Tomes have been written about the art of travel and the satisfaction of setting out on the open road.
Yet travel can be stressful, especially with a little one. It can make you feel like you need a vacation from a vacation.
Enter the Four Seasons Seoul, where you can stay in the attraction-rich downtown in the city’s newest five star hotel. After a 24 hour luxury staycation, baby and I felt supremely recharged.
The staycation concept works well at a hotel with the calibre of the Four Seasons: there’s excellent cuisine–the hotel has seven restaurants and bars for different specialities and experiences–a more than 800 square meter gym, and so many baby amenities you can leave your diaper bag at home.
The Four Seasons has already become very popular with Korean families seeking luxury and relaxation without schlepping to new climes. Read on for 10 reasons to do a luxury staycation at the Four Seasons Seoul.
1. Littlest Guests Receive Royal Treatment
Throughout our stay we remained impressed at the efforts staff made to ensure the comfort of its littlest guests. When I made my reservation, the Four Seasons staff asked for the age of my baby. We learned why when we entered our 17th floor deluxe room. The housekeeping staff had written a welcome message to my daughter in colorful pastels even a non-reader could appreciate: “Welcome to the Four Seasons, Princess Ardenne.”
2. Leave the diaper bag at home
We also quickly learned why staff asked about Ardenne’s age: On the bench in front of our Four Seasons bed lay two pink diapers, an organic cotton bib, extra washcloths–more for mommy than her–and Jungle Kids bath soap and shampoo, an exclusive brand not available in Korea.
I examined the pink Huggies, in Korean size large. Acknowledging that Korean baby bums are smaller than the American variety, the diaper looked a tad too large. Yet when baby tried it on, it fit like Cinderella’s glass slipper.
In addition to supplying diapers, the Four Seasons has an exhaustive list of baby amenities to lighten your carry on: bibs, strollers, car seats, bottle sterilizers, baby baths, and diaper genies.
The hotel also offers a range of amenities to ensure that toddlers and older kids have a great stay, including snacks and X-boxes.
News: This summer the Four Seasons plans to start a special kid’s program for young ones, including a lovingly designed guidebook to the hotel and area, and a very special gift!
3. Leave the gym bag at home too
In addition to the diaper bag, you can leave your gym clothes at home. And running shoes. The more than 800 square meter gym provides running shoes and gym equipment. The ladies’ large shorts fit me a little more snugly than baby’s diapers.
I grabbed a pair of Nikes from the gym desk and headed to the treadmill. From my perch on the 7th floor, I could view the traffic of Seoul’s main thoroughfare. Athletes can choose from a full range of equipment, including a Pilates reformer table, workout classes, a juice bar, and certified trainers on request.
4. The pool
When baby and I popped down to the pool for a mid-morning dip, natural light warmed the soft gray tones of the tile. We checked out the kid’s plunge pool then joined another family in the vitality pool, heated to just below jacuzzi temperatures. It was the mother’s birthday, so the father had taken two days off to spend with their two small children at the Four Seasons.
Baby loved seeing the other little people and kicking around the warm water.
5. Authentic cuisine in impeccable design
The Four Seasons Seoul has seven restaurants and bars, ranging from smart casual Italian in a light-filled and marble open kitchen. We hope to soon visit Yu Yuan, which specializes in Cantonese food and regional specialties, including Peking Duck, prepared by a dedicated duck chef. Yes, that’s a thing.
All restaurants allow children and offer high chairs and serve ware for children. At any time you can order beef and vegetable puree from room service menu. There are a number of private dining options in Yu Yuan, which you can reserve if you are worried about children disrupting the patrons.
If there is one restaurant you go to at the Four Seasons, make it Kioku, a three-story modernist cathedral dedicated to precision Japanese, providing a warm sense of relaxed luxury. As we stepped off of the elevator on the 12th floor, we were immediate greeted by the light streaming in from the open three-story space of bamboo and volcanic charcoal stone. We slowly descended into the main dining room, heading past an 11 meter long sushi carved out of solid pine tree trunks. Looking up to the ceiling, we saw red lacquer leaves, which appear to blow in the wind in an installation designed by Muramoko Shingo.
Baby sat on the cushions next to me in our cozy booth. We ordered the Fuji course for a mix of seafood and wagyu, along with a tokkuri of gunmai sake from Gunma Prefecture. The lobster mousse had just arrived when baby fell asleep next to me on the wide cushioned seat. She woke up for the sashimi. One of the staff offered to hold her as we finished our meal, and thoughtfully brought her organic plum paste baby food for a snack. Of Fuji menu, my husband will say that he most enjoyed the beef. I find myself remembering the yuzu broth of the Dobin Mushi, which gently cooked the snapper, shrimp and mushroom.
7. The centrally-located setting
Given the Four Season’s downtown location, you can step out to world class shopping and the sights in minutes, including the city’s largest and preeminent palace, Gyeongbokgung. The shaded tea shops of Insadong also lie close by.
I used to live and work in this area and a number of my favorite coffee shops and restaurants like close by. Yet I felt no compunction to leave the hotel or especially, the quiet sanctuary of our deluxe room. Everything baby and I needed was here. If baby had a meltdown when we stepped out to the pool for a swim or Kioku for dinner, we could easily retreat back to the quiet sanctuary of our room.
Tip: On every floor, the Four Seasons has suites with a commanding view of both Gyeongbuk Palace and Namsan.
8. The results-focused Spa
The spa offers a number of blissful treatments to deepen your relaxation. You can arrange for babysitting with the concierge–usually 24 hours in advance–to steal away for a mini-retreat for mama.
Many Korean friends have told me the secret to their youthful skin is facial massage, offered by the Spa. Next time I visit I plan to try the Skin Instant a customized facial. The therapist will examine your complexion and tailor the treatment accordingly.
The Spa is one of the only in the city to provide luxury treatments for new moms. Ideal for 3-5 days after a natural birth, My Present of Beauty provides healing and much-needed total relaxation in a comprehensive offering: a ginger and Nuruk rice body scrub, a full body massage with warming poultices to soothe tense muscles, all followed by a serene pressure point head massage.
9. Charles H.
This unmarked speakeasy serves cocktails with a sense of place and is named for the American mixologist who searched the world for the perfect cocktail. Book the babysitter for this one.
10. Five-Star Service
I save the best for last. The personalized treatment both kids and parents receive at the Four Seasons makes you feel like royalty. Yet this is how the Four Seasons treats all of its guests, especially under the leadership of General Manager Lubosh Barta, a Four Seasons veteran and 4th generation hotelier. During a recent visit to the hotel, he shared with me how the ability to meet guests’ needs has surprised even him. When one of Lubosh’ three sons was a newborn, his family stayed at the Four Seasons Prague to visit family. They ran out of baby formula. Since it was Sunday, they expected that it would be very difficult to find as most stores were closed. Lubosh called the concierge, expecting the worst.
Surprisingly, the concierge knew about a number of brands of baby formulas and could distinguish between hypo-allergenic and regular varieties. He could track down the specific brand Lubosh and his family used in Thailand and said, “You are busy with a newborn and your family. We will run out and buy the formula for you and can charge it to your room.”
Now that’s service!