Spotlight on Seoul
The new Four Seasons Hotel Seoul captures the energetic, artistic and foodie sides of the city. Let's travel to the Korean capital and spend the weekend living in style
Knock on an unmarked door in the basement of the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul and get an insight into this glamorous new hotel—and the inspiring, creative and sometimes outrageous city it resides in.
On the other side of the unremarkable door lies a velvet-carpeted corridor that leads to a glitzy, candle-lit, 1920s-themed speakeasy populated with the kind of glamorous crowd you’d expect to see in the front row of Paris Fashion Week.
There’s live music and dangerously strong cocktails, and it’s open all night. The only worry is that it could ruin your sightseeing opportunities—because why would you leave the hotel when the sexiest bar in town is just downstairs?
Seoul is a frenetic, heaving jumble of a city that houses 25 million people, and on a busy weekend it can make New York, Hong Kong or London look slow.
The Four Seasons is in the Gwanghwamun district at the very heart of the capital. You’ll get a natural high from the chaotic energy of the surrounding streets leading up to Gyeongbokgung Palace. But step inside the Four Seasons Seoul and the tumult instantly melts away.
There are more than 600 immaculately trained, wonderfully friendly members of staff, and everything in the high-ceiling rooms is finished in black, grey or brown, the walls bearing the kind of cool Korean art you want at home.
The 317 bedrooms are just as sleek, with grey marble finishes, vast bathrooms and enough cupboard space to keep even the most demanding K-pop star happy.
Appropriately for one of the most technologically advanced nations on earth, everything in the room is controlled by a customised iPad. Best of all, the beds are fitted with the famous Four Seasons mattress, which many guests swear gives the best night’s sleep in the world.
Unsurprisingly, given Seoul is one of the food capitals of Asia, the restaurants at the Four Seasons Seoul are excellent—although, disappointingly, not one of them specialises in Korean cuisine.
“There is so much Korean food available in Seoul that we wanted to do something a bit different,” explains Carrie Yoon, the PR manager for the hotel. “Great city hotels need to attract locals as well as tourists, and by opening an Italian, a Japanese and a Chinese restaurant, we are hoping to bring the people of Seoul to these restaurants, as well as our guests.”
My foodie weekend gets off to a fabulous start at the breakfast buffet—a truly impressive spread. With bowls of fruit-topped bircher muesli, sweetly fragranced piles of pastries, platters of cured Italian ham and boards of French cheese, it takes a feat of willpower greater than my own to resist starting the day with a bout of overeating.
And things get even better when the sun sets. You’ll have to go elsewhere for Korean food, but the three international dining options promise to delight. Boccalino will wow Italian lovers, Yu Yuan serves up great dim sum, but the spot that really took my heart was Kioku, which specialises in cuisine from Kyoto.
The sushi was very good, but the small sharing plates we ordered to start contained some of the best Japanese food I’ve ever eaten. Delicate bite-sized morsels of wagyu beef and seared salmon disappeared far too quickly, washed down with sake cocktails.
Of course, there’s more to life at the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul than just eating and drinking—namely, the sleek spa that takes up a whole floor of the hotel.
Go for the Korean sauna, do some laps in the pool under the flashing lights of the outside Samsung sign, get your nails or hair expertly done, buy a bunch of flowers from the in-house florist or even sign up for a cake-making course.
Like the city itself, the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul specialises in glamour, creativity and an innovative approach to life.