Friday, January 30, 2015

May Island (study cafe), Gangnam

The other day I was out and about and had a couple of hours to kill before my shift started. This left me with two options: either go in super early and twiddle my thumbs at work... or not go in super early and twiddle my thumbs at a nice cafe instead.

I suspect you can guess which one I chose. :P

May Island in Gangnam has been on my list of cafes to visit for quite a while and I figured it would be as good a day as any to head on over and finally check it out. I'd seen pictures of it before on the internet where it was touted as a "study cafe" and my curiousity was definitely piqued. My mind was ablaze with all sorts of questions... How do study cafes work? Do they play background music, or is it completely silent? Can you study in groups? Are you allowed to talk? How long can you sit there before you get booted out?

Well good sons, the answers to those questions were soon revealed.

May Island takes up the 4th and 5th floors of a building very close to Gangnam Station.

After entering, take the lift up to the 4th floor and order your drink at the counter.

The rule is one drink per person, and one drink buys you 5 hours of cafe time. Drinks are kind of pricey and start from 6,500 won, which is a fair bit more than you'd slosh out for your average cup of joe in Korea (even at overpriced chains like Starbucks). But I suppose when you consider the fact that you're essentially hogging a table for 5 hours in an environment where you can actually concentrate and be productive, it seems fair enough.

Keep your receipt with you as proof of the time you entered. If you're planning to stay more than 5 hours, or you want another drink, bring your receipt to the counter and you can get up to 50% off your next order.

On the 4th floor are also group study rooms, which you can rent out per hour. If you're studying solo though, take the stairs up to the 5th floor and let the cramming magic begin.

1 drink per person, free wifi, free books on the shelves to read, no talking!

Okay, I'm not going to lie. When I first entered the room, I felt slightly creeped out. It was completely silent, except for the occasional sound of someone clearing their throat or chair legs being scraped across the floor. It was so quiet that you could even hear pages being turned from across the room. The silence seemed to hang in the air with an eerie heaviness. It brought back garish memories of being at uni and cramming for exams in the library... except this place had better lighting and much cooler furniture.

You can see some funky airplane-inspired seats along the left wall. I wasn't bold enough to take any proper pictures of them though as they were all occupied. ^^;;

Airplane seats! (Image is courtesy of their website:

Originally I had planned to just sit and read on my Kindle in a leisurely manner, but most people there seemed to actually be working really hard. Some were furiously typing up documents on their laptops, others were studying from textbooks as fat as phone directories, and here I was dawdling along, reading a trashy fiction novel. I suddenly felt grossly inappropriate. Fortunately, I had some typed up lesson plans in my bag so I fished them out and laid them on the desk in an attempt to look like I was being somewhat productive. Hah!

It got me thinking though.. Even though you could just as easily drink coffee or tea and study at home for free, there's something about being in a room with a bunch of other people who are all doing work that makes you want to do work too. Is there a name for that? 'Collective productivity effect', perhaps? o__O

Well, whatever it is, it works and I can see now why people readily fork out money to study somewhere outside of home. Perhaps I'll go back there with my Korean textbook and actually get some studying done for once!

May Island, Gangnam
Hours: 9am - 11pm Mon - Sat, 9am - 10pm Sundays
Address: 서울시 강남구 역삼동 816-6 (816-6 Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul)
Directions: From Gangnam Station exit 11, take the first right and then the first left. Continue down the road a few more metres and May Island will be on your left.

For anyone interested, there's also another branch of May Island close to exit 2 of Apgujeong Station on line number 3. Check out their website for details. :)


  1. Thanks for sharing this awesome cafe. I like the way how you describe this study cafe with the photos and I will definitely pay a visit to it when Im in Seoul.somewhere around March - April. Anyway, is there any other study cafe in Seoul other than Mayisland ?

    1. Skyweewee - Thanks for your comment! ^^ And sorry for the late reply.. ^^;;
      That's awesome, I hope you'll get to enjoy lots of cool cafes when you come to Seoul :D

      Other than the two May Island branches, here are some study cafes you could check out. The reviews are in Korean, but you can see pictures and a map on how to get there:

      Cafe Qooom in Mokdong (subway line 5)

      Coffeebrary in Gangnam

      Cafe Dream Stay in Gangnam

      I haven't been to any of those places, but from the pictures and reviews, they look pretty good! ^^

  2. Hi Yenny, thanks for ur recommendations. May I know how they charge for the hours you spend at these 3 cafes ? I wonder will it be difficult for me to communicate in English in Korea?

    1. No worries! ^__^ Hmm.. I'm not sure about Cafe Qooom but for the other two:

      Coffeebrary - The website says 1,800 won per hour, and this will get you free Americano coffee, caffe latte, or cappuccino. (Actually this sounds like a pretty good bargain! *___* haha I might go check it out next week)

      Cafe Dream Stay - Couldn't find anything about a time limit, but drink prices here range from 6,500 to 8,500 won. After you finish your drink, you can get unlimited refills of Americano coffee.

      Hope that helps! ^^ Also, don't worry about communicating. If you take the subway to get around, all the stops are announced in English and at major tourist areas like Insadong and Myeongdong, there'll be lots of English signs and menus. A lot of shop workers in those areas also speak English, Japanese, and Chinese to cater especially for tourists :)

  3. Hello,

    I would like to seek permission to feature the above image on our client’s AccorHotels online magazine.
    The picture will not be edited in any way and due credit will be given.