the Buam-Dong community service centre, you will see a florist, an old-fashioned mini mart and a dry clean shop all with the old-school looking façade. K liked this place because of the vintage and sophisticated atmosphere, or in his own words, “A nice location for filming”. Along our way to the cafe was about the narrow alleyways, the hanoks, the galleries and cafes, seemingly well preserved from the Joseon dynasty, giving off an overwhelming feeling of timelessness.
We were there around Christmas. The way up to the cafe was decorated with seasonal ornaments. With the view of the snow resting on the hilltop in the background, this place is certainly an urban respite. The location, a 10 minutes bus ride from Gyeongbok Palace, followed by a short stroll surrounded by nature, is a great relaxation for an exhausted mind.
Patrons are allowed to bask in the sun at the nicely paved patio or at any of their rooms adorned with hill view scenery. Definitely a stylish way to spend your weekend mornings, especially for the people who love city life and yet wish to escape from it momentarily.
My Verdict: One coffee at KRW 8000 is certainly on the pricy side. However you are paying not only for the cup of coffee, but the whole breathtaking panoramic view of the Korean capital and the Seoul fortress. A good place to spend your morning or late evening quietly (avoiding afternoons when the drama fans flood the place). Gallery at the basement is worth a visit too.
Seoul Jongno-gu Buamdong 97-5
How To Get There:
1. Coming out from Gyeongbok Palace Station (경복궁역) Exit No. 3, walk straight about 100 meters until you reach the 2nd bus stop. (check the electronic board, it should indicate buses number 1020, 7022, 7212.)
2. Board any of the 3 buses above (1020, 7022, 7212) and alight at Buam-Dong Community Service Centre 부암동주민센터 [read: Bu-am-dong Ju-min Sen-to]. The bus journey is roughly about 10 mins. a total 6 stops (including destination stop) before alighting.
3. After alighting from the bus, try to locate this particular cafe.
4. This particular cafe, Espresso Club is one of my favourite in Seoul. Visit them if you want some serious coffee retreat. Will write about it in a future post. To visit Sanmotoonge Cafe, take the route beside Espresso Club, stay left and keep walking.
5. Then you will reach a 3-level tall white building at the road fork (check picture below). Keep walking UPHILL for about 10 to 15 minutes. There are signboards to keep you on track along the way, so enjoy this little “trekking” before sipping a cup of tranquility at Sanmotoonge ; )
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