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A window into my Seoul – a double A experience

October 5, 2008

Mapo-gu is home to one of Seoul’s oldest fine arts universities – Hongdae. Like most art university areas, Mapo gu attracts the edgier side of the city to it, through its fashion, music and eateries. It’s a place best described as boho, minus chic, plus character. An area experiencing a rejuvenation, Mapo-gu is fast becoming one of Seoul’s happening places to be.  Cafes are no exception to this change, all fighting to stake their claim; many survive, others die a quick death. No matter how often you come to Mapo, you will be surprised to see a new eaterie or three open for business.

Eighteen months ago a special cafe design museum Cafe aA set up base in Mapo and has been going strong ever since. The museum is a popular piece for expat and design bloggers. Of course myself too, the better late than never blogger. The cafe museum is popular because its unique.

Cafe aA does the cafe scene on a large individualistic scale. It offers more than just coffee and tea. It’s a cafe, furniture store, museum package, housing an eclectic mix of designer furniture (let me drop in Tom Dixon, Marcel Breuer), lovingly appreciated by its owner, Korean businessman, Mr Kim. You will often see him around his cafe – he is the quiet man sometimes with a hat, always with dark rimmed glasses, who mingles with, rather than stands out from, his cafe crowd.

From my past visits, I would say that Mr Kim envisioned the cafe’s design long before he built the place. No detail has been been overlooked from flooring, lighting, seating, outdoor tiles, balustrades, even the rest rooms. The combination of eras, Italian turn of the century meets retro, clash gently enough to stimulate the mind and conversation.

But the beauty of the cafe lies not just with the design, its a cafe that doesn’t discriminate. People come here from all corners of Seoul for that double A cafe experience: amateur photographers vying for that shot, girlfriends gaggling over cake, dates cooing in the corners; mum and dads looking on intrigued.

My favourite time to visit is during the week, when it’s near empty, and bossa nova permeates the cafe; heaven.

From a caffeine perspective, the espresso based coffees, teas and non-caffeinated drinks are decent, but the food is a little lame. I recommend visiting this cafe for its atmosphere and design, not for its dining experience.

Cafe aA is easy to get to from Hongdae subway station line 2.

408 -11 Seokyo dong, Mapo gu, Seoul.

(photos courtesy of Joe May)

Caffeinated Traveller

  1. October 8, 2008 5:52 am

    I definitely get there. You knows Seoul much more than me.

  2. October 8, 2008 9:21 am

    Well Ji after that yummy Italian restaurant you took me to, I think you know your own city more. Next time I’ll take you some cute cafes. The photos were taken by my beau/boyfriend he is ok with camera isn’t he 😛

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