One of the staff, or in W-speak "talent", ushers us into the lobby-cum-living room, which is a gleaming shrine to modernism. The surfaces are shiny, the chairs egg-shaped and the city lights twinkle in the distance. Once we've checked in we head for the lifts, passing a trio of 1960s Ball Chairs. The lifts are dark, lit only by neon-green gym hoops dangling from the ceiling. It's all far too cool for school.

The W opened a year ago and is the hip hotel chain's first foray into Asia. It's clearly causing a stir; during our stay it was the backdrop for a mobile phone advert and a televised fashion show, attended by Seoul's beautiful people.

The glamorous interior was created by the New York-based designers Studio Gaia and Tony Chi, and the result is more big house than hotel. The communal areas on the ground floor all interconnect. "Kitchen" is a loft-style space with huge windows, which serves breakfast and dinner. It leads into the Living Room area, where you'll find Namu, the Asian-inspired restaurant and the WooBar. At 18m long, this is the longest bar in Korea. The overall effect is playful, but not pretentious - it's difficult not to smile when someone says to you "Have a Wow day".

LOCATION

W Seoul-Walkerhill, 21 Gwangjang-dong, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, Korea (00 82 2 465 2222; www.whotels.com/seoul). Built in the Walkerhill area overlooking the Han river, to the east of the city centre, the hotel doubles as a destination bar, restaurant and club for Seoul's young, hip and wealthy.

Transport: Getting around isn't easy on public transport - you're unlikely to be able to read the signs and English isn't widely spoken - so keep a card with the hotel's address and where you want to go written in Korean and grab a taxi (£20 to centre).

Time from international airport: An hour and a half by shuttle bus (12,000 South Korean Won/£6.50), 50 minutes by taxi (60,000KRW/ £32), or by hotel limo which is a specially commissioned red Jaguar XJ (135,000KRW/£75)

COMFORTABLE?

There are 253 rooms and 30 suites ranging in style and size. "Scent" rooms are ultra-modern - all shiny white surfaces, remote-controlled lights and curtains - with a balcony. "Spa" rooms have huge room-for-two stone baths next to floor-to-ceiling windows that face Acha Mountain. At the top end, the "Extreme Wow Suite" takes over the 13th floor and comes complete with living room, dining room and enormous master bedroom with oval Jacuzzi bath.

Each room has a Munchie box filled with treats, to buy. On the third floor is the stress-evaporating Away Spa and "Sweat", the hi-tech gym. The "Whatever/Whenever" button on the phone in your room connects you through to the 24-hour concierge service.

Freebies: Not much, apart from the Aveda toiletries. Before you run off with the dressing gown check how much it costs downstairs. The hotel has its own shop selling everything, including the hotel's signature - and admittedly extremely comfortable - beds.

Keeping in touch: The W could stand for wired - this place is seriously in touch, with broadband in your room plus a high-definition 29-inch TV, Bose sound system, and DVD player. The Media room is the most hi-tech, with a 50-inch plasma TV at the foot of a circular bed.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Doubles start from 547,000KRW (£290) including breakfast.

I'm not paying that: Hotel Ibis, 893-1 Dachi-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul 135-840 is near the Samsung subway station and offers double rooms from 87,000 KRS/£50 (00 82 2 3454 1101 www.ambatel.com/ibis/english).

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