Infinite Views at Seoul Sky: The Highest Outdoor Observatory in the World
If you’ve lived in Korea for any length of time, you know that clear skies and good air quality are not necessarily a given. So, when you get 3 uninterrupted weeks of glorious blue skies, fluffy clouds and bright sunshine, you know it’s time to mark the occasion with something special.
For Hallie of The Soul of Seoul and I, that something special, was a trip up Korea’s tallest building to the 3rd highest observatory in the world – Seoul Sky.
Panoramas from Seoul Sky are astounding, with views of the city, the surrounding mountains and far-off oceans stretching out as far as the eye can see, in every possible direction.
Located on the top 7 floors of the 123 story, 555 metre tall Lotte World Tower, Seoul Sky is without a doubt THE best place to get a birds eye view of one of the world’s few mega-cities. It’s hard to appreciate the incredible vastness of this densely populated metropolis on ground level, but at 500 metres up, it’s impossible not to be wowed by just how huge the city is.
There’s something spectacular to see out of every single window at Seoul Sky, but I was particularly entranced by the south-side view, which showcases the Han River, Namsan, and the Seoul Tower in the distance.
It was – in a word – breathtaking.
From the basement level, the Sky Shuttle elevator deposits you on the 117th floor in less than a minute, with a world record breaking speed of 600 metres per minute. Something I definitely felt in my popping ears, but couldn’t see, because the entire interior of the elevator is covered in the world’s first ceiling and four-walled screen, which shows video of Seoul, the Han River and it’s impressive progression over the last 50 years.
It was kind of a bummer not to be able to see outside as we rocketed up the building, but since the elevator isn’t on an outside wall, I guess you wouldn’t see much anyway.
Once you arrive on the 117th floor, escalators take you up 1 floor at a time, until you reach the top and final floor accessible with a general ticket – the 122nd. (A special ticket is required to access the 123 Lounge on the top floor).
To keep things interesting, each level is slightly different with unique features and engaging window layouts.
On the 118th and 119th floor Sky Decks, you can test whether you’re ACTUALLY afraid of heights by walking out onto transparent glass floors that give you an unobstructed view of just how high above ground you are. I admit to shaky knees and a sickening feeling of vertigo as I made my way onto the Sky Decks, but I’m proud to say I did it…and even spent some time lounging around on top of them. Literally.
If you ARE afraid of heights though, beware on the 119th floor, because you might find yourself standing atop transparent glass unawares. Staff have control of the clarity of the Sky Decks, and I bet they have quite a bit of fun scaring those among us who have a phobia of heights!
The Sky Terrace on the 120th floor is a definite highlight of Seoul Sky. It’s the highest outdoor observation deck in the world at 486 metres, and the perfect spot to get those crystal clear pics of the fantastic landscapes around you.
Visiting Seoul Sky
The ticket office and elevator for Seoul Sky is located on Level B1 of Lotte World Mall. There’s tons of signage around, so you don’t have to worry much about getting lost, but if you do, there are information booths where you can ask for help.
If you visit earlier in the day, during the week, you’re more likely to avoid queues and crowds. We visited Seoul Sky on a Friday around 11:30 in the morning, and it was essentially empty, aside from a few super noisy elementary school groups, which are easily avoided by moving to a different floor.
Tickets can be purchased for a 30 minute elevator boarding slot, on the hour or half hour. We’d bought tickets for the 12:00 – 12:30 time slot, but were able to go up earlier since there was no line. There’s a handy electronic board outside the ticket office that lets you know how many slots are available in real time. As you can see, when we were there, it was super quiet, with plenty of tickets available.
Once you pass ticket control, you’ll have to go through a security check that felt so much like an airport one, that I took out my electronics and placed them in a bin. (not necessary – and um yeah, embarrassing). Once through security, you enter the elevator boarding area, where you’ll be entertained by huge video installations about the construction of the tower, tourist destinations in Seoul and the natural wonders of Korea.
You can’t get back onto the exhibition level once you’ve taken the Sky Shuttle to the top, so make sure you get your fill before you step onto the elevator and ascend to Seoul Sky.
What’s the tallest building you’ve ever visited? Would you stand on a glass floored observation deck, or are you afraid of heights? Tell us all about it in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!
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