It’s currently 22°C in Seoul, but thanks to the scorching sun, it feels dangerously close to the peak of summer. But it’s hard to complain when you’ve just spent the entire morning lounging in one of Seoul’s most prestigious hotel pools. JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square, all things considered, is a humbly-sized edifice, in contrary to its other outposts peppered all around the world. There are just about 11 floors, yet housing nothing short of the same luxury offerings that followers of the hospitality brand would resonate with.
By 8am, I’ve entered the lavish quarters of the hotel’s pool, a deliberate move to avert other guests, in accordance with the tranquil premise accessible via the L’Occitance Spa. Just down the stairs, lies a marbled wonder scaled with high ceilings and spanning a long stream of blue. Above, chandeliers set up the enchanting scene: lush white lounge chairs line on the side as well as a fireplace that I suspect would come in handy once temperatures dip lower in the winter. An idyllic hour passes and it’s no wonder why this particular spot is a famed touch point for the hotel. It’s an indoor swimming pool gussied up with the spa experience—replete with the cocooning sounds of water and of course, the luxury of being on holiday time.
And thankfully, there’s plenty of it to go around. Enough to explore the grounds of the hotel (which includes a rooftop bar with a jazz live band come evenings), as well as the neighbouring sights and sounds. After all, the prime location speaks for itself: right in the heart of Seoul’s fashion shopping district. Where Dongdaemun Design Centre is just a stone’s throw away and the city’s treasured landmark, Heunginjimun remains an integral part of the room view. It’s a historical piece of South Korea’s lineage; a two-tiered fortress making up a formidable gate, boasting of a hiking trail encircling the entire structure. A pleasant way to get your miles in—just next door to the hotel—with a view overlooking the busy streets of Seoul.
The best part? After having worked up an appetite, the famed Dongdaemun Market (previously featured on Netflix’s Street Food) is just about a 15-minute walk away. It’s where you can find a myriad of street eats—from colloquial favourites like soondae (blood sausage) to fresh vegetable bibimbap to raw octopus squirming out of your reach.
For a more concerted palate, an edit of Korean cuisine awaits at the hotel’s breakfast buffet housed at Tavolo24. Apart from the day’s selection of banchan (side dishes of pickled vegetables including kimchi radish and seasoned anchovies), there are other local picks like porridge and stir-fried pork to start the morning with. And that’s just a small sliver of the breakfast spread; continental mainstays like French toast, cereal and assorted pastries are at your disposal.
All due respect to Seoul’s gourmet scene, but it’s easy eating your weight when exploring every corner of the city. For me, it was a gratuitous indulgence I was more than willing to walk off in a shopping haul, after polishing my third bowl of white rice of the day. And after an entire day’s worth of incredulous step-count, the best part was returning back to JW Marriott‘s quarters—into the open arms of a hot, extended bath in the tub, a cushy king-size and perhaps one last night cap.
Book a stay at JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square here