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Thanks to all the readers who left me helpful comments on my call out for suggestions of what to do in Seoul. I spent a great few days there, which I’ll be writing about this week, starting with this review of my hotel, the Park Hyatt Seoul.
I’ve already made my SPG 75 night Platinum status, so I’m spending the rest of my year trying to requalify for Hyatt Diamond Status (and replenish my Hyatt point stash by maximizing their Q4 promo since I have the Hyatt Visa) and wanted to stay either at the Grand Hyatt or the Park Hyatt. Well, Park Hyatt won out in reader suggestions and wasn’t that much more expensive for my dates, so I decided to book it (for comparative investigation, TPG Managing Editor Eric got to Seoul early and tested out the Grand Hyatt and W, so stay tuned for those reviews!).
I was able to book a Park Deluxe King room (one category above their base standard room) for 344,500 South Korean Won ($315 USD). I still have my Hyatt Diamond suite upgrade certificates to use before the end of the year, though, so I decided to use one on my three-night stay for a Park Suite King, which would have cost 464,500 SKW ($430), so I got a value of about $345 from my certificate. Standard rooms go for 15,000 points a night, which can be a good value when room rates are $300+, but sadly you can’t use Hyatt Suite Upgrades on award stays. If you’re not a Diamond member, though, and want to upgrade to a suite for the extra room, you can use points to do so on paid stays – check out this post to learn how.
First have a look at this video I made of my suite, and then read the full review below:
As opposed to the Park Deluxe King, which starts at about 48 square meters (about 530 square feet), my Park Suite King was over 700 square feet and had better views of Dosan Daero road and even the Han River (the Park Deluxe King just looked down upon the street).
It had a small living room area with a sectional, ottoman and coffee table arranged around a wall-mounted flatscreen TV, as well as a breakfast table and a credenza with the safe and minibar. To be honest, while the views were pretty awesome, I wasn’t terribly impressed by the space – it was small for a suite, though I guess that explains the relatively small difference in price between normal rooms and suites. I did, however, love the clean, minimalist design with blond wood paneling and furniture, the wooden floors and the black-and-white photographs on display on the wall. My other quibble was that there was a major lack of outlets in the room and absolutely none near the bed, which is a pet peeve. I did, however, appreciate the welcome gift of persimmons (I initially mistook them for tomatoes, which I thought was off), which are in season and ripening all over Seoul, and a bottle of shoju.
Back behind a dividing wall was the bedroom with a king-size bed dressed in all-white linens, a funky recliner and side table and another large flatscreen. Although I really liked the look in here as well, including the floor-to-ceiling windows with automatic blinds and blackout curtains, I thought the bed was almost comically hard – it was like sleeping on a sandbag. I don’t mind a firm mattress, but it was a sharp departure from standard Park Hyatt beds, which are generally middle-of-the road firm. My biggest annoyance with the bedroom was that I whacked my head on the overhang of the bed’s headboard and at the foot of the bed there was a wooden sharp baseboard that I slammed my knee into really hard. The headboard issue is probably due to my freakish height, but I have to imagine others have slammed their feet on the quasi-hidden wooden foot board.
The bedroom was separated from the bathroom by a wooden closet area that opened both from the bedroom side and the bathroom side. The bathroom was by far my favorite part of the room. It was all granite and had dual vanities, a separate WC with an automated toilet, and an entire glassed-in bath and shower suite that included a rectangular deep soaking tub with a television embedded in the wall, and a shower with both a hand-held shower head and an overhead rainfall shower head, and was stocked with bath salts, a loofah and Australian high-end Aesop toiletries.
Like the bedroom and living room, the bathroom had huge windows with automatic blinds for privacy, but other than when I was using the shower, I kept them open for the amazing views. (Note: You can see into the other rooms when the shades are up, so don’t walk around naked, unless you want to show off to all of Seoul!)
The Park Hyatt is located in everyone’s favorite up-and-coming neighborhood, Gangnam. Before I got there, I had no idea how big this area is – it’s huge! The Park Hyatt is at the end of it near the Olympic Stadium and the Coex convention center and mall (and the Hyundai department store) in a glass tower surrounded by other hotels and office buildings. It’s also right near the Samseong subway station, which made it easy to get around the city inexpensively.
The lobby is up on the 24th floor, and the guest rooms are below it, so you have to take a special elevator up to reception then take another one back down to the floor your room is on. It’s a bit convoluted and I ended up waiting for minutes at a time for the elevator. Everyone at reception was super helpful, though, and there was almost always someone on duty to call the elevator, and the folks behind the desk had some good suggestions for sightseeing, restaurants and getting around town.
The reception area also has a small lounge where you can get snacks and drinks throughout the day and evening, and then adjacent to it is a small fitness center and an infinity-edge lap pool (part of the Park Club Spa & Fitness Center that’s also on the 23rd floor) with still more stunning views of the surrounding city.
Because I’m a Hyatt Diamond, one of my elite benefits is free breakfast. I was told I could take it down in the hotel’s all-day restaurant, Cornerstone on the second floor, but instead I asked if I could get it via room service (which I love to do) and was told yes, so I did that instead and none of the charges ever showed up on my bill.
The hotel also has a swanky shoju lounge in the basement called Timber House where they have a menu of beers and wines from around the world, as well as pages and pages of specialty cocktails and live music on most nights. I met a friend there briefly and enjoyed it, except it was extremely smoky, which I’m not used to.
I didn’t get to try out the spa because it was completely booked the day I wanted to go.
All in all, though I did enjoy the experience and thought certain elements of the hotel were stunning (and some elements like the headboard hazardous!), next time I’m in Seoul, I might consider a more central location and not use my suite upgrades since my suite didn’t feel that much larger than a standard room. Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.