Travelling to Seoul for business? Here’s where to check in.
Seemingly away from everything on the edge of a mountain but, in reality, a 10-minute drive from the city centre and a short walk into buzzy Itaewon, the Grand Hyatt, opened in 1978, is the choice of world leaders. The past few American presidents, including Barack Obama, have stayed here. The 20-floor hotel doesn’t have the largest bedrooms but the floor-length windows with views of Mount Namsan or the city more than make up for that. The hotel’s new app acts like a personal concierge, offering restaurant tips and tourist information.
Business facilities Four PC rooms, notebook rental and secretarial and other business services are available, along with 10 meeting rooms and a conference room. Wi-fi Free in guestrooms and public areas. Small charges apply within meeting rooms.
Food and wine There are 10 restaurants and bars, including J. J. Mahoney’s, a favourite with locals looking for a place to take clients; two Japanese restaurants; and a French brasserie with a good wine list. The adventurous will feel at home in the Helicon bar, a Korean-style singing room.
Fitness and wellbeing Swim in the indoor or outdoor pools (the outdoor pool and sundeck convert to an ice-skating rink in winter). Or hit the tennis and squash courts, saunas, gym and spa.
Run route The concierge can supply a map showing a 1.4- kilometre track from the hotel into the woods to the north or, for advanced runners, a 5.4-kilometre round trip through public streets on the edge of Mount Namsan to the Namsan Library.
It opened in the ’70s, becoming one of Seoul’s smartest hotels, then closed in 2013 for seven months to undergo a total revamp by American interior designer Peter Remedios. The Shilla may have fewer rooms now but they are more generous in size and clever in design, inspired by the craft of boatbuilding. The 23rd-floor executive lounge is an exceptional addition with an excellent library. There’s an overall calm and elegance to the hotel – even approaching it, up a long flight of temple-like stairs, induces a feeling of serenity. The artwork in the lobby is dramatic and includes a huge installation by award-winning Korean artist Seon-ghi Bahk, which he changes annually. Art is a focus all round; the nine-hectare Jangchungdan Park adjacent to the hotel has a sculpture garden featuring works by local and international artists.
Business facilities There’s an executive conference centre, eight meeting rooms, hot-desk-enabled computers, printing facilities and interpretation, translating and secretarial services. Wi-fi complimentary.
Food and wine The hotel has a bakery, lounge bar and five restaurants – including the fine-dining Korean La Yeon, which first made it onto Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2014, six months after opening.
Fitness and wellbeing The gym offers personal training, yoga and Pilates classes. Or you can unwind in the indoor and outdoor pools (with cabana shelters) or on the small golf driving range.A superb spa under the banner of French luxury brand Guerlain takes care of the pampering.
Run route Ask the concierge for a map with a route past the National Theater of Korea and the Mokmyeoksanbang restaurant on Mount Namsan.
In the heart of one of the liveliest parts of Seoul, the brand-new 141-room Hotel Cappuccino is an establishment with a cause. You can turn almost everything that you do at the hotel into a good deed: touch your room key against an elevator sensor to generate a charitable donation; give part of the proceeds of your meal to a safe-water organisation; put unwanted clothes in a box in the lobby... you get the picture. There’s nothing abstemious about the place, though – beds are custom-made, with some virtually squash-court-sized, while two particularly large rooms have their own terrace. There’s a women-only floor, a nifty shop in the foyer and access to a car-sharing service.
Business facilities Computers in the lobby are at your disposal 24 hours a day, along with three function rooms for meetings. Wi-fi complimentary.
Food and wine One restaurant serves Korean and other Asian food, while Caffe Cappuccino has its own blend of coffee as well as ale from a local microbrewery and pastries from one of Seoul’s best patisseries. There’s also a rooftop bar that specialises in gin.
Fitness and wellbeing A small gym has a range of equipment, including weights and bikes.
Run route A four-kilometre run north-east takes in Samneung Park – a lovely, densely wooded space. Parts of the park are fine for jogging but the UNESCO World Heritage-listed royal tombs are better for contemplation.
This 25-room boutique hotel, in a four-storey 1960s office building, suits the independent business traveller and is a favourite among the design set. On the border of busy Myeong-dong, it’s also within walking distance of the much quieter Bukchon area, with a subway stop a few steps away. The conversion, including custom-designed furniture and 3D-printed signage, is all by local studio Design Methods and the overall feel is minimalist and inventive. A sunken gallery with tiered seating (pictured above), located on the ground floor, exhibits contemporary artworks. There are four room types; numbers 206 and 306, at the front and on the corner, are particularly good and feature a separate area with table and chairs.
Business facilities The hotel provides printing, copy and fax services. Wi-fi complimentary.
Food and wine A small bistro restaurant in the foyer serves simple food. It’s open from 10.30am to 10.30pm during the week and 11am to 9pm on Saturday but closed on Sunday. Beverages, including coffee, are available from 6am to midnight, seven days a week.
Fitness and wellbeing The nearby Center1Wellness (center1wellness.com) offers membership on a daily basis.
Run route The Cheonggyecheon public recreation space is a couple of blocks north of the hotel. A five-kilometre round-trip run takes you east along its path, set well below street level by a stream, to the Dongdaemun Market district. It’s possible to run different distances, as there are steps back up to the street along the way. Take care – the ground is uneven in places.
This new 317-room hotel showcases art from renowned local artists throughout and its timber-screened ground-floor lounge with central fireplace is reminiscent of a traditional Korean house. But while the national flavour is evident, the hotel also has an international feel. One of its coolest spaces is a hidden subterranean bar – already a hit with the locals – that has the look and ambience of an old New York City speakeasy. Interiors are designed by global firm LTW Designworks, with spacious and well-appointed guestrooms each containing an iPad, umbrellas, a selection of books, thick bathrobes and customisable bedding with a choice of three different mattress toppers. Situated in the heart of Seoul, the Four Seasons is close to many international and Korean headquarters, and is within walking distance of the beautiful 14th-century Gyeongbokgung Palace.
Business facilities A 24-hour business centre is equipped with computers, printers, scanners and meeting rooms. Wi-fi complimentary.
Food and wine There’s a small but well-stocked gourmet shop, a patisserie, plus seven restaurants and bars – including Chinese restaurant Yu Yuan, which does a mean Peking duck.
Fitness and wellbeing Work out in a three-storey complex containing three pools, a gym with personal trainers, spa treatment rooms, dry and wet saunas, a napping room and nail bar.
Run route The concierge recommends a four-kilometre run around the palace walls of nearby Gyeongbokgung to the hotel’s north. On the way you’ll pass up-market residential areas and one of the city’s main art quarters.