October 9, 2023

Mondrian Seoul Itaewon

This is my fourth time in Seoul, my first post-covid and I’m excited to be back. Seoul is perfect for a weekend trip if you’re based in Asia or include it in a longer trip from further afar. If you’ve never been to Korea, Seoul is a good place to start. The city has grown into a cultural capital with trending fashion, leading museums and an influential arts scene. Korean food is amongst my favourite too. Think red, spicy and sweet flavours. Nourishing soups and stews, cold-noodle dishes, dumplings, fried chicken and of course, Korean BBQ, which can be washed down nicely with soju or local beers. It’s a delicious and comforting mix. Plus, kimchi is usually served free with meals! I love the street design and find that architecturally Seoul is very interesting; an eclectic mix of traditional Korean wooden houses beside cutting-edge, contemporary design. Plenty of cosy cafes and bars with windows that open out onto the street, perfect for reading a book or people watching. And of course, Korean skincare stores for your self-care routine.

I have a great impression of the Mondrian already. It’s a hotel brand with a fun, fresh atmosphere and a very cool vibe. There is a delightful scent that fills the air and heady dance music that plays throughout the lobby and pool area, the hotel signals playtime. Suitably too, the Mondrian is situated in Itaewon, a vibrant neighbourhood of Seoul which once hosted the main US army base in South Korea. Itaewon is well known for its late-night party scene that pulls local and international DJ’s, drag performers and K-pop fans. It attracts a mix of locals and foreigners to the area which also includes “Homo Hill,” an informal name for Seoul’s gay party street, a small pedestrian area dotted with bars and clubs catering to a diverse and LGBTQ+ friendly crowd; think The Eagle, GYM and Public and Rabbit Bar which hosts regular drag shows. Clubs stay open late, wandering around Itaewon in the morning to grab iced coffee you’ll find party goers in restaurants serving pork back-bone soup, a local hangover cure, before they’ve been to bed.

But as I arrive at the hotel, the scent takes me back to my first stay at the Mondrian, their West Hollywood, LA location in 2016, bringing back memories of sunshine, pool parties and a special “celebrity buzz” in the air. These same emotions evoke here, where young Korean model looking couples and influencers are staging photoshoots in the beautifully lit lobby, decorated with plentiful contemporary art installations and colourful furniture, the perfect back drop. 

They say smell is your strongest memory sense and I find this at the Mondrian. The hotel brand has long partnered with Malin & Goetz, the NYC based cosmetic and lifestyle brand and a long time favourite of mine (I was first offered their peppermint body scrub post body wax in Shanghai, 2014 – a hilarious experience) but I loved the scrub and have been championing the brand ever since, wearing their Dark Rum eau du parfum daily. Guest rooms are generously filled with their fresh and luscious toiletries, with their B5 body moisturiser and bergamot hand soup amongst the hits. But it’s their iconic Dark Rum scent that instantly carries me back to that late summer trip in LA. 

Check-in is smooth, I booked two King-size guest rooms for a friend and myself, which we head up to in the elevator opposite two large art pieces featuring playful images of a bear and a lion’s face. 

The rooms are bright and smartly designed. Given that these are their entry-level rooms, the space is generous. Colourful with smooth curves and a spacious, well-lit bathroom (which is great if you’re like me and take a long time getting ready, you’ll enjoy this space) and the beds are large with plush bedding that hugs you. Our rooms look over the altitude pool, the adult-only outdoor pool in signature Mondrian style, lined with deck chairs, pool bar and overseen by a lifeguard-cum-DJ. The pool is well-known since it features a transparent section of the wall and so naturally popular for social media. However, take note: hotels guests must book either rooms with Altitude pool-access or pay an entry fee to use this pool, ranging from 40,000-60,000 KRW. I’m not sure how I feel about this. To me, guests should have access to all parts of the hotel. Reception is quick to mention that the operation of the outdoor pool is outsourced… but that’s the situation anyway. They just held their end of season pool party but keep this in mind if you plan to visit next summer. If not, there is still an indoor pool (free for hotel guests) and rooftop Privilege Bar with fantastic views of Seoul for the gram 📸.

If you would like help planning a trip to Seoul and would like to book the Mondrian or another hotel, please use the contact us form or write me a direct message on instagram @meilitraveller or @blakeuk

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