Seoul, South Korea (CNN) — Your trip to the highest restaurant in South Korea begins at the whale exhibit.
The spacious 123rd floor lounge is located on the top floor of Lotte World Tower in Seoul, 555 meters (approximately 1,820 feet) above the ground. The tower is the tallest building in the country and, according to the official website, his fifth tallest building in the world.
However, we found that getting to the restaurant wasn’t as easy as getting in and out of the elevator. It is an experience that can easily take up to an hour.
After purchasing an admission ticket for 27,000 won (about $20) for adults and 24,000 won ($18) for children, visitors enter the waiting room and are bathed in blue light as whales swim across a giant screen on the ceiling.
Several different rooms follow – some with opportunities for professional photography, others showcasing the building materials that make up the tower – before a series of cryptic spaces with a whale theme.
A temporary exhibit showcasing a whale-themed multimedia display at the Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea.
There are two long corridors. One is lit in deep blue as whales swim beside you on a wall-length screen, and the other is an LED ceiling panel that rotates through a colorful mosaic pattern, with black and white pictures of whales on the wall. In contrast to The vague cries of whales add to the underwater atmosphere. In another room, the walls are painted with fake clouds floating in the air and whales that appear in flight.
(I later learned that this was all part of a temporary exhibition commemorating the work of whale photographer Jang Namwon.)
Sunset from the Sky Seoul observatory at Lotte World Tower.
Once outside, visitors are guided to sit in a darkened room as a video. The video seems to be an artistic representation of the history of Seoul and Lotte World Tower. After that, the screen he splits into two huge panels, slowly rising like a curtain. Enjoy breathtaking views of Seoul from floor-to-ceiling windows.
The observation deck spans multiple floors and offers 360-degree views of the metropolis through huge windows. You’ll see the iconic N Seoul Tower towering over Namsan Mountain, bridges over rivers, parks, sports stadiums, and rides at nearby Lotte World Theme Park.
Each floor has a different charm, such as a small cafe on the 119th and 122nd floors. On the 118th floor is the Sky Deck, a glass-floored skyline that offers 1,568-foot (478-meter) views from your feet to the street below. Located on the 120th floor, the Sky Terrace is an outdoor balcony overlooking the meandering Han River.
A glass floor sky deck on the 118th floor of Seoul Sky.
After making a moderate amount of woo and ah, we finally arrived at the lounge on the 123rd floor.
The restaurant is spacious and cozy, with comfortable chairs and lamps at each table. Windows frame the entire wall and extend to the high ceiling, flooding the space with warm light at sunset. A free viewfinder lets you zoom in on the landscape.
The menu is on the expensive side by Korean standards, with beef stew at $28, tomato spaghetti at $19, and Caesar salad at $18.
The restaurant also serves pizzas, sandwiches, steaks, and appetizers including various cheeses.
From the window seats in the lounge on the 123rd floor, you can overlook the Han River in Seoul.
The view in the dark was just as spectacular, with a grid of lights stretching out before my eyes.
The 123rd floor lounge is the perfect place for a romantic dinner or a special date, but when we visited there were families with children and groups of young adult friends. It can also be rented for special events.
Lotte World Tower is located in the Jamsil district of Songpa-gu in southeastern Seoul. It is open seven days a week, although opening times vary, and can be reached by metro, bus or private car.