It felt like a 7-series BMW. Or an Audi A8. But it wasn’t. It was a Hyundai. And it was the most luxurious damned Hyundai I’ve ever been in.
When you’re traveling solo, sure, take your time to sort out transportation when you arrive at the airport. However, when you’re helping to determine somebody else’s experience, and you’ve been tasked with a smooth delivery from Incheon Airport to Seoul, just arrange a driver. It’s worth it.
The Four Seasons Hotel Seoul sent their man in a black, Wi-Fi enabled Hyundai sedan that made our transfer from the airport to the hotel seamless. And when we checked into our room, there was a hand-written note (from the hotel’s General Manager) addressed to me and my mom, welcoming us to the hotel. There were also some sandwiches, fruits, and desserts. It was a nice welcome, and while it’d be nice if the Four Seasons Seoul did this for all of their customers, it’s likely that we enjoyed such courtesy because we booked via FHR (American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts). When we booked, we were able to get the third night free, plus we were able to get the standard FHR accompaniments: room upgrade, complimentary daily breakfast, $100 food/beverage credit, and late check-out. (If you want to know more about how to do this, contact me.)
I’ve stayed previously at the Ritz Carlton Seoul via FHR. Both were great. But if you’re not committed to staying in the Gangnam District (where the Ritz Carlton is), then I’d go with the Four Seasons. It’s newer. It has a see-through floor in the dining area where you can spot relics that were discovered during construction of the hotel.
And the hotel has a speakeasy. (There’s a marble wall. You knock on it. It turns out to be a door. Somebody opens it. You enter. It’s fun.)
So if you’re in Seoul, and you’re looking for the essential things to do, I’d consider the following:
Begin with a walk to Gyeongbokgung Palace. (It’s a short walk from the Four Seasons.) It’s a nice walk.
Once you arrive, you can enter (for free), and then you can survey the surroundings to ascertain whether or not you want to pay for entry into different parts of the palace.
The next stop is Chyeonggyecheon Stream. I’ve written about it before. It’s smack-dab in the middle of the city, and it’s a testament to the role of an empathic city-planner. Seoul gets hot, especially in the summer, yet soaking your feet in the cold water for an hour at Chyeonggyecheon is just enough to cool the core and refresh a tired body.
Next up was a food tour. We went through O’ngo Food Tour. Like many food tours I’ve booked over the years, I used Viator as a search engine and then booked through the native company’s site, in this case http://www.ongofood.com.
A fun way to familiarize yourself with a culture is to sample its food, which is why I’m a regular food-tour attendee.
Finally, take a sky ride to the top of Seoul. This is a fairly simple way to get a god’s eye of such an enormous city. The destination is N Seoul Tower, and you get there by taking Namsan Orumi (a slanted elevator, pictured below) to the Namsan cable car. You can also make the hike, if you like, but keep in mind that it’s steep—and during the summer it’s hot.
This picture (above) is not from the top of N Seoul Tower. This is a glimpse of almost a quarter of the city. Once you get to the top, you’ll likely marvel at the enormity of Seoul.
And remember that speakeasy I mentioned? The one at the Four Seasons? It’s called Charles H. You can still go there if you’re not a hotel guest. Trust me. It’s cool.
To be fair, each time I’ve been to Seoul, it’s been perfect. But this is one way to spend three days.
To eat: Korean barbecue, fried chicken
To see: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Chyeonggyecheon Stream, N Seoul Tower
Hotel: Four Seasons Hotel Seoul
Flight: Read the previous post
And of course, should you have any questions, feel free to contact me.