Experience Seoul’s contemporary energy in these hotels with their sights fixed on the future.
From Gangnam Style to Squid Game, the capital of K-pop and K-drama is famous for its modern character. This can be seen in the buildings that have shot up since the Korean War, its dazzling shopping destinations south of the Han, and its cosmopolitan neighborhoods like Hongdae and Itaewon. Incredibly, this contemporary spirit mixes with more traditional aspects, including markets devoted to fish, flowers, or fabrics, and the five great palaces of the Joseon dynasty. To feel the racing pulse of Seoul’s youthful energy, check into these contemporary hotels for beautiful design, breathtaking views, and immersion in buzzing neighborhoods.
See across town from Signiel Seoul
This Seoul landmark overlooks the capital from floors 76 to 101 of the 1,820 ft Lotte World Tower, Korea’s tallest building and the world’s fifth highest. Above you, the Seoul Sky observation decks occupy floors 117 to 123, while far below are the fashionable shopping districts and departments stores of Gangnam. The 235 rooms and suites are luxurious urban retreats with traditional Korean furnishings and wall art, where you can enjoy a darye tea ceremony with views of the high-rises lining the Han River.
Insider tip: The facilities are as incredible as the hotel’s views, including two Michelin-starred restaurants, a Champagne bar, a heated indoor swimming pool, a sauna, and the water-themed Evian Spa.
300 Olympic-ro, Jamsil 6(yuk)-dong, Songpa-gu; lottehotel.com/seoul-signiel
Cultural connections at RYSE
RYSE bills itself as “a hotel for creative originals in the heart of Hongdae,” drawing on the neighborhood’s community of artists and musicians to create an independent hub offering room, board, and inspiration. Urban chic fills the Creator, Editor, and Director Suites, while the hotel pulls out the creative stops with its dining and entertainment options. These include a San Francisco-style bakery café, Korean fusion restaurant, and Brooklyn-inspired bar and nightclub, complemented by a program of exhibitions and performances, and a library of niche magazines, books, and vinyl.
Insider tip: Looking to shop for local and global street fashion? Occupying the first three floors of RYSE, Worksout stocks brands from Brixton to Vans in a 5,000sq ft space with a mezzanine and stair portals.
130 Yanghwa-ro, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu; rysehotel.com
Contemporary style at the Mondrian Seoul Itaewon
It’s not only Gangnam that inspires entertainment hits. The cosmopolitan restaurant and bar district of Itaewon provides a setting for the K-drama series Itaewon Class. Taking its design cues from the vibrant area, the Mondrian hotel has a selection of playfully chic spaces like the Rumpus Room, where bookshelves and DJ sets create a relaxing environment for food and drinks, and Asia’s first Cleo restaurant, which offers a mix of Mediterranean cuisine and Hollywood-style glamour. The list goes on, while the rooms and suites conceived by Singaporean interior designers Asylum are equally cool and contemporary.
Insider tip: Head north to main drag Itaewon-ro for a cluster of places that accept Diners Club, including Route 66 American Bar, harking back to the area’s old US Army base that established Itaewon’s international flavor.
23 Jangmun-ro, Yongsan-gu; sbe.com/hotels/mondrian/seoul
Bold design at the Hotel The Designers Seoul Station
Young South Korean designers were invited to apply their skills to these rooms and suites near the Namsan Tower with some surprising results, including a wood-paneled suite and a silver-tiled bathroom fit for a spaceship. Witness the black-and-white Suite A & B, with its wavy wall motifs and rings-of-Saturn lights, conceived as a reflective space where “we can take out memories that have disappeared.”
Insider tip: Facilities include a restaurant, the SU Sauna, and the Dessert39 bakery café.
305 Hangang-daero, Namyeong-dong, Yongsan-gu; hotelthedesigners.net
Feel Seoul’s spirit at the L7 Hongdae
Another hotel inspired by the cool Hongdae area around Hongik University, this Lotte Group property allows you to live like an urban artist in its Studio Suite, complete with a desk for sketching or journaling and a view to the city. You’ll feel lighter than air in Floating restaurant, with fragrant coffee aromas, sweeping Hongdae views through floor-to-ceiling windows, and New York bistro-style dishes from the open kitchen. On the rooftop is a relaxation zone featuring a backlit cocktail lounge and a cultural space for browsing through books and listening to records.
Insider tip: Another beautiful base for discovering Hongdae’s galleries, buskers, and flea markets, the Loasis Suite has a soft, peachy color scheme, and a private roof terrace for enjoying a cup of L7’s signature drip coffee.
141 Yanghwa-ro, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu; lottehotel.com/hongdae-l7