I had heard from one of my friends in Seoul that Gwangju (광주) was full of wonderful cafés. Although visiting these cafés was not my original intention when heading to this southern city, I found myself trapped among them nonetheless. Most of the cafés in Gwangju seem to be crowded in the south-eastern corner of the city, and if you’re wandering in the right places, you’ll be able to spot a cluster of hanok cafés. One of the most popular is Cafe Onhwa a neo-hanok café with a menu full of artisan coffee, teas and soufflé pancakes. While you may have to wait up to 15 minutes for a seat, the atmosphere remains peaceful despite the occasional crowds. Keep reading to see what makes this café so special.
The atmosphere of the neighborhood is one to be admired. The rooves never pass the middle of the mountain backdrop. If you’re a Seoul dweller, you’ll know just how rare that is. These low-rise buildings offer a tranquil atmosphere despite the young couples and friend groups making their way through the alleyways. It strangely never feels crowded, and the complex harmony of both modern and traditional style houses only adds to its charm.
The café is tucked away on a half-residential and half-café street. The alleyway is just small enough for a couple of bikes to fit through, which you’ll certainly see while sitting next to one of the several window seats. Although the outside of the hanok café boasts a modern, pillar-like structure it still lends itself to the views outside while adding a private dimension on the inside.
The café space is nothing to boast about; the tables are slightly close together while there still being limited space for a large amount. There is a small courtyard in the back, but nothing to show off. The winning point lies in the beautiful white porcelain cups that are decorated in perfectly same-sized squares behind the counterspace. They show off Onhwa’s Rose of Sharon logo, which you can also spot on their products for sale near the door.
Overall, the atmosphere of this café gets a big, fat 8 out of 10. It maintains its traditional elements while still being strikingly modern. Its look will please the tastes of the most rigid history-lovers while satisfying influencer’s need for that perfect Instagram feed post. I only wish it were a wee bit bigger.
What to Order
If you’re a coffee lover…
Go for one of the Americano options that the café has. They offer 5 different flavor palettes including a dark chocolate taste, flower taste, and even a savory option. If you’re looking for something a bit more traditional, there’s always their single origin option.
If you’re craving something sweet…
Most customers come here for the soufflé pancakes and they’re not disappointed. There’s a flavor for everyone, ranging from strawberry to fresh honeycomb.
If you’re looking for something to line your stomach before dinner…
We definitely recommend the Milk Tea. It’s only served cold here, but it comes in a beautiful glass bottle that you’re free to take home. Additionally, it’s not too sweet so you don’t have to worry about heading to the dentist any time soon.
How to Get There
From Gwangju Airport:
Via Subway – Take Line 1 from Gonghang (Airport) Station. Move 11 stops and get off at Culture Complex Station. Cafe Onhwa is a 15 minute walk straight up the road. Turn right when you see Cafe Florida, and make a left at the alleyway with the stone house. Cafe Onhwa is at the end of the small alley. The trip will take 45 minutes and will cost around 1,200 won.
Via Bus – From the airport bus terminal, take bus 160. Move 19 stops and get off at Gwangju Ilgo. From this station, transfer to Suwan 49 green bus. Move 5 stops and exit at Donggu Office. From here, the cafe is a 10 minute walk (see above for specific directions). The trip will take 1 hour and will cost around 2,000 won.
Via Taxi – A taxi ride will take you around 25 minutes and will cost around 15,000 won. You can use Kakao Taxi or grab a taxi directly out of the Arrivals gate of the airport.
Address: 광주광역시 동구 동계천로 151-31 | Gwangju City, Dong-gu, Donggyecheon-ro 151-31
Opening Hours: Daily 11-22:00 | Last Order 21:00
Instagram: Click Here
Price Range: $-$$
Accessibility: Yes, small inside space (booking in advance is suggested)