The Iconic Starfield Library in Seoul

The Starfield Library at COEX mall turns every traditional idea of a library right on its head. In the best way possible.

Starfield Library’s Underground History

To know about the library, you first need a little backstory on the mall it’s in. Starfield COEX is part of a chain of mega malls built by Shinsegae Property. Not only is it partially underground with two basement levels, it’s actually the biggest underground mall in the world. It took three years to build and first opened its doors in the year 2000.

A photo of the Starfield Library taken from the outside of the mall.
Photo Credit:Seungbong Lee on Flickr

In the year 2017, they added the Starfield Library to the upper basement level, B1, and the first floor. Turns out to have been a good business move on Shinsegae’s part, too, since the library is a veritable magnet for tourists, book lovers, and pretty much anyone who enjoys a bit of architectural eye candy.

Wide, Open Spaces for Stretching That Brain Muscle

One of the great things about its spacious layout is that it gives you a chance to bask in the grandeur of the massive, tower-like bookcases. The biggest one is 13 meters tall, or nearly 43 feet, next to a conveniently placed escalator so you can snag some books on your way down.

A photo of two people standing near the giant bookshelf in the Starfield Library.
Photo Credit: Seoul Metropolitan Government

Speaking of books, it has tens of thousands to choose from, plus 400 different types of magazines - and yes, there is a very healthy selection in foreign languages, so you don’t have to worry about being left out. As for how to reach some of them… your guess is as good as mine. Oversized ladders? Drones? Just kidding. Most of those books way out of reach are fake. If you look closely, you can even see a few duplicates. And thanks to a healthy archive of ebooks and iPads, any book you can’t physically reach, you can pull up in digital form.

A Gathering Spot for Cultural Events

As eye-catching as the giant bookcases are, the true selling point of this library lies in the frequent cultural events that it hosts. One day, you might walk in on an opera singer’s performance, and on another day, a poetry recital. The library always has something going on, including elaborate art projects that change seasonally.

A photo of the Starfield Library with people around.
Photo Credit: Idei.club

That’s the true draw of this place. Starfield Library isn’t just an Instagrammable book collection or a cheap tourist attraction, it’s a community center. Now, granted, all that noise and hubbub (and the fact that it’s in the middle of a mall) means it's not the best place for a nice, quiet read. But I think most people who visit are looking for something of a spectacle - and they definitely won’t be disappointed.

Ever-Changing Centerpieces

Remember the art projects I mentioned? They’re placed right in the center of the floor, and they’re the reason why no two shots of the Starfield Library are ever the same. In winter, they stick to a holiday theme with a giant Christmas tree-shaped frame wrapped in sparkling lights. In the past, they’ve also put up a miniature artificial garden, and another time, a giant, iridescent cylinder. It’s never boring, and promises a real treat for the eyes whenever you visit.

A giant, colorful iridescent cylinder in the Starfield Library.
Photo Credit: Patrick Vierthaler on Flickr

I also like how they dim the lights at night. It makes for a calm, peaceful atmosphere, which is great after a long day. Too often, malls have bright lights blaring no matter how late it gets, so it’s nice that the library offers a little change of pace.

Some Bites Between Books

If you need to charge up between book binges, there are quite a few cafés nearby. No surprise that the very closest one is a Starbucks, smack dab in the middle of the library. But if you’re looking for a change of pace, there are two different coffee shops, %Arabica and Billyangel, on the second floor of the library. There’s also a Teuscher Chocolate Lounge, but I couldn’t find out much about it; pretty sure it’s not a café, just a place to buy chocolates.

Also, a nearby breakfast joint called Eggslut comes very highly recommended, so if you need something more substantial than caffeine and pastries, that might be a good place to start.

Plan Your Visit

The Starfield Library is set right inside the Starfield COEX Mall in the Gangnam District of Seoul. There are lots of different routes you can take to get there, both by bus and metro, since it’s sandwiched between two different stations and has bus stops peppered all around.

Starfield Library on Google Maps
Photo Credit: Google Maps

If you’re taking the metro, you’ll want to either go to Bongeunsa Station and leave from Exit 7, or go to Samseong Station and leave from Exits 5 or 6. Whichever you choose, you’ll end up on COEX Mall’s doorstep. (Unless you take a wrong turn from Samseong. COEX and the Hyundai Trade Center are connected, so it’s an easy mistake.)

The library is open seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.

Address: B1-1F of Starfield COEX Mall, 513 Yeongdong-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea

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