Old World Seoul in a modern glass tower
274 Rooms / 43 Suites
The new 29-story, glass-and-steel Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, designed by Su Sin Tao of Singapore, is meant to look like an ancient Korean palace of old, but stylized and brought into the 21st century.
The main lobby lounge is built around a large circular fireplace, cast in an ancient bronze map of Korea, that details the country’s mountains, villages and rivers. From the ceiling, long ribbons hang like they used to from the litters nobles were carried in. More than 130 Korean artists are displayed throughout the building, including Ran Hwang, who used hundreds of ivory-colored buttons to produce a three-dimensional Korean ship for the lobby wall.
Every floor of the luxury hotel features floor-to-ceiling windows, which provide incomparable views of the central Gwanghwamun neighborhood. On one side you can see the stately, enormous Gyeongbokgung Palace, home of Korea’s kings and queens from the 14th through the early 20th centuries; on the other side, it’s modern Korea, all skyscrapers and international commerce, media institutes and modern public art.
All of Four Season Hotel Seoul’s rooms and suites are outfitted with bathrooms made entirely of white Italian marble, with separate showers and commodes, double sinks, complimentary Lorenzo Villoresi amenities and soaking tubs that look out over the city. From the Palace-View Executive Suite, couples can both have a bath and gaze down at Gyeongbokgung in all its majesty.
But the best of the suites is the massive 4,445-square-foot Presidential Three-Bedroom option, which has its own sauna and views of the entire city. Other suites include the 2,217-square-foot Sejong Two-Bedroom Suite (named after Korea’s greatest king) with stunning wrap-around corner windows, and the 1,237-square-foot Ambassador One-Bedroom Suite, which also has wrap-around windows and impressive cityscape views.
Apart from the standard amenities, all rooms are equipped with espresso makers and iPad Minis, which you can use to communicate with the rest of the Seoul hotel. Book a suite and you’ll get access to the 28th-floor Executive Club Lounge, with its express checkout and unlimited snacks, beverages and wine.
Well-being amenities abound at this hotel. The fitness center is 8,772 square feet and filled with exercise equipment, rooms for group classes and, of course, floor-to-ceiling windows. The light-filled indoor swimming pool has three lap lanes; nearby are a kids pool, a heated vitality pool and a panoramic sauna.
On the ninth floor you’ll find a traditional Korean sauna experience which includes separate saunas for men and women; cold, warm and hot baths; lounge areas; and dry and wet sauna rooms. And on the 10th floor you’ll find the Golf Experience, where you can play with a virtual golf simulator and get tips from pros.
The hotel’s central location makes it ideal for hosting public functions and parties, and the focus on natural light is used to its advantage. On the 15th-floor Outdoor Garden Terrace, parties are hosted in the open air, surrounded by skyscrapers and mountains. Wedding receptions, cocktail parties, and even car shows are held here.
For something more spectacular, there is the Grand Ballroom. Hung with Czech Lasvit chandeliers, it is one of the few ballrooms in Seoul that is above ground — again allowing for sunlight or starlight, depending on when the event is.
The seven food and beverage establishments are the most offered by any one hotel in Korea. Guests, many of them Koreans on staycations, will often eat at each one to make the most of it.
On the upper levels are the very high-end Kioku and Yu Yu Wan restaurants. Kioku serves Japanese cuisine and is built on two levels to resemble a theater, with a Tokyo sushi bar, sake bar, and Kyoto-style main dining area, all bathed in a traditional, light-wood interior. Yu Yu Wan, which serves Chinese, is meant to look like a Shanghainese restaurant from the 1920s, with dark green and gold motifs, duck-roaster and private rooms that celebrity couples sneak in and out of.
The second-floor Boccalino restaurant is done in a Milanese style with a genuine Milanese chef, and the adjacent bar is best for a casual drink, with DJs performing Thursday through Saturday.
In the basement is Charles H, a would-be speakeasy. An underground bar, this is the only place in the luxury hotel that gets no natural light. There is no sign and is only accessible through a small service door you’ll need to be directed to. Behind that door, you’ll find a world with a 1920s vibe with an international cocktail menu and long rows of plush leather lounge seats.
Also in the basement is The Market Larder, where you can pick up scrumptious sandwiches and salads to go, and The Market Kitchen, an upscale multi-cuisine buffet restaurant. It’s built in a European arcade style, but take a look under your feet and you’ll see you’re literally standing on hundreds of years of Korean tradition. While constructing the hotel, builders discovered the remains of a medieval neighborhood. They stopped digging and worked toward its preservation. Now, under the glass floor, are the gray and dusty walls of centuries-old homes and the outline of a well.
No matter how modern or worldly this city becomes, it is also a continuum of thousands of years of Korean history.