Opened in 1996 as one of the first luxury hotels south of the Han River—when the Korean economy was flush with parvenu cash—the semi-pyramid-shaped Ritz-Carlton has an ostentatious vibe that seems a little dated by today’s standards. The lobby, all marble pillars, garish chandeliers, and polished wainscoting, recalls an Elizabethan bordello; thankfully, though, the 375 newly renovated rooms are decorated in traditional Ritz-Carlton style (elegant pine furnishings, soothing-colored upholstery, crisp white linens). The hotel’s six eateries run the gamut from casual (a deli and bakery) to elaborate (the Oksan Buffet has more than 150 dishes from around the world). The fitness center is most notable for its hinoki soaking tub, made from aromatic Japanese cypress that contains natural antibacterial agents and therapeutic minerals.
Tip: If seeing shark-fin soup on the menu offends your sensibilities, you’ll want to skip the on-site Chee Hong restaurant.
Room to Book: Rooms in the “Club Balcony Deluxe” category come as advertised, with private balconies (rare in this city) overlooking the Seoul skyline.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.