A lot of people ask about which hotel or serviced residence to stay in. We have stayed at the Seokyo (hotel, Sept 2008), the Somerset (serviced residence, April 2010), and DMC Ville (serviced residence, Mayu 2010). We have also visited both a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom at Fraser Place Central (FPC). Below are some thoughts about each.
My first thought is that it is all about trade-offs, personal preferences, and individual circumstances. There is no one place that will meet the needs of every family; people’s situation, needs, and likes/dislikes vary. For example, the Somerset’s location next to Insadong is AWESOME, but one of the tradeoffs is cost as the Somerset is far more expensive than DMC Ville. FPC seems more luxurious than DMC Ville but is much smaller in overall space than DMC Ville for the same price. DMC Ville is by far the largest room size and has a full kitchen for the dollar, but it is pretty far out of the way.
I believe Holt Children’s Services (Holt Korea) gets a discount at each, though be sure to check. Typically to get the discount, you need to book through them. Holt Korea has some apartments leased at DMC Ville; you will want to be sure to book through Holt as normally you can’t book an apartment at DMC Ville for less than a month.
Seokyo Hotel – http://www.hotelseokyo.co.kr/ENG/main/main.asp
Somerset Palace – http://www2.somerset.com/south_korea/seoul/somerset_palace.html
DMC Ville – http://www.dmcville.co.kr/
Fraser Place Central – http://seoul-central.frasershospitality.com/
As far as the Seokyo is concerned, it is a full-service hotel. The rooms are smaller hotel rooms. They are immacuate. The service staff is wonderful. You are within walking distance of Holt Children’s Services, about 15 minutes. Breakfast is not included in the room rate. They do have a restaurant, but it is spendy and wasn’t really my favorite. This really isn’t a huge issue, however, as there are a number of eating establishments within close proximity to the hotel. You can easily and quickly go to Dunkin Donuts, a bakery, Starbucks, Bulgogi Brothers, etc. The room does not include a kitchenette, just a small minibar fridge. There is daily housekeeping service. The toilets were bidet style. The room rate when we stayed there was the least expensive of the options we explored.
The Somerset is a wonderful, wonderful place to stay. It is located just outside of Insadong. The rooms are beautiful and immaculately maintained. Housekeeping is available on the weekdays…they even go so far as to wash any dishes you leave in the sink. The housekeeping service is really closer to that of a hotel than of a basic serviced residence. There is a complementary and robust breakfast buffet which includes both hot and cold items, Korean and western options, etc. It was very good. We stayed in a 2-bedroom executive suite which included aa small but nice kitchen as well as a dining room table. There are many, many options for eating out close to the Somerset including western fast food options like KFC and McDonalds and many amazing Korean restaurants. The clientelle at the Somerset was very globally diverse. There were short-term guests as well as people who lived long-term at the Somerset. We had internet but no wifi in the room when we stayed back in 2010. There was a small washer/dryer combination unit in the room. The toilets were standard western-style with no bidet functions. There was not immediate access to a grocery store by foot, but I would imagine you could find an Emart by taxi if you wanted. You could also take a weekly shuttle to a western store, so there are options. The only downside we saw to the Somerset was cost and availability. Of the options represented, it is the most expensive. Sometimes it is also booked solid.
DMC Ville is where we most recently stayed. We were in room 702, a two-bedroom suite. We had wifi throughout the room with only a few iffy connections when we were using Skype; most of the time the coverage was really good. The room was very spacious and included a full kitchen. While the room was surface clean, it was definitely not immaculate. Your feet or sock would end up very dirty from walking on the floor. There was a full-size washer/dryer unit in the room, but the drying feature was pretty much useless. It was necessary to line-dry everything. The kitchen included 2 barstools up against the counter as opposed to a table and chairs which worked fine. There was a full-size refrigerator with a freezer, a microwave, a burner, and a stove. We loved having the full fridge and made good use of it. Our room was a bit sparse on the cups and the cutlery. There were 2 full baths. One bath had a bathtub (no shower curtain) and the other had a shower. The toilets were both bidet toilets. As is typical in Korea, the mattresses were hard, but you got use to them. I think they might have been a bit harder than the typical Korean bed. The price for the size was by far the best and was the deciding factor for us when we researched lodging. The big downside was location. DMC Ville is located quite far east. Getting anywhere takes time. It was about 20-25 minutes to Holt. Many things took much longer than that. There was relatively easy access to two major stores via taxi, Emart and HomePlus; easy access to groceries was a very helpful feature. HomePlus is larger than Emart, though both are big. They remind me of a combination of a full grocery store, clothing, appliances, etc…it’s like a grocery store combined with Target and Sears.
One of the major downsides that we ran into at DMC Ville was limited housekeeping. They clean the rooms just once a week, and housekeeping is completely unavailable on the weekends. If there are no issues, this isn’t a huge deal, but we had one major bloody nose one weekend, and a vomit incident on the other…both times ruining bedding. When we called the front desk after our daughter threw up on a Saturday and soaked the comforter and duvet, they told us they could help us…on Monday. The mama bear came out in me, and I told them they needed to find her some new bedding even if they had to raid an empty room. Honestly, a proactive front desk could have and should have problem-solved this one fairly easily without my having to demand new bedding and provide options.
The other issue we ran into was we had requested and confirmed that we could get a yo (mattress) for our daughter. When we got there, there was no yo to be found, and they were completely non-helpful…oh, and it was a weekend (no housekeeping or people available to help). We ended up taking the comforter off of our son’s bed and putting it on the floor for our daughter to sleep on; it was hard as a rock but the only option we had. This left Jake without bedding with the exception of his little blankie. Though we were there 2 1/2 weeks, they never did remedy this. Because the comforter was the only thing our daughter was sleeping on, having no housekeeping to get a new comforter when the bloody nose and vomit incidents occurred was a problem.
Given the issues with location and housekeeping given our particular situation, if we could have swung staying in either the Somerset or FPC, I think I would have rather done that, but the price difference was too compelling to pass up for us. Overall our room was a nice place to stay though, so it isn’t a bad option…it just has some challenges. For our family, the bottom line was that we needed a 2-bedroom because the kids still go to bed much earlier than we do and need naps; DMC Ville fit the bill and was within budget. Given the length of our stay and the above parameter (2-bedrooms), it was the best available option for the trip.
We had two sets of friends staying at Fracer Place Central (FPC) when we were in Korea this time (2012). One was in a one-bedroom super single which had a large master with a queen and what looked to be a twin or full. Apparently the couch also pulled out for more bedding. They paid the same amount for this super single as we did for our apartment at DMC Ville. Were the kids a bit older and a 2nd bedroom not necessary, this would have been a very good option. The kitchen was a small kitchenette (smaller than the Somersets) and there was a small table. There were two bathrooms. The room was a definitely smaller, but it was nicer by a long shot. The 2-bedroom we saw at FPC was absolutely huge and rivaled the Somerset’s 2-bedroom executive suite. We would have gladly stayed there as well. Included in their room rate was a nice breakfast buffet as well, similar to the Somerset’s. They had easy access to both Korean and western dining options, an restaurant, Starbucks in close proximity, easy access to the subway (multiple stops within walking distances), etc.