Monday, March 11, 2013


Sanmotoongi (산모퉁이) means a corner of a mountain foot (山脚下的一隅) but Sanmotoongi Cafe & Gallery sits on a high point in Buamdong (부암동, 付岩洞). Folktale has it that long time ago in this area, there was a two metres high magical rock. Villager who wanted a son would rub a number of stones equal to his age on it. When he released his hand and the stones stuck, he would have his wish filfilled. From this, came the name "bu-am" which literally means "attach to rock".

Located behind Gyeongbok Palace and the Blue House, Buamdong is a world apart from the hustle and bustle of downtown Seoul but yet, it is geographically not far away from it. I hardly met any people on the streets. There was a sense of loneliness which was quite out of place in a city with a population of more than 10 million people. I like loneliness but I not lonely.

I did not know exactly where Sanmotoongi was in Buamdong. I only remember I have to walk up some "ridiculously" steep slopes before I came across it. Seoul was still quite cold then, at about -7°C. On entering Sanmotoongi, I ordered a cup of hot mocha and warm up my body a bit before exploring the place.

Sanmotoongi is a 3-level building with both indoor and outdoor seatings. At level three rooftop, I have a lovely view of the night scenery of Seoul and Buamdong. Level two is where the cafe entrance and counter are and level one, the main gallery. After the place was made famous by the Korean drama, the "1st Shop of Coffee Prince", it now looks dated, but still good enough as a short get-away from the stressful city life.

Sanmotoongi Gallery & Cafe at Buamdong

Sanmotoongi is built over a slope. What looks like a 2-level building is actually 3 levels

Terracotta horses stood guard on the side of the entrance

Looking out from my seat
Potraits of the cast of the "1st Shop of Coffee Prince

Sanmotoongi's logo was seen all over the cafe

Part of exhibits at level 3 indoor

Couple having a quiet time at level 3

A closer look at the seat vacated by the couple

Night has arrived at Seoul and Buamdong

Some memorabilia from the Korean drama that brought it fame

Stairs to level one - the main gallery

Doll in a lightbulb

This room at level one can only be used by a group of  four or more people

A fish tank in an old television shell

Part of exhibits at level one

Outdoor area

Warm light from inside Sanmotoongi

"Gallery" extended even to the side of the road outside Sanmotoongi


  1. indeed it is a lovely place to stay and contemplate, to watch the City from a safe distance ... i gazed and gazed but little thought ...

  2. city life is too stressful. places like this are helpful to empty our mind.

  3. Do you have other similar places you can recommend from your experience - getting out without really going too far away from seoul?

    1. Seoul Grand Park, Children's Grand Park, Haneul Park, Noeul Park, Peace Park, Seoul Olympic Park, Hangang Park, Mt. Acha, Mt. Yongma - these are some places that come to mind.