Riverside Relaxation

Words and shots by Gregory Curley

Scenic cafes next to the Han River give good reason not to cross that bridge when you get to it.

The latest addition to Ttukseom Resort is a giant worm-shaped structure referred to as "Jabeolle" (자벌레), located right below Cheongdam Bridge. Housing a restaurant on the third floor and a café on the fourth floor, the attraction hosts various media art exhibitions as well.
Observation deck

For those on the prowl for a little downtime, Seoul has plenty of attractions to choose from. Yet, as we head into the stifling months of summer, a string of comfortable cafes strategically situated on bridges on the Han River serve up some much-needed respite, providing just the refreshing dose of cool air one needs to beat the sweltering heat.

As part of the city’s newly developed River Renaissance Project, a laborious undertaking aimed at revamping the “face” of Seoul, these bridge-based venues are great for getting away for a while and grant some of the best views the city has to offer. Below are just a few. The rest you’ll have to venture out and discover on your own! Whenever you decide to visit – day or night –  there’s no shortage of options.

Bird’s Eye View
Of the lengthy chain of Han River bridge cafes stretching from Seonyudo Island in the west to Gwangjingyo Bridge in the east, both Café Gureum (02-3476-7999) and Café Noeul (02-3481-6555) in particular have the advantage of height, as they are perched up higher than any of the other nine neighboring riverside venues. There’s even a terrace up on the fifth floor where you soak in the surrounding cityscape – perfect at night with the skyline all lit up in a neon blaze. There is very little difference between the two – both feature comfortable, simple interiors with a slightly art deco finish and decent menus that feature fresh juices, coffee and tea, beer and a few essential entrees. The pork cutlet (W9,000 – W13,000) and the steak (W15,000 – W45,000) are good. The former (Gureum) has a reputation for having affordable, fantastic coffee (W4,000 – W6,000). Both cafes are open year-round from 10 am to 02 pm.

Getting there: Take subway line 4 to Dongjak Stn. For Café Gureum, get out at exit 1; for Café Noeul, hop out of exit 2 and walk straight for about 5 mins.

Beacon of Romance
Due to their positioning, placed on either side of Hangang Bridge facing each other, these two romantic cafes resemble a pair of lighthouses. Nodeul (02-790-0520) steps it up by serving traditional beer and wine, while Rio (02-796-2003) sticks to the basics of coffee and tea. Fancy-sounding imported lager will run you between W6,000 – W9,000. The interior is cozy, and the dark lighting only adds to the great surrounding views. Both stay open year-round from 10 am to 2 pm.

Getting there: Getting there: Take subway line 4 to Ichon Stn. It’s a ten minute walk from exit 4.

Cafe Nodeul at night
Cafe Rio by night
The colorful menu of Cafe Rio

Nestled in Nature
Taking the greener approach, Riverview Bom (415-4952) is situated in one of Seoul’s more verdant settings. The interior is rather minimalistic, owing much of its appeal to what sits just outside its huge curving windows – rolling lawns, stretched out tree-lined pathways and Jamsil’s Cheolgyo Bridge. We were told that it’s often used for hosting surprise parties. Don’t come here on an empty stomach, though, as pickings are pretty slim – toast (W2,000), chips or cookies are about all you’ll find. Coffee and fruit juices are reasonably priced (W2,000 – W3,000). Signature drinks to try are omija (five-berry flavored tea) and sweet pumpkin juice. Café Riverview Bom is open year-round from 11 am – 11 pm.

Getting there: Grab subway line 2 to Jamsil Station. Get out at exit 7 and walk for roughly 10 minutes.

View from below Cafe Bom
View from below Cafe Bom