South Korea’s Lotte World Tower in Seoul is a 750,000-ton marvel of a building that features an enormous shopping mall, aquarium, cinema, concert hall and so many restaurants it would be a daunting task to pick one.
As the tallest structure in Korea, and the fifth tallest building in the world (it will fall a notch once China’s Goldin Finance 117 building is completed), the tower holds two Guinness World Records that you can experience firsthand when you visit the Seoul Sky Observatory.
The observatory is at the top of the Lotte World Tower. At more than 1,820 feet high, this is the best place to take in a 360-degree view of Seoul, the Han River, Olympic Park, Gangnam, Gimpo International Airport and more.
Your experience begins at ground level after purchasing a ticket to be shuttled to the 117th floor. For 27,000 won (about $23), you can spend all the time you want viewing Seoul from seven floors that offer full panoramic views.
One of the records the tower holds is having the tallest double-deck elevator in the world. Named the Sky Shuttle, this elevator travels over 1,627 feet at better than 30 feet per second. You will reach the observation deck in roughly a minute.
As your ears pop and adjust to the rapid change in elevation, you are entertained with a virtual reality presentation on 15 monitors across all four walls and the ceiling of the elevator.
You will have access to the top seven floors of the tower, which features cafes, a souvenir shop, an outdoor terrace, an elegant lounge and a glass-floor sky deck that is not for the faint hearted.
Stepping out on the deck gives you a view straight down to the world below.
Seoul Sky’s sky deck holds the Guinness record for the highest glass-floor observation deck at 1,568 feet, 2.8 inches high. The floor is made of glass measuring 1.7 inches thick. The walls are also made of glass, creating a “floating” panoramic viewing experience.
The cafes and other refreshments are reasonably priced, comparable to what you pay down on street level. A blue latte at the coffee shop caught my attention with its blue-colored base, coffee in the middle and cream on top. This boost of caffeine cost 6,500 won (about $5.50).
Take your time on all the floors to appreciate the many views. Everything below you looks as if it’s a miniature playset. Lotte’s popular theme park, Lotte World, is directly below and the amusement rides and visitors walking across a bridge look like kids’ toys.
Cellphone service works just fine along with data services, but the tower also offers free Wi-Fi if you prefer to piggyback on Korea’s fast broadband or want to use a laptop in a quiet, relaxing corner away from the hustle of other visitors.
Experiencing the new Lotte World Tower alone was worth the trip to Seoul, but the observatory was a special reminder of just how much this country has prospered since the signing of the armistice in 1953.
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DIRECTIONS: Address: 300 Olympic-ro, Jamsil 6(yuk)-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul. Take subway Line 2 to Jamsil Station, exits 1 and 2, or Line 8 to Jamsil Station, exits 10 and 11.
TIMES: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
COSTS: 27,000 won (about $23); save 10% by using Visa or Mastercard
FOOD: Multiple cafes, candy store and 123 Lounge on the 123rd floor
INFORMATION: Book your visit at seoulsky.lotteworld.com/en/main/index.do