Mermaid Coffee in Seoul

Seoul is an ever-changing place. No matter how long you have lived here, there will always be something new to explore. New sights, new tastes, and new experiences are around every corner!

For the Instagrammers and blog enthusiasts, mermaid coffee is bewitchingly aesthetic and a great addition to a colorful travel feed.

That is why Mangwon-dong, a northwestern neighborhood in Seoul, is the perfect place to go explore. There are new themed coffee shops and international food places popping up all the time!

Zapangi, the Korean word for “vending machine,” is a popular cafe for locals and tourists alike! Be forewarned, it is NOT for the people who do not enjoy ultra sweet drinks and food!

Check out the video I made about my experience at Zapangi!

More information:

Hours of Operation: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Address: Seoul, Mapo-gu, Mangwon-dong, 400-2
서울특별시 마포구 망원동 400-2
Nearest Subway Station: Magwon Station (Line 6)
Exit 2, about face, walk about 500M down

Thank You Seoul!


With a heavy heart Seoul Secrets has to announce there will be no further blog posts about the secret sides of Seoul. With a total of 19 places featured over the past 4 months, we brought you the best cafes, restaurants, parks, view spots, places of interest and stores all over the sprawling city of Seoul, with as simple as possible directions. These 19 posts will remain available as an archive and guide for future travellers and explorers to this great city.

The decision to stop now comes with a number of reasons, mainly due to my iminent departure of Korea after three great years, as well as sticking with the integrity of this blog which was to uncover the ‘Secret’ spots of Seoul.

We would like to thank everyone who has supported Seoul Secrets and hope that people can continue using these posts for years to come! If the posts have been of any use to you please leave a comment on our Facebook page or on the comment section below.

Thank you!

Seoul Secrets


Bongeunsa Temple


This weekend Seoul Secrets felt it was long overdue to visit some awesome places south of the Han River, as many of our featured spots have been north of the famous river. This time we took a trip to the area around Gangnam, mainly within distance of subway line 9. As the Seoul weather is scorching right now we tried to avoid too much walking or getting lost.

First we checked out places to grab some food and coffee between Sinnonhyeon and Gangnam Station. To get take here exit 5 of Sinnonhyeon and follow the pictures below:


Keep walking straight out of Exit 5, with benches lining the pavement.


On your way you will pass by the super hot Shake Shack (excuse the pun) the first of thier stores to open in Korea. This has led to people waiting and queuing in ridiculous heat to be some of the first to try their juicy burgers on Korean soil.


Once you pass the CGV take the sharp left up the hill, keep walking till you reach a building with ‘Apsley’ hairdressers on the third floor.


Take a left here and you’ll spot ‘Muchacho’ in the basement.



This is ‘Muchacho’ a Tex-Mex-Korean style restaurant, when arriving at 11.55am there was already people waiting for service to begin at 12! When you enter you’re greeted by the open plan kitchen with a vast team busily preparing your food, the smell of sizzling meat hits your nose and wakes up your taste buds up as you check out the overhead menu board.

In the featured picture you can see the Muchacho tacos and in the picture above the kimchi cheese fries, now they may not be authentic style mexican food, but they’re still unbelievable tasty and a must try place!

Part of a group of five restaurants called ‘CNP’ all within the Gangnam area, the same group that brings more delicious food over at Double Trouble.

After food you might be looking for some coffee, the perfect place is just up the road in the form of Espresso Public.

espresso public.jpg

This place is more famous for it’s brunch, but after chowing down on all that mexican food there was only space left to try some of the fine hand dripped coffee. Offering a wide range of blends all prepared on the premises, this places is great to chill and let the world pass you by.



Once you finish here head back to Sinnonhyeon Station, and jump on the train to Bongeunsa. It’s only four stops away and take Exit 1.



Bongeunsa Temple and its surrounding grounds are a serene haven of peace, and can give a soothing calmness whilst the hustle and bustle of Seoul continues on around you. On a sunny day the mix of colourful traditional architecture and the shiny modern glass structures provides a unique view of the many faces Seoul has to offer both old and new.


There is currently a lotus festival running from 27/6 to 24/8.


Come check this place out while the festival is still on…you won’t be disappointed!

Seoul Secrets



This weekend Seoul Secrets visited an area of Seoul that is quite well known amongst the local expats and foreigner community, but could be easily missed by those new to Korea or here for only a short stay vacation. Gyeongnidan-gil that we are focusing on today is just beside the main road of Gyeongnidan ,near to Itaewon. It’s packed full of cafes, restaurants, fruit juice stores and many more places worth checking out! Don’t forget your camera!

Gyeongnidan-gil literally translates to the road on which the former R.O.K Army Central Finance Corp was located. To most it will look like an ordinary street in Seoul, but with its global community of residents combined with the locals you can find a range of diverse foods, unique restaurants and cafes here.



To get here take Line 6 to Noksapyeong station,

Leave via exit 3 and cross the street,

Take the overpass to the right hand side of the road and start walking towards Namsan tower in the distance:

As you walk down this road you’ll pass the foreign book store along the way, worth stopping by to pick up a new read.


Continue down the road and you’ll eventually see the unmissable ‘Street Churros’ sign on your right, this is the beginning of Gyeongnidan-gil.




The first place we’re featuring is 5BEY American Kitchen, super easy to find with its distinctly colourful street art (as seen in the picture above). As you’d expect from an American kitchen everything is big, brash and colourful, from the giant cocktails that even come with small rubber ducks swimming on top to the superhero inspired burger menu.

They did however offer some delicious kimchi fries just in case you were forgetting you were in Korea!

As you continue up the street you will come across this place:


As you can probably guess from the name ‘Honeyst’ is a honey shop. From the exterior you may initially assume it’s a dessert cafe offering ice cream and honey..(which they do) But after talking with owner they actually focus on providing healthy types of honey imported from the US. So if you’re looking for some good quality honey this is the place for you…plus the ice cream and honey is delicious!



With the hill getting steeper it forks into two roads, take the road to the left for more cool places to check out, it will eventually lead to Gyeongnidan main road.

If you’re new to Seoul or just visiting we hope this article will help you find this cool little area!

Have Fun!

Seoul Secrets




Sookmyung Women’s University Area


This week Seoul Secrets took a trip to Sookmyung Women’s University area in Yongsan-gu. As with many university areas in Seoul, there’s a certain vibrancy and community of young students who need places to study. This leads to the surrounding area being a hive of coffee shops and cafes with free WiFi and open all hours of the day, all for reasonable prices.

Sookmyung Women’s University was Korea’s first royal private education institution for women in Korea, founded in 1906 upon the hillside next to Hyochang Park. The name Sookmyung comes from the ancient symbols meaning ‘elegant’ and ‘bright’.

The campus has a mix of older more traditional buildings and more modern architecture, with some decadent flowery park areas thrown into the mix, This creates a rather pleasant place to sit, relax and chat with friends.

To get here take the subway line 4 (light blue line) to Sookmyung Women’s Univ stop and take exit 10.

At the top of the hill you will find the university and its surrounding campus:


If you continue to walk up the hill past the University, you’ll find Hyochang Park:



Hyochang Park is where Korean royal family members used to be buried. In 1940 the then ruling Japanese converted it into a park. When Korea fought back for independence the bodies of Korean revolutionary members were buried here, and a shrine built to remember their sacrifice for their country. Today the park is an excellent maze of walking trials, picnic areas and some points of interest.

20160628_131359_HDR  20160628_131620_HDR

If you head back towards the Sookmyung University, the hill leading up is lined with all the coffee shops and cafes you can imagine. With all the generic coffee shops from International chains to your Korean based chains, here you can find a unique cafe half way up the hill unlike any other called ‘Blind Alley’.

blind alley

Blind Alley is a raccoon cafe! Move over cats and dog cafes here is coffee shop filled with cheeky little critters to play with whilst sipping on a coffee. Offering reasonable prices and some great bingsu, handlers will bring you a baby raccoon to cuddle with and spend some time with your friends.

The larger raccoons are kept in a separate section, with bedding and play equipment. Obviously there are rules to follow for your own safety and that of the animals. (They also have a puppy called ‘Cookie’ who is incredibly cute)

If animal themed cafes aren’t your kind of thing then have no fear! Continue walking down the hill take a left at ‘Watsons’ and walk up that hill.



Hue Blanc Cafe Lounge specialises in delicious homemade desserts, as well as some great drinks all in a trendy and relaxed environment. A franchise with other locations throughout Seoul and Daegu, with each specialising in different areas. This branch focuses is the desserts from chocolate cake, tiramisu and cheesecake.

One of the most popular drinks here is the ‘Cube Latte’ which arrives as a glass of iced espresso cubes and a jug of honey milk. Slowly pour the honey milk over the coffee cubes and watch the coffee infuse with the milk to create a delicious coffee concoction.


For more info check out:

burger in

If you’re looking for somewhere to grab a reasonable priced burger, look no further than Burger In! With an unassuming entrance to a basement, the smell of beef patties grilling greets you as descend into the restaurant. Offering a range of burgers and fries all for reasonable prices, fresh and well cooked with a great balance of taste.

For the location check out:

Go check this place out!

Seoul Secrets












Samcheongdong is a trendy neighbourhood of cafes, restaurants and boutique shops in Jongno-gu in northern Seoul. Part of Bukchon just east of the Gyeongbokgung Palace, it attracts many tourist and is far from a ‘secret’, but Seoul Secrets felt it was a place that cannot be missed when visiting Seoul and wanted to check it out!

The name ‘Samcheong’ comes from the word ‘sam’ meaning three and ‘Cheong’ meaning ‘fresh’ or ‘pure’ in Korean. So what does ‘three pure’ stand for you may wonder, well they say it’s because the mountain, water and hearts of the people in this area are all fresh and pure.

An artistic neighbourhood covered in wall art graffiti and made up of some really interesting architecture, even if shopping isn’t your thing you should still come here to just take in the surroundings. As mentioned it can attract a large crowd of tourists at times so we’d suggest coming here earlier in the day if you’d prefer to browse in relative peace before the rush begins.



To get here take Subway Line 3 (orange line) to Anguk Station, take Exit 1.

Turn right out of the exit and walk to the end of street, here you’ll pass a bank on your right, keep following the road to the right. Here you’ll see narrow stone wall lined road, follow that road. The follow the pictures above for advice.



5 dollar store.jpg

As you navigate your way up through Samcheongdong, you’ll come across this ‘5 dollar’ store. This places only sells things up to the value of five dollars or five thousand won, so if your looking for some bargains this is the place for you!

As you continue up Samcheong road you will spot the ‘smiling sun’ mural on your right, if you cross the street here you’ll see a cafe 5cijung, take the small walkway beside here to find our next spot.




This small hanok building nestled away from the main street is the home to ‘Boutique Kyunsung’. Offering a range of steaks as well as pastas and salads ranging from 15,000 -32,000 won, in the picture above is the Hamburger Steak with kinchi pilaf. Arriving in a sizzling stone bowl filled with a delicious kimchi pilaf with a perfectly cooked hamburger steak topped with two types of cheese. Pictures and words alone cannot do justice for just how good this was…highly recommend checking this place out!


If you exit here and take a left following the narrow path will lead you here:



This is one of those places that a picture says a thousand words… Retrona Pie is a bakery cafe that offers a wide range of freshly baked delights all produced on the premises. The most popular from a wide range of pies is the banana crunch (the one in the picture above) as recommend by the owner it did not disappoint. With its green and yellow retro paint job this place would be impossible to walk by without being intrigued, go in and take a look, you won’t regret it!


As you exit here take a left and you’ll reach back to the main road of Samcheong:


Seoul Secrets hopes you enjoy your time here and make lots of memories!

Seoul Secrets



This week Seoul Secrets took a trip to the neighbourhood of Mangwon, situated between the Han river and the more well known Hongdae area. It’s a less artsy and more of a hard living and hard working neighbourhood than Hongdae. It offers a real insight into the day to day life of people in this area, with the main focus around a huge market at one end and the Hangang river park at the other.


To get here is very simple, just take Exit 2 of Mangwon station on Line 6. Turn to your right as you leave the exit, here you’ll see a road that leads off into the distance and continues cross the main intersection. This road offers some of the most interesting parts of Mangwon. The first place we’re going to checkout is the Mangwon market, as well as a treat along the way.


So taking that first right out of the subway exit, walk down the road till you reach’Do dream building’ take a right here to and you’ll see our first secret spot:

cafe bubu.jpg

Cafe Bubu is the treat you were waiting for! A fairly large coffee shop with a large welcoming and relax garden entrance. Opened by a web designer and his wife for three years, may have given some inspiration to the name Bubu, which I’m told means ‘Married’ or ‘Marriage’. With a coffee roasting lab in the basement, they offer beans for sale or you can try one of their two signature blends. Either ‘ET’ which is an Ethiopian base or ‘B2’ a Brazilian base both making for a great tasting coffee. One thing about this place is the passion and time dedicated to serving the coffee and making sure its a cup of perfection every time.

Served by both Ami Jeong and Daehan Choi, you’ll be in safe hands, we’d like to thank them for their helpful information as both Mangwon residents themselves they helped suggest other places to check out in this post!

They also feature some live music from time to time! (made and performed by Ami Jeong)

Check out:

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AMIMA 라는 이름으로 하는 첫 공연🎤

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mangwon market.jpg

Here at Mangwon Market is an endless warren of all the market stalls you can imagine, as there is no large supermarkets within close proximity this market is the go to place for the majority of residents here.

As you walk the main stretch of the market you’ll see a few cup fried chicken places:

These stalls are a main attraction for many as they offer more flavours than your average cup chicken stall. Here you can try an array of flavors from, spicy, sweet, cheese, chilli and more!

After leaving the market exit the same way you entered and walk back towards the subway, but as you arrive back at station continue across the main intersection and stay on the road. Or just come out of Exit 1 and take a left to the same road.

grain ble.jpg

As you walk down this road you will see the bright yellow exterior of Grain Ble. This great little bakery offers really delicious breads and pastries. If you’re looking for something different from the masses of generic Korean style baked goods, that are often sweeter tasting than that of western palette then this is the place for you.

After asking about their most popular bread we were pointed in the direction of the cheese and nut filled bread roll (in the picture above). It did not disappoint, a great savoury flavour reminiscent of freshly baked bread you’d get back home.

After you leave the bakery continue down the same road, you’ll arrive at a cross section with a main road, turn right here and you’ll stumble across our last spot for today..

coffee conhas

Coffee Conhas is a structurally interesting creation. An exterior of stacked shipping containers that connects to an adjacent old stone like building, when you pass by your eye is automatically drawn towards it. Open for four years now by a music producer, the name of which was kept secret (possibly famous or possibly not). This place offers speciality coffee and a unique environment.

After purchasing your coffee outside in a glass room, you look to enter the building. Greeted by large metal doors it feels like you’re entering a secret hide out, once inside you see large open tables in quite a dark light setting. The majority of people here were doing work or studying, no surprise for a Korean coffee shop.

Check it out!


Seoul Secrets


Further directions to featured spots:,126.9124015,15z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x4e667b37d3022f49?sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwik_t3VyKvNAhWBuxQKHfPIDjcQ_BIIbTAO




Naksan Park

naksan park

This weekend Seoul Secrets ventured to northern Seoul for the beautiful panoramic views that can be had at Naksan Park, Daehangno. With only a modest height of just over 100 metres, this mountain served as one of four guardian mountains of the Joseon dynasty capital ,along with Bugaksan, Namsan, Inwangsan. An area of natural beauty with a portion of the old fortress wall perched upon the granite mountain, offers a great place to spend a weekend enjoying the weather. As well as being close to the Ihwa Mural Village for more picture opportunities.

To get here requires a small hike uphill from Hyewha Station through Daehangno and the Mural village for about 450 metres. Take Exit 2 from the subway station and follow the directions below:

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-Take a left out of the Subway

-Walk through the park to the right hand corner

-Keep walking till you see a brown building with white tree art

-After passing this building take a left and walk towards a pharmacy

-Here you’ll see a white Italian restaurant and a sign to the mountain

-Continue meandering up the steep road till you see a grey stair case

-You are here! At the base of the mountain trial!

At this point it is very easy to navigate your way around the mountain, there are three main observation points, so go explore and have fun! There are walkways directly to the top, or take more relaxed meandering routes.


If you head to the eastern side (as you look at the mountain) following the wall down you will join the top of the Mural Village which has some nice stores and cafes.

Here you’ll find this cafe offering a great view of Seoul.

Gaebul cafe.jpg

개뿔 Cafe is a very interesting name as it translates directly as dogs horn or nose, but it also has another slang meaning which is ridiculous or bullshit. But this is far from a bullshit place and the only thing that is ridiculous about here is the great view of Seoul looking towards Namsan. A great haven providing shade and refreshing beverages after walking in the midday heat, it will seem like an oasis in the desert. Pretty appropriate as this park is sometimes called Nakta Park, in reference to its hump like appearance and ‘nakta’ being korean word for camel. This is the spot to get your fill!

If you’re looking for somewhere to drink something stronger head back down to the station, and walk towards Exit 4 of the subway. Once here walk down the busy shopping street take a left at Tous les Jours, walk straight take a right at the end, keeping walking take left and you’ll see the black and yellow sign 독일주택 follow the pictures below:


Dogil jutaeg.jpg

This homely pub, has a really Korean vibe, with traditional decor whilst offering German style beer…a winning formula! The name 독일주택 some people translate to mean ‘German House’ but the intended translation is 독=single in Chinese, 일= one in Chinese, so meaning ‘drink one cup of drink by yourself’. This place welcomes people to drink one beer by themselves, which is rare in Korean culture as drinking is very much a social event. With a bar and a courtyard area of a few tables, it’s quite a busy place so you may need to wait on the benches out front till a table becomes available. But its well worth the wait!

Go check out Naksan Park and enjoy the views!

Seoul Secrets

*Seoul Secrets would like to say a huge thank you to Jinhee who suggested this great spot as well as the drinking advice! Also like to thank Jisoo for helping navigate as well as providing the translations and meanings. Thank you so much!








This weekend Seoul Secrets took a trip to the countryside without leaving Seoul, how is that possible you may ask? Well we’re going to explain how, this small and quaint countryside area goes by the name of Buam-dong.

Buam-dong is a neighbourhood of Jongno-gu, and resides in the north of the city just a short bus ride from the hustle and bustle, and tourist laden Gyeongbokgung Palace. Nestled between Inwangsan and Bukhansan mountains it offers picturesque views, lush greenery and an escape from the fast pace of city life. Add to its natural beauty a mix of hidden galleries, bakeries and unique craft stores makes for a spot you shouldn’t miss during your time in Seoul.

To get to this neighbourhood take the subway to Gyeongbokgung Station (line 3) and take exit 3. Walk straight about 100 metres and look for the second bus stop (not the shuttle bus stop). Here take a green bus either #1020 or #7022 for six stops to Buam-dong Community Service Center, the announcement will be made in English so listen out for it. The bus journey will take no longer than 10 minutes.

When you arrive here our best advice is to just explore! Stroll around the peaceful neighbourhood and take in its natural beauty as well as some very interesting architecture. The main town area is based off one large main road with a few alleyways branching off here and there.


When you get off the bus you will be on the hill at top of the town, stroll down and on your left you will come across some interesting stores, we spoke with a few of the store owners to get an insight into their businesses and life in Buam-dong.


The first place that really grabbed our eye and more importantly our sense of smell was ‘Scoff’. The smell of freshly baked goods enticed us into this small yet impressive bakery. The word scoff to many would mean to sneer or mock someone, but to British people the verb to scoff means to eat fast, which you often do when something is so delicious you cant resist but to shove it in your mouth.

Opened for two years now by James Townsend, a British expat living and working here as a chef. It humbly began from living close to this area in Anguk. Regular trips with his partner to escape the busy life of Seoul and enjoy this neighbourhood lead to them one day spotting an vacant building and they saw an opportunity to be had. Come check this place out for baked goods like no other, and to awaken your taste buds!


Just a few minutes down the road you’ll find 우물가 으낭나무, which translates as the eunang tree near the well. You can’t miss it’s bright yellow and primary colour façade, inside you’ll find a range of hand crafted goods made on the premises. With many years of experience and five years at this location Hyunghoon Lee has honed and refined his design and crafting skills using a mixture of media such as bronze, silver and gemstones. His work ranges from candle holders to silver and bronze jewellery as well traditional style Korean stamps. Check out some of his work below:


If you head back up the hill towards the bus stop you arrived at, keeping walking and take a right following the smell of fried chicken, you’ll come across a road that slowly climbs the hill side. On the way you’ll pass two fried chicken places that are quite famous and often full with a queue of people waiting. It looked and smelt really good!

As you continue to climb there will be galleries and cafes along the way.

space 291

Eventually you will see ‘Space 291’ gallery,  you cant miss the yellow cartoon creature greeting you at the entrance. Space 291 is an exhibition space offering artists or photographers a place to show their work. The current exhibition is by photographer Yoo Son Young. After the passing of her late father she took a trip back to the farming community of where she was born, on arrival everything reminded her of her father. But nothing more so than her fathers yellow working box, used when out in the fruit orchards. This was what inspired her to produce this exhibition.

In the downstairs area the cooperative that runs this space helps support new upcoming artists exhibit their work.

For more information:

After you leave the gallery and continue up the hill there are more interesting places along the way, one being a gallery and fusion Italian restaurant called Art For Life. Owned and run by a rather eccentric character in Sung Pil Kwan, a music professor and keen photographer you should check this place out! (the green space and restaurant pictured below)

Further at the top of the hill are some more famous cafes and photo opportunity spots. Buam-dong is great for avid photographers or even those looking for a memorable travel selfie. Come here and explore in relative peace!

One of the famous cafes mentioned is Sanmotoonge:

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ice tea with a view ☀️

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We would like to give a huge thank you and attribute this great suggested spot down to Mr Dan Deacon, it was well and truly worth the visit! Enjoy!

Seoul Secrets

*Also a big thank you to Faith Wright who commented on our Facebook page about Sanmotoonge cafe. Whilst blogging our camera died and was unable to take any pictures. So we focused on the other great places in Buam-dong!


Yeonnam-dong: Yeontral Park

Yeontral park.jpg

‘Yeontral Park’ is the name used amongst many young Koreans to describe the Gyeongui Line Forest Park located in the neighborhood of Yeonnamdong. Coined as a play on words and in homage to Central Park in New York, it may not be as vast or as famous as its American cousin, but it is a pleasant green space among the large concrete jungle that is Seoul. As well as being a pleasant place to take a stroll, this neighborhood is in the middle of a boom of new businesses including craft stores, countless coffee shops and unique new restaurants.


Located straight out of Exit 3 at Hongik University station, it’s easy to reach and often missed by many expats who take the standard exit 9 route into Hongdae with a b-line for the playground area, where for a long time many foreigners have congregated to socialize. But this park area just on the border of Hongdae offers a new side and a much more relaxed environment to hangout with friends.



As you walk down the park the first port of call should be the bottle shop ‘Beer Super’ on your left hand side. With two wooden barrels outside a brown exterior you can’t miss it, and you’ll find a great range of imported beers from all around the world. Here you can enjoy of one the many perks of Seoul which is drinking in public! If alcohol isn’t for you don’t be perturbed as there are many other types of drinks available further down the park.

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If you’re looking for somewhere to eat around the park look no further than Jil’Hal Bros. Quite well known within the expat community this small yellow and red hole in the wall offers the best chicken and lamb over rice in Seoul. Really easy to find, just keep walking down the park and take a left at the GS25 and you’ll see it just in front of you on the right. The park is a great place to enjoy food, beers and great company during the evenings or a place to settle down with a picnic for a lazy Sunday brunch.

The park is a 1.3km long green belt of urban forest, with the rusted remains of the old railway tracks sprouting up as you meander down the well kept grass area and flowing stream. Flanked with many restaurants and cafes, this neighborhood is also home to a large community of hostels which gives a real holiday vibe. Halfway down the park you’ll see a GS25 on your right, if you take that road and then a left onto the road running parallel to the park you will find a street lined with an array of ground floor stores offering an eclectic range of goods and services.

Dalsang cafe

At the top of the park is the head of the stream and a small seating area, if you take a right up a small side street you’ll see small buildings covered in newly painted graffiti, hidden amongst the colourful buildings is a real diamond in the rough, only opening last week Dalsang coffee shop offers a great range of hand dripped coffees, with a great peaceful roof terrace on a sunny spring day…a real Seoul Secret!

Check out Yeontral Park now while the cool spring weather is still here.


This article was originally written for and featured on Groove Magazine online, to see the original post and find out more about Seoul Secrets beginning follow the the link below:

The rise of Yeontral Park