If hotel design were an Olympic sport, the Shilla would be the Michael Phelps of Seoul properties. Adjacent to the 23-acre, lushly landscaped Jangchungdan Park, where walking trails wind among pine trees and sculptures by Korean artists, the 465-room hotel provides luxurious seclusion in this otherwise extremely congested city. The rooms are decorated in an understated East-meets-West motif (with blond Euro-style wood furniture, eggshell-colored striped wallpaper, and sliding rice-paper window screens) and have both free high-speed wired and wireless connections, and free loaner mobile phones (a major plus since American cell phones don’t work in Korea). The on-site health and fitness facilities include an outdoor pool—a rarity in Seoul—and a Guerlain Spa offering anti-aging treatments, Bouvier hydrotherapy, and even medical exams by graduates of the country’s top medical university.
Tip: Despite the fantastic cuisine at all four of the hotel’s restaurants, the dining prices here are legendarily exorbitant. Consider eating out in the nearby neighborhoods where great local cuisine can be had at a fraction of the price and twice the local color.
Room to Book: Get any room facing Namsan, a small, forested mountain. Rooms in the opposite direction have too much light pollution from the neon cityscape they overlook.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.