Written and Photographed by Chalica Pack
Chocolates with nuts, chocolates with crème, chocolates shaped like flowers, chocolates filled with organic dried fruits- whatever your fancy you will find it in Seoul. You might not know it, but Seoul is filled to the brim with chocolate shops. They are scattered in nearly every neighborhood from Itaewon to Apgujeong. There are cozy little shops to enjoy a mocha and truffle while reading a book, chic urban places that offer sandwiches and spirits, and places that are so high end your camera will not be welcomed. Here is a list of my chocolate finds just in time for Valentines Day. Just one word of warning: On February 14th and April 14th most of these shops will sell out of everything so be sure to get there early or you will regret it.
As I write up this article, I am enjoying a fabulous chocolate covered truffle brownie from Chocolate Castle near Gyeongbok Palace. Chocolate Castle is one of the oldest chocolate shops in Seoul. It isn’t fancy, it isn’t large, but it IS genuine. The shop’s chocolates were the inspiration for the chocolate museum on Jeju Island. Although their display case is small, it has a good mix of chocolates and gift boxes.
Gyeongbokgung Station Exit 2 walk straight for about 3 blocks. You can’t miss their giant red sign.
Off of a side street in Gangnam, is the whimsical two story Il Cacao. It has a European countryside feel on the inside. I feel this place is a perfect place for a tete a tete with a close friend or a long time lover, but the coziness might not lend itself well to a new relationship. There was nothing quaint about their chocolate selection. Bags filled with organic chocolate cookies, 30 piece assorted chocolate gift sets for $70,000KRW- Il Cacao pays attention to detail and each chocolate appears genuinely handmade and unique. Their shelves are stocked to the ceiling with uniquely wrapped yummies. Il Cacao is worthy of many a repeat visit.
Gangnam Station exit 7 take the first right and walk up the hill.
Hidden in Apgujeong, close to the Galleria, is the spacious and modern Dear Chocolate. No claustrophobia here! Sandwiches, beer and wine, plentiful seating and creative décor- Dear Chocolate has it ALL. They have a long display case with chocolates, cakes and cookies and they offer up some pretty decadent chocolate drinks on their menu as well. Near the entrance, there is a long wall adorned with rubber stamps with creative expressions. Pick one out and ask the staff to include a card along with your chocolate gift. Maybe you just want a note that says simply, “I love you”, or maybe you need the “ We are still good, right?” stamp. 4 piece chocolate boxes start at only $8,000KRW. Dear Chocolate falls in the affordable range. “Dear Chocolate, I think I love you.”
Across from the Galleria and down a block, take the alley on the right next to the pet shop 3446-7251.
Inside a giant tower of a building at the Hannam-dong end of Itaewon is the bakery and chocolate location of Passion 5. The actual chocolate shop is sectioned off behind giant double doors reminiscent of chocolate bars. I was impressed with their fancy well-designed chocolates. This upscale chocolate shop is probably where the wealthy businessmen buy their chocolate gifts. Each chocolate looked uniform and professionally made. The gift sets ranged in prices- but you could walk out with a nice 5 piece set wrapped up in gift box packed up with an ice pack to make sure your chocolates reach their destination in pristine condition for under $10,000KRW.
Passion 5 is located near Hanganjin Station on Subway Line 6, Exit 3. Just go straight for about 200 meters. Be forewarned- the building looking more like an office than a a bakery!
It’s a tough call to designate one chocolate shop as “the best”, but if cornered, I would waiver between Dear Chocolate and my final shop- Cacaoboom. Cacaoboom is in Hongdae, and to be honest- it is hard to find. But if you get lost and end up wandering around in the cold, don’t worry- they have many a tasty drink to warm you up! I devoured their “Strong Hot Chocolate”, which is basically like drinking the creamy goodness you find in molten lava cakes. They even bring you a spoon with your cup, and by the end of my drink, I was using my spoon to scrape up the last drops of melted chocolate. The Hongdae area is always bustling with excitement and with several small tables for seating, I think Cacaoboom would be a great stop on a romantic night out.
337-16 1F Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu
Hongdae exit 4 (but check out their website map!)
only open until 10pm
Fantastic chocolate gifts are at all of these shops. But instead of bringing the chocolates to your Valentine- how about bringing your Valentine to the chocolate? A chocolate adventure awaits you.