943 Kings Cross: Harry Potter Cafe in Hongdae

Update: 12-6-2019

For a friends birthday I recently returned to 943 Kings Cross and I was super excited to redeem the cafe which had left me and my friends sour and disappointed. Before I went a coworker asked me where I was going and she looked it up on her computer. From the Naver blogs she was looking at it looked vastly different. They had butterbeer now and a change in decor and food. I was very excited to give it a try.

After a fun morning of running around I returned to platform 943 Kings Cross and a lot changed in ten months. First off the iconic trolley going through the wall is gone and with it all dreams of a fun Harry Potter photo shoot. Now there are brooms.

 

Witchy yes. Harry Potter? Not exactly a Firebolt or Nimbus 2000. And technically you can still pose with the big broom but it’s not the same or as exciting to me.

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The inside has changed too. For one thing, there wasn’t any line outside, just people milling around inside trying to decide what they wanted from the cloth scrolls which are now the menus. Which is much cooler. Plus they moved the display case and expanded upon their drinks and their cakes. There are now potions you can order to drink and a candle cake in addition to the over priced Happy Birthday Harry Happee birthday 943 cake.

They also are selling things in this area, from “wizard” owl themed looking things and special coffee.

To very very expensive Death Eater Wizard of Death style chocolate wands.

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They’re 50,000 won (on sale, originally crossed out as 69,000 won) per chocolate wand. This is much more Harry Potter style but also very expensive for something you’re meant to eat.

I decided to order a dragon leg and a wizards beer. There’s three options for the wizards beer: caffeine, no-caffeine, or alcoholic. Each looks different and is made in a different way. The caffeine one is the only one with whip cream and gold flakes on top with some coffee in it. But all are 9,500 won. The non-caffeine one has some foam on top but is suppose to be a sparkling drink and well the other is a beer that comes in a bear mug. They have pictures on the menu showing what each looks like and they turn out somewhat similar to the pictures.

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After ordering I headed upstairs to find a place to sit and saw many dragon legs discarded in the tray return spaces on the various different floors and felt my hopes plummet. I hadn’t really had lunch and had been hoping for something substantial.

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My couldn’t-drink-it-through-my-straw “wizard beer” was mostly just a very sweet coffee with gold leaf on top.

The dragon’s leg was like a ham, a ham made from my nightmares. The outside was hard and difficult to pierce through (read: chew) and the meat had a bizarre texture in spots. The bone going through it was almost shattered and fractured so that instead of being a bunch of meat on one bone that you eat off of, there were bone skewers throughout that you had to rip off and eat from. It was such a pain to eat with my one plastic glove and butter knife and fork that eventually I just gave up. It wasn’t even hot, barely warm. My friend’s husband took over and methodically removed all the meat from the bones and all the skewer bones with a determination I did not have. He enjoyed the skewer-style meat while my friends picked at the other pieces he managed to free. It’s just so much more work than it’s worth, especially for it’s price. (It was 15,000 won)

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My friends got other drinks and one had a semi-equally frustrating time.  She ordered a wizard’s green tea , only for her to end up with something with oreos on it and not like the picture in the menu. So she had to send it back. She got her drink but it was lukewarm without any thing to make it more special. It was 11,800 won and the picture in the menu showed it with greenery and what looked like a chocolate witches hat sitting atop the drink. But this was just a tea at a temperature she said reminiscent of “having made a tea, forgotten about it and then coming back to it much later and going oh! I made tea!”.

The decor has changed a little as well,  and it has stepped further away from Harry Potter and more into generic fantasy “wizard/witch” style.

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A spooky “dark wizard” (death eater) in the hall of the third floor.

It does seem however that they are preparing to open the 5th and 6th floor up at some undetermined future date.

If you want to go just for the decor and to wander around I suggest you pick the cheapest drink you’re interested in on the menu.  Their plain tea seems to be the cheapest option no matter when they update their menu with their basic coffees coming in second place on the cheaper but still expensive side. with everything over 6,000 won.

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I also managed to pop down into the basement which is just a small bar space with a hogs head on the wall. Once upon a time I believe it had a replica Hogwarts train but that seems to be gone.

The biggest difference I’d say between When I went at the beginning of the year in February to now is that while the cafe is still considered a “harry potter” cafe for some reason or another they’re further distancing themselves from anything that could be even remotely considered Harry Potter beyond having some books and some props (and dressing up on the fourth floor). If you scroll through past pictures of the cafe throughout this year they had a lot of the same drinks on the menu and at one time the “wizards beer” was called Butterbeer. However, one can only assume, probably out of fear of copyright they’ve had to further distance themselves from the thing every blogger and influencer’s post I saw which got me hyped to go in the first place made me think it was the Korean holy grail for Harry Potter fans. But now I think it’s more or less a good spot to get some vaguely European with witchy vibe photos or to try on a Hogwarts school robes. But they also seem to change the set up quite often, so who knows what the future holds for 943 Kings Cross.

Original post below from 2-17-2019:


Recently there’s been an explosion of people posting pictures and a ton of hype around a new cafe in Hongdae. There’s been discussion about long lines that wrap around the already crowded streets and tons of cute pictures in Hogwarts house robes with scarves holding wands and a platform 9 3/4’s halfway through the wall like they have at Kings Cross in London.

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This was the main purpose of my outing. To visit the Harry Potter cafe that had created so much of a buzz. The line wasn’t too bad, just average long for a newish cafe and before we knew it we were in. The building is quite big. There are five floors. In the basement is a pub that doesn’t open until 6:30pm and then three floors above the main floor with seating options. The main floor is where you order and can take pictures.

From the outside there’s a lot of magic that reminds one a bit of Universal Studio’s. There are windows filled with Harry Potter merchandise and around the corner is the platform 9 3/4’s spot. (with its own line) The closer you get the more you can see a wall of wand boxes like Ollivanders. I was so pumped. This was going to be my second Harry Potter themed cafe in South Korea (or third) and Hogsmede in Daegu knocked it out of the park. (so bummed it closed). I was ready for butter beer and cute pumpkin treats, Harry Potter inspired things and just a fun step into the books and of course plenty of Instagram worth photo spots, because that’s just how things are here.

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The rule is you have to at least order a drink in order to stay and take pictures. So we did, we bee-lined straight for the counter and perused the menu. There was nothing Harry Potter inspired on the menu. Drinks ranged from 5,000 won (for only an espresso) to 7,500 won which was mostly everything else on the menu. I ordered a choco latte, which is essentially a hot chocolate. It was 7,500 won and while I waited we took pictures. (note I have heard that they do a limited run of butter beer, so there is a chance they were sold out when we went, it could also be something in the bar which we didn’t go to.)

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We sat on the stairs and took pictures, posed with the wall of wands and then moved on and…well….

There were a lot of photo op places. But not a lot of it was Harry Potter. There were a lot of books scattered about in little nooks and corners, there were a couple other merch things as well, and I guess if you could squint you could see that they maybe were trying for different things with each floor. Like maybe the second floor was suppose to be a common room or library. Which one I don’t know.

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And maybe the third floor was a dining hall?

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And the top floor was one of the bedrooms?

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One of our friends ended up just staying with our stuff (and drinks) on the second floor while the two of us ran off to go explore. We ended up in line on the top floor which was the other photo op area. This is where the robes were. (It looks like they move them around some times) They only had three out of the four houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin and Hufflepuff. No Ravenclaw to be found. (Update: According to a friend whose been much more recently they now have Ravenclaw robes!) We waited in line for about an hour, which in Korea for something like this and the amount of people in front of us wasn’t too bad. We even made friends with the exhausted students who hadn’t slept in days behind us. (I don’t miss finals time) When we got up to the front we donned our robes and scarves and took a couple pictures. There was a chair with a lamp that people were pretending with a wand they were turning on, a Christmas tree and some mechanical snow globes (one in an old TV), there were suitcases so you could pretend you were on your way to school and a pair of brooms. It was fun and the only reason we stayed in line was so we wouldn’t have to do it again.

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Once we were done we hurried down stairs to our waiting friend promising to buy her drinks later as thanks. Our drinks had long gone cold and weren’t bad just…not worth 7,500 won, especially since there wasn’t anything Harry Potter related. No latte art, nothing. Essentially, like Urban Space, you’re paying for the opportunity to use the space for photos.

The only thing they offer that is Harry Potter related is Harry’s pink and green birthday cake. It’s the tiniest cake you’ll have ever seen and it’s 17,000 won and everyone I spoke with was intrigued by it until they saw the price.

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We still had fun, but it was more or less despite the fact we felt disappointed. The cafe was hyped up and so we were expecting a Universal Studio’s-esq level of Harry Potter magic and a little less mundane. They did try but just for how hyped up it was it let us down. I however can not speak for the pub in the basement. (Which is where I assume the train is since we couldn’t find it) I am interested in returning and giving the pub a try.

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The cafe is open Monday through Tuesday from 11:30 am until 10pm and on Friday through Sunday from 9:30 am until 10pm.

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The pub (Hog’s Head located in the basement) is open Sunday through Thursday from 7:30 pm until 5am and Friday and Saturday at 6:30 pm  till 5am.

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There is also an elevator available to take up the floors rather than the stairs surrounded by portraits. (and not necessarily portraits from Harry potter, just regular portraits) So if you want to wait in line for Harry Potter inspired photos or Harry Potter adjacent photos this is the spot for you.

Some friends went recently: A Ravenclaw robe is now available and they did manage to order an elusive butterbeer. I’ll try to go back sometime in 2019 to give it a try and also the pub in the basement since I’ll be living a bit closer. I’ll give an update when I do.

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