Travel Nerdy is when we’ll be telling you the geekiest places to visit around the world; whether they’re filming locations, themed cafes, historical sites, or robot battle arenas, we’ve got you covered.
South Korea is a pop culture producing machine. Whether it’s mass producing idols in training academies at labels or filming and airing dramas at an alarming rate, there no doubt that it is the king of screen and radio in the East. The popularity of its pop culture in other Asian countries and further abroad has been called the Hallyu Wave, and it’s still going relatively strong. It took a surprisingly long time, considering I had previously lived in Asia, but I too have fallen victim to Hallyu.
While I’ve still got a way’s to go in terms of educating myself in the KPOP realm, I am a firm KDrama addict and frequently binge the shows and livetweet my reactions to my very patient followers.
If you’ve even thought about wading into the addicting waters of Korean Dramas, then you’ve heard of The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince/커피프린스 1호점 (more commonly referred to as simply Coffee Prince). It’s a staple, it’s legendary, and frankly, it’s still one of the best dramas to come out of country.
Originally airing in 2007, Coffee Prince tells the story of Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye), a tomboyish girl, who is mistaken for a man by the rich Han Gyul (Gong Yoo), who is seeking a fake boyfriend to stop his parents and grandmother from trying to marry him off. He hires Eun Chan to act as said fake boyfriend, and EUn Chan being in desperate need of money, agrees. Through a series of hijinks and drama, Han Gyul ends up being given a coffee shop and Eun Chan ends up working there, but as a man, as it’s called Coffee Prince and will only have male baristas and waiters. What you would expect to happen does, but it’s such a heartwarming story with phenomenal acting and likable characters that any cliches are welcomed rather than hissed at. Also all the supporting characters are ADORABLE. You can watch it on Hulu, DramaFever, Viki, and plenty of other places online.
It’s a hilarious and surprisingly touching story, as well as being one of the few Korean Dramas that handle homosexual (well, kinda, he doesn’t KNOW she’s a girl) relationships relatively well (considering how conservative the country as a whole still is, not to mention this was nearly a DECADE ago, it was far ahead of its time). But I’ll save that for another post.
Coffee Prince was a runaway success. It elevated its leads into superstardom in Asia and made its filming locations instant tourist attractions. So much so that even almost a decade after airing, the cafe that was refurbished and used for filming still attracts visitors today: including yours truly.
Located in the trendy neighborhood of Hongdae in Seoul, The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince cafe sits on a corner off the main road, still as recognizable as it is from the show. Sora and I started giggling the moment we saw it. We couldn’t help it! We were here! At Coffee Prince! The drama has a special place in both Sora and my’s heart, so we were unapologetic in how excited we were.
Nothing is subtle about what this place is however; it’s a tourist trap. The drinks are at least double the price you’ll find in any other Hongdae cafe (and not that great to be perfectly honest), but what you’re paying for is the atmosphere and all the photos you inevitably end up taking. They even have t-shirts for sale, which I had to raise an eyebrow at. The owner is capitalizing on the fact his cafe was used in one of the most popular dramas of all time. Can’t blame him really. I had read a few accounts online saying he was unfriendly, but he was perfectly amiable to us and let us be to take photos and coo. Just make sure you actually buy something before snapping away, that’s only polite.
Of all the things at the cafe, what I was most looking forward to seeing was the mural. Especially painted for the drama, the flower mural is both important to the story and iconic of the series as a whole. It’s a mark of jealousy and romance between multiple characters and bore witness to more than one steamy look and more.
So much so that it was signed by the cast and crew upon the series’ completion and success. There’s a few other signed items displayed around the cafe, mostly by the main cast. There’s also a ton of photos and stills from the show scattered about. The fact is, this isn’t a cafe people just go to when they want a latte and hang out, it’s a destination cafe. While we were there, a few other fans as us wandered in, happily snapping away. Sora and I watched as a Chinese group spent a good ten minutes taking selfies with their lattes. It made me smile. They were so excited to be there, and that’s the best thing.
We ended up spending a good two hours or so at the cafe, mostly because it was pouring outside and we didn’t have umbrellas. Also it was quite cozy and occasionally I’d just giggle to myself, imagining scenes from the drama. It was a pretty fabulous nerdy time.
The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince Cafe
Where: 337-2, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Subways: Hongik University Station, Line No.2/Line Gyeongui/Airport Railway
Check out our shots of the inside of the cafe below! Just click to enlarge.