Hotels in Seoul are a destination in themselves where you can design a vacation based on a unique accommodation experience. Which way will you celebrate?
Seoul, South Korea is a budding hotspot of tourism, especially for Westerners looking for an Asian vacation more affordable than Japan and less intimidating than China. But in a town with limitless options and 24-hour appeal, you can tailor your vacation experience down to hotel theme. Here’s our round-up of the best ways to spend your stay in Seoul.
If You Want to Instagram It
WHERE: Vista Walkerhill
It’s like the Vista Walkerhill was made with #goals in mind, literally: the hotel is top to bottom photogenic, with all the right cool design and color pops to gain you followers (and crowd envy). Super stylish rooms and suites have all the amenities you’ll want to show off and make your audience “like”—round beds, a living room with private bar, a whirlpool tub, a jewelry box, window seats, and even in some cases, a mini dressing room.
Ready for the follows? Get your fancy keyhole one-piece swimsuit on and set your photo shoot in the hotel’s Signature Botanic Garden, SKYARD, where a gorgeous outdoor hot tub is surrounded by cherry blossoms and ringed with sunbeds and footbaths. If you’re looking to swim, look no further than Riverpark, where you can do laps or float a lazy river. Want to use the emoji wearing glasses? Take your cappuccino art to the Walkerhill Library and let your boss know you’re still working on this business trip. Not feeling like staying indoors? Hit the walking trail to gram yourself #leafpeeping the fall foliage of Achasan Mountain. Other amazing amenities that are less Instagramable? Great Wi-Fi, shuttle service, cutting-edge room technology (and voice-activated assistant), and strangely enough, a VR exhibit.
If You Crave Style & Substance
WHERE: JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square
The JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul has everything the modern traveler needs—completely detail-oriented amenities and sincerely attentive staff with all the conveniences of being directly in the middle of everywhere you want to be. Room technology is state of the art, with gorgeous contemporary digs—a perfect balance of utilitarian style with Bose speakers, a 46-inch LED TV, and a Western toilet with too many functions. Suites are exclusively designed for hosting, so consider your next function meticulously tended to and intimate. The hotel itself is worth spending so much of your precious vacation time in—the Griffin Bar has incredible views, a grand piano, and unique cocktails; the pool is adorned with chandeliers and giant mirrors; the Provence Spa by L’OCCITANE offers lavish treatments such as a “secret of youth” facial and aromatherapy massages. But best of all are the fun hotel details and enhancements, like its outdoor food truck, garden space, or lobby lounge – currently themed as a hot pink dessert buffet named Salon de Ddalki and featuring strawberry macarons and Barbies.
Located in the heart of Dongdaemun Square and directly across the street from (and with stellar views of) Korean National Treasure, Dongdaemun, the East Gate, originally built in 1398, the hotel is perfectly situated between two subway lines and next to major cultural, retail, and park spaces.
Recommended Fodor’s Video
If You Want to Stay on a Wes Anderson Film Set
WHERE: Imperial Palace Seoul
East meets West and antiquity meet contemporary art in this Alice-in-Wonderland-esque, modern-yet-old-timey European-nobility luxury hotel, the Imperial Palace Seoul. The hotel is a confusing but wonderful whirlwind of décor and aesthetic: a colossal sterling dog sculpture surrounded by Victorian lamps (for sale), tremendous chandeliers soaring over a video art installation. The lobby is grand enough for a royal ball with plenty to explore. Downstairs, you’ll find a spa and fitness center beyond what you thought possible to be provided by a hotel—saunas and yoga rooms, squash courts, every type of weight and cardio machine, a lap pool, and a soaking tub. So get your exercise in (and a haircut at the barber shop) before you head upstairs to play on the rooftop golf range or in the outdoor pool.
Rooms lean further into European palace nostalgia, with canopied beds, wooden wall treatments, and baroque ornamentation from desk to tub. There are chaise lounges for you to faint onto and heavy desks to work at, so you’re sure to keep the perfect work/play balance while you’re here. Best of all, breakfast is included—real breakfast, not just continental spread. This hot buffet has a toque blanche chef preparing dishes surrounded by all the favorite Korean and Western breakfast options a guest could dream of.
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If You Want a Total Getaway
WHERE: Banyan Tree Spa and Club Seoul
In this lush paradise overlooking Seoul, you can have a traditional Korean spa experience in your own room. The Banyan Tree Spa and Club Seoul offers the most pampering, intimate, private opportunity for guests to experience relaxation to the max and should be booked without too much intention to venture beyond the grounds. Room and suite options include a relaxation pool—an opportunity for couples to share spa time together in the usually gender segregated pool area—as well as a steam room with rain shower. Your private spa doesn’t skimp on amenities like burning incense and candles and fluffy robe, slippers, towels, and toiletries (Banyan Tree brand). High above the busy streets of Seoul and tucked into the trees of Mount Namsan, rooms offer gorgeous views of the N Seoul Tower and windows that open to enjoy the mountain breeze.
Adjacent to the hotel are the Club and Spa aspects, as well as a beautiful outdoor pool (that transforms into an ice rink in the winter!). Beside a well-stocked fitness club with typical gym offerings, there are courts for tennis and basketball, a soccer field, and a driving range for golf. A bevy of dining options includes two restaurants, three lounges, room service, and a moon bar (with tapas), so you never have to go down the hill. This hotel is the vacation, so plan to stay on your stay.
If You Want Fancy Schmancy
WHERE: Park Hyatt Seoul
The big difference between the Park Hyatt Seoul and other luxury hotels in Seoul is completely understated sophistication from top to bottom. Elegance is the name of the game for this stay—get ready to live the good life on this vacation, but not just in terms of money spent. The Park Hyatt has style without being gaudy. The exterior is as sleek as the interior—clean lines and full windows—and sets the tone for your first-class stay. Staff is attentive beyond their call of duty, summoning taxis and elevators on guests’ behalf, and they make any request their personal mission and anticipate every need (ask the concierge for a metro card loaded with a free ride). Soft lighting highlights the path and never harshes your view. In-wall art lines the blond wood halls. But these are all just the details you’ll enjoy on your way to the best part: your room.
Floor-to-ceiling windows give you incredible views of the city. Minimal yet chic, the bright, textured rooms are immaculate. White linens coat a plush bed with a control panel for temperature and curtains—automatic blinds and blackout curtains for beauty rest—and soft inset reading lights. Next to it, a soft leather recliner replaces the standard hotel desk chair or awkward loveseat. Smart enough to book a room? Enjoy your Scandinavian-inspired digs with options that include a separate lounge, dining table, recliner, and flat-screen TV. Snuggle up your Yukata robes and slippers and test out your Aesop bath products—that’s right, Park Hyatt Seoul offers high-end brand partnerships for your benefit. You’ll never want to leave the bathroom with its granite walls, deep soaking tub, rainfall shower, and incredible dual vanity.
If you manage to get away from the top floor infinity pool; bar, lounge and restaurant options (sushi, whiskey, sake, and juice bars); and fitness club and spa, you can hit the super stylish Gangnam neighborhood Park Hyatt Seoul is smartly situated in. But if you want to look like a million bucks, or have a vacation that feels like one, this is the hotel for your Seoul stay.
If You Want K-Pop Hipster Fun
WHERE: RYSE, Autograph Collection Seoul
Here’s the party palace! Funky, fun, and raring for a good time, at the RYSE, Autograph Collection Seoul (a Marriott hotel), the Hongdae street culture shines through the property. In a city full of minimalist modern palaces, RYSE Seoul finally gives us a pop of color and a burst of energy. The rooms have a youthful vibe—color on the wall and unexpected room amenities like a dishwasher, fridge, and foam pillows. Rooms and suites are meant to incite energy, optimism, and excitement, so don’t plan on staying at RYSE for relaxation or romance—book your event, reunion, or friend getaway at this hip boutique hotel.
The hotel has a warm atmosphere to inspire friendliness in dining spots like the Side Note Club (an intimate music lounge), Long Chim (a Thai-inspired gastropub), and Coffee Bar (featuring pastries from San Fransico’s Tartine Bakery!). Not hungry? You might find someone to spot you in the exercise gym or strike up a conversation in the vaguely strange leisure-library-TV room. Lean in, you’re having fun! The youthful vibe will inspire you to get out on the town and enjoy every second in Seoul, then bring the party back to RYSE—the fun never has to stop in a city with 24-hour markets, bars, and restaurants.