The Park Hyatt Seoul is a luxury hotel in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea. This review features my photos of the hotel, thoughts on the service and design, and general impressions about its location and a myriad of other little details that come to mind or tips I might have about staying at the hotel. Let’s start with some general background and location.
The Park line of the Hyatt chain features some of my favorite luxury hotels in the world, and although I have no baseline against which to compare the Park Hyatt Seoul to other hotels in Seoul, I can say it’s one of the nicer Park Hyatts at which I’ve stayed. As Seoul, and in particular Gangnam, have experienced a decade-plus of substantial growth, so I’d assume new luxury properties have popped up all over Seoul in recent years.
Twenty or so years ago, Gangnam (“Gangnam” refers to about half of Seoul, the area south of the Hangang River, which is the literal translation of the name, whereas Gangnam-gu is a smaller district within that larger area) was little more than rice paddies. Now, it’s an expensive area filled with skyscrapers, tech companies, and the nouveau riche.
All of this is to say that Gangnam-gu is a pretty nice location. As a general rule of thumb, I’ve found Park Hyatts are generally skewed more towards business district locations as opposed to sight-seeing locations, which is probably fair given the demographic of its clientele.
The Park Hyatt Seoul is actually a good mix of both in terms of location, with the COEX (essentially a mall and convention center on steroids), shopping, business, and dining nearby. While most shrines and elements of ‘old world’ Seoul are north of the river, I think the location of this particular Park Hyatt is great for business and leisure travelers alike.
It probably doesn’t hurt that my absolute favorite sight in Seoul–and my sleeper pick for the city–is Bongeunsa Temple, which is a 10 minute walk from the hotel. That and the fact that public transit is exceptional in the city. No matter where you stay, you’ll be using the transit system since there’s plenty to see and do on both sides of the river.
In terms of service, it was clear that Park Hyatt Seoul would offer exemplary service from the moment of check-in. Prior to this, our high-water mark with service was in the Park Hyatt Tokyo. While that remains where we’ve had the best service, I wonder if this is as much a product of the Japanese culture as it is the Park Hyatt brand. When you combine a culture known for service with a hotel known for service, you get predictably great results.
I’ve stayed at many hotels across Japan, from family owned onsen to other high-end brands, and service has almost always been varying degrees of impeccable. The Park Hyatt Seoul was just a notch below its Tokyo counterpart, and this is not to say there were any faults with the service–it was flawless across the board–it just wasn’t quite the same degree of ‘above and beyond’ experienced in Tokyo.
The great service here began with the check-in process, where we were promptly greeted downstairs and escorted to the main lobby at the top of the hotel. Following that an agent checked us in and escorted us to our room and toured the room with us, explaining its features and other features of the hotel.
This great service continued throughout the stay, from the prompt delivery of amenities to our room to agents greeting me at all hours of the day and night when I headed downstairs on photography missions, to the service of the complimentary transportation provided to the bus station from the hotel.
It was clear from the moment we walked into the hotel that it was a new, world class property. Sarah first became convinced we needed to stay here after seeing some television program on interesting hotels that highlighted the pool here. Always suckers for good marketing, we booked a stay here with a combination of nights accrued via her Hyatt credit card and cash. Our nighty rate for the room was around $350, with normal rack rate here being in the $300-500 range.
In general, the hotel has a very sleek and streamlined design. I’m not quite sure of the precise architectural style, but it seemed like a mix of postmodern and minimalist, with an emphasis on angularity.
It has a nice look, very forward-thinking in terms of design (as with many Park Hyatts, there’s a book in the room featuring eye-catching photos of the design). All of the common areas feature this design style along with dynamic lighting, and it looks great.
About my only complaint in terms of the hotel’s layout is the elevator system. The ground level elevators operate out of the lobby (at the top of the hotel) and pool areas, meaning guest rooms have to take an elevator up to the lobby or pool levels, and transfer to another elevator to go down.
I’m not sure that there’s a better solution to this predicament given how the hotel was designed, but it’s a bit cumbersome and clunky in an otherwise efficient hotel.
There’s a nice little lounge (no one strained themselves in the naming process for this one, as it’s simply “The Lounge”) adjacent to the check-in on the 24th floor, and this is a great spot to grab drinks and their seasonal take on bingsu (shaved milk ice with toppings).
Even if bingsu doesn’t sound appealing, make sure to give it a try; I was pleasantly surprised by this Seoul specialty, and the seasonal bingsu at the lounge was some of the best I had in Seoul.
Cornerstone is the full-service restaurant in the Park Hyatt Seoul, and it specializes in meat and seafood (here’s a review of it). The Timber House is a “Far East” restaurant on the lower level of the hotel serving Japanese cuisine. Finally, Citrus Bar is a small spot by the spa with various health drinks.
We only tried The Lounge and Citrus Bar. Our experience with other Park Hyatt restaurants is that, while beautifully designed and serving excellent meals with local flare, you don’t get the same “local” experience as you do by seeking out an authentic hole-in-the-wall spot.
I mean, if you’re already making a fairly “safe” choice with a Western hotel brand in an Asian locale, you might as well be a bit more adventurous in terms of dining. (For an excellent Korean BBQ in Gangnum, try Sanbong Hwarogui, which is the best place I ate in Seoul.)
The pool and spa area on the 23rd floor are also quite nice, with the pool having a striking style and offering amazing views of Seoul (my wife is pictured in the photo above; I didn’t just go creepin’ on random strangers in the pool with my DSLR…).
Everything at the spa besides the specific treatments are included in the price of the stay, and the plunge pools and other areas in this spa are quite nice. I didn’t get an actual treatment here, which does cost extra, but I was surprised to see use of this area didn’t require an add-on day pass, which was unexpected.
Now to the room. Like the rest of the hotel, our room had a striking design, with angularity the motif in the overall design of the room. Lots of light hardwoods in the main sleeping area (including hardwood floors) gave way to rockwork in the bathroom.
All in all, a gorgeous style that looked great. I don’t know when these rooms were made/redone last, but ours looked very fresh.
The room wasn’t huge, but it made great use of the space. The bedding was excellent, as is par for the course with Park Hyatt; the TV, table and chairs, and desk were likewise all nice, and located to make great use of the space.
The highlight of all of this, though, was the floor to ceiling windows everywhere in the room that offered sweeping views of Seoul.
If you so desired, you could look out on the city while using the bathroom. Like any red-blooded American, I so desired….
This was the view from inside the shower, and the agent showing us our room upon check-in was careful to remind us that the adjacent buildings around the hotel could see into the rooms, so we might want to use the window shades for privacy.
I assume this is because the guys in the Canon building regularly “tested” their telephoto lenses in the direction of the Park Hyatt. No surprise there; everyone knows Canon shooters are pervs. (Just kidding, Canon shooters…)
I never used the privacy shades–if someone in a nearby building put in all that effort to catch a free show of some dude showering, c’est la vie. It’s not everyday I can watch the sunrise over a skyline while washing my armpits, so I was going to take full advantage of that rare opportunity.
Joking aside, the exquisite view the rooms offered really cannot be understated. I know not everyone has the same attitude to privacy as me, so the shades were a nice option for covering those floor to ceiling windows, but I think most of the time, anyone staying here would want to leave them open for a great view into Seoul.
Here’s the view at sunset. I love finding great sunset skyline locations when visiting different cities, and with the view of skyscrapers, the river, and distant mountains from our room, I found one of the best locations in Seoul was the edge of my bed. Not too shabby.
Overall, Park Hyatt Seoul is definitely one of the nicest hotels at which I’ve ever stayed, and even at the $350/night price point we paid, I would consider it to be a good value for the money. I know many guests staying here aren’t exactly concerned with that, but thanks to the location, service, exquisite rooms, views of the city, and the excellent (included) spa, pool, and fitness center, the Park Hyatt Seoul offered incredible bang for the buck. Obviously, value is relative, and if you’re looking for a sub-$100/night, this isn’t going to be the value you’re after, but if you aren’t averse to spending more for quality commensurate with the price point, the Park Hyatt Seoul is a great pick. Whether it be for a quick business trip, a romantic weekend, or even a photography trip to Seoul (I’ll cover this in a separate post, but the 10 minute walk to Bongeunsa Temple is key), I highly recommend the Park Hyatt Seoul. Certainly, it’s not going to offer the same cultural experience as a family-run hotel north of the river, but I’d argue that in Gangnam, this is a pretty authentic experience in its own right.
Have you stayed at the Park Hyatt Seoul? If so, what did you think of it? If you haven’t stayed there, would you consider it as part of your trip to South Korea? Please share your thoughts in the comments!