There are more reasons than you might think why the new Banyan Tree, which officially opens on April 8th, is located on Namsan in Seoul.
Take a look from the top of the Hotel at the Banyan Tree (formerly the Tower Hotel). On one side, the Seoul castle walls stretch up Namsan to the Seoul N Tower. On the other side, the view leads from the grounds of this newly constructed urban resort past the National Theater of Korea and down toward Dongdaemun Market.
Namsan is a sanctuary of silence amid the never-ending rush and bustle of the city. And the Banyan Tree Seoul, located on the slopes of Namsan, is a sanctuary of the senses, releasing you from the stress of your daily schedule. Just as Seoul only has one Namsan, Seoul only has one membership club offering world-class facilities, extensive programs, and unheard-of service, all located in a natural setting. And that’s the Banyan Tree.
The Banyan Tree Seoul is the latest project of the boutique resort firm Banyan Tree Holdings. Basing its success on creating an exotic environment while at the same time taking care of the environment, Banyan Tree has opened more than sixty resorts, hotels, spas, and golf courses worldwide from Mexico to the Maldives.
When you arrive at the Banyan Tree complex, you’l find yourself in the middle of three newly renovated structures. These three buildings each represent a major service offered by the Banyan Tree. The Hotel offers luxurious accommodations to weary travelers, the Club provides members access to fine facilities and programs and the Festa is the center of social and sports-related activities.
Accommodations at the Hotel
The first building to catch your eye is the 21-floor Hotel, designed in 1967 by Korean architect Kim Swoo-Geun to commemorate the nations who stood beside South Korea during the Korean War. It contains 16 rooms and 18 suites with floor space ranging from 50 to 105 square meters. Each comes complete with a “plunge pool” basically the kind of bathtub Solomon might have dreamed of. These rooms include all imaginable amenities, from king-size beds to fully stocked mini-bars, as well as the flawless Banyan Tree hospitality and service.
Step into the Presidential Suites, located on the 18th and 19th floors of the hotel, to get a quick reeducation on what a hotel room was meant to be. The first shock is the staircase, which reveals that these suites have two floors. The plunge pool here is probably larger than some hotel rooms you’ve been in. Especially impressive is the view through the massive suite windows onto Namsan and the Banyan Tree complex below.
Vying with other tower-top establishments like N Seoul Tower’s N Grill and Jongno’s Top Cloud is the 3 Sixty Wine Bar on the 20th and 21st floor. Feast your eyes on the twinkling lights of Seoul while you sample tapas, oysters, and gourmet cheese platters as well as judicious wine selections. For a true dining experience, head down to the Granum Dining Lounge on the first floor for a breakfast spread in the morning and Ã la carte Southeast Asian cuisine for lunch and dinner.
Set to open its doors in May, the Hotel is currently offering a special offer for all guests who book a date falling between May 1st and August 31st. Receive free breakfast at the Granum Dining Lounge with packages starting at W402,000, or add an extra night and choose from 90 minutes of a spa massage, a bottle of champagne at 3 Sixty Wine Bar, or lunch for two at the Mori N Japanese Cuisine.
Access to the Club
Just across the plaza from the Hotel is the five-story Club, overlooking the National Theater of Korea. While The Hotel is open to everyone, the Club is primarily for members of the Banyan Tree, allowing them to pursue their hobbies and preserve their health. However, guests staying at The Hotel get to be “members for the day” meaning they get temporary access to all facilities at the Club and Festa.
With the variety of programs that the club provides, members hardly need to go anywhere else. Wanna work up a sweat? Head to the gym, with two floors of workout equipment imported from Italy. Wanna soak in a steam bath? Try the Korean-style sauna. Wanna take a swim? Dive in the tastefully designed indoor pool. Wanna read the paper? Stop by the Lounge with drink service and plenty of English-language reading material. Feeling peckish? Dine on delightful Mediterranean cuisine at the Club Members Restaurant. Wanna keep the kids happy? Drop them off at the Kids Club for plenty of supervised games and education activities ranging from the fine arts to martial arts. There are also 16 suite rooms in the Club only available to Banyan Tree members, so you don’t have to worry about last-minute hotel reservations.
Non-members can get a peek inside, too. At the Banyan Tree’s signature spa, the true sanctuary for the senses, you can curl up in your own corner of paradise anytime you like. The Spa features nine deluxe treatment rooms and two suites, each with a private wardrobe, bathroom and relaxation area. The suites are also equipped with a Rainmist room (a signature Banyan Tree Spa innovation), a shower/steam room and a bathtub. Once you enter these rooms, decorated in an exotic theme to create the perfect mood for renewal, you meet your therapist, who has undergone extensive training at the Banyan Tree Spa Academy in Phuket, Thailand. After a foot bath, massage, hot tub, and the Rainmist experience, you emerge from your spa treatment a new person.
Enhancing the experience even more is the Spa’s Banyan Tree Gallery retail outlet, offering an indulgent selection of spa merchandise. With aromatic essential oils, massage oils and incense, Banyan Tree signature ceramic oil burners and candle-holders, and bath products, you can re-create the spa experience at your own home. In addition, the gallery is a showcase for ingenious handicrafts by artisans from around the world. You can pick out a tasteful decorative item while supporting cottage industries across Asia.
Activities at the Festa
Sports fans and socialites will find plenty of fun at the Festa and the surrounding facilities. Just next to the Club, the Festa offers top dining opportunities like the Mori N Japanese Cuisine with its seasonal menu of fresh seafood, robatayaki grill, and sake (rice wine). But the real draw here is not inside but outside with the Oasis swimming pool (which becomes an ice rink in the winter). Splash around in the water during the warm months and paddle over to the poolside Aqua Bar for a cocktail made while you wait. Once you’re all dried off, move along to the Festa Bar for more drinks or the Festa Bistro for light European fare.
The pool is not the only sports-related facility at the Festa. A true treasure for sporty members is the two-story driving range supervised by Troon Golf, one of the world’s largest golf management companies. Heading up the Troon Golf Academy here is Australian PGA member Peter Claughton. The academy offer full coaching for members as well as state-of-the-art equipment and even screen golf. “The 3Trak Golf Simulator and the Trackman Radar System are the latest and greatest,” Peter said,
“so having these ‘toys’ at our disposal from a coach’s perspective is going to be pretty special.” For Peter, the best part about golfing at Banyan Tree is “the Troon Experience,” which he describes as “a unique level of service” in our golf shop and coaching programs.â€
This same level of service and specialization carries over to other sports at the Banyan Tree. There’s a tennis court with private lessons available from Korean tennis superstar Hyeong-taek Lee, a futsal (mini soccer) field with programs for kids run by the Myeong-bo Hong Academy, and a basketball court for hoop time. Great facilities and great instruction provide you with a great chance to take your game to the next level.
Whether you’re just spending the night or spending every afternoon there, the Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul offers a taste of a different kind of life. The astounding quality and attention to detail can be seen in everything from the super-sophisticated golf equipment to the exquisite stalls in the sauna bathroom that could be entered in a world design contest. True, you don’t have to be a member of the Banyan Tree to have a good time here. The spa and hotel, the 3 Sixty Wine Bar, as well as some of the restaurants in the Festa are open to the public. But it’s only the members who can fully experience this retreat from the city, paradoxically found in the heart of the city.
To learn more about the exclusive Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul or reserve a club tour, contact them