Seoul South Korea Business Travel Guide Hotels Restaurants Attractions Reservations | Gayot
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Seoul Business Travel Guide

Modern, wired and dedicated to business and culture, Seoul is the capital of South Korea, a go-ahead IT giant with ambitions to outperform its better-known regional rivals, Japan and China. Seoul-based companies produce everything from ships and cars through to electronic goods and semiconductors, and the city aims to become a North Asian hub of finance, logistics and conference tourism. This safe but relatively unknown capital is a high-energy marvel that transforms itself every decade with new buildings, new parks and even new streams appearing out of nowhere. Its 10 million restless, hurry-hurry residents ensure that the entertainment and shopping districts are thronged with people all day — and all night too.

It's easy to mix business with pleasure as the downtown area includes Insadong, an artsy-craftsy area packed with art galleries, embroidery shops, quaint teashops and rustic restaurants serving up Korean-style feasts. Also downtown are six traditional palaces in varying degrees of restoration. Nearby, the fashionable Myeong-dong neighborhood is famous for its department stores and brand-name shops. South of the Han River are the financial, IT and conference centers of Yeouido, Gangnam and COEX, with classy restaurants and shops, particularly in the Apgujeong neighborhood.


Facts to Know Before You Go


Currency:

The local currency is the won, which usually yoyos around the W1000 to U.S. $1 mark. The highest denomination note is only W10,000 so you usually have to carry around a big wad of notes. Hotels and foreign exchange dealers change money, but banks usually give better rates and don't charge commission, so it makes sense to change money at the airport. Foreign credit cards are becoming more widely accepted these days, but you will need cash too. Exchange your remaining won at Incheon International Airport before leaving Korea. After a recent change, banks now open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. Global ATMs (not all are open 24 hours) accept foreign credit cards, but may have payout limits.


Transportation:

Incheon International Airport is world class, but is located way out west, around 90 minutes from central Seoul. Head to the main business districts — downtown (north of the Han river) or Gangnam (south of the river) — either by taxi (around $50) or by KAL limousine buses ($12), which run straight to top hotels. Gimpo is the domestic airport with flights to nine Korean cities that all take less than an hour.

The extensive subway system beneath Seoul is very foreigner-friendly (all signs are in English), and is fast, safe, super clean and so inexpensive that an hour's travel costs less than $2. Trains run every few minutes from 5:30 a.m. to past midnight. Buy a T-money card to save the hassle of buying single-ride tickets.

Taxis are plentiful and surprisingly inexpensive, with a $2 flag fall. Drivers don't usually speak English, but most have a free or inexpensive telephone interpretation service. Asking your hotel to write your destination in hangeul (Korean script) can save time. Deluxe taxis (black with a gold stripe) provide the best service, or else a chauffeur-driven limousine can be hired for a day or more at the airport or at your hotel if you have meetings all over Seoul.


Information:

The two Seoul-based English language newspapers are the Korea Times (www.koreatimes.co.kr) and the Korea Herald (www.koreaherald.co.kr). Both cover local business news in detail and are widely available at newspaper kiosks and convenience stores. The JoongAng Daily (joongangdaily.joins.com) is an insert in the International Herald Tribune. English language magazines are available at bookstores such as Kyobo and Bandi & Luni.

Visit the tourist information centers for the lowdown on Seoul's many festivals and cultural events, or telephone 1330 (02-1330 if using a mobile phone) for tourist information in English that is available 24 hours a day.

A stack of Korean and international channels is available on TV via cable and satellite. Arirang is the local English-language station, while CNN and BBC World offer a global view of news.

Top hotels offer plug-in and wireless broadband access in the rooms, and have business centers and executive floors as well.


Where to Stay

COEX InterContinental Hotel
524 Bongeunsa-ro
Gangnam-gu, Seoul 135-975
82-02-3452-2500
seoul.intercontinental.com

 
COEX Inter-Continental Hotel

Literally next door to the COEX Mall and Convention Center, this luxury hotel caters to busy business folk and has a modernist, functional design with spotless rooms and good service. Rooms offer a wide choice of pillows, bedding is all white in contrast to the wood-effect decoration, and the showers are glass-cased. Half-day or full-day meeting packages can be arranged, and why not relax in the super spa afterwards? For a quick meal dash into the Asian Live food court, or if you have guests take them up to the Sky Lounge Restaurant on the 30th floor and order the Wagyu Australian beef.

Fraser Suites Insadong
272 Nakwon-dong
Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-320
82-02-6262-8888
seoul.frasershospitality.com

 
Fraser Suites Insadong

Overlooking the art galleries and craft shops of Insadong and a chopstick's throw from a slew of traditional restaurants, Fraser Suites' serviced one-bedroom to four-bedroom apartments are light and airy. All are fully equipped and the friendly staff tries to make it a home away from home. Stay here if you are in Seoul for a spell or have family with you. Most guests are on business, but you probably wouldn't want to hold meetings here. It's more for folk who want the convenience of an apartment rather than the restrictions of a hotel room.

Imperial Palace Hotel
248-7 Nonhyean-Dong
Kangnamgu, Seoul
82-02-3440-8000
www.imperialpalace.co.kr

 
Imperial Palace Hotel

Imperial Palace is well named, as this hotel in the business-oriented Gangnam district is, in a word, sumptuous. From the gilt lobby doors and faux Roman foyer to the authentic European antiques and wood paneling, the hotel wraps you in luxury. The rooms don't disappoint and neither does the wonderful spa. Staff are well trained and with lots of versatile meeting and banquet rooms (starting at W66,000 per hour), secretarial service, three bars, and seven restaurants, why hold meetings elsewhere? For a luxurious ambience this is the place to come — just be careful not to knock over any antiques.

Lotte Hotel
1 Sogong-dong
Jung-gu, Seoul 100-721
82-02-771-1000
www.lottehotelseoul.com

 
Lotte Hotel

Lotte, a leading Korean food and leisure company, has its flagship 1,000-room hotel in a perfect downtown position. It's wedged between the high-rise offices around City Hall and the buzzing shopping area of Myeong-dong, where Lotte's own up-market fashion shops take up a whole street. Recently renovated rooms offer a more modern style than the hotel's comfortable but plainer business-style rooms. The executive floor is plush, as is the new ladies-only floor with its own study/lounge. The business center and sixteen meeting and banquet rooms cater to every business need.

The Westin Chosun
87 Sogong-dong
Jung-gu, Seoul 100-070
82-02-771-0500
www.westin.com/seoul

 
The Westin Chosun

Perfectly located near City Hall, this isn't Seoul's most luxurious hotel, but it has a relaxed atmosphere and keeps ahead of the competition. Every room comes with a rent-free mobile phone, and you can even book a room with its own exercise bike or medicine ball to keep in shape. The business center, multi-functional conference rooms, tele-conferencing facilities and flexible meeting spaces are all top notch, and the banquet halls can cater for up to 350 guests.


Where to Dine

Korea House
80-2 Pildong 2-ga
Jung-gu, Seoul 100-272
82-02-2266-9101
www.kangkoku.or.kr

Royal Cuisine
18/20
$$$$$

Korea House

The large team of chefs works hard to prepare authentic cuisine based on historical recipes of the Korean royal court. The meal is served by waitresses clad in hanbok (traditional Korean dress). A dozen well-arranged small courses make up the royal banquet. Surprisingly, all the different flavors are subtle, and quite different from the strong, spicy flavors usually associated with Korean food. Popular in business and government circles, the restaurant is in a grand hanok, a traditional Korean house where the aristocracy once lived. Small courtyard rooms provide privacy. Afterwards you can enjoy traditional music and dance routines in the Korea House theater for an extra W35,000.

Top Cloud Restaurant
33rd fl, Jongno Tower
Bldg 6, 1-1 Jongno-2ga
Jung-gu, Seoul
82-02-2230- 3000
www.topcloud.co.kr

French
16/20
$$$$$
Top Cloud Restaurant

Fine dining European-style is combined with knockout views in this iconic building where the restaurant is perched high up in the sky, 33 floors above downtown Seoul. The formal atmosphere is subdued, and the smart, black-clad staff, the flickering candles and the classic French food make Top Cloud the place to book if you want to impress guests. Afterwards, chill out in the bar to the sound of live jazz with the amazing city lights spread out under you.

Sanchon
14 Kwanhun-dong
Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-300
82-02-735-0312

Buddhist Temple Cuisine
15/20
$$$$$
Sanchon

This famous restaurant tucked away in an alley off the main Insadong road has gorgeous Buddhist-style decorations. These combine with music and candlelight to create a wonderful atmosphere for enjoying the vegetarian food with its unique marinades and seasonings. A traditional music and dance performance starts nightly at 8 p.m. Come here to give your guests a special Seoul experience, especially if any of them are vegetarian. The same meal of twenty small courses is served at both lunch and dinner.

Samwon Garden
623-5 Sinsa-dong
Kangnamgu, Seoul 135-120
82-02-548-3030
www.samwongarden.com

BBQ Beef
14/20
$$$$$
Samwon Garden

Popular enough to have its own multi-story parking lot, this galbi (beef short rib) restaurant in Apgujeong, south of the Han River, is famous enough to be known by most taxi drivers. It not only has a beautiful traditional Korean garden but also a sizeable waterfall. Samwon has been serving top-class galbi to its business guests in this rural idyll for over 30 years, and local politicians and businesspeople have hatched countless major deals in the private rooms.

Buffet Restaurant: Familia
Imperial Palace Hotel
248-7 Nonhyun-Dong
Kangnamgu, Seoul 135-010
82-02-3440-8090

Global Buffet
16/20
$$$$$

This unusual restaurant is inside Seoul's plushest hotel, but book the popular buffet if you want an informal, almost party atmosphere, as it's fun rather than formal. You can sample a dozen Korean specialties in one sitting as well as eat familiar global favorites. With different sections serving up different types of food, everyone should find plenty to enjoy. No stale buffet here, as a squad of black-clad cooks wearing eccentric floppy hats staffs the dining area and ensures turnover and freshness. Afterward, have coffee in the amazing lobby or a drink in one of the smart bars.


Off the Clock

Chongdong Theater
8-11 Jeong-dong
Jung-gu, Seoul
82-02-751-1500
Subway line 1 or 2 to City Hall, exit 2
www.mct.or.kr

Chongdong Theater

This theater is centrally located just around the corner from Deoksu palace and puts on one-and-a-half-hour long performances of traditional music, singing and dancing. Popular shows here run for as long as Andrew Lloyd-Webber musicals on Broadway. Lively farmer percussion groups, ribbon dances, pansori solo opera, shamanist dances and drumming are usually part of the performances. Showtimes run from Tuesday to Sunday at 8 p.m. from April to September and at 4 p.m. from October to March. The shows target foreign visitors and English sub-titles appear on a screen.

Gyeongbokgung Palace
22 Bunji
Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-820
82-02-3700-3900
Subway line 3 to Gyeongbokgung, exit 5
www.royalpalace.go.kr

Taewonjeo at Gyeongbok Palace

The most impressive of the Joseon-era (1392-1910) palaces, Gyeongbokgung features a grand throne hall and an impressive pond-side pavilion. Flagstone courtyards mark where government officials lined up to take part in elaborate court rituals. Palace guards march around in colorful uniforms and the complex includes two museums. The royal palace museum shows off the lifestyle of the privileged royals, who were surrounded by servants, slaves and eunuchs right up until 1910 when Japan annexed Korea and abolished the Korean monarchy. The marvelous folk museum at the rear reveals how ordinary Koreans have lived throughout the ages.

Insadong
Jongno-gu
82-02-2171-2461
Subway line 3 to Anguk, exit 5

The tourist hub of Seoul, this tree-lined main street crisscrossed by alleys is packed with small shops selling every type of craft item from high-quality ceramic pots, embroidery and antiques to tourist knick-knacks. Countless small private galleries sell all genres of art, and street stalls sell tempting traditional Korean snacks, such as rice cakes and toffee served on a stick. On weekends the street is blissfully car-free and has a festival atmosphere with more stalls than usual and even the occasional street musician.

Namdaemun Market
Jung-gu
82-02-2171-2461
Subway line 4 to Hoehyeon, exit 5

This sprawling traditional market bustles with energy and is bursting at the seams with piles of products for sale everywhere you look. Children's clothes, accessories, spectacles, watches, cameras, outdoor gear, fresh flowers, ginseng and street food like jokbal (pork hocks) are just some of the items sold here in huge quantities every day and night of the year. Remember to bargain as prices are not labeled or fixed. Shinsegae department store is also here and provides a calm, up-market oasis in complete contrast to the hubbub and jostling in the lively market outside.

Once In A Blue Moon

Once In A Blue Moon
85-1 Chungdam-dong
Kangnam-gu, Seoul
82-02-549-5490
Subway line 3 to Apgujeong, exit 6
www.onceinabluemoon.co.kr

Love jazz? Clients or colleagues love jazz? This long-running, smart live jazz club in Apgujeong has an intimate atmosphere. It takes jazz music seriously with two jazz bands performing a couple of sets every night from 7:30 p.m. to around midnight. Admission is free, but cocktails and beers are relatively expensive at around W15,000.


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* Banner images from Official Seoul City Tourism

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(Updated 05/23/13 JDM)



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