[Weekender] Armchair traveling, a new way to experience getaways

By Korea Herald

Travel-themed cafes grow popular among vacationers, urbanites

  • Published : Jul 18, 2014 - 21:04
  • Updated : Jul 18, 2014 - 21:04
Long-awaited vacations always pass by all too soon, and it seems that to make the most out of that limited time, one simply has to fully savor the pretravel excitement and post-travel reminiscing.

Luckily, it has become easier nowadays to find travel-inspired places all over Seoul, where aspiring travelers may obtain travel information and fatigued urbanites may feel a sense of freedom amid their pressing daily routine.

The newest of these spots is the Hyundai Card Travel Library, which opened in Cheongdam-dong in May as part of the company’s long-term project to promote design and to offer its customers a classy cultural experience.
The second floor of Hyundai Card Travel Library incorporates a collection of travel-related books, reading zones and a play room with a wall-size Google Earth monitor system. (Hyundai Card)

“The essence of traveling is to be inspired and to experience new horizons, and this is very much in line with Hyundai Card’s vision,” said an official of the card company.

This new library is currently the world’s largest travel-specific library, with some 14,700 books ― each of them selected by one of four professional book curators and classified by themes and regions.

Among them are a full set of National Geographic, the world’s first and only tourism geographical journal Imago Mundi, city maps of 90 major tourist cities, and standard dictionaries of 111 languages used around the world.

“The Travel Library should not just be a channel for collecting travel data, but rather the very first step of travel, which is curiosity and inspiration,” said Katayama Masamichi, the interior designer in charge of the project.

To fire the visitors’ imaginations, design objects such as airport direction boards from the 1950s, vintage globes and ethnic, animal-shaped African stools have been placed in every corner of the library.

For those seeking more detailed travel information on flight schedules, lodging and meals, the nation’s largest travel agency, Hana Tour, presents Tour de Cafe.

The travel cafe offers a wide variety of convenient features, ranging from fine-tasting coffee and meeting tables to Hana Tour’s professional travel magazines. However its unrivaled strength is undoubtedly the real-time travel counseling service.

“One may step into the cafe, take a tour around to gather information, and move right on to reserving a flight and lodging,” said an official of Hana Tour.
The second floor of Hyundai Card Travel Library incorporates a collection of travel-related books, reading zones and a play room with a wall-size Google Earth monitor system. (Hyundai Card)
The map shelf, which resembles a mail sorting office, displays the maps of major tourist cities around the world. (Bae Hyun-jung/The Korea Herald)

Another strong point is the taste of the coffee, provided by the Australian franchise Cherry Beans.

Tour de Cafe currently has four branches in Seoul, each of them with a respective regional theme. For example, the recently opened Hongdae branch focuses on Shandong Province, eastern China.

Some choose to pretend they’re going on an actual journey by visiting Air Cafe Airplane, an ideal hideout located in Hongdae.

Its entrance is marked “International Departure Hall,” the double seats are shaped like airplane seats, and the walls are covered with travel photos and postcards. But to top it all off, the place offers in-flight meals based on advance orders.

“In the beginning, it was about sharing my personal travel memories but the collection expanded as regular visitors started to add their memos and photos all around the place,” said cafe owner Hong Ju-young, whose job title on his business card is “airplane captain.”

“After all, the joy of traveling is to experience the new and communicate with others, so why not do it here in Seoul amid one’s everyday life?”

By Bae Hyun-jung (