I was refused coffee at Magnate Café in Busan. It was all my fault.
But this is why I have no photos of any drink that one customarily posts on Instagram as proof of visit. I was able to buy a slice of strawberry tiramisu cake, though, but the edges got ruined while in transit back to my hotel.
Magnate Café is famously known as the café owned by the father of BTS member Jimin. It is a must-stop for any Army visiting the city for whatever reason. The café didn’t serve me coffee or -ades (sweet drinks) because they stop serving them 30 minutes before closing time. They do this even earlier, which was the case during my visit, if there are only a few customers left. They are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
I arrived while the baristas were already cleaning up the coffee machine. This is my first tip for those who plan to visit the café when they go to the free mega concert of BTS on Oct. 15: Go early!
Magnate café’s official Instagram account is @magnate_official_. The account has only a few posts about the interiors, but there are posts of the drinks, pastries, merchandise, the sky above them and the calico cat that frequents the area.
The site was previously used as a manufacturing plant. And the café wisely took advantage of the building’s previous life for its industrial look. Its commitment to this design begins at the exterior, where you find two Magnate signs. One is placed against concrete, above the huge wooden door. The other is in cursive, on the side, against a wooden wall. Gravel is laid out on the ground, from the gate to the entrance. You might want to rethink your high heels if you plan to go.
Beyond the entrance is a long table for café merchandise and—most importantly—where flowers, gifts and messages for Jimin are left by fans. The café is spacious and it’s well thought out. There are exposed pipes on the ceiling, brick walls, unfinished concrete columns and concrete floor, in keeping with the industrial look. There are curiosities on every corner. A heptaptych of Marilyn Monroe inspired by Andy Warhol’s work is one of the more striking ones.
Not a BTS-themed café
Some seats face floor-to-ceiling windows that allow you to enjoy the garden outside. But even the furniture and seating areas can keep you occupied. One spot has a drop chandelier over an ersatz sunken fireplace. Imagine your big group sitting here and drinking coffee. A suitcase-inspired aluminum table is found next to it and it’s the perfect spot to view both the chandelier and the garden outside.
One thing you have to understand is that Magnate Café is not a BTS-themed café. But there are plenty of hints of BTS throughout, besides the Jimin gift table. For starters, there’s a sitting sculpture of “The Little Prince” installed outside. Jimin has been referred to as such since his solo song, “Serendipity,” came out. Of course, he’s also called the “Prince of Busan.”
The sculpture was made by artist Kim Gyoung-min. Then there’s also the cabinet where the hats of Jimin and Jungkook are proudly displayed. Why just Jungkook and not the other members? Well, Jungkook is also from Busan, and fans theorize that the BTS maknae’s (youngest) family probably gave it to Jimin’s. The cabinet’s display is changed frequently. It’s not covered with glass so it’s so easy to touch it, but we don’t recommend it.
Our theory as to why it’s open is because Jimin’s father probably wanted his son’s fans to be able to take pictures without worrying about the reflection of lights on the glass.When we visited early this month, we found Coca-Cola plates and a replica of the Jeju Air aircraft. Jimin’s fans from China customized the livery of the aircraft with Jimin’s face to celebrate his birthday last year.
Finally, the café plays plenty of BTS songs. One fan documented their playlist and it included “Dynamite,” “Idol” and “With You.” However, I noticed that they also play non-BTS songs. Before I left, they played Jay Park’s “Mommae.” The baristas were very friendly. They were apologetic that they could no longer make me any drink, but they said I could freely go around and take pictures. But they still allowed me to buy a slice of cake to bring home.
I ate it in my hotel room and it was yummy. It was unfortunate that I couldn’t eat it at the café because the slice was placed on a pretty, embossed white plate. I felt a little disappointed when they transferred it to a takeaway box. But I cheered up a little when I saw the box. The black takeaway box had a “Magnate” sticker slapped on it. The text was in purple and it had a yellow background. I brought the box home with me as a souvenir.
Ask the locals
A taxi from Haeundae Beach took less than 30 minutes to get there. I paid P550. Going back, I took the subway. The closest was Motgol Station. It was a bit of a walk, but I asked directions from locals. One of them was a mom who made her child answer me in English, probably to practice the language. It was very cute.
Korean visa Lines for applicants for Korean visas have been extremely last month. Some have even camped out overnight on the footbridge near the Korean embassy in Fort Bonifacio. One of the reasons for this spike are tourists who want to watch the BTS concert in Busan.
This prompted the embassy to make changes in its visa application procedures. They have now set up an online visa appointment that you can access through consul.mofa.go.kr/en/main.do.
BTS is the honorary ambassador for Busan’s bid to become host of the World Expo in 2030. The concert will invite representatives from the 170 member nations of the Bureau International des Expositions. They will have a free concert on Oct. 15 titled “Yet To Come.”
You can take a local flight from Seoul to Busan, but we recommend planning your itinerary days before the concert to check out other important BTS sites to complete your pilgrimage. One of them is the Penguin Village in Gwangju.
There are no real penguins in that village, but it got its name because most of its residents are elderly who walk like the flightless birds. It was on the verge of being demolished to make way for new developments after a fire that razed several houses in 1978. But artists came in to save the town by painting murals on the walls and creating artworks from everyday objects.
My visit to the village was part of the familiarization tour organized by the Korean Tourism Organization.One of the murals found in the village is j-hope’s. This was a project of his Chinese fans. The BTS member is from Gwangju.
The Penguin Village is between the Culture Complex and the Namgwangju stations in Gwangju. It is located at Cheonbyeonjwa-ro 446beon-gil 7, Nam-gu, Gwangju.
BTS stayed for days in Awon Hanok in Wanju, Jeolla Province. They spent a healing vacation surrounded by the mountains Jongnamsan, Seobangsan and Wibongsan. They took beautiful photos in almost every spot in the village, from the stony pathways to the roof tiles that line a road, to the hanok (traditional houses).
It’s a picturesque and quiet place that you can spend half a day on. It’s just a 30-minute taxi ride from Jeonju. Ticket price is around P420 and includes a beverage. If you’re heading to Seoul, this link will take you to some tips on where to go if you want to retrace BTS footsteps.