A 4-star hotel with 5-star service in Seoul
It’s the convenience of the Courtyard Marriott Namdaemun that drew me here, but it’s the surprisingly high standards of service and quality that will keep me from booking anywhere else for future trips to Seoul. Located in the centre of the city, it’s less than a 10-minute walk to various subway stations. Just across a busy boulevard sits Namdaemun market. For the uninitiated, it’s one of the best places to source souvenirs, unless you’re after a multitude of cosmetics, in which case, Myeongdong is mecca for K-beauty and is a short walk from the property. Back to the market…while there’s plenty of tat on offer, there are also vendors selling high-quality goods you won’t find anywhere else. It took me two trips to Seoul to discover bright, vivid cloth napkins in bold Marimekko-style prints of assorted colours and fun themes. They’re great gifts and cost about a dollar each. Local street food, like dumpling soup or mung-bean pancakes can also be found.
Keep walking past the market, and you’ll arrive at Shinsegae, Seoul’s equivalent of Selfridge’s. In December, there are various sales, and the basement houses a food hall with a small supermarket and a handful of independent stands selling clothing and bed linens.
But, enough about the surroundings…the strong emphasis on aesthetics begins with the hotel exterior, with dramatic sculpture and a welcoming, softly-lit sepia-toned image of nature, an immediately soothing aesthetic for anyone weary from Seoul’s busy, big-city vibe.
The lobby and public spaces exude a five-star feel with natural materials, high ceilings, and floor-to-ceiling windows. An outdoor terrace plays host to private events. An executive lounge operates throughout the day and the well-equipped fitness centre, like many hotels in Asia, is open 24/7.
Inside, guest rooms surround a central atrium that serves as an antidote to dark corridors, by streaming light in multiple directions.
Rooms on either side offer views of either the market or North Seoul Tower. Simple, but brightly coloured design features make a statement upon entering each room, with a lime green mini-fridge and comfortable, but sleek, curved chairs. The bathtubs and sinks are set in marble and, where similarly-ranked hotels in the West may save on toiletries, the Courtyard Marriott Namdaemun delivers big smalls of lovely scents of popular Korean beauty brand, Flor de Man.
True to the culture of Asian pragmatism, each room offers superior connectivity (South Korea boasted the fastest internet in the world in 2017) with bedside USB ports as well as electrical outlets, making it easy to charge multiple devices overnight.
Courtyard may be among the more humble of the Marriott portfolio, but this property is my new favourite – all of the style and service of a five-star at four-star rates.
Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Namdaemun, 9 Namdaemun-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul 04526, South Korea.
Tel: +82 2-2211-8000
There is an Airport Shuttle from Incheon Airport that will drop you off just around the corner from the hotel.
Type of Hotel: 4-Star Hotel
Number of Rooms: 409 rooms, including complimentary Wi-Fi.
Price Band: Medium
Insider Tip: Utilize the concierges. They are more knowledgeable than most and go out of their way to assist.
Reviewer’s Rating: 10/10
Amy Guttman is a freelance journalist and broadcaster based in London regularly reporting for PBS Newshour, BBC and Forbes, focusing on current affairs and entrepreneurship.
Photographs courtesy of Courtyard Marriott Namdaemun