As soon as it opened in October 2015, the 317-room Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, owned by Mirae, became a magnet for wealthy Koreans. My 72-square-metre corner suite had an amazing view of Gwanghwamun Palace and onto the distant hills – thanks to my 10 sweeping windows (including two in the bathroom, all with electronically-operated blinds hidden out of sight). I particularly loved the oval freestanding tub. At one end there was a ‘wow’ fixture: a ceiling-hung, wall-supported, wrought-iron rectangular outline, its base holding a matching marble tray for soap, loofah and salts.
Knowing the importance and value of spas and fitness clubs in Korea, I quickly took a wellness tour. The ninth floor reception is flanked by Men and Women club signs. I put on slippers and walk past hundreds of shoe lockers and full-length lockers. I had been told Koreans are health mad and work out in gyms from long before dawn to late at night. They use their clubs as social meeting places and they pay big bucks to belong; it is not unusual to pay AU$100,000 deposit, held for at least five years, plus AU$3,400 a year.
The hotel’s wellness offerings include a 25-metre pool, virtual golf, the biggest gym in town and separate-sex wet areas. The sauna is clearly signed 85 degrees, the steam room 46 degrees and big bubbling pools in the wet area range from 19.8 to 42.8 degrees. The changing area has eight completely private make-up booths, with Hollywood mirrors and toiletries. There is a napping room, with beds and a relax room with massage chairs and Bluetooth televisions.
On a hotel tour, I ogle the soaring lobby with a gas-fuelled fire, designed – like most of the hotel – by LTW’s Su Teo. The ground floor has a Starbuck’s-like deli with high tables, which attracts millennials. Next to it is a fascinating floral boutique, notable for its boxes of fresh or dried flower heads. Down 42 spiral stairs to the lowest level, I find the amazing Market Kitchen, a 240-seat food court, designed by AvroKO. Some tables are on glass floor panels, revealing illuminated building ruins beneath. There are also two André Fu-design restaurants, Kioku Japanese, and Yu Yuan Shanghainese, on the 12th floor. And do not let me forget the hidden speakeasy, Charles H, named for cocktail writer Charles H Baker (1895-1987). There is no sign on the entrance door, but go into this long, sultry, scarlet and gold jewel, and chic women in scarlet dresses direct you past a long counter to yet another inner sanctum – no smoking allowed, at least officially.
The 28th floor Club breakfast starts at 6.30am. I took perfect, big-as-a-baby tangerines and strawberries, set upright in military lines, and homemade yoghurt. At 7.25am, down in the lobby, GM Alejandro Bernabe waited and the lobby’s eternal gas-fuelled jet provided a perfect photo backdrop. As I left he, and a couple of bellmen, were still standing in line, waving.
Lead image: Four Seasons Hotel Seoul – Lobby Living Room | Image: Ken Seet/Four Seasons