WelcomeIntroducing the Premier Issue of Conrad Magazine
Heart in SeoulSouth Korea’s booming capital city welcomes a new kind of luxury.
Hollywood on the HudsonPassionate up-and-coming filmmakers take to the streets of downtown New York.
On DisplayGet ready for a whole new level of hotel art at three Conrad destinations.
- The Luxury of Being Yourself
The Allure of AlgarveRelax and rejuvenate at one of Europe's most soothing destinations.
The Pocket ConciergeAn innovative new app makes hotel service simple.
Scents of CalmAromatherapy turns your shower into a rejuvenating escape.
Steeped in TraditionA chef at Conrad Beijing makes tea an art form.
- Infinite Connections
Trunk ShowA lush Thai jungle as seen from elephant's-eye view.
A Taste of Hong KongDim sum draws visitors at Conrad Hong Kong.
Miami HeatExploring the booming Miami art scene.
"I Bet on Myself"The innovator who created the Tribeca Film Festival.
Chicago Shake-UpA bartender shares his margarita secrets.
Deep-sea DiningA one-of-a-kind restaurant in the Indian Ocean.
- Globally Inspired
Gotta Have ItA savvy traveler’s look inside Portugal.
The Real New YorkIn-the-know places near Conrad New York.
Destination SpotlightExperience Conrad's world of style.
Room with a ViewThe tranquil Conrad Koh Samui villas blur boundaries between indoors and the natural world.
Heart in Seoul
Amid Ancient Grandeur and Beauty, South Korea's Booming Capital Welcomes a New Kind of Luxury by Ken Scrudato
S omething was missing in Seoul. Yes, the South Korean capital has quickly grown into one of Asia's buzzing new hives of global finance and innovation. Yes, you can come here and discover high-end shopping, fascinating culture, and exquisite local and international dining. But one thing was hard to find.
Unlike other Asian boom cities, such as Shanghai and Hong Kong, where the opening of new hotels could barely keep up with demand, the luxury hotel scene in Seoul has been inexplicably quiet in the new millennium. This has left a glaring hole for a hotel that rises to the technological, stylistic, and—perhaps most important—rapidly evolving service requirements of a new generation of globe-trotting business and leisure travelers. Into the breach stepped the new Conrad Seoul, which opened in November.
"Conrad Seoul is really the first true luxury hotel opening in over a decade on the Korean peninsula," says general manager Nils-Arne Schroeder. The mission: Deliver the kind of 21st-century hospitality this country has never seen.
The implications go beyond any one hotel. Conrad Seoul represents something broader—a fresh approach and a new expectation of what modern luxury means. For instance, today's traveler expects unobtrusive service. (If you"ve ever had a bellhop try to take your suitcase from you by force, you can surely relate.) It's also about equipping guests with technology that makes their stay more convenient and provides a level of individuality and independence.
"The generation visiting luxury hotels is extremely young here in Korea," says Schroeder, "and they are looking for something contemporary and new." An example: Conrad Seoul provides the Smart TV system in-room. "It allows the TV in each room to be converted into a computer. You can stream your content from your iPad, iPhone, or Android product onto a plasma TV. No other hotel in Korea has this feature."
Design and Taste
Aesthetically, expectations have also changed. While so many hotels in American and European cities have been conceived as design statements unto themselves, Asian hotels are only now starting to catch up, having previously favored glitz or familiarity over stylistic innovation. Conrad Seoul, with its sleek, modern design, speaks to this new sensibility.
Here, grand statements are at home. The hotel's dramatic central staircase, for instance, is the tallest of its kind in the country. But little details matter too. Come for a visit and you'll notice the hotel's signature design element—the gingko tree—throughout. (Gingko trees symbolize health, luck, and wealth in South Korea.) The hotel features gingko wood accents in common rooms and public areas, gingko images on the walls, carpets, and chandeliers, and thriving trees outside the building.
After all, a connection to nature and respect for the environment are also part of what a 21st-century traveler demands. Conrad Seoul has responded with, among other things, rooftop solar panels and a rainwater harvesting system.
"The Korean Stock Exchange is literally at our doorstep," says Schroeder. "But we also have the city's largest green space, the Yeouido Park, right next to us. And we're walking distance to the Han River; more than 80 percent of our rooms have a view of it."
A Korean approach reigns at the hotel's restaurants as well. "We're focusing very much on the locals," Schroeder says of the hotel's dining offerings. "Our restaurants and cuisines are made for the local tastes, and we're expecting 80 to 90 percent of the clients in the restaurants to be Seoul residents." An example is 37 Grill & Bar, perched high on the 37th floor, specializing in prime cuts of
This is a long way from Dubai. But it's a city every bit as compelling—and now it's ready for a new level.
"We have such a young team," Schroeder says of his hotel staff. "They are really passionate, and they really want to exceed your expectations. What people will take away from a stay with us is that, clearly, there is a new way forward for luxury hotels in Korea."
The Hottest Spots in Seoul
With All Those New Won Floating Around South Korea's Capital, There's No Shortage Of Chic Places To Spend Them
The Apgujeong district (below, bottom) is chockablock with the boldface Western signifiers of new prosperity: Prada, Hermès, Gucci, Vuitton, and the like line Cheongdam-dong (which means "fashion and art street") in an area not dissimilar to New York's famous Madison Avenue. For culture, head to Daehangno, where you can enjoy the local theater scene and a multitude of restaurants, cafes, and bars. And if you're looking to follow the buzz of Seoul's bright young crowd, they can be found in the restaurants and nightspots of Garosu-gil in Sinsa-dong.
110-360 Yulgok-ro 99, Jongno-gu, 02 762 8261, cdg.go.kr
This stunning 15th-century Joseon Dynasty palace (right) was named a UNESCO heritage site in 1997. Its gardens contain more than 50,000 plants and trees.
747-18 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, 02 2014 6901, leeum.samsungfoundation.org
A fascinating juxtaposition of traditional and modern art collections, this space has hosted high-profile shows with the likes of Mark Rothko and Anish Kapoor.
Gwangmyeong-ro, Gwacheon-si, Gyeonggi-do, 02 2188 6114, moca.go.kr
Korea's most revered contemporary art museum boasts a permanent collection including works by Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys, and Nam June Paik, plus a sculpture garden.
494 Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam-gu, dept.galleria.co.kr
Renowned as a haven of upscale shopping, it features many of the top international luxury brands (above).
79 Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, 02 3018 1010, 10corsocomo.com
Imported from Milan in 2008, Carla Sozzani's 10 Corso Como is the chicest fashion address in town.
109-5 Sinseol-dong, Dongdaemun-gu, 02 2232 3367, pungmul.seoul.go.kr
For a traditional shopping experience, this is the most comprehensive market, with literally hundreds of vendors.
31-1 Samcheong-dong, Jongro-gu, 02 730 7461, mapletreehouse.co.kr
Traditional Korean BBQ is offered in a rustic-chic, romantic setting.
5-5 Yongsan-gu, 02 798 3311, siwhadam.com
Every detail is handled with artistic flair at this upscale Korean eatery.
412-29 Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, 02 333 6564
The fashionable set gather here for BBQ.
Woori Building, 18th floor, Jung-gu 10 Bongnae-dong 1ga, 02 317 8568, cafedesartsseoul.com
Stylish café by day, buzzy bistro by night.
Coffee Bar K
89-20 Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, 02 516 1970
One of the top spots in Seoul for a great whiskey.
85-1 Chungdam-dong, Kangnamgu, 02 549 5490, onceinabluemoon.co.kr
This upscale, American-style jazz and blues club features a well-cultivated music program.
1-1 Jongno-ga Jongno-gu, 02 2230 3000, topcloud.co.kr
On top of the Jongno Tower, order a swanky cocktail and enjoy the spectacular view.