The Novotel Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun offers beautiful, modern rooms, friendly and professional service and an outstanding Executive Lounge, as well as great wellness amenities with a large gym, indoor, outdoor and jacuzzi pools. The location is great for return visitors to Seoul, although a little out of the way if you want to see the historic sights. Despite the below-par elite amenities, I’d consider the Novotel Seoul good value and would stay again. If you are considering it for your visit, I’d recommend splurging for the Executive Level rooms – the lounge is well worth it!
Location: The Novotel Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun is on the Western side of Seoul’s downtown near the, you guessed it, Dongdaemun Market. The market is a major shopping area with large, local style markets and malls that sell everything from clothing to household items. A large number of small, local restaurants are also around.
Dongdaemun is the intersection of three subway lines and countless busses, making it easy to get around the Seoul metro area by public transport. You can reach the historic palace, the Itaewon nightlife area or Seoul’s main train station within 30 minutes.
Seoul’s international airport, Incheon, is a lengthy 1h30min to 2h bus ride away. The Korean Airlines Limousine (KAL) bus line 6001 stops in front of the hotel and is the most convenient. At night, bus 6002 stops a 10 minute walk away. The airport express train requires a connection by bus or subway and ends up taking about the same time, less during rush-hour.
The Novotel Dongdaemun is not ideal for first-time visitors who want to see the sights, but fine for return visitors comfortable with the Seoul train and bus system.
Service: Seoul isn’t known for the friendliest service in Asia, but the Novotel was a pleasant surprise.The front desk offered me a warm welcome on my late-night arrival. They processed the paperwork quickly, upgraded my room and proactively explained the hotel amenities, Accor LeClub Platinum benefits and breakfast arrangements. I was grateful to be on my way to the room quickly.
Housekeeping was exceptionally thorough and detail oriented, they would most certainly please even the most demanding army drill sergeant! My room was spotlessly clean each day, everything was in working order and all towels and amenities were replenished and placed just so. Even ¾ full shampoo bottles or soaps were replaced each day – almost too much of a good thing!
The staff at the Executive Lounge was just as thorough, friendly and attentive. They would welcome me to the lounge on each visit. During breakfast and evening happy hour, they would check in with guests frequently, keep the buffet fresh and restocked and clear tables on a constant basis. The lounge was spotlessly clean and welcoming at all times. After a few days of regular visits, staff stopped asking for my room number.
The staff at the gym and pool was just as friendly and explained the amenities. They were also nice enough to explain the crowds – I was visiting during a holiday weekend!
Room: I had booked a standard room and was upgraded to an Executive Corner Room, the same room with lounge privileges. While the room doesn’t follow the latest Novotel prototype, it’s a very modern room with an open layout and I really enjoyed it. The room is held in grey and brown tones. The floors are a red-brown hardwood with a carpet around the bed. The wood furniture is of a similar color. The bed, sofa and blackout blinds are grey with blue accents. The large scale artwork behind the bed manages to set a local tone and to look modern at the same time.
The king-size bed has high quallity sheets, pillows and comforter and I slept very well. The tablet next to the bed allows you to control lights, temperature or the TV by touch or voice. It didn’t like me very much – it might respond better to local voices. There are power and USB outlets next to the bed, as well as a “master switch” that is more of a mini-master switch, controlling about half of the room lights, the rest controlled by another master switch by the entrance.
Opposite the sofa is a work desk with task chair, so you can get some work done.
Opposite the bed is a sideboard with a huge TV, the coffee/tea facilities (including a Nespresso machine!) and a luggage bench.
Near the entrance is a large closet with plenty of space for your clothes, as well as a laptop size safe, bathrobes and slippers. My favorite feature is the open layout bathroom. A square, vessel-style sink on a wide countertop faces the bedroom. A wooden, sliding door with a large mirror can be closed (as in the photo) or be opened up.
Another sliding door closes the other wall of the bathroom. In the corner of the bathroom are two glass cubicles, one for the toilet and one for the shower. A single sliding, partially frozen glass door closes either the toilet or the shower. The toilet is a high-end, electronic bidet model, with heated seat, various bidet programs and an air dryer, all controlled by a remote that (thankfully) comes with an English manual! I wish hotels in Europe and the US would adopt these toilets, so very civilized!
The shower has a rainfall head as well as a wall-mounted, handheld shower, both with strong water pressure. You also get thick, fluffy towels, a hairdryer, scale (uhoh, no overindulging on Korean food) and standard Novotel toiletries.
The free WiFi internet was blazing fast at an average speed of 126.8 Mbps and very reliable. You’ll be able to stream video, upload your photos and have a video call all at the same time without problems.
My corner room at windows on two sides and only one side had blackout blinds, with light streaming through the (beautiful) wooden shutters on the other side. I’m sure this is considered one of the nicer rooms – but if you are sensitive to light you might want to request a “downgrade” to a regular room in the middle of the hallway.
Restaurant & Amenities: The Novotel has a wide offering of amenities. On the rooftop, you’ll find a small pool with loungers and nice views over Seoul. Near the pool is a stylish rooftop bar and lounge, a great place for sunset and after.
On the level below, you’ll find a large gym with plenty of cardio and weight equipment for a full workout.
You’ll also have a choice of large indoor pool and jacuzzi. Due to the holiday weekend (Children’s Day), both were very crowded with families, but they should be a nice place on regular days.
On the 19th floor, you’ll find the reception, the lobby bar and the main restaurant that serves a breakfast buffet, lunch and dinner. The breakfast buffet offered a good selection of fruit, yogurt, pastries and cereals. You have a choice of juices, coffee and tea and a good selection of hot Asian and Western dishes, including made-to-order eggs. While the selection is not as big as in other Asian countries, the quality and taste was good.
The Executive lounge was very good. It has two separate rooms facing the windows on either side of the building, with a mix of lounge, buffet and bistro style seating. In the center are two buffet areas.
During breakfast the selection is almost as wide as at the restaurant, including several hot dishes and a very good espresso machine.
Even more impressive was the food selection during the evening cocktail hour. A broad selection of cold and hot dishes was on offer. Whenever one (hot) dish was finished, a different dish replaced it, giving you a much wider selection that you’ll find at a typical lounge. The quality of the food was exceptional, better than many restaurants, making this some of the best evening food I’ve found at any lounge – color me impressed! Add a good selection of soft drinks, (good) wine, beer and liquor and it’s easy to get stuck at happy hour for dinner!
Value & Rewards: I booked my stay through the Accor website at $128/night reflecting a 10% discount as Accor Plus member. I earn 8.7% rewards points as an Accor Platinum member. I consider the price good value for an upscale hotel in Seoul during a holiday weekend. You can find current prices here.
As Accor LeClub Platinum member, I received an upgrade to an Executive Room – a partial upgrade as there is no noticeable difference to a standard room. I did receive complimentary access to the excellent Executive Lounge and a voucher for a drink at the lobby bar – the much nicer rooftop bar is unfortunately not included. I was proactively offered a late checkout, but didn’t require one. I did not receive a welcome amenity. Overall, I’d consider the elite treatment below average as it didn’t even meet the program guidelines.
Bottomline: The Novotel Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun offers beautiful, modern rooms, friendly and professional service and an outstanding Executive Lounge, as well as great wellness amenities with a large gym, indoor, outdoor and jacuzzi pools. The location is great for return visitors to Seoul, although a little out of the way if you want to see the historic sights. Despite the below-par elite amenities, I’d consider the Novotel Seoul good value and would stay again. If you are considering it for your visit, I’d recommend splurging for the Executive Level rooms – the lounge is well worth it!