My wife and I recently planned a trip to Hong Kong, Seoul, and Honolulu as a first big vacation with our five month old son. We decided to stay at the InterContinental Seoul Grand Parnas for our time in Seoul. Read on for the review!
Parnas / COEX Mall
The InterContinental Seoul Grand Parnas sits right above the Parnas mall, which is connected to the COEX Mall, Seoul’s second largest. It’s enormous, and it also connects two metro stations, a city airport terminal, and more malls, with one of those being the Parnas Mall. The hotel elevators can drop you off in the mall, and from there, it’s just a two minute walk to the COEX mall (the differences are subtle – it feels like one giant mall). I mention this because on the opposite side of the COEX mall, there’s another Intercontinental, The InterContinental COEX. This review is about our experience at the Intercontinental Seoul Grand Parnas. As for the mall, it’s quite impressive. It even has an aquarium, which mesmerized our son.
We really loved the location of the hotel for a couple reasons. First, it was ultra convenient for airport transportation. When you land at Incheon, instead of going to the airport express train, make your way outside and follow the signs to bus, or limousine bus. For 15,000 KRW (approximatley $12.80 USD at the time of this writing), there is a comfortable bus that takes you non-stop to the COEX area, and it will drop you off right in front of the hotel. The bus seating is in a 2-1 configuration, and the seats are about as comfy as domestic first class air travel. Two pieces of advice, though… First of all, there are two intercontinental hotels connected to the COEX mall. One is called the “Intercontinental COEX.” The other is called the “Intercontinental Grand Parnas.” When you buy the bus ticket, just tell them “InterContinental Grand,” as if you say the words “COEX” or anything else, you may end up at the wrong hotel, like we did.
Back to the location itself… The COEX mall connects two metro stations: Line Number 9 Bongeunsa Station and Line Number 2 Samseong Station. The latter is directly under the InterContinental property, and we used it extensively as a jumping off point each day. It’s in the Gangnam disctrict of Seoul, which is centrally located with easy access to a lot of great neighborhoods. You’ll want to buy a T-Money card on your first trip.
You can continue to reload that with money as needed. Another awesome part about this hotel is that via the COEX mall, it’s connected to the CALT City Airport, which isn’t really an airport, but it has all of the airport services.
I’ll have a future blog post about this specific spot, but the bottom line is that you can check into your flight, check your baggage, clear immigration, and take a bus to ICN right from a few footsteps away from the hotel. This was an unexpected perk of our picking this property!
I used points for this stay for a standard room. We did want a suite and lounge access, though, so I contacted the hotel to confirm an upgrade fee to get a Club Residence Suite on the same floor as the lounge. Being on the same floor was important to us, as it would allow Katy and I to relax in the lounge while Zachary napped. Oh and speaking of Zachary, the little man wasn’t allowed in the lounge, per hotel rules. No kids in the club lounge. More on the club later… The suite was huge! I’ll go into a detailed description, but if you would like to see it yourself, just check out the walkthrough video below.
There’s an entry way when you first come into the suite, and this opens up to the main living room. In the living room, you’ll find a large couch, chair, television, coffee table, and desk.
There’s also a full bathroom (shower, tub, toilet, sink) attached to this living room. The other door leads to the bedroom, which has another bathroom of its own, more closet space, and a large vanity with mirror.
One of the nice parts about having such a large suite was that we could spread out a mat for Zachary to play on in the living room, and we still had plenty of room to spread out on the couches, eat takeout around the table, or sit at the desk.
The lobby is large, classy, and has an overall dark motif.
If I had to describe the style they went for, I’d call it “old money.” In the center of the hotel, there’s a big lobby bar. Every morning there was a woman dressed in tradition Korean hanbok in front of the bar, and she would greet us as we left the elevator bank. The lobby bar does a daily happy hour, and there was often live music there. If we didn’t have an infant, it would have been a great place to spend some time.
It isn’t just a gym. It’s a complete health club, one that sells standalone memberships. That means it isn’t just hotel guests in there with you. I’m a runner, and I fully expected that I would be running around Seoul, just as I did in Hong Kong, during my stay. The gym was so nice that I just decided to stick to that the whole time.
There’s a huge row of treadmills, a great selection of free weights, and a very good variety of machines. There’s also a large exercise mat, and there’s a private room where they do classes, should you want to participate. It is open from 6AM to 11PM. If you’re craving a midnight workout or want to start you workout at 5AM, tough luck here.
Club InterContinental Lounge
This is a really classy lounge, and it’s very large, occupying one half of the 26th floor.
It’s open from 6AM to 10PM, and there is always food there. 6AM to 10:30AM is breakfast time. Immediately after breakfast a selection of snacks stay out and are refreshed thorughout theday until cocktail hour, which runs from 5:30PM to 8PM. At this time there is an even more extensive spread of food, the beer fridge gets unlocked, and there’s a fairly good selection of wines and hard liqours. No children are allowed in the lounge. This was a bit frustrating for me, but Hena Park, the Guest Relations manager, was gracious in accommodating my request to be on the same floor as the lounge. This let my wife and I use the lounge while the baby was napping, using our Cloud Baby iPhone baby monitor app to let us know how he was doing.
The breakfast spread was pretty impressive, consisting of five or six hot dishes, cereal, a salad bar, fresh fruits, freshly baked pastries, salad, pancakes, and eggs made to order. We had the option of either eating in the lounge or in the restaurant downstairs. The restaurant downstairs had a much larger selection, but if the baby was napping, we could use the previously mentioned baby monitor app to eat and listen. The flexibility worked out really well for us.
The evening cocktail hour was also really nice. This often coincided with us wrapping up a day of exploring Seoul, and we were able to put our son down for a nap to enjoy a cocktail or two.
They had a great selection of hot food in the evenings, with the selection being different every night. There were always noodles of some sort, a meat dish, and some interesting local favorites like pigs’ feet. Yup. I had some.
As much as I loved the hot food, I think I enjoyed the dessert selection even more. Lucky for me, they keep the dessert out all day, not just during cocktail hour.
The lounge also had a small computer area.
Oh and of course – the booze! Actually, funny story here… They only bring out the wine and hard alcohol in the evening, but the beer stays in a fridge all day. One morning during breakfast time, I was just curious to see if fridge was locked or if beer was an exception and could be accessed all day. Literally the moment I tried to open the fridge, a lounge attendant, with a concerned look on her face, approached me from behind, “Mr. Hanson, it is only 7:30AM. Would you like a beer?” Haha I tried to explain that I was just curious if the fridge was locked… right… She didn’t seem to fully understand me, and I felt a bit embarrassed. Haha!
I can’t begin to rave enough about the service at this hotel. Specifically, the guest relations staff that work in the lounge absolutely go above and beyond for every request that you might have. I could go on and on with examples, but here are a few. When they inquired about our dining plans for the trip, I asked for some favorite local options.
On my next trip to the lounge, I was given a four page print-out of their favorite restaurants copied and pasted from the Internet, with their own notes written about which dishes were the best at each restaurant. They also explained to us that some of the places wouldn’t have English menus, so they could help us with ordering in advance. One night we got take out from “School Food,” a local chain, as we didn’t want to wake the baby from his sleep. They helped us pick out a few dishes, called to place the order for us, and had it delivered to the bell desk for pick up.
A couple days later, I mentioned that we wanted to go explore Insadong and Changdeokgung Palace. When we came for breakfast the next day, we were given English printouts on both areas. While our son wasn’t allowed to hang out in the lounge, due to an age restriction, they always asked if we could bring him by so they could say hi to him and play with him for a few moments. On our second to last day, they asked if it was okay to give him a gift. Of course! He got an InterContinental teddy bear from them.
No request went unanswered. Here’s another example. When we arrived in Korea and unpacked, my wife discovered that her glasses broke in the checked baggage. It was about 9PM at night, and I called to see if they knew a place that we could go get glasses fixed the next day. They asked if they could check a couple places and call us back. Sure.
They called back quickly and told us that we could go immediately to an eyewear store in the mall. They asked the store to stay open a bit later for me to rush down and fix the glasses. When I got down there, the man at the store confirmed that I was from the InterContinental, and he took the glasses, fixed them, and charged me nothing. Wow! As I mentioned, this long piece about how great the service was really could continue on and on, but I’ll end it here. Hena, Stella, Julie, Jenny, Crystal, and anyone I didn’t mention, thank you for making our stay so wonderful in every possible way.
Breakfast at Grand Kitchen
Grand Kitchen puts on an excellent breakfast buffet. We ate there most of our mornings. They had fresh dim sum, made to order eggs, cereal, salads, fruit, meat, etc, etc, etc. This breakfast buffet is extensive, and I would put it in on par with the one we had at the Westin Singapore. Here are some pictures of what was available.
We loved our stay at the InterContinental Seoul Grand Parnas! The suite, the location, and the hotel were all fabulous. Most of all, though, the service is what really made our experience so wonderful. Again, it’s worth saying that Hena, Stella, Julie, Jenny, and Crystal really did such a wonderful job to help organize restaurant reservations and activities for us in Seoul. I hope it won’t be too long before we visit Seoul again, and when we do, the InterContinental Seoul Grand Parnas will be on our short list of places to stay.