Lotte World Tower: Dine at South Korea’s Tallest Restaurant

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Seoul, South Korea (CNN) — The journey to the highest restaurant in South Korea begins with a whale show.

The spacious 123F Lounge is on the top floor of the Lotte World Tower in Seoul, 555 meters (approximately 1,820 feet) above the ground. The tower is the tallest building in the country – and the fifth tallest building in the world, according to its official website.

But it turns out that getting to the restaurant isn’t as easy as going up and down an elevator; it’s quite an experience that can easily take up to an hour.

After purchasing an admission ticket – 27,000 Korean won (about $20) for adults and 24,000 Korean won ($18) for children – visitors enter a waiting room, flooded with blue light as the whales swim on a giant screen on the ceiling.

Several different rooms follow – some with professional photo opportunities, others displaying the building materials that make up the tower – before a bewildering series of whale-themed spaces.

A temporary exhibit featuring whale-themed multimedia displays in the Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea.

Jessie Yeung/CNN

There are two long hallways – one lit in dark blue as whales swim past you on wall screens, the other with LED ceiling panels rotating through colorful mosaic patterns, in stark contrast with the black and white photos of whales on the wall. The vague cries of the whales add to the underwater ambiance. Another room has fake clouds hanging in the air and whales painted on the wall, appearing mid-flight.

(I later learn that this is all part of a temporary exhibit celebrating the work of whale photographer Jang Nam-won.)

Sunset from the Sky Seoul Observatory, located in the Lotte World Tower.

Sunset from the Sky Seoul Observatory, located in the Lotte World Tower.

Jessie Yeung/CNN

Upon exiting, visitors are guided to sit in a darkened room as a video, apparently an artistic rendering of the history of Seoul and the Lotte World Tower, plays — before the screen splits into two giant panels, slowly rising like a curtain to reveal the breathtaking view of Seoul through the floor-to-ceiling windows.

The observatory spans multiple floors, with giant windows that allow for a 360-degree panoramic view of the metropolis. One can spot the iconic N Seoul Tower perched on Namsan Mountain, bridges spanning the river, parks and sports stadiums, and even the rides of the nearby Lotte World theme park.

Each floor offers different attractions, such as small cafes on the 119th and 122nd floors. There’s the Sky Deck on the 118th floor, with a glass floor that lets you see the 478 meters (1,568 feet) between your shoes and the street far below. There’s the Sky Terrace on the 120th floor, an outdoor balcony with a picture-perfect view of the winding Han River.

The Sky Deck on the 118th floor of Seoul Sky, with a glass floor.

The Sky Deck on the 118th floor of Seoul Sky, with a glass floor.

Jessie Yeung/CNN

After the appropriate amount of ooh-ing and aah-ing, you finally reach the lounge on the 123rd floor.

The restaurant is both spacious and comfortable, with plush chairs and lamps on each table. The windows make up an entire wall, extending to the high ceiling to flood the space with warm light as the sun sets. A free viewfinder allows you to zoom in on the landscape.

The menu is pricey by Korean standards – $28 for a beef stew, $19 for tomato spaghetti, and $18 for a Caesar salad – but we took our time, watching the sun set below the horizon, briefly turning the sky fiery orange.

The restaurant also offers pizzas, sandwiches, steaks and appetizers, including a selection of cheeses.

Window seats in the 123F Lounge offer stunning views of the Han River in Seoul.

Window seats in the 123F Lounge offer stunning views of the Han River in Seoul.

Gawon Bae/CNN

The view was equally stunning in the dark, the city a grid of light spreading out before us.

Although the 123F lounge is a perfect place for a romantic dinner or a special date, there were also families with children and groups of young adult friends when we visited. The lounge can also be rented out for special events such as wedding receptions and product launches.

Lotte World Tower is located in the Jamsil district of the Songpa-gu district in southeastern Seoul. It is open all week, although times depend on the day, and can be reached by metro, bus or private vehicle.

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