When it comes to hotels in Seoul, most visitors are probably familiar with The Shilla Hotel as the epitome of Korean hospitality and luxury. In recent years, the group has diversified specifically with the launch of the Shilla Stay concept in 2013. Shilla Stay aims to be a more accessible and no-nonsense brand, with spaces that evoke the design and sensibilities of The Shilla but at a more affordable price. With its first hotel in Hwaseong, the offshoot brand now has eleven properties scattered all over the country. In Seoul specifically, the chain has a number of properties and depending on what you are after, each location has an edge. For instance, the hotel in Yeoksam suits those who prefer to be in the upscale Gangnam area while the one in Seonam is easily accessible from Seoul Station. During my recent visit to South Korea, I stayed in Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun which is ideal for those looking to do a mix of both sightseeing and shopping while in Seoul.
The Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun is within walking distance to several areas that are of interest to travelers. Gyeongbokgung Palace, Insadong shopping street and Bukchon Hanok Village are only 5 to 10 minutes walk away. Even the main shopping drag of Myeongdong is not too far. It’s either 20 minutes by foot or a short hop via bus. Airport transportation is also quite convenient with Bus 6002 taking guests to/from Incheon International Airport.
Guests enter via the lift lobby at the ground level with the reception on the 8th floor. The interiors are sleek and contemporary, with muted colors set against a spacious lounge area that even comes with a fireplace. There is also a communal work desk here for impromptu meetings and I did spot a few folks making use of it during my stay there.
There is a somewhat zen feel to the hotel, with my walk along the long corridor opening up to a nice atrium before I reached my room. As a no-frills hotel, there is not much here in terms of bells and whistles but my room was well-designed, clean and had decentralized air conditioning – a welcome relief for the autumn period when it’s starting to get cold but not yet cold enough to use a heater.
One feature I loved about the room was the inclusion of a day bed. I’m the type of person who absolutely won’t lie on a bed with my outside clothes so the long couch was just nice whenever I felt like lounging in the afternoon as I rest before heading out again.
A sliding door also reveals a glass panel from where one can glimpse into the bathroom. Despite the 23 square meter size of the whole room, there’s enough space here to put a modest bathtub. Toiletries comes from Aveda – quite a premium brand that I expected to find in more upmarket digs.
My stay came with breakfast which is held at the inhouse restaurant right next to the 8th floor lobby. For a modestly-priced hotel, I was quite impressed with the morning meal. The variety seemed to suggest a more luxurious proposition with a live station for eggs cooked ala minute as well as a section dedicated to salads and healthier options. In typical Korean fashion, I also found plenty of local dishes including some kimchi and other pickled vegetables.
For those looking for a place to workout, the Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun has a modest fitness center open for 24 hours. The equipment is not particularly comprehensive but it has enough for what’s needed for a short stay.
For a midrange option, the Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun ticks all the right boxes when it comes to a hotel in Seoul. The proximity to tourist attractions and airport bus stations are obvious advantages alongside the clean and sleek rooms under a value-for-money proposition.
Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun
71 Sambong-ro, Susong-dong
Seoul, South Korea