The Hello Kitty Cafe in Seoul, South Korea

I fear my gushy internal smile seeps to the surface when I reflect on the ways in which life with Pumpkin has skewed my tastes. Six years ago, the overlapping segment of our collective Venn diagram was barely a linear sliver but as the minutes ticked on, the country count toll rose and the experiences became increasingly memorable, our scrawny overlap ballooned like an expectant mother, as our interests and tastes meshed into an indecipherable, blurry cloud.

The influence we have had on each other is easily apparent to all those who know us well.

Hello Kitty cafe Seoul blog review

For starters, I now own a pair of hiking boots and he now understands the word, “amuse bouche.” He has slowed his gait after learning that my little legs struggle to keep up with his brisk pace and I have learned that travel is far more liberating when you don’t pack your hair straighteners. He has slowly come to love the uplifting, unwinding qualities of a beach break with no itinerary and I have surprised myself by volunteering to go on jungle walks in the pouring rain.

Ever since we met, he has worn his previously rarely-seen beaming smile (those are his parents’ words not me patting myself on the back here) and I have learned from him to live in the moment, on our own terms and that life can be much more of an adventure than any stereotypical societal mould would have us believe.

unique quirky cafes around the world

Even more moving though, is when Pumpkin’s tastes don’t overlap with mine – when he finds an activity I will love that he knows he will loathe that he not only agrees to participate in but actually proactively suggests. It is this form of selfless kindness that moves me the most and nothing exemplifies it better than when he accompanied me to the Hello Kitty Café in Hongdae Seoul earlier this year.

Hello Kitty Coffee Dessert Shop

Hello Kitty Childhood Memories

I was very much a child of the Sanrio generation. My primitive years were spent in the Middle East where Hello Kitty, the cutesie bow-adorned cat-come-little lady was a character that many young girls wished they knew. I was no different and when I spotted a Hello Kitty watch in a toy shop with my parents, I felt a materialistic longing for the very first time. The watch was nothing revolutionary (or perhaps for that era, it was); it comprised a fabric strap with a plastic Hello Kitty face that you lifted to read the time but the twist, and for a wide-eyed 7-year-old, it was the most innovative twist of all, was that the plastic part of the watch that comprised Hello Kitty’s outfit could be switched with interchangeable plastic outfits.

Hello Kitty coffee shop Seoul

My parents took note of the sense of wonderment they spotted in me that day and on my next birthday, as I tore through shimmering gift wrap, my miniature fingers failed to keep up with the racing beat of my overjoyed heart. The watch was my pride and joy. I took it to Show and Tell at school. I kept it safely in my treasure box of belongings when we moved to the UK. Along with the straggly, cuddly koala I have had since birth and the Statue of Liberty rubber I mentioned in this post, the Hello Kitty watch still remains securely parked in a drawer of my parental home.

character cafes Asia

So it was nostalgia more than anything else that drove me to the Hello Kitty Café in Seoul. I didn’t arrive expecting a Michelin starred meal and (spoiler alert), I didn’t get one. But that wasn’t why I went. I went to reminisce about all those moments from my childhood that were punctuated by Hello Kitty. I went to remember my teenage years, when my best friend would return from trips to Hong Kong to see her Dad with her hand luggage filled with Hello Kitty goodies – notepads, toys, stickers, I loved them all.

Hello Kitty gift shop South Koreablog review Hello Kitty Cafe Hongdae

I revel in knowing that the colourful fun-factor of this synthesised, fictional character, the one that Pumpkin finds silly in immeasurable quantity, lives on in future generations, as I see my 7-year-old niece reliving the trends with every bit the zeal that I did at her age.

In fact, truth be told, even until a couple of years ago, my car was home to a white Hello Kitty fluffy steering wheel cover. No prizes for guessing who removed it and in my defence, it was a gift rather than a self-purchase. I’m not a loopy lady going through a Hello Kitty orientated mid-life crisis.

Sanrio Hello Kitty Cafe

A Hello Kitty Cafe in Seoul

I am sure there is a part of Pumpkin that questioned whether it was the right thing to tell me about his discovery of the café but he knew I would love it and since we were heading to Hongdae anyway, it seemed a perfect place to pause for a drink.

Hello Kitty Cafe Seoul

Once you are in the area, you can’t really miss it. A towering gate with a giant bow hallmarks the entrance to the café, which we were easily able to walk into without a reservation. The assault of pink is all-consuming, less problematic for those of us who conform to gender stereotypes in being able to label this our favourite colour; but perhaps verging on the grotesque side for a man who is repulsed by such shades and such characters. As he took his tentative first steps into this cotton candy floss cocoon, the rich, rosy pink walls, ceilings, plaques, gates and signs did little to allay his grumpiness.

Hello Kitty restaurant

And that was only the outside.

A few (dozen) photos later, we asked for a table for two. We were shown the way in a coarse and half-baked way and a welcoming expression wouldn’t have gone amiss but it was easy to see that this is not a café that depends on its service personnel to acquire custom. Hello Kitty nuts and all those who cling to nostalgia the way I do are going to make their way either here or to one of the numerous Hello Kitty cafes around the world, regardless of whether or not they are seated with a smile.

Theme Cafes South Korea

Credit where credit is due though, the Hello Kitty Café in Hongdae excelled in featuring her kitty-shaped face in every plane throughout the premises. Look closely and you would spot her on your table, in your food, in your coffee, on your chair, in the mirrors, on the shelves, by the fireplace and in the toilets (and those are just the ones I noted). Most people who come here have a soft spot for the Hello Kitty brand so from a marketeer’s perspective, the décor serves its purpose effectively.

Hello Kitty places

Having read several mixed reviews about the food, we weren’t keen to order up a feast, particularly when the Seoul street food scene has so much more on offer to whet the appetite. After we settled into our garishly pink seats and perused the English menus, we decided to go for a round of coffee and hot chocolate and a brownie to share.

Hello Kitty cafe menu

The hot drinks, contrary to my expectations, were actually rather tasty, made all the more appealing by the floral motifs on the cups they were served in and the clean lines of the Hello Kitty coffee art. I can’t even draw an outline like this with a pencil on a piece of paper so I have no clue how baristas create such art works out of a bit of foam, milk and cocoa powder on a canvas of coffee.

Hello Kitty coffee art

And in case you’re wondering why my coffee was looking a little jaundiced, it is not a photo filter but rather, a SWEET POTATO LATTE! For all those of you that thought this post was just going to be about a fictional pink cat, clearly you under-estimated the menu. Sweet potatoes are a store cupboard ingredient in our home (there are two in the house as I write this) but to see it in latte form was something entirely quirky to me and that’s coming from London, which has its fair share of novelty coffee finds.

Hello Kitty Cafe Hongdae Seoul

Far from being a tasteless gimmick, the latte had a rich, earthy and wonderfully autumnal sweetness melting through it and as far as the food and drink go, it was definitely the highlight of our visit.

Hello Kitty theme cafe South Korea
Anyone for a Hellocino?

Unfortunately, the brownie, in contrast, was suffering from serious dehydration (I bake mine to be proudly fudgey in the middle) and this one lacked in any discernible chocolate aroma. And since I am not habitually a fan of mousse-based desserts, I opted against the Hello Kitty strawberry and chocolate mousse cakes, despite their Instagram potential.

Hello Kitty dessert cake

Prices are on the steeper end of the spectrum compared to other cafes in Seoul but this is not unexpected given that it is a theme café, where your money is buying the experience more than it is the coffee itself, so whilst it would have been nice to have a moist, gooey brownie (go figure), that’s not really what we came for. After all, if you’re seeking out the best brownie in town, would you really go to the Hello Kitty café to locate it?

Hello Kitty dessert cafe

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Pumpkin who stared around on a few occasions to see if any semblance of a Y chromosome could be seen in the vicinity. Unfortunately, after three sheepish 360 degree sweeps of the room, he gave up on his plight and the aforementioned grumpy frown that his family always tell me he used to sport, made a rapid and assertive resurgence.

“This place is just ridiculous” he ranted repetitively, cursing himself for the generosity (or stupidity) of putting himself in this position.

quirky cafes travel blog post

You’ve all seen the Instagram husband video right? Imagine having to play Instagram husband in the middle of an oasis of pink bows and Hello Kitty faces?!

Even the bladder isn’t spared from a pink backdrop in this café with the bathrooms adopting the same, predictable colour scheme as the rest of the café but Pumpkin would have rather gone into retention than used the facilities there.

Hello Kitty cafe review

And if you are a bit of a souvenir collector, the gift shop is filled with Hello Kitty paraphernalia but by this stage of pink proceedings, the fact that I hadn’t received divorce papers was gift enough so with a final glance at the dolly-mixture like interiors, we made a swift escape.

This is not a café you come to in pursuit of exquisite gourmand patisserie or artisanal desserts but if you ever had a soft spot for Hello Kitty (or you just really want to annoy your husband), this is a must-see café in Seoul.

59 thoughts on “The Hello Kitty Cafe in Seoul, South Korea

  1. How incredibly sweet of Pumpkin to accompany you here, you can’t get more supportive than that! Also, sweet potato lattes?! I’m SO sold!! xx

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 8, 2016 — 10:05 am

      I know you love a quirky themed latte Ayushi and the sweet potato one sounded so unusual but really worked! And yes, I think he will agree with you that this was just about as supportive as he’s prepared to get :mrgreen::mrgreen:

  2. Aww such a heartwarming opening Shikha and one I totally related to, feels very similar to how me and Justin were/are! True love eh! His face in that pic really made me chuckle too!

    I love quirky places like this, the kinda place I’d totally want to visit if/when I visit Seoul! 😉

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 8, 2016 — 10:09 am

      Hehe, the photo is quite comical isn’t it Keri?! Aww sounds like you and Justin are quite similar to us as a pair! I definitely think people that seem quite different personalities can sometimes work very well together to bring out a different side in each other ☺

  3. Aw, it’s my dream to go there. Everything is so pink and fabulous! It warms my heart 🙂

    Alexis
    http://www.dollier.com

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 27, 2016 — 10:34 am

      Oh Alexis, sounds like you would love it just as much as I did then! There are quite a few scattered around the world so I hope you get to go to one of them soon! Thanks so much for reading ☺

  4. I love this post, the intro especially was brilliant!! I had to convince Mr S to go to the Maids cafe in Tokyo and when we walked in he was like WHAT is this!!! But soon he was laughing and clapping along. Equally we weren’t expecting the teddy shaped pancakes and kittens in mash to be the best meal we’d ever had so we just ordered some cute ice cream sundaes and were pleasantly surprised.

    If I ever go to Seoul, Hello Kitty cafe is the first place I’m adding to my list!

    1. What maids cafe did you visit in Tokyo? It seems like it would be fun to eat at one!

      1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 8, 2016 — 10:12 am

        The one I went to Alexis was called At Home Maid Café in Akihabara. Really nearby it, there was another one called Maiddreamin which also looked good. Definitely recommend trying one out if you get a chance – they are quite an experience!

    2. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 27, 2016 — 10:36 am

      Aww thanks Angie! And I can totally relate Angie as Pumpkin felt exactly the same way about the maid café but I know that deep down, he did enjoy it and was really glad we went! These kinds of quirky places are worth taking a gamble on sometimes and the latte ended up being rather nice!

  5. What a funny coincidence: we stayed in the Hello Kitty room just a few weeks ago in a hotel here in Tokyo (post coming up but for now just have a FB link: https://www.facebook.com/CrazyBMisadventures/photos/a.958710097544904.1073741828.958651087550805/1140894525993126/?type=3&theater
    Poor Pumpkin, I kind of felt the same way at times. At least he didn’t overnight in it 🙂 Lissette loved it though, I had kept it a surprise and she got so excited seeing this room. And wait for it, the hotel had a different room with a whole different Hello Kitty motif (called “Kittytown”). Anyway, she got a “Hello Kitty” breakfast, was given “Hello Kitty” dolls and “Hello Kitty” slippers. The thing is that everything in the room had the Hello Kitty logo on it: the kettle, the trashcan, the scale in the bathroom…maybe a bit of Hello Kitty overload but if you liked the cafe you would have enjoyed this as well.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 27, 2016 — 10:38 am

      Frank, that is such a strange coincidence as we stayed at the Keio Plaza when we were in Tokyo this year and I REALLY wanted the hello kitty room but it was fully booked all the dates we were there. And now having read your description, I am super jealous you both got to sample it! What a very thoughtful and kind surprise it was for you to arrange for, especially given the extent of pink kawaii stuff you must have been surrounded by during the overnight stay! I hope Pumpkin is taking notes ☺

      1. I finally got to that post Shikha: http://bbqboy.net/going-hello-kitty-crazy-keio-plaza-hotel-tokyo/
        Yes, that is a coincidence. I guess the rooms are in high demand despite the pretty hefty price tag. But hey, you live once right?

        Frank (bbqboy)

  6. Oh wow so cute, I would love to visit for the experience I’m quite a fan of Asian kawaii 😉

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 27, 2016 — 10:42 am

      Me too Becky! It was very girly but so cute ☺

  7. How thoughtful of your husband to suggest somewhere that he knows you will love even if he doesn’t – although perhaps secretly he had fun too! Looks like a lot of fun

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 27, 2016 — 10:43 am

      I’d like to think that grumpy frown is exaggerated to cover up the good time he didn’t want to reveal he was having Suze! :mrgreen:

  8. Miriam @londonkitchendiaries November 24, 2016 — 9:56 am

    This looks like a lot of fun – you have such a lovely husband 😉 It is beautiful – would love to visit one day!

    Miriam
    http://www.londonkitchendiaries.com

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 27, 2016 — 10:43 am

      Awww thanks Miriam! He’s a good egg underneath the grumpiness ; -)

  9. Aww Shikha, you are so cute! I’m glad Pumpkin took you there 🙂 I recently got my photo taken with Hello Kitty hehehe. Did you by any souvenirs?
    Love that you had a sweet potato drink, it’s such a versatile vegetable, I made ice cream with it the other day!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 27, 2016 — 10:45 am

      Your ice cream sounds amaze balls Priti!! No chance he’d have let us spend any extra time looking for souvenirs – good thing I still have a few from my childhood! I’d love to have my photo taken with my childhood favourite – where did you get to do that?!

      1. At universal Studios in Orlando, they have a Hello Kitty store and she was just wandreing around outside 🙂 We were there in October. Hehe thanks re the sweet potato ice cream, it didn’t taste too bad either! Xx

  10. Muddy Boots Bakes November 25, 2016 — 5:04 am

    That photograph of your poor husband is hilarious… what is the phrase about pictures saying a thousand words? L X

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 27, 2016 — 11:20 am

      Hehehe, it is a sorry sight isn’t it?! I do feel like I’m going to have to pay back this favour one day in dome dreary sport match or some such
      ..:mrgreen:

  11. Very interesting, Shikha! It looks like a very fun place. It sure would be a nice place to visit while in Seoul 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 27, 2016 — 11:21 am

      It was good fun Pooja! ☺

  12. Poor, poor Pumpkin – he didn’t realise quite what he was getting himself in for with this blogging malarkey did he!?

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 27, 2016 — 11:22 am

      He certainly didn’t Emma….though there’s a very good chance I would have insisted on this long before my blogging days so perhaps he didn’t know what he was getting himself into with meeting me!!

  13. Think I’m with Pumpkin on this one! (But glad you enjoyed it!!)

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 27, 2016 — 11:23 am

      Hehe, thanks Aaron! I have a feeling you’re probably not the only one :mrgreen:

  14. Pumpkin’s face in the last photo is epic and says it all, although huge credit to him to still accompany you to the cafe. This place is an utter cuteness overload!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 27, 2016 — 11:25 am

      Hehe, he is rarely keen on having his photo on the blog but I think he didn’t want there to be any confusion about how he really felt in there! :mrgreen::mrgreen: Personally, I thought it was so fun & cute. Hope one opens up in Japan soon Nano but there’s quite a few dotted around the world I believe so you might even find one somewhere else on your travels ☺

  15. I actually adore this post Shikha! I can’t stop giggling at the thought of Gautam’s face and his reaction to all the pinkness. I am so so glad you included a pic of him which I was waiting for from the very first paragraph! I wasn’t a massive fan of Hello Kitty when I was younger but the cuteness and all the pink would definitely draw me to this place if I ever visit Seoul. I may suggest it as a future destination but I’ll wait until my little pink girl is here first so that it’s two against one and Alex has no choice! (Because his face would totally have the same expression as Gautam’s!!) 😂

  16. This post really made me smile. My daughter is far too cool for Hello Kitty (and anything pink) nowadays but I think even she could be persuaded to enjoy such gorgeousness with me. A must-do in Japan!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 4, 2016 — 11:39 am

      Absolutely worth a visit if not just for the fun factor – wish I was too cool for it or had grown out of it but rather embarrassingly, still a fan! Though I didn’t come across any in Japan – this one was in Seoul.

  17. Adorable and slightly scary at the same time! lol It’s like the mini kitty version of Disney Land!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 4, 2016 — 11:40 am

      Yep! It’s definitely all a bit pink and silly inside Gary but was a bit of a must do for me given how much I loved Hello Kitty things as a child!:mrgreen:

  18. cool! my best friend would love this!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 4, 2016 — 11:42 am

      If she’s a fan of Hello Kitty or kawaii culture Tanja, then I imagine she would!

      1. yes, she loves Hello Kitty and she lived in Japan as a kid:)

  19. Planes & Champagne December 4, 2016 — 9:31 pm

    Your intro reminds me so much of the relationship I have with my husband! I had never even been hiking until I met him and he’d never been on a beach holiday before. Were like chalk and cheese but I couldn’t imagine it being any other way! I must admit to being a hello kitty fan and I would be all over the sweet potato latte too!

  20. What a cute experience, I would love to visit this place its worth a trip.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 8, 2016 — 10:13 am

      It was so adorable Miranda! Very pink but quite a fun experience!

  21. HAHAHA – your husband’s expression!!!! This would be a dream come true for me and John would feel the EXACT same way as your Pumpkin! xx

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 10, 2016 — 6:38 am

      Hehe, you mean John ISN’T a fan of all things pink, bow covered & cutesie Jaime?! What is with these boys?! 😀 Pumpkin’s face just says it all in this pic. I think he was just cursing himself in there about why he ever told me about it!

  22. On my god!!! I love Hello kitty.
    Hello, These are very adorable!! I used to live in Korea.
    I am a new blogger, if you don’t mind can you visit my blog?
    If you can give me the advice, I’d love to hear.
    https://whathyonadid.wordpress.com
    Thank you.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 23, 2016 — 12:04 am

      Oh wow you used to live there! Did you ever make it to any of the Hello Kitty cafes there when you lived there? Of course, I’m more than happy to take a look at your blog! Thanks for sending me the link 🙂

  23. you know Shikha, it’s ok to say to your husband ‘Its ok you dont have to come, this probably isnt for you’. Still, we men love a good groan. I expect he earned enough brownie points to get him off scot free for … well pretty much anything for all of 2017!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 22, 2017 — 6:42 pm

      Haha, well yes Andy, I COULD have told him not to come but now where would be the fun in that?! Then I wouldn’t have got to see his grumpy face sipping away at his kitty coffee art 🙂

  24. Oh my goodness I’m so jealous, this looks AMAZING!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 22, 2017 — 7:00 pm

      It was all just SO cute and pink Alice!!

  25. Now this looks like good fun!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 24, 2017 — 1:10 pm

      So fun & cute – even if it was the longest hour of my hubby’s life! 😀

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