|1. A gingerbread house kit comes with a stay at The Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Times Square in western Seoul. 2. The Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Namdaemun, close to the City Hall in central Seoul, offers an overnight stay package that comes with lip balm made with red ginseng extracts for its “Merry Lipmas” event. 3. Paradise City in Incheon has set up a Christmas market where visitors can buy ornaments for trees and other props to make one’s home more festive for the holiday season. 4. A gift-box-shaped white chocolate cake with berries is available at the JW Marriott Hotel Seoul in southern Seoul. 5. Lotte Hotel Jeju offers a unique outdoor pool experience even during the colder months thanks to its heated pool. [EACH HOTEL]|
Hotels and retail stores are the best places to get into the holiday spirit these days with their sparkly decorations that visitors can enjoy while staying warm inside. The stores and hotels focus all their attention on what decorations to use in their facilities to make picture-perfect spots in a way to draw more consumers who will hopefully spread the word on where to visit at the end of the year.
Besides shopping for gifts, Korea has developed its own holiday rituals, including eating Christmas cake with friends and family. Many hotels and bakeries come up with unique ideas to make their cakes stand out; some are shaped like a Christmas tree, ornaments, Santa Claus or even a gift box. The competition is on to have the most delicious and eye-catching cake, and many shops work all year long to make sure that they have the treats that will have people coming back every year for more.
Luxury hotels also release a variety of special packages for overnight stays during the holiday season so that guests can make their holiday an extra special day.
Deck the halls
Unlike the days when a lobby with a lavishly decorated tree was enough to attract and delight visitors, hotels are now decking themselves out in elaborate ways in an attempt to make every corner Instagram-friendly this holiday season.
Paradise City in Incheon decided to open up a Christmas market on its property so that everyone can easily find at least one thing to take a photo of. The market, inspired by Santa’s village, will have different shops that sell snowballs or Christmas ornaments alongside booths that sell wintertime delights to fill up the stomach. You can walk up to the lobby of boutique hotel Art Paradiso, part of Paradise City, to get the aerial view of the Christmas market as well. The market opens on Dec. 13.
While walking around the Christmas market and shopping for ornaments at Paradise City is relatively new, the more classic option is to go ice skating at the Grand Hyatt Seoul in central Seoul.
The hotel has been operating an ice rink for 23 years, attracting not only families and couples, but also the occasional TV show or commercial shoot.
The cool breeze on your face and trees decorated with lights make skating outside a special experience that you cannot recreate at an indoor ice rink. To celebrate the opening of the ice rink for this season, the hotel will host a special figure skating performance today. There will also be performances on Christmas Eve and the New Year’s Eve, and a New Year’s countdown will follow the show.
The Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Times Square offers a special package that includes a Create A Treat cookie kit that overnight guests can use to make a mini gingerbread village. Cookies, icing, jelly, candies and everything you need to make your cookie house perfect is included inside not only to entertain kids, but also to satiate the creative side of adults.
Another Marriott brand, the Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Namdaemun, is calling its holiday celebration “Merry Lipsmas,” in line with its packages that come with lip balm to keep your lips moist. Considering that many foreign visitors come to stay around the area, it has prepared a lip balm from Donginbi, a local company that makes its cosmetics products with red ginseng.
For those looking to stay a little bit warmer this winter, a trip down south may be your best bet. Lotte Hotel Jeju on Jeju Island has a heated pool so that guests can enjoy a relaxing time in the pool even when temperatures are low.
Joy to your stomach
Finding the perfect holiday cake to make your tabletop festive shouldn’t require too much effort. These days, cakes come in all shapes and colors to give your Christmas celebration a sweet and cheerful touch.
One of the most popular Christmas cakes in Korea is found at The Shilla Seoul in central Seoul. Its annual cake looks like a miniature Christmas tree with green and white powder that makes it look like snow has just fallen on its branches. For more variety, the hotel also offers simpler styles as well with cheese-flavored cakes with white balls on top. The cakes start from 69,000 won ($58).
If you want a cake shaped like a gift box, head to the JW Marriott Hotel Seoul in southern Seoul. The White Chocolate Berry Box Cake, a box-shaped white chocolate cake, has many kinds of berries inside the soft cake. One side of the box looks to be open to make a dramatic scene of berries falling out of the box. The hotel offers 12 other specialty cakes for the season, starting at 27,000 won. Novotel Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun Hotel has also made its cake shaped like a gift box, with a large ribbon on top.
Seoul Dragon City and JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul are both selling cakes inspired by Santa Claus’s outfit. Both hotels are selling red glazed cakes featuring a square buckle that looks strikingly similar to everyone’s favorite Christmas visitor. Cakes start from 56,000 won.
At the Grand Hyatt Seoul, ornament-shaped cakes look too good to eat, and you wouldn’t be blamed for wanting to hang it up on a tree. After breaking the ornament with the wooden hammer it comes with, the thin chocolate ball opens up to reveal dense chocolate mousse and many berries inside.
The hotel also sells an igloo-shaped cake that is perfect for any wintertime gathering. The igloo is also breakable with a wooden hammer, and inside the chocolate dome is a delicious tiramisu. Cakes start at 48,000 won.
Deviating from the traditional sweet flavors used to make Christmas cakes, some hotels are using different ingredients to make their cakes stand out.
Le Meridien Seoul in southern Seoul offers a tasty carrot cake for the holidays, topped in cream frosting to make a simple, yet beautiful holiday treat. The Andaz Seoul Gangnam has also decided to sell its version of carrot cake with added spices, like cinnamon. Carrot cakes starts from 40,000 won.
Just remember, more elaborate cakes – like the Christmas tree cake from The Shilla Seoul – require a reservation at least three days ahead of your ideal pick-up date.
BY LEE SUN-MIN [[email protected]]
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