A Grand Experience In The Hills Of Seoul

by Shelli Stein

There are cities that you enjoy and think to yourself, “I’ll come back again soon.” And it doesn’t happen until one day it does. I was very excited to once again be returning to Seoul, South Korea. When it comes to cities that offer what I enjoy, Seoul ranks HIGH on my list. The parks and the many districts are fun to explore. And yes, the people too! And let’s not forget the great food options 🙂 I don’t get to Korea often enough. Yet each time I visit I get to know the city better. I find that Seoul matches me well!

For my most recent visit I decided to spread my time in Seoul across a variety of Hyatt properties, one of which was the Grand Hyatt Seoul. I do like to sample different hotels in Seoul, as well as different areas of the city, so this idea worked well for me. I had not stayed at the Grand Hyatt Seoul before.

Grand Hyatt Seoul

How I Paid and My Room Assignment at the Grand Hyatt Seoul

Don’t think for a minute that I’ll go easy on the Grand Hyatt Seoul as I pen this hotel and hotel room review. I may be a Hyatt fan girl, but that often means I hold Hyatt properties to a higher standard. After all, first impressions matter and if you’ve not yet stayed here I want you to have the best and most informed impression possible.

I’m not writing to promote Hyatt. I’m writing to inform readers!

Specifics About The Hotel And Some Grand Hyatt  Seoul Backstory

The hotel is indeed grand! It has 616 rooms with 3 broad categories of standard rooms based on size and floor. It has 54 suites in different room categories. Every hotel wishes they had more suites!

Grand Hyatt Seoul

I was told that Globalists like this property as a choice for Seoul stays, and as you read more about the hotel and the amenities, you’ll see why.

At any given time 60-70% of guests are Hyatt members. Usually 10% are Globalists in the off season, but that easily doubles during high season months.

Clearly, the hotel is a favored choice among Hyatt fans.

Grand Hyatt Seoul

Typical guests stay on average 2 nights.

In case you’re wondering which months are the busiest and which months might be more off season, here’s your answer.

The hotel averages 71% occupancy. The big and busy seasons are summer and winter holidays. Off season is January and February. That’s a slow time for business travelers. All year long, though, the hotel is still busy on weekends for local family trips.

Grand Hyatt Seoul lobby area

Large and grand lobby once you enter the hotel.

Grand Hyatt Seoul lobby

The Grand Hyatt Seoul has a wonderful history.

The property opened in 1978 as a Hyatt Regency. Eventually, it became a Grand Hyatt in 1993. The hotel is a flagship Grand Hyatt in Asia. For the other flagship Grand Hyatt properties in Asia think Grand Hyatt Hong Kong or Grand Hyatt Tokyo.

Because the hotel has been around for so many years, generation after generation bring family here. Many of the staff in the Grand Club who have been at the Grand Hyatt Seoul for many years love seeing the same guests year after year and watching the newest generations enjoying the hotel!

The hotel may not look like much as you approach the building, but once inside it is GRAND!

Grand Hyatt Seoul Club Lounge

Grand Hyatt Seoul Club Lounge

Walking into the lobby transports you into a time when hotels were built on a different scale. Hotel properties with large lobbies with majestic open space, multiple restaurants providing music in the evenings, and an overall sense of grandeur…………these don’t seem to be the current wave of hotel design.

There are a few things that create a unique and very fun experience at the Grand Hyatt Seoul.

The hotel is filled with marvelous and historic artwork. A written brochure can serve as your tour guide. I was told the hotel is working on putting together a tour of the artwork for interested guests. Great idea! Even if this in-person tour hasn’t come together yet when you stay at this property, do what I did. Take the brochure and take the tour yourself. It’s well worth the time.

Grand Hyatt Seoul artwork

Bookshelves stocked with books on some of the guest floors. YES, please!

And the books are not just for show. I left some books at the hotel and added one to my reading collection. The shelves are locked so be sure to ask for assistance 🙂

When you first enter the Grand Hyatt Seoul, and as you get to know the property better, you’ll see that it pulls off this grand design intention rather well. I personally love the look and feel of the hotel. It’s a unique building in a grand style that has held up very well!

Grand Hyatt Seoul cherry blossoms

Grand Hyatt Seoul cherry blossoms

There have been a series of refurbishments over the years. In 2018-2019 the hotel did room renovations that included, for instance, updated wallpaper. These room updates were more thorough than just a soft renovation.

My recent stay at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne was for six nights. I could have used a World of Hyatt free night award or booked nights with Hyatt points. Hotels in Seoul can be super pricey. The all cash rate was well over $300 a night. I decided to use points for my stay.

Remember, if you’re paying cash for a hotel stay, let Pruvo monitor your rate for price drops!

Grand Hyatt Seoul is a World of Hyatt Category 5 property, meaning free nights for me were 20,000 Hyatt points per night.

My Check-In Experience

Checking in to the hotel went smoothly. Check-in is at 3pm. I arrived later in the afternoon so knew I’d not have to wait. Even when I have to wait I often enjoy  sitting in the lobby and people watching. When I arrived I was happy to hear I had been upgraded to a Grand Executive Suite. It’s a property that doesn’t hold back Globalist upgrades if they are available!

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Using my Hotel Room Scorecard I broke down the individual elements of my Grand Hyatt Seoul room which scored a 34 of 40 points.

Location (5/5)

I asked both hotel staff and many people I know who favor this Grand Hyatt why they choose this Hyatt property over other Hyatt hotels in Seoul. Again and again I heard LOCATION location location! People love the area near the hotel because it is close to Seoul’s business district and close to restaurants and Seoul nightlife, and yet only a few blocks away from Namsan Park. It feels like you’re in nature and park heaven.  For me this is a huge plus.

In under a half an hour you can walk down the hill to the subway station.

View of Seoul from Grand Hyatt

View of Seoul from Grand Hyatt

Not much of a walker? Not a problem. As mentioned, the subway system is just down the street. I never mind using the subways at all. It’s an extensive and modern system.

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Lighting (4/5)

The lighting in the suite was good except for one odd thing. The lighting was better and brighter in the bedroom rather than in the living room area of the suite. I would think most folks, including me, would prefer it the other way around.

The suite did have natural lighting, with two floor-to-ceiling windows, one in the bedroom and one in the living room. Besides overhead lighting there was one standing lamp in the living room.

The brightest areas with the best lighting were the bathroom and the closet. Why is that, I wonder.

Living room couch and air purifier

Couch and air purifier in the living room.

Yes, I recognize that the average guest stays maybe two nights, but there are guests who work or just want to sit on the couch and read with proper lighting. Note to hotels: please make the lights in the living room areas adjustable and bright!

Window Access (4/5)

Having floor to ceiling windows in both the bedroom and suite living room area made a big difference. Natural lighting in a hotel room makes for a whole different experience.

Living room with a couch and table

Very spacious and comfortable living room with great views of Seoul.

There are two levels of window shades, one for sun/privacy and one for black-out darkness. It was easy to use the controls for lights and shades. That’s always a plus.

Bed Comfort (3/5)

The bed was too hard for me, but not as hard as some beds at other hotel properties I’ve stayed at.

The pillows worked well and there were already different pillow types on the bed, so I was able to choose which worked best for me. Too often all the pillows are the same, but not in this case.

Grand Hyatt Seoul view Grand Hyatt Seoul bedroom Grand Hyatt Seoul bedroom

Bathroom (4/5)

I’ll say right up front that this was a great spacious bathroom design and layout. However, it was odd that for a suite of this size there was only one sink. It had a shower, a tub, and a separate area for the TOTO toilet.

Maybe the bathroom was on a slight slant, but both the doors to the shower and toilet never stayed shut.

There was more than ample shelving in the bathroom for any sundries you might have brought along.

Grand Hyatt Seoul bathroom Grand Hyatt Seoul bathroom Grand Hyatt Seoul bathroom

One of my pet peeves in newer hotel shower stalls is that there is no place to put your sundries other than on the floor. Having a ledge for sundries is a simple thing that those of us who are now (or always did) bringing their own sundries when they travel might really appreciate. In this case there was a shelf behind the shower head. Spacious, indeed!

There was double lighting in bathroom so you could dim or brighten the lighting. However, there was no make-up mirror. This may be a first. I didn’t mind but some guests might.

Interior Appointments and Furnishings (5/5)

My suite matched the one you’ll see online, both in design or layout. That’s a good thing because too often guests’ expectations are set by photos they see on hotel websites. And when the photos don’t match the reality it makes sense that guests take issue.

A couch and table in living room at Grand Hyatt Seoul

Couch turns into a bed and a comfy desk chair, too.

I felt the suite design, with the two rooms separated by a wall housing the TV, worked well.

The living area had a warm homey feeling. The couch was comfortable and it actually turned into a bed. How great and creative to have that option for families. Makes much more sense than putting an extra bed in the living room taking up so much space. I was told many hotels in Korea now have rooms with couches that convert to beds.

The living room had a large round table and comfortable chairs.

The Grand Hyatt Seoul guest experience team had definitely looked into my Hyatt profile to see the items I often request when at Hyatt properties. Waiting for me at the living room table was a proper desk chair! I work while traveling, so good ergonomic seating at a desk or table is necessary, right?

Seeing this desk chair brought a huge smile to my face 🙂

There was a large walk-in closet to the right of the suite entry way. A conveniently placed bench when you walked in to the suite made it handy for storing keys, day packs, and for putting on shoes.

I really prefer a carpet and wood flooring combo for hotel rooms. This suite’s combo worked well.

The suite used pocket doors to close off rooms and also had lots of mirrors.

In the corner near the couch was an air purifier. Hotels in Korea often have air purifiers. Nice addition! I assumed it was set properly and didn’t mess with it. Not noisy at all, which is good. Some of them can purr and rattle a bit.

In summing up the suite I’d say it was tastefully designed. It was one of those suites you stay in where you think to yourself I wonder how many points it would take or what cash rates they’d give me if I stayed all year 🙂

The artwork, with one small piece in each room, was minimal. I prefer this because taste in art is so individual and I prefer that hotel rooms don’t overdue it on the art.

Simple and colorful artwork

I liked that all three pieces of art were so different.

Grand Hyatt Seoul artwork in suite

Grand Hyatt Seoul suite living room artwork

Grand Hyatt Seoul artwork in suite

Grand Hyatt Seoul artwork

The coffee/tea/snack area was along the wall opposite the table and chairs. It was huge and provided lots of shelving.

Area for beverages and snacks

Very spacious counter and shelves for snacks and beverages.

Counter for snacks

The peep hole on the entrance door is placed just right for the average height of women. That’s rare. This has long been a pet peeve of mine. Do only men check who’s knocking or ringing the bell? I think not. Easier for a guy to bend down than a woman to grow a few inches to see who’s at the door 🙂

Electronics (4/5)

Plugs and outlets were adequate. Not great but adequate. There were outlets near the bed but NO universal plugs and USB charging ports. I did need to use an adapter. If you need to borrow an adapter, I would imagine the hotel has them. I didn’t see one provided in the room for guest use, though.

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Amenities (5/5)

The hotel does send welcome amenities to Hyatt Globalists. I received fruit and cookies and sweet treats and a special clothing gift from JJ Mahoneys, one of the restaurant and music venues at the Grand Hyatt Seoul

Also, again proving that the guest experience team did their homework, there were lime slices for me to add to my water 🙂

Cookies as a welcome gift from Grand Hyatt Seoul

Delicious cookies as a welcome gift!

Fruit as a welcome gift

Fruit…….my favorite welcome gift 🙂

Simple and perfect welcome amenities for me. Who doesn’t love a bit of chocolate 🙂

Welcome gifts from Grand Hyatt Seoul

Welcome gifts from Grand Hyatt Seoul

Lime for my water at Grand Hyatt Seoul Welcome gifts from Grand Hyatt Seoul

YES on providing a Yoga mat! I’ve started requesting Yoga mats when I stay in hotels. If you’ve ever taken a close look at the “need anything extra” card presented in your hotel room, you’ll notice Yoga mat is often listed. I’m starting to notice, though, how few hotels actually have mats.

The property provides water, and it was super generous whenever I requested more. It was also generous with whatever supplies you needed. That always leaves a positive impression on a guest.

When writing hotel reviews I often review the minibar and available snacks. The minibar and coffee area was well-equipped with a kettle and Nespresso style coffee maker. I also enjoyed the brand of tea bags the hotel provided. I’d not heard of them before. There was a good size fridge underneath the mini bar.

Breakfast Options

For breakfast there is a Grand Club on the lower level. Everyone talks about the Grand Club at the Grand Hyatt Seoul and I finally understood why.

Grand Hyatt Seoul Club Lounge

If you were a guest at the hotel years ago you’ll recall the Grand Club was on the top floor. Not any more, though! The space that the Grand Club now occupies was once a restaurant. It is huge. Bigger than any Club Lounge I’ve ever seen.

If you do not have access to the club with your Hyatt status the fee is 150,000 KRW per person. That’s about $100 USD.

Now before you jump to conclusion about the value for that $100 spend it also includes all day access to the club. That means breakfast and what they call “happy hour.”

For breakfast the club offers a full buffet. And I do mean full!

There was whole fruit (which I very much prefer over assorted fruit cups prepared by a hotel) and an egg station, which was more like an egg restaurant with cooked-to-order egg dishes. There was also a large area with salad options—plenty of greens and veggies as well. I wish all hotel restaurants would offer salad for breakfast!

Grand Hyatt Seoul Club Lounge

Naturally, fresh breads and baked goods (plenty of cold cereal options) as well as a cheese and assorted meats station. A large fridge had an assortment of yogurts. There were also fresh juices on offer.

Grand Hyatt Seoul cherry blossoms

There were also many Korean breakfast options, soups, and other Asian offerings as well.

Nothing was missing from this buffet! There was table service for coffee and whatever else you might need.

My sense is that if you enjoy breakfast buffets, you’ll be very pleased with the one the Grand Hyatt offers.

Now let’s talk about the “happy hour.” To me a happy hour means a few tidbits, drinks, and maybe a few dessert items. I kid you not, this was a full on restaurant during the evenings.

Grand Hyatt Seoul Club Lounge

I did take this happy hour dinner a few nights during my stay. I ate salads, Asian style soups, Korean fried chicken, sushi, beef dishes, pork belly dishes, all kinds of seafood and curry dishes and on and on the list goes. One night I sampled 8 main dishes! I never tried the desserts but they sure looked popular.

Alcohol was complimentary, as were other assorted beverages.

If this is what the words happy hour means, then indeed I was happy for the hour and well beyond!

The club was full during both breakfast and dinner, but never a wait for a table. The service was excellent and the club is fully staffed during its service hours.

There are many large common space areas at the hotel. There are restaurants and cafes that are well used by hotel guests and the local community of Seoul.

It’s a very popular venue for weddings, events, and conferences. It’s a big hotel and that shows in many ways the hotel is used!

What Guests At The Grand Hyatt Seoul Complain About?

When I review a hotel I always wonder what complaints hotel guests have, so I ask the hotel team. This hotel’s chief complaint is one I’ve come across a few times before.

The bones of the building are old, so there’s only so much they can do to modernize the building.  The rooms don’t look old at all nor does the hotel itself. But sometimes what’s under the hood, so to speak, acts up.

Guests also complain that the bathrooms in some of the standard rooms are small. I did see a few of the standard rooms and I felt the design and layout was fine. Not huge but certainly not cramped either. One of the standard room bathrooms even had two sinks. If bathroom size is important to you, let the staff know. I’m quite sure they will do their best to accommodate your preferences.

Let me add one more thing for you to take note of.

Regulating room temperature can also be something guests complain about.

During my first day at the Grand Hyatt Seoul I couldn’t figure out why I turned the heat on but the room kept getting colder and colder. I finally asked someone from guest services to come to the room and explain the heating and cooling system to me.

Here’s what I found out. It will be helpful for you to understand as well.

In regards to the HVAC system, the hotel has only two pipes. They are operated by the hotel, not in each room by the guests.

The cooling and heating systems are seasonal.

They operate as follows:

  • During summer seasons the hotel turns on the cooling system when the outside temperature is above 17 degrees Celsius.
  • During winter season the hotel turns on the heating system when the outside temperature is below 12 degrees Celsius.
  • Between seasons the hotel has a pre-cooling system that uses outside wind and a process to make rooms cooler or warmer.

The in-room temperature is very different between the river view side and the mountain view side. The river view side is usually higher.

My stay at the Grand Hyatt was during an in-between season time so that’s why I had trouble getting the room temperature comfortable.

I suggested that given the hotel hands out sheets of papers to guests upon arrival noting hours of the gym, restaurants, club lounge and other facilities, it would be simple to include information about the HVAC system as well.

I hope they take me up on this recommendation. I think it would save guests a bunch of frustration 🙂

Fitness and Spa Facilities At The Grand Hyatt Seoul

For me this was a wonderfully surprising benefit. It added tremendously to how much I enjoyed my stay. For some reason people who love this hotel always focused on how much I’d love the club lounge but forgot to mention the spa.

Grand Hyatt Seoul swimming pool welcome turtles

Grand Hyatt Seoul swimming pool welcome turtles

The gym is well equipped, the pool is 23 meters. The pool capacity isn’t large and sometimes a swim reservation was necessary. I did catch a few swims though 🙂

Grand Hyatt Seoul cherry blossoms and tennis courts

Grand Hyatt Seoul cherry blossoms and tennis courts

The women’s locker room (I assume the same for the men’s side) has a full Korean sauna. This means hot and cold plunges, steam and sauna. The jacuzzi was out by the pool.

Is it fair to wish for these kinds of amenities at more hotels? If you’re someone who will use the spa, pool, and gym, you will NOT be disappointed!

Speaking of pools…………….have you ever stayed at a hotel with an ice skating rink?

I can only think of one other hotel that has one during wintertime.

Well, the Grand Hyatt Seoul, being in some ways bigger than life, turns their outdoor swimming pool into an ice skating rink during the winter season. I was so disappointed that I saw the pool just after the rink had been dismantled and not quite ready as a swimming pool for summertime yet. I can only imagine how much fun the ice skating rink would be!

View of ice rink

Magical to be able to ice skate here!

Ice skating rink

Lovely ice rink in wintertime!

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Hotel Service at the Grand Hyatt Seoul

You can tell I was thrilled with the hotel room and thought the design and layout were very much to my taste. I was also pleased with the service! Very pleased. This really does tie into my being impressed with the hotel.

The reason I hadn’t chosen the Grand Hyatt for my previous stays in Seoul was that I don’t generally enjoy such large properties. I tend to find them cold and impersonal.

Yet when people talk about this Grand Hyatt property they get this gleam in their eyes that tells me maybe I need to rethink my Seoul hotel choices. I’m so glad I did. In fact, this stay has me thinking maybe I need to give more GRAND properties a try! The Grand Hyatt Seoul has set a very high bar that will be hard to match or beat, though.

Housekeeping was always quick to deliver whatever I requested. If you’ve been traveling much these past few years you might have realized how short-staffed many hotels are. I did not find that to be the case at the Grand Hyatt Seoul at all.

The Club Concierge team is tops. Quite a few of them have been at the hotel for many years. Their level of dedication, professionalism, and pure fun in helping guests make the most of their hotel stay shows in so many ways. I had such a great time getting to know the team. I missed them the moment I left the hotel 🙂

There was never anything I asked for from housekeeping, the front desk and concierge team, the hotel management team, or the restaurant team where the staff didn’t happily oblige. I thoroughly enjoyed the friendly, warm and very helpful environment.

Final Thoughts On The Grand Hyatt Seoul

The Grand Hyatt Seoul is an unusual and wonderful hotel from a time gone by. The hotel decor, the rooms, the views and amazing location on the hill, the spa, gym, and pool area—I don’t think they build hotels like this anymore.

Sadly, the level of service offered at the hotel seems to be something you don’t often find at hotels anymore. That made me appreciate it even more.

It is an expensive property, whether paying cash or using points. You’ll have to think as to whether it is a great value on points or when paying cash. I think it’s well worth the value, especially on points.

There are now multiple Hyatt properties in Seoul, so it can be a toss-up as to which property to choose. What it offers and the service were both excellent.  For sure having the spa and pool available to me made a huge difference. If you’ll enjoy the area and the surrounding nature of Namsan Park, the location can’t be matched.

It is a classic hotel with a certain vibe. You’d be hard pressed to find anything the hotel doesn’t do well. If what I’ve mentioned in this review suits you, you’ll enjoy the property. If you’re a fan of Grand Hyatt properties, which I now am, this one ranks up there, I’m sure.

Every Hyatt hotel is different, every staff is different, and every guest is different, right? Some properties are bound to work better than others for what you’re looking for.

Would I stay here again?

Absolutely! Putting together this review was fun because it brought back memories of an very special and thoroughly enjoyable hotel stay in a city I’m quite fond of.

I think of the Grand Hyatt Seoul as a hotel for people who enjoy mixing their hotel stay with a great, though less central, location. If you enjoy spending time in a more local area of Seoul rather than in a super touristy area, this property is for you. That certainly includes me and if it includes you, by all means gather up your travel gear and give this hotel a try and see what you think for yourself.

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Christian May 4, 2024 - 3:44 pm

My wife and I stayed there on our first visit to Seoul almost a decade ago on one of our earlier trips to Asia so we weren’t sure what to expect. The neighborhood around the hotel was pretty bereft of anything interesting to a tourist but I understand that it has since become more lively. The location was a negative as a result but the frequent free shuttle to Myeongdong station was a very nice amenity that we used a lot. I believe the hotel was a category 2 or 3 (out of 6 I believe) at the time so there was a lot of value from booking with points at the time. Overall we had a nice stay and thought quite highly of the club lounge in particular. Nice to know that things haven’t changed much.

It’s interesting that you mention the A/C problem as I’ve hit this too. On a later stay at the Sheraton Seoul our room was very hot in September and we slept miserably as a result. Like you we were told that the hotel had one heating or cooling system for the entire building. I asked about a fan and the very nice young lady in the club lounge suggested moving us to a sweet room. I said no thanks but she was very pressing so we accepted. The sweet room was in fact a suite and the hotel even provided a portable A/C unit for us so we slept wonderfully. I had Starwood status at the time but that was still amazing service and a great memory.

Shelli Stein May 5, 2024 - 2:11 am

Hi Christian, Thanks for reading and adding to the conversation. For sure the area is now lively both up on the Grand Hyatt hill and all the way down, as well. From the main street, Itaewon, and behind in the area across the road, there are many great eateries, coffee houses, and shops. Like coffee? Cong Caphe, the nicest one in Korea, is nearby. So I’d say over the decade things both at the hotel and the surrounding area have improved. I walked up and down the hill to Myeongdong station a few times and it’s the best way to see the area. Can’t beat Namsan Park for hikes and running trails. I enjoyed your good old days of Starwood status story. Thanks for sharing. I still don’t see how Hyatt let Starwood go to that other chain 🙂


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