Manhole Coffee: Where Library Meets Speakeasy in Seoul

A Literary Experience

When you step into the Manhole Cafe, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a unique fusion of a library and a jazz speakeasy. This charming establishment seamlessly blends British mancave aesthetics with a vibrant jazz atmosphere. With its dark wood decor, tufted leather seats, and spindle-back chairs, the ambiance exudes a cozy, vintage charm that takes you on timelapse journey.

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One of the most striking features of the Manhole Cafe is its library-inspired interior. An open ceiling reveals exposed ductwork, setting an industrial tone. The walls are adorned with rich paneling, and the shelves are packed with fake books – all in English, of course. As you enter, you’re greeted by a bar that conjures up images of the iconic TV show, Cheers.

At the far end of the cafe, you’ll find a library desk where you can sit and enjoy your coffee with a view of the entire establishment. It’s the perfect spot for bibliophiles and writers seeking a unique setting to gather their thoughts. And it’s where I spent a few hours sipping on a rich coffee drink.

Check out another beautiful cafe in Seoul called Mama Mia, inspired by the movie set in Greece.

Culinary Delights

The Manhole Cafe offers a delightful selection of treats to inspire your journey. Indulge in traditional financiers, cheesecakes, and brownies that pair wonderfully with their coffee creations. I opted for a creamy white fancy einspainer. It’s just one of the delightful choices available. But if coffee isn’t your thing, fear not – they also offer a variety of teas, refreshing ades, a selection of beers, and even a small selection of whiskeys.

The Sounds of Jazz

The music playing in the background at the Manhole Cafe complements the ambiance. Expect bluesy jazz tunes that enhance the overall experience. However, I must note that the volume can be quite loud, which may be distracting if you’re trying to focus on work or writing. However, after about 30 minutes, I found myself almost tuning out the music, allowing me to concentrate better.

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Eclectic Decor

Aside from the library-inspired theme, the Manhole Cafe boasts an eclectic collection of decor. There’s a designated desk area complete with a chess set, inviting visitors to engage in a friendly match. Mannequins dressed in suits add a touch of whimsy, and the walls are adorned with a multitude of portraits. You’ll find a mix of British monarchs and American presidents, which adds a historical and regal touch to the place.

To enhance the travel-themed vibe, the cafe incorporates globes and steamer trunks into its decor, making it feel like you’re embarking on a literary journey through time and space.

Diverse Patrons

The Manhole Cafe attracts a diverse crowd. During my visit, I noticed visitors of all ages, from young singles enjoying a cup of coffee to groups of friends catching up. There were even a few couples sharing an intimate moment. This eclectic mix of clientele adds to the cafe’s welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. However, I was the only foreigner, which is exactly what I was hoping when I researched the cafe.

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Convenient Location

Located in a peaceful residential neighborhood, the Manhole Cafe is just an 11-minute walk from the number 9 brown line (Gaehwa, or Gimpo at one end). And Seoul Station on the other end. The cafe is in the Yeongdeungpo area of Seoul. That’s a neighborhood, I’m not familiar with, but close to my hotel- an easy reconnaissance mission on the first day of our long layover in Seoul.

In conclusion, the Manhole Cafe offers a distinctive experience that seamlessly combines literature, jazz, and a touch of British charm. Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur, a bookworm, or simply looking for a cozy spot to unwind, this cafe has something special to offer. Just be prepared to lose yourself in its captivating atmosphere, and don’t forget to explore the intriguing portraits and decor that adorn its walls.

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247, Yeongsin-ro, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul


  1. Jean

    Hi Stacey! We met in the club lounge a the hotel in Baltimore. I taught English in Busan in 2012. Anyway, I have started following and loving your blog and had to comment right away because I live in Richmond! What a treat to see this post. It’s really such a small world. Hope you enjoy your time here. -Jean

    1. Stacey A. Peters

      Thank you, Jean, I appreciate your support. We’ll be back because Richmond is on the shortlist of potential homes. Feel free to share; I could use all the help I can get.

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