Meerkat Friends was one of Seoul’s most famous cafes a few years back. Where did 2017 go? Anyway. These days it is still very famous and is visited very frequently, however, the hype has died down a little bit.
Meerkat Friends is quite a misleading name. While there are some (very cute) meerkats, and they are the main attraction, I don’t think the other animals there are actually their friends!
The cafe is also home to some arctic foxes, a wallaby and a raccoon, some cats, and a few other exotic animals.
Meerkat Friends is the most famous exotic animal cafe in Seoul and it has already been greatly covered by the media. However, I wanted to make a post asking ‘is Meerkat Friends the best animal cafe to visit in Seoul?’
Cost: 10,000KRW entry fee | Drinks are an added cost
Note About Cost: There are many reports of more expensive entry costs (15,000) and drinks being included in the price. It seems to be due to season.
Time: The Meerkat Cafe hours are 12:30 pm until 9:30 pm every day
Location: Meerkat Friends is located near Hong-Ik University (Hongdae) | 364-3 서교동, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul | Location
Tips: Don’t wear clothes that you don’t want to get dirty | If you are bringing a camera, bring a lens cap (so your lens doesn’t get scratched) | Bring a phone case/screen protector for your phone
IMPORTANT NOTE: Their website says that only children over 10 years old will be admitted. However, when I visited with my brother (11 at the time), we were told that you MUST be over 15 to enter.
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Getting to Meerkat Friends
Meerkat Friends is located near the front gate of Hong-Ik University in Hongdae. The area itself is VERY lively and has a ton of different activities to do. Not only this, but it also houses a lot of different animal cafes.
Getting to the cafe only requires a short walk from Hongdae station. Depending on the crowds, it will only take 5-10 minutes.
Arctic Fox feeding at Meerkat Friends.
The cafe itself is located upstairs and requires you to take off your shoes before entering. Slippers are provided in the lobby along with some other tools to keep yourself clean. There is sanitizer and also sticky clothes rollers to remove fur from your clothes.
After changing your footware you are allowed to enter the cafe and pay the entry fee. The entry fee is 10,000KRW and does not include drinks. In terms of animal cafes, 10,000KRW without a drink is quite steep.
However, due to the popularity of Meerkat Friends, the price makes sense. Drinks can be purchased for under 5000KRW depending on what drink you order. The menu is pretty standard with some cold options provided (juices, soft drinks, etc) and standard coffee options (americano, latte, cappuccino).
The cafe is home to a lot of other animals – not just meerkats!
The cafe is built around two central glass enclosures. These enclosures house the meerkats! Around the enclosures, there is a multitude of tables and chairs.
There are also a few other enclosures located around the cafe. These are for the other animals like the raccoon and arctic foxes.
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The cafe is quite small, and while popular, it never seems to be overcrowded. I have visited on three separate occasions and I have never found the cafe to be very busy. However, it always has at least a few visitors.
If you would like to get the most time with the meerkats, try to visit as close to opening time as possible. It tends to reach peak visitors between 3 and 6 pm.
Compared to other animal cafes, Meerkat Friends has a few unique highlights. There are the obvious things such as meerkats, but there are also a few other less obvious things.
The raccoon was my favourite animal.
In terms of an animal cafe, Meerkat Friends is very clean. While this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t smell (it does), the smell is pretty minor compared to some other animal cafes that can be found around Seoul.
In terms of cleanliness, the cafe is clean and well looked after. I was pleasantly surprised in this respect.
Since the meerkats are contained in the central enclosure, you can’t freely interact with them. Generally, they will allow up to six people in at a time, leaving you with the animals for about 10 minutes.
If the cafe is busy, you might only get 10 minutes with the meerkats. However, if the cafe isn’t busy, you can often go in multiple times.
Blankets will be provided, allowing you to cover your lap and providing a potentially nice resting place for the meerkats.
There are a lot of rules for interacting with the meerkats, however, most are pretty straightforward and obvious. Don’t pick up the meerkats (you can pat them however), don’t hurt them, be careful with them, etc.
Food and drink also aren’t allowed in the enclosure and you are warned to be careful with valuables and the contents of your pockets. The meerkats can and will dig through your pockets, so be careful! Wallets and other contents should be handed over to the staff.
Inside with the Meerkats!
Once you are inside with the meerkats prepare to be investigated. They will look through all of your pockets and try to search for everything that they can find. While they are quite active, there are usually a few that rest on customers.
At this point, your experiences are really down to luck. I have had the meerkats climb all over me at times and other times I have been almost avoided. There’s no way that you can influence this, however, and experiences depend on how the meerkats feel about you.
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If you are uncomfortable with the meerkats being on your back or shoulders (or head!), you can ask the staff to remove them. They will take the little critters off if they are causing trouble or discomfort.
As I said above, Meerkat Friends doesn’t just house meerkats, but also some ‘friends’. I really don’t know if a fox counts as a friend though?
The elusive genet!
The other exotic animals that call the cafe home are a couple of arctic foxes, a wallaby, a raccoon, a few domestic cats, and a genet.
These animals all roam the cafe, although at different times. While the wallaby is often out with the foxes and raccoon, the raccoon and foxes are kept divided and alternated. The genet often sticks to the ceiling to stay away from visitors and the other animals.
These animals have different times throughout the day when they are fed and played with by the staff. Usually, these events are interactive with the audience and you are welcome to help feed the animals.
Meerkat Friends has a large variety of different animals.
While these animals do roam the cafe freely, don’t expect to be able to interact with them all. The raccoon and wallaby are relatively sociable, but the genet and foxes tend to spend their time running away from visitors.
Is Meerkat Friends Better than Other Animal Cafes?
Meerkat Friends has a few things going for it. It is very clean for an animal cafe, and it has a host of unique animals that you might not be able to see elsewhere.
An issue for many people visiting Meerkat Friends is that of the treatment of the animals. While the animals do seem to be treated well, they are still living in a vastly different environment from where they should be. On top of that is that I can’t imagine being touched all day is healthy for them – They must be quite stressed.
I also saw a few reviews asking whether it is even legal. According to this Korea Herald article, meerkats can actually be purchased in Korea for around $2500. I imagine that a specific type of license is required. However, this really stunned me.
It is really your personal choice whether you decide to visit or not.
The other issues that I have found with the cafe seem to be due to its massive popularity. Firstly, the price. Every time I have visited I have paid 10,000KRW (exclusive of a drink). However, I have read reviews saying that the price can be up to 15,000KRW at times!
These prices (without a drink) are quite costly for an animal cafe in Seoul. While some other cafes do charge around 10,000KRW, they usually include a drink.
The second issue that I have had on my visits is that the staff can be quite rude. I am sure that it must be difficult explaining and enforcing the rules for hundreds of people every day. However, on two occasions that I’ve visited the staff have been quite rude. Enough so that I don’t think I will visit again.
I do want to say that this isn’t always the case. Everyone has bad days and there are always some staff that are nicer than others. This isn’t a reason not to visit, just a word of warning.
Other Animal Cafes in Seoul
If you are looking for another animal cafe in Seoul there are a LOT!
You can find cat and dog cafes located all around the city, and you can usually find one close by! These are my picks for the best animal cafes in Seoul.
Akdong Healing Cafe is another cafe which doubles as an animal recovery centre. The cafe also has racoons, meerkats, an arctic fox, and a lot more animals! Last time I went they also had a coati, emu, some dogs, and more.
There are also a few other animal cafes which have been extremely popular over the past few years. Particularly the Thanks Nature sheep cafe in Hongdae and Blind Alley Raccoon Cafe.
Looking for even more animal cafes? These are some of the best animal cafes in Seoul!