The Luxe List 2010, South Korea: Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul, Seoul

It’s challenging enough to build something from scratch, but it can be even tougher to fit a brand-new resort into an existing framework—which is exactly what the Banyan Tree did with its flagship urban resort in the South Korean capital. In and around the shell of the former Tower Hotel, a decidedly average establishment that just happened to occupy a stunning perch on the slopes of city-center Namsan, the group has created what has quickly become Seoul’s top refuge for urbanites looking to unwind. The property has just 32 rooms, each with its own plunge pool. Stylish but understated decor with wood accents and local artworks creates an atmosphere of quiet exclusivity that never crosses over into decadence. Apart from some very good restaurants, the Banyan Tree’s amenities include a golf driving range, private pool cabanas, and (of course) a spa, where treatments employ local products like ginseng and green tea.

San 5-5, Jang Chung-dong 2-Ga, Jung-gu; 82-2/2250-8000;; doubles from US$418

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