Incheon Korea – Many people merely glaze over Incheon as just a layover stop to hop to another country, or else it’s just the airport to transit into Seoul. What they don’t realise is that Incheon is actually the third largest city in all of South Korea (and the second largest port city at that), and is absolutely, positively worth spending a few days to explore; there are historic buildings to acknowledge, beautiful parks to explore, unique nooks and crannies in the all parts of the city to uncover, and you’re guaranteed to witness some of the best sights in Korea.
Additionally, just when you thought you’ve seen it all with Korea coming up with some of the best street foods you can imagine (spicy rice cakes, fish cake skewers, fried chicken, etc), Incheon might surprise you. Being so close to the ocean, the city boasts some locally famous dishes that you might just have to try, such as ‘mul-teombeong’ (a hangover soup made from a particular type of monkfish, beansprouts and spicy flavours), loach soup which is eaten with stone-pot rice and scorched rice water, and grilled ‘samchi’ (mackerel), best eaten at Samchi Street in Dong-Incheon, which is exactly what you think it is: an entire food district dedicated to samchi.
Consistently rated as one of the best airports in the world, you barely need to step out of the Incheon hub to partake in fun and exciting activities. Within the airport itself, you will be able to connect to free Wi-Fi and dine at some world-class restaurants, view cultural performances and learn about the history of Seoul, relax in a spa, race your friends and family at the ice skating rink, and even watch a movie. Of course, don’t spend all your time at the airport, because Incheon City is just over an hour away, and with the amount of activities you can choose from, you’d want to spend as much time as you can out there be exploring as possible!
How do we get there?
Incheon City is located closer to Incheon Airport than Seoul, however, the transport method there takes a little longer. There are multiple methods to get from the airport to the city, but one of the easiest ways would be to catch the Kangin Transport Bus 306 from Incheon International Airport to Dongincheon Station, and switch to the Wolmido Island Bus 45 to Incheon Station. This should take roughly 1.5 hours in total.
If you’re planning to do a day trip to Incheon from Seoul, take the Line 1 (Blue Line) from Seoul Station towards Incheon Station. It should be a direct line, and will take just over 70 minutes.
Where to stay?
Guesthouse – K-Guesthouse Incheon Airport Town 1
Boasting a terrace, a shared lounge and kitchen, free Wi-Fi and an X-box game area, K-Guesthouse Incheon Airport Town 1 a great choice for travellers interested in convenient public transport, budget friendly traveling, and friendly locals. All guest rooms feature a flat-screen TV and a fridge, and a full breakfast is available each morning at the property.
Why Guests Love It: everything is clean and welcoming, owner goes above and beyond to make sure you have a good time, there is a mini market near the guest house, rooms are very spacious, beds were super comfy.
Book It Here: K-Guesthouse Incheon Airport Town 1
Hotel – Grand Hyatt Incheon
Located just 3 minutes away from the Incheon International Airport Terminal 1, guests can easily access Incheon City and downtown Seoul via public transport from here. Spacious rooms host contemporary décor with a TV, a minibar, a work space, and beds with a goose down duvet.
Why Guests Love It: easy transportation to and from the airport by the hotel’s shuttle bus, sauna is great wit cold and hot pool, 24/hour room service is convenient, fitness facilities are superb, excellent toiletries and soft towels, very large breakfast buffet selection.
Book It Here: Grand Hyatt Incheon
Now that you know how to get to Incheon and where to stay, let’s discover what to do in this beautiful city!
Incheon Korea – Chinatown
Colourful and aesthetic lanterns strung across the building-tops; loud, shrill voices pierce the air as shopkeepers announce their bargains confidently and demand customers to their stalls; the smell of fresh jjajangmyeon noodles permeating through the streets, never wavering and always tantalising. Expect all of the above, and some more, when you visit Korea’s official Chinatown, located right in the heart of Incheon. Whilst you’d be forgiven if you mistaken this Chinatown to be like most other ones where fusion cuisine and a quick snap with the gorgeous lanterns are the only attractions, you’d be surprised to hear that this Chinatown also hosts a collection of museums, galleries, and green spaces to relax and unwind after hours of exploring the streets.
One of the features that has become extremely popular with visitors is getting a snap of ‘Paeru’, which is the enormous entry gate signifying the beginning of Chinatown. It was famously used in the late 19th century by local Chinese residents to offer their prayers and to protect the area from ghosts. Also located in Chinatown is the Samgukji Mural Street, a 150m long stretch of gorgeous murals displaying significant events that occurred during the time of the Three Kingdoms (Chinese fable). Lastly, don’t forget to visit the Jjajangmyeong museum. Whilst there isn’t much information displayed in English, the dioramas and models displayed can easily show you how the dish came about from its inception to the rise of its monumental level of popularity today.
Access: Head to Incheon Station and use Exit 1. Look for the massive gates across the street (‘Paeru’).
Opening Hours: 24-hours
Incheon Korea – Wolmido Island
Wolmido was once an island completely disconnected from mainland Korea, but it is now connected via a gorgeous highway. It is considered one of the best getaways from the city of Incheon, as it is only 1km off the coast of Incheon, and extremely convenient to get to. On the island itself, there is a plethora of activities to do, and whether you’re with your family with young kids, or on a romantic trip for two, there’s actually something for everyone.
The Wolmi Theme Park is an extremely popular attraction amongst kids of all ages. It’s quite unexpected that an island like Wolmi would be home to a decent amusement park, but you’d be surprised. The two-story Viking Ship, the 70m high Hyper Shoot Drop, Tagada Disco, and the 115m Ferries Wheel are just some examples of the rides available. It also hosts a large indoor children’s playground that includes water activities such as water boats and a water ball playing arena.
Wolmi Traditional Park is a beautifully preserved park that you can visit to see luscious vegetation and greenery up-close, with mountains and the ocean in the distance. When you visit the area, you will see that it has been organised into specific areas, such as the ‘Traditional Garden’ section, which boasts a variety of gardens patterned after famous gardens in Korea’s history. There is also a glass observatory at the top of Wolmi Mountain nearby that offers spectacular views of Incheon Port and International Airport.
Details for Wolmi Theme Park
Address: 81, Wolmimunhwa-ro, Jung-gu, Incheon
Access: From Incheon Station Exit 1, take a right turn, walk 100m, and then take another right turn. Cross the street towards Wolmi-ro, and take Bus 45 at the ‘Dongil Apartment Bus Stop’, and alight at Wolmi Theme Park Bus Stop (7 stops away).
Opening Hours: 10:00am – 10:00pm
Cost: Rather than one entry fee, there is a different fee for each attraction which start from 4,500 won (4$).
Details for Wolmi Traditional Park
Address: 329, Wolmi-ro, Jung-gu, Incheon
Access: From Incheon Station Exit 1, take Bus 115/23/45 and alight at Sunchang Corporation bus stop. The garden is on the left.
Opening Hours: 9:00am – 8:00pm
Incheon Korea – Sinpo International Market
Sinpo International Market is a popular market in Incheon, boasting more than 140 stalls which sell all the Korean food delicacies you can imagine. Locals and tourists flock into this market to just feel the vibe of a bustling market kept alive by dedicated street vendors always producing the best of the best. If you’re a foodie, you can quite literally spend an entire day here sampling all the different foods across the enormous market, and even if you’re not, the overwhelming number of choices you’ll need to make just might mean you’ll try them all just so that you don’t have to make a decision at all.
Smell the fusion of dried fish mixed with spicy rice cake and kimchi as you walk along the market streets, but make sure you try some different versions of ‘dakgangjeong’, which is Korean deep fried crispy chicken cooked in a sweet, sticky sauce, because that’s exactly what Sinpo is famous for!
Access: Head to Dongincheon Station (Seoul Subway Line 1), and use Exit 2. Head straight until you see Sinpo International Market on your right.
Opening Hours: 10:00am – 9:30pm
Incheon Korea – Eurwangni Beach
Whilst Busan holds the title for the best seaside city in Korea, complete with gorgeous sandy beaches that stretch for miles and miles, Incheon’s very own Eurwangni Beach could give Busan a run for its money. Eurwangni Beach is a cozy white sand beach that’s actually quite close to the Incheon International Airport. As beach destinations are almost never the reason why anyone would visit Incheon, it is normally quiet and undisturbed, making it the perfect peaceful getaway from the city centre. Families with kids will especially enjoy this beach, and can head there with peace of mind, because the gentle slope of the beach means that the average water depth is only 1.5m.
If you’re after participating in some fun activities, then Eurwangni has you covered. You can go rock fishing, or rent banana boats and jet skis to ride out into the ocean, and for those of you who are after a great spot to view the night sky, the lack of light pollution in this area at night makes it the best spot in Incheon for astronomical observation. Grab a picnic mat, some friends, and head there at sunset for the vibrant red sky, and stay after twilight for some stargazing.
Access: From Incheon International Airport, Gate 2A, take Bus 302/306 and get off at Eurwangni Beach.
Incheon Korea – Sorae Traditional Fish Market
This fish market in Incheon is renowned across the country, and with it being one of the biggest ports in Korea, it’s not hard to see why. Some of the best seafood comes from Incheon, and for visitors in the area, you can try a sample of it right at Sorae Fish Market. It’s one of the largest wet markets in the country, but it’s retained its roots from conception many years ago, and there is a nostalgic atmosphere in the air as you walk the rows upon rows of seafood vendors selling their best offerings for the day. Come here to see the widest spectacle of seafood you’ve ever seen before.
For those who visit on an empty stomach, you can even purchase the seafood of your choice, and head to one of the nearby restaurants to have it cooked up in some of the most traditional Korea styles. For those who are unfamiliar with Korean seafood dishes, some examples of popular ones include: ‘agujjim’, which is braised angler fish served on a bed of dropwort and beansprouts and is often very spicy; ‘goddeunggeo gui’, which is grilled salted mackerel, eaten with rice; ‘haemul panjeon’, which is Korean savoury pancake filled with shellfish, cuttlefish, and various other kids of seafood (best eaten alongside makgeolli, a fizzy rice wine); and of course, the famous ‘jjambbong’, a noodle soup consisting of seafood ranging from squid to mussels and served with chewy noodles in a spicy broth.
Super fresh seafood made with authentic Korean-style cooking. What could be a more perfect way to fill your stomach?
Access: From Dongincheon Station, take Bus 21 to Jemjulpo Station. From Seoul Station, take Bus 1301.
Hours: 9:00am – 9:00pm
Incheon Korea – Bupyeong Underground Shopping Centre
All of Asia is renowned for their underground shopping and markets that are brimming with cheap, budget, and discounted items that you never knew you needed. In Incheon, that market is called the Bupyeong Underground Shopping Centre, and it’s an endless maze of more than 1,400 stores selling everything and anything you could dream of, at a fraction of the price you’d expect.
This would be a fantastic way to spend a few hours getting random knick-knacks to bring home as souvenirs, but if you ever need an actual purpose to head of this market, then it would be for the Korean cosmetics and beauty products. There are a multitude of stalls selling all the products that you see Korean celebrities rave on about, attributing to their glow-y dewy skin that seem to be the envy of girls all around the world. Their prices are generally better than many of the shops above ground, so this would be a good chance to stock up on items like face masks and creams. There are also many stalls dedicated to the unique Korean fashion, so you’d be hard-pressed not to walk out of there with at least one shopping bag.
Access: Head to Bupyeong Station (not Bupyeong Market Station), and use Exit 6. It is a 5-minute walk away.
Hours: Hours vary from stall to stall, but are generally opened from 10:00am – 10:00pm
Incheon Korea – Korea-China Traditional Cultural Centre
This cultural centre is one of those recommendations that you’ll probably glance at and wonder whether it belongs in an article like this, but in this case, it absolutely is. A six-floor complex founded in 2005 to assist with promoting Chinatown, the centre offers an abundance of (often free) activities for visitors to participate in to understand the relationship between Korea and China better. Whilst it might not sound like the most exciting thing in the world, grasping the basics of the history behind two completely different countries and how they’re now intertwined is a great way to get to know the world. On certain days, there are performances to view, free movie screenings, Korean language classes, and art exhibitions. Why not spend a few hours here, educating yourself on a bit of Korean and Chinese history?
Address: 1-2 Hang-dong 1(il)-ga, Jung-gu, Incheon 400-031
Access: Head to Incheon Station. Exit, and cross the crosswalk (you will see the Jung-gu office on the road sign). Head down the big road for bout 5-minutes until you see the Incheon Chubu Police Station. The Cultural Centre on the opposite side.
Hours: 9:00am – 6:00pm
Cost: Adults: 1,000 won (1$), Children (13 – 18): 700 won, Infant (3 – 12): 500 won
Incheon Bridge is just over 21km long, and holds the title of the longest and largest bridge in Korea. It’s even affectionately referred to by locals as the ‘Pride of Incheon’. Whilst originally created as a convenient transport route to connect Incheon International Airport and the Songdo International Business District, it has now developed a reputation of its own: tourists from all over the country head to the Incheon Bridge during sunset and sunrise to capture the beauty of the sky changing colours over the massive bridge. It is an absolutely stunning sight, and one that should not be missed if you’re able to head there during those times. Outside of those times, twilight and night time would be the best time to see the bridge as it comes to life with colourful lights, jarring against the dark ocean.
Address: Yeonan-dong, Incheon, South Korea
Access: You might not want to pay the tolls to drive over the bridge, so head to Oceanscope (the Incheon Bridge Observatory) where you will be able to view the bridge from afar. To get to Oceanscope, head to Central Park Station, and take Exit 2. It is a 10-minute walk away, and it’s free to enter.
Songwol-Dong Fairy Tale Village
As part of a revival project from the Korean Government, certain areas in the cities were rejuvenated to bring life back onto the streets. The Song-wol Dong Fairy Tale Village is a prime example of how they’ve done it right. Located just a 10-minute walk from the station through Chinatown, it encompasses a small village area full of rainbow murals, pink rooftops, orange doors, and everyone’s favourite animation characters splashed all over the walls, floors and footpaths. It’s the type of area you’d stroll through and your day will be brightened immediately.
Think of it as the Alice in Wonderland world coming to life. Families with kids will especially have a grand time here, as kids could spend hours just running amuck, exploring the streets and houses. Amateur photographers looking for the next best place to photograph with have their work cut out for them here. They really manage to bring to life depictions of many Disney Princesses and other prime characters in the animation world, and aside from global phenomenon characters, there is a section that pays homage to all the Korean children folklore characters as well, which is a treat for locals and tourists alike.
You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the massive rainbow arch at the entrance (so fitting!).
Access: Head to Incheon Station, and use Exit 2. Head straight for 200m, and then turn right into the Donghwamaeul-gil road. Look for the bright rainbow arch.
As you can now see, Incheon, one of the most easily accessible cities from the airport, is well worth a visit whilst planning a trip to Seoul. Of course, everyone visiting Korea would want to experience the capital of South Korea in all its glory, and whilst this article is not trying to take away from that, it’s really just trying to suggest that outside of Seoul, there exists an entire city that may just be worlds away given the sheer number of unique and interesting sights to see, activities to do, and foods to eat. If you’re looking outside of the box, Incheon might just be your answer.