Greenhouses, Cafes & Gardens Northwest Of Seoul

One of my pastimes has definitely become falling down Instagram rabbit holes that lead me to beautiful places and cafes in Korea. I’ve learned a few things after searching long and hard a long enough. That rabbit hole is what led me to Yangju’s gorgeous Nari Park and then on to the greenhouse cafe set on a mountain in Namyangju. I also found a lot of the cafes in Hongdae I visited recently via this rabbit hole.

I’ve got some very pretty places I found this past weekend but don’t just look at the pics, because you should know what to expect too.

Alex The Coffee, Goyang, Korea

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Alex The Coffee (알렉스더커피 고양점)

Alex The Coffee, Goyang, Korea

I’m lucky to have become friends with Arielle from Soju4Two who, like me, loves taking adventures and is also fine with flubs that might occur when taking one. When there’s a toddler in tow, anything can happen and when there’s a couple of foreigners together in Korea… everything else can happen. We literally ended up driving in my car down a bike path at one point a few months back. Don’t ask me how this happened. Then of course getting off of it was a whole other issue because it wasn’t wide enough to do a U-turn and I wasn’t sure how far I’d have to go to get off again. Seriously though, I know how to drive and there were NO signs saying not to go on this “road”. The cyclists on the road sure wondered what the hell was happening though.

Back to last weekend… We set out almost every weekend to hunt something out and see what we can see and this past Sunday we started with Alex The Coffee. This place was throwing us for a bit of a loop in regards to what was online though. The pics on Instagram were all that.

  • Greenhouse cafe ✔
  • Garden outside ✔
  • Rustic appeal ✔
  • Windows Windows and Windows ✔
  • Autumn Flowers ✔

The list could go on, but the pics spoke for themselves. After finding a spot on Instagram, Arielle and I always check addresses on Naver (my preferred site) and Daum (her preferred site) because the location tag on Instagram isn’t always accurate. I noticed when I was copying the address and checking the hours of operation though that the Korean reviews were ALL “1” out of “5”. Two of them said if they could give a “0” they would have, but they can’t on Naver’s rating system.
Alex The Coffee, Goyang, Korea

After some reading, it was apparent that while the decor and the spot are beautiful, coffees are good, it’s the staff that is pulling the rating down. We said, heck with it, let’s set out, see a beautiful place and possibly get snubbed by the locals. We’re also both optimistic people so figured once they saw our beautiful smiles, they’d brighten right up. HAha. That did NOT happen, BUT it really wasn’t that bad. Basically, we deduced that there is a big issue with the location and the clientele this cafe wants and what they’re getting. They’re right next to camping grounds that speak to families with children. As you enter the cafe, there’s a sign that says in no uncertain terms that you need to mind your children. The terms are a bit more forceful in Korean though. We were the first people into the cafe but by the time we left, we noticed there were four other tables of parents with young [read: well-mannered] children.

Alex The Coffee, Goyang, KoreaThe staff were two men when we visited and neither was very cheery or smiley and with the sign, I can understand why some people would be put off. I, personally, keep pretty close tabs on my daughter when we’re out and about and don’t mind a sign just confirming that it’s appreciated to do so. We ordered our drinks, a chai latte for me, apple juice for that kid I have following me all of the time and a green tea latte for Arielle. They were all tasty and ambiance was spot on. We also had a slice of carrot cake. The cake was softer than I expected but the frosting needed more cream cheese in my cheese loving opinion. The cafe would get a higher score from me, but again, I’m a kid friendly person so if you do NOT want to have families around you with young children, do NOT go here because that really is all that you’ll find. Or just go early like we did and no one else will even be there!Alex The Coffee, Goyang, Korea

Alex The Coffee (알렉스더커피 고양점)

Address: 313-2 Sinwon-dong Deokyang-gu, Goyang-si (경기도 고양시 덕양구 신원동 313-2)



Pointer #1 For Finding Cool Spots In Korea

This might go without saying, but I’m going to say it just in case. There is only a limited amount of information in English on what to see and where to go in Korea. You’re in Korea, search in Korean. Koreans are out and about and getting things tagged up MUCH MORE, so if you’re really getting in on the hunt, then you need to be searching via Korean hashtags. Start with the “-dong” (neighborhood) you want to visit or the city and then maybe add cafe (카페) or beautiful (예쁜) or nice (좋은) before what you’re out for like cafes (카페), parks (공원) or beaches (해변 or 바다). Also search using seasons. For example if you want to know where the flowers are blooming search “spring flowers” (봄꽃) or “autumn flowers” (가을꽃). Or get specific with specific flower names because there are fields of sunflowers (해바라기), cosmos (코스모스) and more, you just have to seek them out.. in Korean.

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Plantation (고양플랜테이션)

Plantation, Goyang, KoreaPlantation is immediately next to Alex The Coffee which is largely why it’s on this here list. The grounds are home to a glamping area as mentioned, a couple restaurants and a gallery as well as a garden with ponds and a little forest. If you’re looking for a glamping area that also has a gorgeous cafe next to it, then this is the place for you though it is VERY family friendly. I would not, however, recommend going here JUST for Plantation. Although, I think a large part of that is because the gardens look like they’ve been very recently neglected. Which may have just been because it’s autumn and a lot has started to whither and it was a weekend so if all of the leaves fell between last week when the gardener got off and next week when he’s back on, then there you go.

Technically, you can’t actually wander around Plantation without having a reservation at one of the restaurants or at the camping grounds. The grounds are safe and secure and again speaks to the family friendliness of the area. Don’t come here just for this, but if you’re at the cafe and want to try to get in to look around to see the fountains, odd statues and maybe have lunch, walk on in. You can’t miss the entrance and the staff at the information desk just inside will let you know what’s up.

Plantation, Goyang, Korea

Plantation (고양플랜테이션)

Address: 313-2 Sinwon-dong Deokyang-gu Goyang-si (경기도 고양시 덕양구 신원동 313-2)



Pointer #2 For Finding Cool Spots In Korea

If it seems like everyone takes a picture of the same exact thing from the same exact angle in a place, it is highly likely that that is the ONLY picturesque part of said cafe or restaurant. This can happen if a location is small. It can also happen if the decor just really stands out in one area but nothing else is really that awesome. If you want that one shot, go for it and have fun. If you want to make a day of it, a one shot wonder probably won’t provide all that much to do. These days lots of cafes in Korea are shooting for that one picturesque angle. Everyone gets their pic, a cup of Joe and there you go. That’s all some people are after and that’s fine. If you want more, make sure there is more.

First Garden (퍼스트가든)

Definitely the highlight of our Sunday to the northwest was visiting First Garden. I had bookmarked this a few weeks ago when I was in the Paju area visiting Heyri Art Village but timing didn’t work out to swing by, so I decided it would have to work out some other day. Sunday was that day and we were so surprised by what we found here. This garden was picturesque, had restaurants for chic eats and a cafe for a quiet respite. This is one place that went against “pointer #2” though in that almost all of the pictures on Insta of this spot are of a massive European style fountain. However, there is so much more to see.

There are five different beautiful parts of this park and they really do provide a lovely walk around.

First Garden, Paju, Korea: Hallie Bradley First Garden, Paju, KoreaWe absolutely LOVED the greenhouse where the leaves are giant and tropical, there were little hideaways to sit and soak it in and there were birds you could feed from your hand. There were multiple bird cages to one side of the greenhouse and then inside there was an area with tiny birds that would sit on your hand and eat seeds purchased for W2,000. Just outside of the greenhouse was also a giant bird house for peacocks. There are picnic tables and platforms to hang out on in the park. There are picturesque tree lined lanes (that may or may not have been used in a few K-dramas) and little paths that go deep into tall reeds.

This was a fun garden to explore and had things to see, eat, and plenty of space to spread out to do so.

First Garden, Paju, Korea: Hallie Bradley

This park also dazzled us with a great lane of tall reeds. Sky Park (Haneul Park) in World Cup Park is one of the most popular spots to get photos of the tall reeds in the autumn sunlight in Seoul. There are so many lanes and paths there to walk on that you can usually get a bit hidden if you want BUT the paths are really wide in that park. At First Garden the path was narrow so we were getting some cool shots just completely surrounded by them.First Garden, Paju, Korea: Hallie BradleyFirst Garden, Paju, KoreaA good tip though, the restaurants are a little pricey here. There are two main restaurants, an Italian one that has a buffet option and a Korean one that has a set menu option. If you don’t want to spend a buck, or only have a buck, inside there are some food trucks that sell cheaper eats. We had the sausages inside from a food truck and they were REALLY GOOD. Not just your standard simple hot dog. These were some good peppery sausages. The food trucks also served up chicken skewers, hot dogs, beer and ice cream. Have a simple picnic. You’re set and you’ll be set until you make it someplace else to eat.First Garden, Paju, Korea First Garden, Paju, Korea: Hallie Bradley

We really enjoyed First Garden and I would totally recommend it to anyone that wants to take a little day trip out of the city.

First Garden, Paju, Korea

First Garden (퍼스트가든)

Address: 1021-3 Sangjiseok-dong Paju-si (경기도 파주시 상지석동 1021-3)



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