Travel Guide: Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, the capital city of South Korea is situated in the north west corner of the country, 25 miles away from the North Korean border. Seoul won a City of Design accolade in July 2010 and, as such, the city has seen a resurgence in design focused buildings, including the ‘Floating Island’, three artificial islets sitting on the Han River, which are used for entertainment and cultural events.

The island is part of a new surge of architectural projects that are transforming the city, including works by Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid and Daniel Libeskind. Seoul’s new cool restaurants and hotels continue this contemporary theme in both design and cuisine. Here’s a guide to Seoul’s hot spots.

Hotels

Banyan Tree Seoul

At the foot of Mount Namsan, Banyan Tree Hotel Club & Spa Seoul, which opened in June 2010, is Banyan Tree’s first combination hotel and members’ club. The rooms are luxurious and spacious and each one has its own relaxation pool. The outdoor pool is the largest in Seoul with a lovely terrace area.

W Seoul-Walkerhill

Overlooking the Han River, W Seoul is only 15 minutes from the bustling Gangnam financial district, but feels a world away. The lobby is the place to be seen with a 60-foot-long bar, egg-shaped chairs, and a DJ spinning from inside a spaceship-shaped booth.

IP Boutique

Situated in the shopping and entertainment district of Itaewon, the IP Boutique Hotel has 135 modern and stylish rooms, cool, contemporary restaurants and an outdoor swimming pool.

Restaurants

Tadak +82 2 333 6564

A stylish but low-key Korean BBQ restaurant from a former editor of Vogue Korea. The restaurant opened in 2010 near the Hongdae student nightlife district and is welcomingly relaxed and unpretentious.

Clock 16

A trendy restaurant on the 16th floor of the Sheraton Walkerhill with great views of Mount Achassan and the Han River. Chef Justin Toth serves classic French fare in modern surroundings.

Poom Seoul

Located near Mount Namsan, the restaurant offers delicate cuisine using the freshest ingredients in a sleek and elegant room. The menu is based on seasonal ingredients with a home-made style and the owners are planning to open branches in L.A., Paris, Tokyo and Beijing.

For further information or to make a reservation, please contact your concierge.

Travel Guide: New Hotel Openings

This year is set to be a bumper year for the London hotel scene with a plethora of luxury and boutique hotels due to open, which should also mean new, high quality restaurants. London’s hotel bar scene is already thriving, but with high expectations for the new arrivals, we could be in for a year of very stiff martinis.

Towards the end of last year, The Savoy hotel reopened after a long and expensive renovation, bringing with it Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy Grill, which is already receiving stellar reviews, and the beautiful Beaufort Bar.

Another refurbished hotel will shortly follow suit with the reopening of the Four Seasons London scheduled for 31 January, along with Amaranto, its modern Italian restaurant from Executive Chef Adriano Cavagnini (previously at Hotel Eden, Rome), which will also have a lounge, a bar and a garden terrace. The rooftop spa has glorious views of London, including from the sauna.

Photo: The Four Seasons London

A short distance away, the Dorchester Collection’s 45 Park Lane will open in the summer where Wolfgang Puck will launch ‘Cut’, a restaurant he opened at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills in 2006. I visited the original restaurant shortly after it opened and can highly rate the steaks and the tuna tartare starter.

Leicester Square will shortly be home to two new properties with the St John Hotel due to open in January, to be followed by the W Hotel, the first W Hotel in the UK, which should be open in time for Valentine’s Day.

The St Pancras Renaissance is finally scheduled to open in February, which will be ideal for Eurostar travellers, where Marcus Wareing will open The Gilbert Scott, a British brasserie.

In Clerkenwell, The Zetter is due to open a sister property in May 2011 across the road from the original boutique hotel in a Georgian townhouse which will have the feel of a private residence with just 11 rooms, two suites and a lounge and cocktail bar, all designed by interior designer Russell Sage. Further East in Dalston, the Avo Hotel will open with only 6 rooms and a penthouse.

The Eccleston Square Hotel is also scheduled to open in May 2011 in Pimlico with 40 bedrooms all with £12,000 Hasten beds from Sweden and a large focus on the in-room technology.

The Corinthia near Whitehall will have a bar designed by David Collins when it opens in April and Thompson Hotels will open Belgraves in Belgravia later in the year.

On the fringes of London, London Syon Park, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, is set to open in early 2011, in the grounds of a 200-acre English country estate, Syon Park, home of the Duke of Northumberland. The hotel will look out across the Thames to Kew Gardens, and it is ideally situated between London and Heathrow.

Further properties are planned for 2012, including the ME hotel group’s first foray into the UK hotel market, and there are also plans to open London’s first 6 star hotel. Located just off Hyde Park in Knightsbridge the 36-bedroom townhouse hotel, The Wellesley, is currently undergoing a £36 million pound renovation, with plans to open in 2012. There are also rumours that Andre Balazs will open a hotel in a converted fire station in Marylebone.

Whilst not as active as London, Paris has also experienced notable additions, including the Shangri-La, which opened in December last year. With rooms around the EUR 800 mark, they’ll be directly competing with grande dames such as The Crillon and Plaza Athenee.

Other hotel groups will also be moving in to Paris, including the W Paris-Opera on Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin, near the Garnier Opera House, towards the end of the year and the Mandarin Oriental Paris will be located on rue Saint Honoré with a restaurant from Michelin starred chef, Thierry Marx.

Hotel O is due to open in the summer in the Les Halles district, near the Louvre, along with its sister hotel, Hotel Le Crayon, which describes itself as ‘a poetic, bucolic and artistic hotel that dares to play a game of audacious combinations’.

It has been rumoured that Paris will also be the destination for the next Armani Hotel, along with the current properties in Dubai and Milan.

In New York, 2010 saw the opening of the James Hotel in Soho, The Mark Hotel on the Upper East Side, with its excellent Jean-Georges restaurant, and The Chatwal in Midtown, with the trend set to continue during 2011, with openings including the Setai Fifth Avenue and the Morgans Hotel Group’s Mondrian Soho.

For further information on these hotels or to make a booking, please contact us.