Only in Korea – Dr. Fish
Seoul has many unique and wonderful cafes. This statement, as you surely know if you have visited many, is an understatement. We have been to coffee shops that house live sheep for the customers’ petting pleasure, treehouse cafes with high fort-style construction for booths, dog and cat cafes for when you’re missing your animals back home, and a plethora of other themes that will undoubtedly find a way to fill your needs.
One of our favorite and most peculiar establishments is Namu Geuneul, or “Dr. Fish.” For a paltry 3,000 won, a reluctant man washes your feet and escorts you to a trough of hungry minnows that have the singular job of feasting on human flesh if given the opportunity.
Although we had been to Dr. Fish months ago with Ryan’s mom, we were anxious to return and make a video of this truly strange experience. We paid for our drinks and were told that the fish would be first. We plunged our toes into the warm water and they attacked!
Seriously though, it tickles like crazy at first. The swim around finding loose skin and nibbling away. It makes for a really funny and ultimately enjoyable experience once you get past the first few minutes of instinctual reactions to being eaten alive. We laughed and made funny faces when the horde would hit that spot between your third and fourth toes. The room with the fish tanks has many tables for enjoying your coffee and pastries, so there was a regular exchange of people watching mixed with gawking at the foreigners. We relaxed and enjoyed ourselves for the 20 minute limit before Captain Foot Scrub returned to give us a good post-cleaning-cleaning.
We donned our shoes once more and our order was delivered to our table. Due to a wonderful special, buying two drinks meant free Honey Bread, which is always a wonderful addition to a warm beverage. Their service is always pretty good, and everything they offer is almost guaranteed to satisfy. They have good coffee, pastries, beer, small sandwiches, coke (soda/cola/pop/carbonated beverage/whathaveyou), and of course: the fishes.
If you visit Namu Geuneul in Myeong-dong you’ll surely enjoy the experience as we have. There isn’t a lot of flair and drama about what is going on, just a straightforward niche cafe that serves its purpose well. When you arrive at the coffee shop floor, don’t be alarmed, they have another floor above where the fish are; the first level is just booths and magazines for a relaxing cup of coffee like any other cafe. Order your coffee and then say Dr. Fish. They’ll know what to do. If they ask you a bunch of question in Korea and you know as much of the language as we do, just keep saying “Dr. Fish” until they appear satisfied. We’re pretty sure that they’re probably asking if you want your coffee first, or your appointment with the doctor.
We have updated our map so that this gem is easier to find. Our first time we found about 20 different websites claiming that they knew where Dr. Fish was, only to find it by chance on our own. We hope you guys get a chance to try this place out and that you enjoy it like we did. As a bonus, Myeong-dong is famous for its shopping, so this can easily become a full afternoon exploring the shops after the fish do their work on your feet.
Hit up Myeong-dong Station, Exit 8. Go up the street and it’s on the left-hand side across from the Skypark Hotel. Metal elevator, 5th floor.
EDIT: We recently visited this location in September 2014, and it is no longer there! Sad day. However, there are foot spas in Myeongdong that do still offer Dr. Fish. Click here for more information!