Grand Ambassador Seoul is one of the South Korean capital’s most enduring properties. First opened in October 1955, it’s undergone plenty of changes over the years, entering into a franchise partnership with Accorhotels under its Sofitel brand in 1989, followed by a rebrand to its current name in 2009.
WHERE IS IT?
About five minutes from Dongguk University subway station in Jung-gu, on the north side of the Han River. The shopping and entertainment districts of Myeongdong and Itaewon are just a few subway stops away. Incheon airport is an hour and three-quarters away by train, or around 50 minutes
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Contemporary but with elements of a bygone era, the Grand Ambassador has for the large part aged well with modern conveniences and facilities. Visitors used to the sleek design of newly built properties may find certain minor aspects of the hotel slightly dated, but various Pullman touches (particularly on the design and technology sides) ensure it remains convenient for the modern business traveller.
There are 413 rooms and suites, ranging from the 30 sqm Superior room to the 114 sqm Presidential suite (there are even three-bed Superior rooms and a traditional Korean Ondol room). I was in a Deluxe room, which at 35 sqm had ample space. The light beige décor with dark-wood furniture was bright and contemporary, and the sleek glass desk and leather chair were very comfortable to use.
Appreciated amenities include: a coffee maker (with two complimentary capsules per day); a “mobile charging station” with three cables for handheld devices; and fast, complimentary wifi. Another convenience is the desk-side power board, which offers sockets for multiple plug types. That said, these aren’t universal sockets, so you’ll probably need an adapter.
The bathroom offers a modern smart toilet, but the shower within the bathtub (with a fabric curtain) seemed a bit old-fashioned for this level of hotel. The shower did have a rainfall function, but the added space offered by a shower cubicle is always preferable. Shower products were from CO Bigelow, and there were a number of bathroom amenities, but strangely there was no free dental kit – it was listed on the minibar for 6,000 won (US$5) for two toothbrushes and 2,000 won (US$2) for toothpaste.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
The King’s is the hotel’s main international buffet restaurant, renowned for its seafood offerings but also strong on Korean staples like bulgogi beef. Tucked away behind the elevators is Café de Chef, offering a mixed menu (presented on handheld tablet devices) of French and Korean cuisine – worth a visit if you’re looking for a convenient but good-quality meal. The hotel also houses Cantonese/Sichuanese restaurant Hong Bo Gak, Japanese eatery Sushi Hyo, a lobby lounge and deli, and hotel bar La Vinoteca.
Grand Ambassador Seoul’s Executive Club Lounge is located on the 16th floor, with access available to Executive room and suite guests (floors 14-18), who get two hours’ complimentary use of the boardroom, plus breakfast, secretarial services, and happy hour from 6-8pm on weekdays and 5-7pm on weekends. The hotel has 15 function rooms (renovated 3-4 years ago) with the largest catering for up to 700 people. The 19th floor banqueting facilities also received a renovation last year.
The most notable leisure option is the indoor golf driving range, with ten tee boxes and a putting green. It’s a popular venue, but it didn’t seem too overcrowded. The indoor golf is located on the basement levels alongside the gym, three-lane indoor pool (with Jacuzzi), aerobic studio and a sauna area offering dry, Korean and fog sauna options. The second basement level houses the hotel spa.
One of the city’s older properties, the Grand Ambassador Seoul has adeptly kept pace with newer counterparts in the city. While some minor details do date the hotel, it is still an excellent option for those with business in the vicinity or if you want to stay close to the city’s most popular spots.
PRICE Internet rates for a Deluxe room with breakfast in mid-June start from 253,000 won (US$228) including tax and surcharges
CONTACT 287 Dongho-ro, Jung-gu, 04618 Seoul; tel +82 2 2270 3111; pullmanhotels.com