Need a cake? Fast? No problem. In Seoul you can’t go anywhere without running into a “Paris Baguette”, “Crown Bakery” or “Tous les Jours”. These are three popular cafe/bakeries in Seoul that make excellent (although lighter than what Westerners are used to) cakes, breads and pastries. Every neighbourhood has at least one of these bakeries, and there are many other imitations (including the borderline copyright infringement “Paris Croissant”). The baked goods here are plentiful, cheap and delicious. Very surprising for a country that rarely bakes!
Each cafe varies in Seoul, even though they are part of a chain. While some have an espresso machine, others simply sell baked goods, and while some have seating and a cozy ambiance, others will be tiny and serve only for take out. It always depends on the location and size of the store.
If you’re looking for something a bit more posh, head for business areas like Gangnam, Jongno or the foreign hub of Itaewon where you will find many cute, independent cafes with delicious cakes sold by the slice and other baked goods.
Remember that Koreans, in general, stick to rice. They eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner and bread has never been a large part of their culture. Since Korea has become increasingly Westernized, bread has become more “sexy” and more Koreans are eating Western-style bread these days. The breads here are usually made with rice flour, and you won’t find them as “heavy” as the breads back home – wheat is quite difficult for many Koreans to digest.
This also accounts for the reason that most bread is treated as a “cute snack” and comes in a variety of styles that most Westerners find bizarre and, sometimes, inedible. For example, most “garlic bread” will come heavily laced with sugar, and there will always be an assortment of bread with pickles, corn, processed cheese, or hot dogs (sometimes all at the same time). You can also find plain white bread, but if whole wheat is something that you are after then you will need to go to a specialty independent bakery that caters to foreigners.
Recommended Independent Bakeries
Wing Bakery is located in Kyungridun( Youngsan-gu), which is a neighborhood in Itaewon-dong. They have the best fresh baked breads in Seoul, but they are pricey! Here you can find rye, whole wheat, fresh baguettes and more breads. You will not, however, find anything sweet as they specialize in no sugar, dairy or preservatives. There is a sign out front that tells you the times that they bake each kind of bread so that you can be sure to get it when it’s fresh out of the oven.
Address: 675 Itaewon 2Dong Yongsan Gu
Phone: 02 7940011
Operating hours: 10 am to 9pm
Directions: Noksapyeong Station Exit Two, walk straight until you reach the underground pass on your left, go under, come up and it’s right in front of you. It is located near the Lexus dealership, and just next to the Vietnamese restaurant.
Tartine is known for their pies, including a meat pie that they make only on Monday evenings. It is an adorable cafe style bakery located in an alley behind the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon. They also make cookies and fresh artisan breads.
Phone: 02 3785-3400
Operating hours: 10-10 365 days per year.
Directions: From the Hamilton Hotel, walk past KFC to the second alley, turn right, they are half way up the alley. You will be able to see the pies in the window.
Abientot is located near Yonsei University’s east gate. It follows the “French baking theme” that is very popular in Seoul right now. They are most famous for their tarts but also have great coffee’s and teas. I recommend going here with a good book on a cold winter evening. The free smells alone make it worth sticking around for a bit.
Address: Mapo-gu, Daeheung-dong 265-1
Operating hours: Open 06:00-24:00
If you’re looking for something more simple, Homeplus’ bakery section is a reliable choice. You’ll find some nice multi-grain bread that makes excellent toast, among other things.