Try ‘Thirty-Nine’ cafe tour in Seoul

If you enjoyed the popular 2022 TV drama “Thirty-Nine”, centering on the 20-year friendship of three women, a coffee shop tour following the footsteps of the show's characters can be a unique way to explore Seoul's many cafes.

Lee Si-jin

Lee Si-jin

The Korea Herald


Best friends Cha Mi-jo (Son Ye-jin), Jeong Chan-young (Jeon Mi-do) and Jang Joo-hee (Kim Ji-hyun) at a Chinese restaurant in “Thirty-Nine”. PHOTO: JTBC/ THE KOREA HERALD

May 7, 2024

SEOUL – For visitors from overseas, it would be impossible to not note the proliferation of coffeehouses here; there seems to be more than just one around every corner in any Seoul neighborhood.

This abundance of coffee shops has led Koreans to be discerning when it comes to choosing a cafe.

Among the many different coffeehouses that beckon with unique concepts — think animal cafes, vinyl record coffee shops and even a “chimmuk cafe” where patrons must remain quiet and conversation is prohibited — you might want to check out some independent local cafes that have prominently featured in TV scenes.

If you enjoyed the popular 2022 TV drama “Thirty-Nine” — a romance series centering on the 20-year friendship of three women that is stronger than their familial bonds and romantic attachments — a coffee shop tour following the footsteps of the show’s characters can be a unique way to explore Seoul’s many cafes.

Feel Spanish vibe in Y Mas

Y Mas, a small cafe in Mangwon-dong — a former industrial neighborhood in northwestern Seoul that is one of the hippest in Seoul today — was a favorite meeting spot for the trio of best friends Cha Mi-jo (Son Ye-jin), Jeong Chan-young (Jeon Mi-do) and Jang Joo-hee (Kim Ji-hyun) in “Thirty-Nine.”

“Thirty-Nine” enthusiasts might be surprised to discover that this place is actually a coffee shop; on TV it was portrayed as a Chinese restaurant throughout the entire show.

Though some of the tables and chairs are a little different, the overall structure of Y Mas is similar to that of the fictional Chinese restaurant.

The coffeehouse is decorated with Spain-themed objects and accessories, ranging from posters, Spanish newspapers and a mirror with Spanish written on it to even a flight ticket to Madrid. Y Mas presents a unique vibe, one that transports you far away from Seoul.

Y Mas owner Hong Soo-young, who majored in Spanish, shared that he had plans to combine his interest in Spain to start a restaurant business.

“I studied in Spain for six months. I visited the country eight or nine times afterward and Spain really mesmerized me,” Hong told The Korea Herald on Tuesday.

Like cafes in Spain, Y Mas serves alcoholic drinks both day and night.

“I really hope for Y Mas to be a cozy space where visitors can relax, catch up on the latest news with friends and enjoy laid-back music in a friendly atmosphere. I think I want the coffee shop to be like the Chinese restaurant in ‘Thirty-Nine,’ where old friends can drop by and enjoy the moment,” Hong said.

While the cafe offers an extensive menu, the Bombon coffee — a sweet espresso drink popular in Spain — and jamon bocadillo are particularly popular with visitors, according to the owner.

Bocadillo, a toasted baguette filled with slightly grilled jamon, marinated tomato and Spanish-style garlic mayonnaise sauce, is certain to suit the tastes of many.

Y Mas is open from noon to 7:30 p.m. It closes Sundays.

Relax at Debunk

If Y Mas is a spot to hang out with friends, Debunk is where you can spend some time alone and focus on work or a hobby.

Debunk is filled with wood-tone designs and warm orange and beige lighting that creates a calm mood.

With an artistic video playing on a wall on the right and bookshelves filled with various English books on the left, some cafegoers see Debunk as a stylish library.

“This cafe has been one of my favorite spots for studying since when I was in university,” a 24-year-old graduate surnamed Lee told The Korea Herald on Tuesday. “Debunk has a lot of tables for four and allowed my friends and I to study and do group projects together.”

The coffeehouse is, of course, open to anyone who wishes to take a break, but you can easily see people studying for exams and brainstorming for ideas.

“Though it is not a quiet study room, it is a spacious place where one can comfortably catch up on overdue work or focus on online lectures, like other people sitting here in this room,” Lee said.

Debunk opens every day from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

In this series, The Korea Herald introduces travel destinations featured in hit drama series with the hope of inspiring readers to immerse themselves in the popular scenes and scenery of their favorite shows.

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