Theme cafes in Seoul
Jumanji Fusion Game Cafe
Located in Sinchon, an area that buzzes with happy-go-lucky university students, Jumanji offers a variety of popular board games for customers to wile away the hours as South Korean pop music blares in the background. The multi-coloured menu has several pages of bright pictures and game descriptions, and offers every type of Monopoly under the sun, including a wacky version featuring The Simpsons. Their most popular game is Clue, a murder-in-the-mansion-style mindbender, in which players become suspects. Jenga, Rummikub and Blokus are other popular games. Despite South Korea's reputation as a world leader in the development of technology, it appears there are still some locals opting for a simpler form of entertainment - judging by the cafe's popularity and the wall of computer games sitting silent. Cost: US$2 a person for one hour, depending on the type of game selected. A beer costs $3.50 and non-alcoholic drinks $1.50. (Sinchon Street, Sinchon, tel: 82 2 363 3487, www.cafejumanji.com.)
Occult Tarot Bar
Lim Chunjae - chunjae means genius - runs a hip bar in trendy Sinchon. Customers come to Occult to drink, listen to popular music and have their Tarot fortunes read by Chunjae. The wood panelling and rows of Chivas Regal bottles furnish Occult with a warm vibe, while waiters dressed in the obligatory black rush about serving drinks - in between surfing the web on a slim-line LCD display behind the bar. Renowned for its high-spirited late nights, Occult opens at 6pm and is packed with students and office workers partying until the wee hours. A Tarot reading costs $5 but, depending on Chunjae's mood, is free for special customers. (Sinchon Alley, Sinchon, tel: 82 2 338 1742, www.occultbar.com).
Hi-tech cafes are popping up everywhere in Seoul, and the biggest is the multi-storey Mega Starbucks cafe in Myeongdong. Believed to be the world's largest Starbucks, it carries none of the scorn usually lumped on the company by the anti-globalisation fringe. In fact, it's a popular meeting spot for all ages and has ample seating on every level. Office workers pore over papers or surf the internet with free wireless access, gaudily lit by the district's multi-coloured, overlapping neon signs swinging in the background. Besides the standard Starbucks fare, the menu carries green tea frapuccinos and sweet-potato cake. A cappuccino costs $3.85. (24, Chungmuro 1-Ga, Jung-Gu, tel: 82 2 3015 1804, www.starbucks.com.)
The country's top mobile-phone operator, SK Telecom, is hoping to capture the youth market through its hi-tech cafes. Teenagers are flocking to TTL Zones, where they sit around white and chrome tables to chat, surf the internet, listen to music or watch DVDs on the latest technology. Most of the cafes are set in prime space to attract teens wandering around busy shopping areas, and stand out from the crowd with their fluorescent flower motifs on the floor-to-ceiling windows. Services are free for members (www.sk.com).
Alexander's Magic Cafe
Now you see it, now you don't. Tucked away in a back alley, Alexander's is a difficult place to find. This shoebox cafe, which can seat 20 customers, is located in the basement of an unremarkable building. Alexander's is a school of magic by day and a magic bar by night (magicians dazzle with card tricks and make red balls disappear). The owner and staff are professional magicians, who make more than half their income performing magic tricks. The magic school runs three-month hobby courses that teach beginners the basics of the craft, as well as courses for advanced magicians. Owner Alexander Lee comes from a family of magicians. His grandfather, also known as Alexander, was Korea's first professional magician. Alexander the younger has turned his cafe into a magical experience. Cost: $15 will buy a drink and 40 minutes of magic. (400-2 Seokyo-Dong, tel: 82 2 3333 505, www.alexandermagic.co.kr.)
Bauhaus Dog Cafe
The card promises 'coffee, tea and food with lovely dogs'. Just follow the pooches to the bedlam zone. There are all kinds of dogs here - big, small and fluffy dogs; and they are everywhere - on the seats, under the seats, on the windowsills. Customers chat furiously over the cacophony as their dogs play hide-and-seek around them. Owner Jinwoo Jeong is crazy about dogs, and has 16 of his own. In a city the size of Seoul, there are few places where dog owners can take their pets, he says. Attentive waiters - mops in hand - run around cleaning up doggy accidents. Cost: $1.50 for 30 minutes' admission for your canine companion. (409-17 Seokyo-Dongat, tel: 82 2 3345 152 www.bau.cyworld.com.)