Lonely Planet Writer

Step into a black and white cartoon world at this new Seoul cafe

While most people know South Korea for its vibrant and colourful entertainment industry which goes from k-dramas to k-pop, the country’s passionate love for coffee might not be as famous. South Koreans really adore coffee in all its forms and flavours, and so it comes as no surprise that there are coffee shops around every corner, especially in the country’s capital Seoul. But few of them might be as unique and striking as the one located at 239-20 in the Yeonnam-dong neighbourhood, which allows you to stumble into a hand-drawn, two-dimensional world.

This cafe’s unique design creates a beautiful 2D optical illusion. Photo courtesy of YND239-20 Cafe

The YND239-20 cafe, named after its address in one of the neighbourhoods of the northwestern Mapu-gu district of Seoul (the same place where famous Hongdae and its nightclubs are), is designed to look like a monochrome cartoon— thanks to an optical illusion, everything in it, from the walls to the chairs to the mugs and dishes look like flatline drawings, giving you the impression of having suddenly switched from a 3D to a 2D world.

Everything in the cafe is is decorated to resemble a flat line drawing, from the chairs to the tables to the tables. Photo courtesy of YND239-20 Cafe

“We wanted to supply a place that looked like a cartoon to our customers,” the cafe’s marketing manager, JS Lee, told Lonely Planet. He also said they’re all happy to see that guests take pictures and make good memories in the cafe because that is “exactly what we wanted.”

The original Korean name of the cafe, “CAFE 연남동239-20”, is its address, and the same goes for the name’s English translation. Photo courtesy of YND239-20 Cafe

“There are a lot of foreign visitors in our cafe as well,” JS Lee continued. “We never expected that since we didn’t advertise its opening at all.” Turns out that this little corner of black and white design and stellar Instagrammability gained its popularity exclusively through word-of-mouth. “Famous bloggers, Facebook stars, magazines and TV programs all talked about us,” JS Lee remembered. “Then we became famous very naturally.” The plan now is to start a franchise in South Korea, JS Lee explained, and then look to the rest of the world as well. Maybe a 2D coffee shop pop up near you in the future!

The cafe is now looking to franchise in Korea and maybe in the rest of the world as well. Photo courtesy of YND239-20 Cafe

The Cafe Yeonnam-dong 239-20 is open every day of the week except Monday. If you happen to be in the neighbourhood and want to plan a visit for some coffee and incredible Instagram-worthy pictures, you can check their Facebook page here.