The South Korean capital and prior host of the Winter Olympics is a melting pot of ancient and modern culture. Here skyscrapers and ancient palaces stand side by side, as the Han River flows timelessly through the city’s heart. With K-culture (namely K-pop and K-food) very much in vogue, Seoul is an increasingly popular destination for curious millennial tourists — the Gangnam district is now a must-see spot, thanks to PSY’s dance hit. Visit in spring if you want to catch the picturesque cherry blossoms and see the flower markets at their finest, or come during the mild autumn months.
Park Hyatt Seoul
Just across from the subway, the Park Hyatt is located in the financial district (Gangnam’s alter ego). The hotel’s glass walls immediately set the building apart as a luxury property. It was designed by a Japanese company, Super Potato, combining its chief material with oak, maple, stone and granite. The Park Hyatt welcomes guests 24 floors up and it’s here the pool, wellness centre and Citrus Bar are found too. Public areas are filled with local antiquities, and striking modern artworks, while 185 bedrooms have BOSE sound systems and Nespresso machines. Three restaurants serve fare tailored for both Western and Korean palates.
Banyan Tree Club and Spa
Rising from the base of the lush Namsan Mountain, the Banyan Tree Club and Spa maybe a mini skyscraper, but it provides a real sense of oasis. Its green neighbour provides the feel of being in the countryside, surrounded by flora and fauna. Indeed, this is definitely a place to unwind. 90% of the hotel’s rooms have their own relaxation pools, while the spa offers a range of treatments based on time-honoured traditions, with local ingredients (followed by a meditative 30-minute Calm Time including refreshments). Guests can also take part in a hydrotherapy programme and rainforest experience and drink/dine in seven onsite venues.
The impressive facilities at this Grand Hyatt property include a swimming pool that transforms into an ice rink come the winter season, squash and tennis courts, a kids club, a family swimming zone, multiple boutiques and a large spa. The 18 acres of grounds are dotted with animal sculptures, with the creative theme continuing inside, where Korean artists’ pieces are displayed in the public areas. 615 rooms – with picture windows, minibars and free snacks – provide ample accommodation for every type of traveller and nine dining options offering steak, seafood, sushi, tasting menus, buffets, upmarket pub grub and a bbq.
Situated on Seoul’s Yeouido Island, the Fairmont Ambassador has 316 bedrooms with expansive views of the Yeouido skyline and Han River. It was the brand’s first property to launch in Korea, having opened in the Parc.1 complex which was designed by the esteemed architect Sir Richard Rogers. A rooftop bar and restaurant are found atop the skyscraper, 29 floors high, with further eateries throughout the contemporary building. The hotel has a futuristic gym, a swimming pool and a large ESPA spa decorated in classic East Asian style. Upgrade to a top-level suite for butler service and access to an executive lounge.
The International Finance Centre provides the home for this Conrad hotel, which has its own excellent business centre. Guests can pay a visit to its spa or the in-house Tony & Guy hair salon, work out at the gym 24 hours a day, swim in the pool and eat at the venue’s six restaurants (Italian, East Asian and international fare, fresh baking, snacks and more). Most of the facilities are accessible and rooms are spacious. Pets are welcome too — the hotel is a few blocks from the riverside Yeouido Hangang Park, perfect for a stroll and is within easy access to Yeouido subway station.
Four Seasons Seoul
If you’re travelling with a larger party, the two-bedroom suites at the Four Seasons are ideal (bedrooms are also available). The hotel’s interior design has been influenced by the city’s heritage and local nature, fused with geometric modern shapes and feature lighting. The elegant food options comprise Italian, Cantonese and Japanese fusion restaurants, an international buffet, Korean snack food, Mexican alfresco dining, a confectionery and sophisticated bar bites, as well as a range of delicious cocktails. Club Seoul is spread across three floors and incorporates an urban spa, a Korean sauna with cold, warm and hot baths, as well as private dining spaces.
Floors 87 to 101 of the landmark Lotte Tower (the tallest in Korea) belong to Signiel Seoul. As such, its 235 bedrooms and suites offer exceptional outlooks, as well as Italian Frette linens, minibars, pillow menus and Diptyque toiletries. The Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno heads up the hotel’s Stay restaurant, while the Korean dining room Bicena, has a Michelin star in its own right. There’s also a chic lounge and Bar 81 specialising in French champagne. Guests can swim indoors with superb views of the city, work out and take a sauna while staying at Signiel Seoul.
Josun Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Seoul Gangnam
This was Marriott’s first Luxury Collection Hotel in the country launched in 2021, but the building had a former life as the Chosun, opening back in 1914. The property features amenities including an in-house buffet restaurant (Constans), an indoor pool, a fitness centre, a convenience store, a turndown service, soundproofed bedrooms and valet parking. The Josun Palace is family friendly and places guests in the heart of the action, in the Gangnam district. Choose from queen rooms through to Grand Masters Suites.