I went to Seoul this past weekend with one thing on my mind: pet cafes. Wow, that sentence sounds a bit crazy so maybe some explaining is in order. Pet cafes are not restaurants that specialize in serving various types of pets. (Sorry for the gruesome picture.) On the contrary, these are cafes that serve normal café fare, i.e. coffee, tea, and expresso drinks, while surrounded by friendly cats or dogs. In several locations throughout Seoul, one can find dog cafés, cat cafes, and fish cafés. (or so I had been told). I decided to spend an afternoon investigating whether these pet cafes were real and to see if I enjoyed drinking a cup of coffee while a pack of dogs ran around my feet.
The first place to look for these pet cafes was in the chic and hip shopping district of Myeongdong. Sure enough, after asking around for 5 minutes, I was pointed in the direction of both a dog café and a cat café. Being a canine lover, I opted for the dog café first.
So to enter the dog café, you have to pay 8,000 won up front, but that includes the price of a coffee or tea drink. But obviously, no one is coming here for the coffee or tea. The cafe is set up for dogs and they are the main draw for good reason. The entire center of the café was cleared out and there were more than twenty dogs of various breeds playing or sitting in the laps of customers. I was given a menu with the names and profiles of each dog and was left to choose which one I wanted to get to know. Being partial to dachshunds, I instantly set out for this cute little dachshund pup that could not keep still. The café was a madhouse with dogs running and jumping all over the place and the customers (including me) were having just as much fun. I forgot about my drink and ended up playing with the dogs for the next hour.
I didn’t want to leave, but time was getting away from me and I still had to check out the cat café and fish café. I walked only a few blocks down the street and happened to run right into a cat café. It was the same set up with the 8,000 won entrance fee and drink, but the atmosphere was much more subdued. In fact, most of the cats were either napping or lounging up on shelves away from customers. (My friend asked me what did I expect…they are cats!) I was trying not to be biased, but the truth was this place was just not as much fun as the dog café. People could actually come here and enjoy a nice, quiet cup of coffee, which is what I ended up doing.
Last, with time running out in our afternoon, I tried to find a fish café. I searched and searched Myeongdong, but I could not find one and had to leave disappointed. I know some of you are thinking that a fish café sounds more boring than a cat café, but let me explain. A fish café has pools of water underneath tables that you put your feet in while drinking a cup of coffee. Inside the pools are hundreds of little fish that bite the dead skin off of your feet. This is supposed to feel good and do wonders for your feet. Read more about it here. I would like to hear if anyone has visited a fish cafe and if they would recommend it!
Adam Montgomery is a 25-year old teacher at the Chungdahm Branch on Jeju. He has been teaching in Korea for under a year. When he is not teaching, he enjoys exploring the wonders of Jeju and Korea.