With its royal palaces, centuries-old Buddhist temples and traditional hanok villages, it’s not hard for groups coming to South Korea to quickly soak up the country’s vibrant culture.
But what might surprise first-timers to the country is the profusion of innovative venues and hot spots. From new sky-high observatories to Asia’s first resort complex, here are five spots groups won’t want to miss.
Lotte World Tower
In April, Seoul’s Lotte World Tower opened with the third tallest observatory in the world, the 1,640-foot Seoul Sky. Think of this as Seoul’s version of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. Take in 360-degree views across the city from the 123rd floor before heading down to Bar 81, where groups can indulge in Korea’s largest champagne collection. The tower is also home to the new Signiel Seoul, Korea’s first luxury landmark hotel, with 235 rooms showing off sweeping panoramic views over the city, plus a 5,920-square-foot Grand Ballroom that’s the highest in the world.
One of the most unique ways groups can experience Korean culture is with a stay at a 5th century Buddhist temple. For groups visiting PyeongChang, the location of the 2018 Winter Olympics, Woljeongsa Temple is just a 30-minute drive away in a forest-filled valley near Odaesan Mountain. Spend the day with the monks, walking around the temple and observing Buddhist ceremonies, pausing for vegan-based temple meals or tea at a traditional tea house.
Once a highway connecting the eastern and western halves of Seoul, this elevated overpass near Seoul Station has been reimagined as Seoul’s version of New York City’s High Line linear park. The completely pedestrianized walkway, dubbed Seoullo 7017, spans a little over a half mile, with 17 different pathways snaking through the heart of downtown Seoul. Groups can get their bearings on a night walking tour, making a stop on the lower section to sample a Korean specialty—mixed rice bibimbap—with recipes crafted just for Seoullo 7017 by top chefs from around the world.
Just 40 minutes from Seoul, groups can escape to a Vegas-style resort near Incheon Airport. The two month-old Paradise City is northeast Asia’s first resort complex, and while still in the soft opening stages, the resort is poised to become a year-round tourist destination. Paradise City will be home to everything from a 711-room, five-star hotel with pool villas and seven restaurants, including Michelin-starred Chinese Imperial Treasure, to the country’s largest foreigners-only casino and Korea’s largest convention center, with a hall accommodating up to 1,820 people.
Accor Ambassador Seoul Yongsan Hotel Complex
Seoul is home to 348 hotels, and this October, the city is about to become the largest international hotel operator in South Korea when Seoul Dragon City opens in the Yongsan neighborhood. Expect four hotel brands (including the country’s first ibis Styles, Novotel Suites and Grand Mercure) featuring a total of 1,700 rooms, plus banquet space for up to 2,500.