Wanting to know something everyone else doesn’t is a common desire shared by many. On Instagram, more than 600 thousand feeds are uploaded with the hashtag “hiddengem,” reflecting people’s desire to find a refugee from the crowd.

Are Korean cafes seeking to satisfy such a desire? The “speakeasy” concept is currently rising popular among young people in Korea. This is somewhat ironic, since the more popular a place becomes, the further it goes away from the original intention. In this sense, the covertness is setting itself as a concept itself, rather than being the nature.

These speakeasy-concept cafes are often hidden in a narrow alley or even underground. It is also rising popular to use a door that is hard to be considered as a door – a vending machine, for example.

Below is a brief list of the most secretive cafes in Seoul. Use this as a guide to find your platform 9 ¾.



79, World Cup-ro 13-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul


Walking on the street around Mangwon-dong, you will find a cute pink vending machine. This machine, however, does not provide anything, because it’s only a gateway to a coffee shop. Because of its unusual concept, the vending machine has become a photo spot of the neighborhood. Walking into the machine, you will find some of the most Instagram-worthy desserts in the city.


Coffee Hanyakbang

16-6, Samil-daero 12-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul


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Coffee Hanyakbang is hidden in an alley that’s so narrow that only one person can pass at a time. Contrary to its narrow entrance, the two-story coffee shop is quite spacey. A wide variety of beans are hand brewed to order. The interior design is vintage, filled with objects from the past century.


↓Watch “5 Spots to Explore in Euljiro” to find more↓



Cafe Armoire

117-27, Dongil-ro 22-gil, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul


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Entering the space, you will start to wonder if you have the right address, as it looks like nothing but a small boutique. Don’t panic and follow the hint from the cafe’s name and open the wardrobe, which will surprisingly lead you to the hidden space where coffee is served. The room on the other side of the wardrobe is filled with vintage vibes.


By Heewon Kim