During our last minute, short trip to South Korea this winter we stayed at a hotel worth reviewing in the bustling city of Seoul. For two nights we escaped the chilly -10 tempuratures at the Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun, a member of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts group.
The entrance to the hotel isn’t too conspicuous, a simple sliding door entrance next to a StarBucks. From there you’ll catch an elevator up to the eight floor where you can check in.
The hotel seems to be within walking distance to two train stations, however I’d reccomend getting a taxi on arrival if you don’t want any hassle. We arrived early in the evening and decided to catch the line 1 train to the closest possible station and then hop in a cab. However during our stay there we walked to the Jongak train station and used it to get to where we wanted to go.
As always, when traveling in countries that don’t speak English be sure to get the address in the local language (in this case Korean characters). You can sometimes find this on your booking confirmation, but if not, email the hotel to request it before hand.
Since we visited during Korean New Year, some of the surrounding shops were closed but there was a Starbucks, a Burger King and some Korean restaurants right outside the hotel. Additionally you can buy your lunch at the hotel restaurant.
Jongak Station is on line 1 which is two stops away from the main Seoul Station, and is a short taxi ride away from some of the more popular areas. Taxi’s to the nearby Folk Village and a shopping street in Hyewha (Cat & Raccoon cafe), were all under under $10. Myeongdong, one of the more famous shopping streets, was 3 stops away via subway (with a line change).
While we didn’t interact with too many staff members during our stay, those we did talk to were very helpful. The staff at the front desk helped us find restaurants, and give us addresses in Korean to show to taxi drivers. We couldn’t fault the service here (which is always a good problem to have). Check in was fast and pain less, and the process was over and done with in under 2-3 minutes.
Room service did their jobs well and we always returned to a clean and made room after a day of exploring.
Standard Room: Value for Money
With prices beginning at around USD108 the hotel was priced well for what it offers, we personally stayed in a standard double. The bed was a welcome respite from the rock hard beds we experienced in China, making it hard to convince ourselves to wake up in the morning. The room was well furnished with a lounge chair right against the windows and a bathroom with a comfortable bath and electronic toilet.
Also, a weird mention but the toilet seat was warm – something that is much needed in the South Korean Winter. It also had the rinse features that come with electronic toilets. I really liked the bath, and found it easy to switch between bath and shower mode which is always a plus.
The best part of the room would either be the bath, or the beautiful view of the surrounding buildings. We love the way buildings light up at night, so we really liked this. There’s something romantic about looking down on the world as it sparkles in the evening.
The only problem we had is that we couldn’t get the air conditioner to change temperatures. I think they have the temperature set to a certain number during the winter, or perhaps there was a setting that we didn’t know how to use. However that could have been easily solved by telling someone, and asking them to help us change it, so it’s not really a problem.
Wifi was great in the room. While internet might not be important for some travelers, its a deal breaker for us so we were happy to see we had good reception at all hours.
Another feature that I was impressed with was the use of Aveda products. I remember washing my hair and thinking that the smell reminds me of home. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was for a couple of minutes, until I remembered it smelt like Aveda shampoo, a brand I used quite often when living in Australia. Immediately, I looked down and noticed that it didn’t just smell like Aveda, it was Aveda!
For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Aveda is a professional quality shampoo and conditioner (as well as skin care) brand, which is organically minded. I thought it was a great choice for use within the hotel – it’s the little touches that impress.
If you’ve been following us for a while you know that the buffet is one of the favourite parts of our stays. There’s just something special about not having to go too far to eat in the morning. Breakfast was served until 9.30-10am and we were advised to get there early. However, we slept in on our first night and got to the buffet at about 9am, and everything was still on offer when we left some 30 -45 minutes later.
At the Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun the buffet didn’t disappoint with a wide selection of foods on offer. A favourite of ours were the olives (we’re olive crazy), the potato salad and the granola. Other foods available were scrambled eggs, croissants and sweet pastries, fried tomatoes and waffles. There were also some Asian based dishes, such as special dim sums, and hot pots.
Despite it being a national holiday, the breakfast area wasn’t too busy and the tables were well spread out. This was great as we didn’t have to mind our time while eating, as there were still tables available for incoming guests.
Complimentary Items / Services
Complementary items or services for guests:
- Daily waters (we received two bottles daily)
- Access to the Fitness Center
- Coffee & Tea Bags
- Safety deposit box
- Universal adapter
- Bathrobes and certain toiletries (Shampoo / soap / lotion).
What Is Preferred Hotels & Resorts?
Preferred hotels and Resorts is a luxury brand that backs certain independent hotels, such as the Shilla Stay. According to their website, hotels that are apart of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts group have met a high level of quality standards, which are anonymously inspected yearly. Obviously, we think this is a great idea as it helps you feel more confident that you’ll get the value you expect when booking a hotel.
They also have a membership program called iPrefer, which allows you to receive benefits at over 600 hotels around the world.
Overall View of the Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun
We really enjoyed our time at the Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun and would recommend it to our friends and family, and of our readers! One of my favourite things was the price, which as I mentioned above, was very affordable for the quality offered. Also, it was so handy having a giant window to see how the weather was going (being Winter) without having to leave my room.
A more unique favourite, which may not be relevant to others, was having teabags in the room. In our hotel room in Busan (with a different hotel), we were supplied with a jug and tea mugs, but no tea – an unusual form of torture. Therefore, I’m probably much more appreciative of the tea bags in the room than normal, they gave us English Breakfast and Korean Green Tea to choose from.
Back to reality though, I really enjoyed having a bath in the room so I could relax in warm water at the end of the day. The bath was built in a way so it was comfortable to lie back, with a slanted neck rest – I hope I’m explaining that properly.
We were given two nights at the Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun in exchange for an honest review.