Hotel insider: The Shilla, Seoul, South Korea
My car stops in front of the hotel’s huge revolving doors and I’m shepherded inside in record time. In the lobby, I stop long enough to get a brief impression of the soaring ceilings, Korean-influenced decor and a shimmering crystal installation before being whisked upstairs. Check-in, conducted in my room, takes five minutes.
Sitting amid nine hectares of private land atop a hill, north of the River Han, The Shilla is a flat, brown building that looks more impressive than that sounds. It’s the grand old dame of the city – built in 1979, it was stripped down and completely refurbished about two years ago, but the facade has remained unchanged. One side of the property is lined by Seoul Fortress, a 600-year-old stone wall. Myeong-dong, a popular shopping district, is a short walk away.
I’m booked into an executive grand deluxe room on the 18th floor with west-facing windows that offer a lofty view of Mount Namsan, on which N Seoul Tower sits like a pointy hat. The room is done up in stylish wood panelling and expensive upholstery. There’s a living area, desk, widescreen TV and a big bathroom with Molton Brown products and a deep tub set under a window. The bed is gargantuan, with light bedding and cloudlike pillows stuffed with Hungarian goosedown.
Lightning fast. Every member of staff seems to have a Bluetooth device in their ear, and goes about business – fetching travel adaptors and wiping up spills – in the most unobtrusive way.
The Shilla brand – named after one of Korea’s three ancient kingdoms – is native to the country, and is popular among staycationing young families who equate it with luxury, rest and relaxation. But despite the number of small children present, the atmosphere remains hushed and exclusive. There are a good number of businessmen and a few Japanese and Chinese tourists. The 20th-floor executive lounge, which looks more like somebody’s tasteful living room, is a great place enjoy the city lights in the evening. Guerlain Spa and the immaculate sauna are a big draw, especially in the winter.
I eat my meals in the ground-floor The Parkview, one of six restaurants in the hotel, which does an excellent breakfast (59,000 South Korean won [Dh193]). It’s buffet-style, but the stations are set far apart, so there’s no crowding. I eat a bowl of delicious Vietnamese noodle soup topped with tofu, sprouts and a dash of chilli oil, prepared in front of me, plus fresh dim sum and giant local pears – snow-white, crisp and juicy.
Dinner (105,000 won [Dh334]), again a buffet, is a more-elaborate affair, and I try the crab leg and lobster tail, delicately rolled sushi, barbecued spare rib, slices of persimmon and frozen yogurt piped into a cup out of a Softy machine.
The USB ports hidden in the bedside-table drawers, the dreamy bed and the luxurious bathrobe.
The lack of an ironing board in the room. The spacious wardrobe could easily accommodate one.
Discreet luxury and pampering the Korean way.
The bottom line
Executive grand deluxe rooms at The Shilla (www.shillahotels.com) cost from 978,000 won (Dh3,206) per night, including taxes and access to the executive lounge, but not including breakfast.
This review was done at the invitation of the hotel.
Updated: June 1, 2017 04:00 AM