I spent a total of four nights in Seoul, which ended up being split between three hotels. The first hotel I booked was the Imperial Palace in Gangnam, for a great rate on Skyauction.com. Unfortunately, when my plans changed and I wanted to add a third night, there were no rates via Skyauction available. Since I’d be heading to the train station on the morning after my third night, I figured I’d find a hotel closer to Seoul Station. I originally booked an award night at the Millenium Hilton, but then I decided to book a revenue stay at the new Four Points by Sheraton Namsan, also walking distance to Seoul Station. After my trip down to Gyeongju, I also booked an award night at the Millenium Hilton, but then decided to switch to the new Holiday Inn Express Euljiro, not terribly far from Seoul Station.
In a city with hundreds of hotels, I don’t particularly recommend any of the three, although I would consider the Imperial Palace. Now to the play by play…
The Korean Air Limo Bus from Incheon dropped me off across the street from the Imperial Palace, and the driver called over to have a bellman meet me as I walked over. The hotel is fairly large, with multiple towers, and an opulent lobby with bar and live music area. The property looks like it was built in the late 90s, and has a “European” theme, which isn’t my personal aesthetic, but works.
I had a standard room, which was decently-sized and clean, though the paint and wallpaper were starting to show some wear. The room had both a sitting area and a desk/work area, and it looked out onto the pool, which was closed for the season. There were 2 free bottles of water in the room replaced daily, as well as free wifi. There was a hot water kettle with tea and coffee in teabags.
The bathroom was large though dated. It was my first experience with the electronic toilets that would accompany me throughout East Asia, and this was the scariest – and also the warmest. I could not figure out how to turn the temperature on the seat down!
There were a few restaurants in the hotel, as well as a conference center and barber shop, which I didn’t check out. The only facilities I did use was the gym, which was pretty big and had a ton of cardio equipment, and an adequate amount of weight equipment.
The bell staff was generally fantastic. Not only did they come to meet me across the street when I arrived, but the bellman ran to get a taxi for me when I needed it, and then called the Four Points to get directions for the taxi driver (who still couldn’t find it).
As for location, there was a Starbucks about a block away, but otherwise the immediate area surrounding the hotel wasn’t particularly attractive or tourist friendly. There were two metro stations about 10 minutes away and restaurants and bars in those directions. I ended up finding myself spending most of my time on the other side of the Han River, outside of Gangnam, where more of the touristy stuff is.
Overall, though, I was pleased with the property.
Four Points by Sheraton Seoul Namsan
As a brand, Four Points doesn’t really have an identity. It stands more for what it is not – full-service – than what it is. In terms of styling, newer properties aren’t that different from Starwood’s other limited service brand, Aloft. With the upcoming merger with Marriott, I’d imagine the 150 properties will be converted to Courtyards or Alofts, as it’s an unnecessary brand.
The brand new Four Points Seoul Namsan fit the confusion I associate with the brand. I had a good, but by no means bargain, rate of about $135. The hotel was not on any maps, and my taxi driver could not find it. There was terrible signage and the driveway wasn’t on the street. When I got out of the taxi, it wasn’t clear where to go, as there was no staff or welcome info at all on the ground level, but I figured out to head up to the 19th floor for check-in. (The elevators were exceedingly slow, and 3 simply weren’t enough for a “vertical” hotel.)
There was a ton of staff at the front desk, though I have no idea what they were doing, as check-in took a long time. As a Gold member, I was offered a choice of a welcome drink or bonus points. For some reason I took the drink, although the bar wouldn’t open for another 2 hours, close to dinner time, so I ended up not using it. There was no mention of an upgrade or anything, which is consistent with my SPG experience of never actually upgrading its Gold members.
My room was as booked, one of the smaller ones in the hotel. It was definitely tight, with a queen size bed, and a desk along the window, and no other furniture. The finishes were pretty high quality, though.
Despite much of the hotel having a view, it did not, and instead faced another tall building. (Rooms started on the 20th floor, and I was on the 29th.)
There was a small fitness center, with a rack of weights, treadmills and 2 stationary bikes.
The area around the hotel is pretty dead. The hotel is 13 or so floors of one of the towers of “Twincity”, which right now consists of a Starbucks, residences, and an empty mall. You can walk through the mall to the Seoul Station subway, but it is creepy in that there is literally nothing there. (Incidentally, the Seoul Station subway was actually the only place I saw homeless people during my stay in Seoul.)
Overall, not a hotel I’d stay at again.
Holiday Inn Express Seoul Euljiro
The Holiday Inn Express Euljiro was pretty similar to the Four Points, but in a busier more industrial neighborhood, and a little cheaper – both in terms of rate and in terms of quality. Although not as close to Seoul Station, it was a block from the metro and was a quick three stop, one transfer ride.
I had to wait a bit to check-in as there was only one person at the desk and two groups of Japanese tourists checking in. Although I was not particularly early – around 1:30pm, the clerk told me that as an IHG Rewards Club Platinum member I was supposed to get a room on the highest floor, but it wasn’t available yet. She asked if the sixth floor was okay. It seemed to be a bit of poor inventory management as the people checking in before me were all on higher floors, but it didn’t really matter. The “Superior” room was the best room at the hotel, though there was some street noise on the sixth floor during the day that I imagined didn’t exist on the higher floors.
The room was new and modern, similar in size to the Four Points, but the finishes weren’t as nice. There were high-tech light panels and such, and there was a chair and side table squeezed in. There were plentiful universal outlets, and there was a hot water kettle with coffee. The bathroom made use of the small space by having the door for the bathroom also be the shower door, which was weird. Instead of individual toiletries, there was a dispenser of “body wash/shampoo” in the shower. The linens were a little rough.
The fitness center was similar to the Four Points, with hand weights, treadmills, an elliptical, and a stationary bike. The free internet was fine. Although breakfast was included, it didn’t start until 6:30, which was after I was heading to the train to the airport.
Holiday Inn Express gym
The area immediately around the hotel is not well-suited for tourists. It’s a wholesale-type district, selling a lot of construction and industrial equipment. The blocks immediately surrounding the hotel were door hardware, tile, lighting, and bathroom fixtures. But it’s a very short walk to the Myeongdong shopping district. Nonetheless, given the other options around the same price or a little more, I don’t think I’d stay here again. But for the short stay I had it was fine.