5 best swimming pools in Seoul

5 best swimming pools in Seoul

These stylish swimming holes offer quiet escapes from urban chaos

Along with major expensive renovations, hotels in Seoul have been trying to outdo each other with swish pools to attract summer guests and club members. Here are some of the best watery options for the leisure-seeking sybarite. 

1. Banyan Tree Club & Spa

Banyan tree Banyan Tree's Oasis. The Oasis, the Banyan Tree’s sprawling pool area, has the luxurious feel of a full resort. In addition to the dark, slate-gray waters of the adults’ pool, there’s a raft-filled, water gun-equipped kids’ pool and a shallow baby pool, with a sandbox included.

Sleek sunbeds and tall trees line the main pool here at Seoul’s most exclusive hotel. As an added touch, deck chairs are placed in ankle-deep shallows.

But is the Banyan Tree on the chopping block, as recent headlines would lead you to believe? “Regarding the recent news reports, Banyan Tree will continue to operate in the long-term, working with the new owners,” says Hailey Yoo, the hotel’s sales and marketing director. There are no plans to close the hotel, she added.

The Oasis is open to Banyan Tree Club members and their personal guests, as well as overnight hotel guests. In low season, each member is permitted two guests for free. During high season, each member is permitted to invite two guests for a charge, 60,000/adult and 40,000/child.

The hotel also offers a “Summer Delight Package” with one night's accommodation, breakfast and two cocktails, starting from 690,000. Extra bonuses come with additional nights.

San-5-5 Jangchung-dong 2-ga, Jung-gu (중구 장충동 2가 산5-5); www.banyantree.com; +82 2 2250 8000

2. Grand Hyatt Seoul

Grand Hyatt PoolThe Grand Hyatt Seoul boasts the best poolside view in the city. Feng shui is in full effect at the Grand Hyatt Seoul’s pool, with Han River views to the south and Namsan to the north. Such choice location means that on a clear day, this panorama is the best poolside view in the city.

Open only to hotel guests or members of its Club Olympus gym, the Hyatt’s pool area is both spacious and stunning. Sun worshippers have their choice of 300 cushy deck chairs either poolside or scattered across the lawn. 

In addition to the main pool, there’s a kids’ pool with spouting toad sculptures plus whirlpools and a cascading waterfall.

Staycation seekers are in luck as the Hyatt is currently offering two summer promotions. The “Summer Awaken Package,” including one night's accommodation and a breakfast buffet, starts at 274,000. The “Hyatt in Style Package,” starting at 245,000, includes one night's accommodation, a Rowenta hair straightener, up to 20 percent off select hair treatments at the spa, 50 percent off the sauna and two free select cocktails at J.J. Mahoney’s bar. The Hyatt also offers a nightly poolside barbecue buffet for 65,000/adult (add 40,000 for all-you-can-drink wine, draft beer and soft drinks) and 32,500/child, with no swimming allowed.

747-7 Hannam 2-dong, Yongsan-gu (용산구 한남동 747-7 그랜드 하얏트 서울 140-738); www.grandhyattseoul.co.kr; +82 2 799 8112~2

3. W Seoul-Walkerhill & Sheraton Grande Walkerhill 

Riverpark As its name suggests, the Walkerhill's outdoor pool has a waterpark vibe. You’ll definitely get the most bang for your buck at Walkerhill’s Riverpark, which is connected to both the W-Seoul Walkerhill and Sheraton Grande Walkerhill. With a sumptuous buffet, lazy river, two kiddie slides, hot tub and large, bright turquoise pool, Riverpark has the feel of a full-on waterpark, not just a swimming hole. 

With paid admission, anyone’s welcome to visit the park for the day -- or night, for that matter. That makes this pool one of the best known in Seoul, which brings a young, lively crowd, especially for weekend events like the DJ DOC pool party held earlier in July, or the Mnet 20's Choice Awards. 

Hotel guests beware as anyone staying overnight still has to pay admission to Riverpark, albeit at a reduced rate.

Admission varies by date: 35,000/person from June 4-July 8 and August 29-September 13, not including buffet. 85,000/adult and 60,000/child from July 9-22 and August 16-28, including buffet. 95,000/adult and 70,000/child from July 23-August 15, including buffet. Add an extra 35,000 for a poolside wicker sunbed for one or 70,000 for a private cabana for two. Deck chairs set up further away from the pool are free.

San 21, Gwangjang-dong, Gwangjin-gu (광진구 광장동 산 21); www.walkerhill.co.kr; +82 2 455 5000

4. The Shilla

Shilla PoolSpot celebs chilling at The Shilla's pool.Not only is the pool at The Shilla a relaxing retreat from the chaotic madness of central Seoul, but, as it turns out, it’s also a prime location for celebrity-spotting. Korea’s Brangelina couple, Jang Dong-gun and Go So-young, were recently sighted luxuriating in the shade of their French-style VIP sunbed.

Add in a lovely Namsan view, tranquil forest path and sculpture garden, and there’s plenty to please the eye at The Shilla pool. But admission here is limited to hotel guests and members of its fitness club, so if you’re hoping to catch some rays here, check for any promotions. The hotel is currently offering a “stay three, get the fourth night free” deal for guests who check in on Saturdays or Sundays.

250,000/day for private VIP sunbed. Ample shade, regular sunbeds and towels come free of charge. 

202 Jangchung-dong 2-ga, Jung-gu (중구 장충동 2가 202번지);www.shilla.net; +82 2 2233 3131

5. Imperial Palace Hotel

Imperial Palace PoolThe Imperial Palace hotel is home to the only outdoor pool in Gangnam, south of the river. South-siders, you haven’t been forgotten. Cool, clear waters are available in Gangnam at the baroque Imperial Palace Hotel. Decorated to transport guests to the Mediterranean, the pool may be small but it has its charms. 

With admission, it’s open to the public for a dip during the day or for night swimming. For weekend revelers seeking a bit of an escape, the Imperial Palace also hosts a poolside barbecue with everything from lamb chops and lobster to grilled jumbo prawns.

Lined with Greek statues, pillars and palms, the pool has also proven to be a popular shooting location for Korean dramas.

Admission varies by time: 61,000/adult and 31,000/child for daytime pool access until 4 p.m. 30,500/adult and 15,500/child for nighttime pool access from 7 p.m. 75,000/adult and 42,000/child for weekend poolside barbecue from 6-10 p.m., no swimming allowed. 

313 Eunju-ro, Gangnam-gu (은주로 313번지); www.imperialpalace.co.kr; +82 2 3440 8000

Hannah Bae left the monuments of D.C. for Seoul’s newsrooms in 2007 armed with a Princeton-in-Asia fellowship and a whole lot of enthusiasm. In addition to her day job of editing breaking news, she spends her free time freelancing for such organizations as the AP, GlobalPost, the German Press Agency dpa, Wallpaper*, Nanoomi.net, TBS eFM radio and now CNNGo. 

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