Although it can be tempting to lump east Asia into one regional group, the reality is that east Asia plays host to many different, vibrant cultures. Saying that “Japan is basically Korea is basically Vietnam” is a bit like saying “New York is basically North Carolina is basically Florida.” If you’ve seen one, you definitely haven’t seen them all!

After the monotony of lockdown life, many of us are looking for something to engage our curious and adventurous brains again. For that, South Korea is an excellent choice. It’s relatively easy to get there from the US (especially considering Delta’s partnership with Korean Air) and Incheon Airport is an easy one-hour train ride from the capital city.

Seoul is a massive metropolis with 25 individual districts (“gu”) that lie on either side of the Han River. With a perfect blend of modern tech and surrounding nature, Seoul has plenty to offer to many different kinds of travelers. Even if you haven’t visited east Asia before, we think Seoul is an excellent place to start! Here are a few points properties that we think you should check out on your next vacation to the South Korean capital.

Marriott

Josun Palace, Luxury Collection

If you like to check out brand new luxury properties, be among the first to book in with the Josun Palace. Located in Gangnam-gu, this property lies right in the stylish heart of one of Seoul’s favorite neighborhoods. Gangnam-gu has a modern pulse but ancient roots, complete with storied Buddhist temples and contemporary nightclubs and shopping centers. Visitors have plenty of opportunities to explore Gangnam, but the property is also very well-connected to the rest of Seoul via metro. During your stay, don’t miss a trip to the on-site sauna as well as one of the on-site restaurants; you can even book the Eatanic Garden Private Dining Room for a more intimate meal with friends, family, or colleagues.

A night at this brand new Category 6 property is available from 40,000 Marriott Rewards points.

Josun Palace, Luxury Collection

Josun Palace, Luxury Collection (Image courtesy from Marriott)

Ryse, Autograph Collection

If you’re looking for a more artsy vibe, head to Hongdae in Mapo-gu and book in with the Ryse. The Ryse is located down the street from Hongik University Station, making it an easy destination to get to from Incheon airport. This is also a great place to recharge after a long flight because guests have access to bathrobes and facial masks designed in-house. Each individual room and suite is named for and inspired by certain facets of the local art industry like Creator, Editor, Artist, Producer, and so on. On the third floor, visitors can enjoy libraries of magazines, vinyl, and books that are meant to be explored. This is an ideal property for folks who enjoy creative expression, no matter the medium.

A night at this Category 5 property is available from 30,000 Marriott Rewards points.

Ryse

Ryse (Image courtesy from Marriott)

Cards to Help You Earn Marriott Points

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

One of the quickest ways to earn Marriott points is to open a line of credit with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card from Chase. Not only do cardholders have the opportunity to earn more Bonus Points on everyday spending, but they also earn automatic Silver Elite status simply by being cardholders. Cardholders earn 6X points per $1USD spent on purchases at Marriott Properties and 2X points per $1USD spent on all other purchases.

With all of these benefits, this card is well worth the $95 annual fee; however, there is another way to skip the annual fee.

Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card

If you want extra benefits without the annual fee, apply for the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card from Chase. You’ll still have access to complimentary Silver Elite Status and earn 3X points per $1USD spent on purchases at Marriott properties. You’ll also earn 2X points per $1USD spent on travel purchases and 1X points per $1USD on all other purchases.

If you want a quick path to Silver Elite and a decent earning potential without committing to an annual fee, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold could be the right pick for you.

Hilton

Millennium Hotel Seoul

If you are looking for a central location with easy Seoul-Incheon transit, book in with the Millennium Hotel Seoul. Located in Jung-gu, this property stands adjacent to Seoul Station and is nestled between impressive skyscrapers and the beautiful Mount Namsan. This is an excellent location for travelers wishing to blend a bit of city life and a bit of nature; a paved walkway up Mount Namsan leads to N Seoul Tower and Namsan Park. If you’re looking to practice your golf swing while in Seoul, make sure to check out the hotel’s own driving range. Whether it’s hiking, golf, or another activity, treat yourself afterward to a relaxing spa treatment and meal at the on-site facilities.

A night at this property is available from 60,000 Hilton HHonors Points.

Millennium Hotel Seoul

Millennium Hotel Seoul (Image courtesy from Hilton)

Cards to Help You Earn Hilton Points

Hilton has a long-standing partnership with American Express and offers four different co-branded cards: three personal cards and one business card. Here, we’ll mention the perks of our favorite personal card as well as the business card.

Hilton Honors Business Card

Perfect for business owners on the go, the The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card is a card with decent earning potential and plenty of travel benefits. While it comes with a $95 annual fee (Rates and Fees), cardholders earn 12X Bonus Points per $1USD spent on Hilton purchases, 6X Bonus Points per $1USD on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel, and on car rentals booked directly through select car rental agencies, and 3X Bonus Points per $1USD spent on all other purchases.

In addition, this card is an excellent way to jump straight to Gold Status; a $95 annual fee is a pretty small price to pay considering that benefit. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to upgrade to Diamond Status depending on how much you’re planning on using the card, which is a definite bonus.

Hilton Honors Aspire

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card by American Express is our favorite credit card in the collection, and it comes with a hefty $450 annual fee (insert link to Rates and Fees). At first glance, it might not seem worth it to splurge on a high-fee card when the Bonus Points earning potential is only marginally better than the other three cards in the collection. However, when weighing the annual fee against the additional benefits, it might be a good deal if you’re looking to skyrocket your status.

IHG

Holiday Inn Express Seoul Hongdae

For simple, cozy accommodations in artsy Hongdae, redeem your points with the Holiday Inn Express Seoul Hongdae. I always appreciate Holiday Inn Express properties because they’re minimalist while still paying incredible attention to detail; for example, rooms at this property include a local mobile phone, blackout curtains, beverages, and a workspace for jetlagged travelers who are working on the go. This hotel is located right next to Hongik University Stations and there is a shopping complex in the same building, underneath the hotel. During your stay, take a stroll down Hongdae Walking Street and Hongdae Mural Street to absorb the urban art scene, and hit up Hongdae Free Market to check out the works of independent artists in the area.

A night at this property is available from 14,000 IHG Rewards points.

Holiday Inn Express Seoul Hongdae

Holiday Inn Express Seoul Hongdae (Image courtesy from IHG)

Cards to Help You Earn IHG Points

IHG Rewards Club Premier Card

The IHG Rewards Club Premier Card from Chase is the premium card in the IHG collection.

This card comes with an $89 annual fee, but it includes automatic Platinum Elite Member status and up to 25X points per $1USD spent at IHG properties, which include existing reward benefits from your status.

IHG Rewards Club Traveler Card

Of course, the Premier level card doesn’t suit everyone. If you are an IHG Rewards member interested in opening an IHG line of credit but don’t want to bother with any annual fees, then signing up for the IHG Rewards Club Traveler MasterCard from Chase could be a better move.

This card does come with the opportunity to bump up to Gold Elite, which is a nice perk for members with Club Member status. Additionally, you can earn up to 15X points per USD spent at IHG properties worldwide when combined with your status.

Hyatt

Hotel28 Myeongdong

Cinephiles and film buffs alike should feel most welcome at the Hotel28 Myeongdong, a unique property with its own on-site cinema. Located in Jung-gu, this property places guests in Seoul’s historic center with influences from Europe peppered in between the local haunts. This is also a great neighborhood for those who want to do some luxury shopping while in town. When you’re ready to return to the hotel after a long day of exploring, be sure to check out the rooftop bar and take in the incredible city skyline over a craft cocktail. Then, pop up to your cozy room for a relaxing bath and a quiet night’s sleep.

A night at this member-only property is available from 15,000 World of Hyatt points.

Hotel28 Myeongdong

Hotel28 Myeongdong (Image courtesy from Hyatt)

Andaz Seoul Gangnam

For a luxury property that is just simply incredibly cool, book in with the Andaz Seoul Gangnam. As I mentioned above, Gangnam-gu is known for its dedication to style and nightlife, and this property places visitors right in the heart of the party. Enjoy skyline views from the indoor pool, then head down K-Star Road to scope out the local K-Pop scene. If you’re more of a fashion enthusiast, head down Apgujeong Rodeo Street and Cheongdam-dong Fashion Street to get acquainted with designers, both established and up-and-coming. Then, head back to the hotel for a bite to eat at the dining zones at Jogakbo or grab drinks and desserts at A’+Z.

A night at this property is available from 20,000 World of Hyatt points.

Andaz Seoul Gangnam

Andaz Seoul Gangnam (Image courtesy from Hyatt)

Cards to Help You Earn World of Hyatt Points

If you’re looking to maximize your earning potential with World of Hyatt, the best way to do that is by – you guessed it – opening up a line of credit. Currently, the World of Hyatt Credit Card is offering a sign-up bonus of up to 60,000 Bonus points, equivalent to 12 free nights at a Category 1 property.

Cardholders earn 9X Total Points per $1USD spent at Hyatt properties, 2X Bonus Points on transportation, restaurants, flights purchased directly through the airline, and fitness club memberships, and 1X Bonus Points per $1USD spent on all other purchases.

Chase Travel Portal

The above properties are wonderful options for Seoul, but they aren’t so exciting if you haven’t stocked up on a bunch of points in exactly the right currency. If you don’t have a stash of brand-specific points lying around, there is another option.

Many credit cards offer their own rewards programs that include the opportunity to redeem points on travel. If you’ve been stockpiling credit card rewards instead of brand-specific hotel rewards, a trip to Seoul could be a great way to redeem them.

For example, you could use your stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to book your hotel. When Chase points are redeemed on travel purchases through the Ultimate Rewards Portal, they are worth 50% more than other select categories. That bonus is a great incentive to use them on a trip to Seoul! Here is one of the properties in Seoul that you can book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

ibis Styles Ambassador Seoul Yongsan – Seoul Dragon City Hotel

This playful property is great for visitors who enjoy highrises with personality, as this spacious multiplex is home to several different hotels, restaurants, and shops. Connected to Yongsan Station and Yongsan Electronics Market, the ibis Styles Ambassador Seoul Yongsan is conveniently located near the shores of the Han River as well as Yongsan Park. Rooms and suites are each decorated with a different game-related theme, from billiards to Pac-Man. When you’re ready to escape the multiplex and explore the rest of the city, simply hop on a train and head wherever you’d like!

A night at this property is available from roughly 10,300 Ultimate Rewards Points.

ibis Styles Ambassador Seoul Yongsan

ibis Styles Ambassador Seoul Yongsan (Image courtesy from ibis Styles Hotels)

Cards to Help You Earn Ultimate Rewards Points

Chase Sapphire Reserve

A consistent favorite of the Chase collection is the Chase Sapphire Reserve, offering unparalleled opportunities to earn Ultimate Rewards points and benefit from travel perks. Its hefty $550 annual fee is offset by an annual $300 travel credit, plus built-in insurance and protections for when you’re on the go.

Currently, new cardholders can earn a 60,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 within the first three months of the account — that’s a bonus of $900 if redeemed through the Travel Portal!

Chase Sapphire Preferred

If a $550 annual fee just doesn’t sound like a good time, apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred instead.

Final Thoughts

Seoul is a massive, exciting city with each neighborhood dedicated to its own craft. From trendy Gangnam to artistic Hongdae and historic Jung, Seoul has something to offer any traveler looking for an adventure. Plus, there are plenty of properties for redeeming your stockpile of points after a long hiatus from travel.