8 Things to Do in Incheon on Your First Trip
What do you think of when you see the word “Incheon”? Incheon International Airport? You’re not wrong. After all, Incheon International Airport is the gateway to South Korea’s bustling capital, Seoul. But did you know that Incheon is also a city in Korea, and has so much more to offer than just the airport?
And the best part is, once you’re done exploring Incheon, Seoul is only a subway ride away!
1. Visit whimsical Songwol-dong Fairy Tale Village
If you’ve ever dreamt of being a prince or princess in your own fairytale land, Songwol-dong Fairy Tale Village is the place to be! Songwol-dong Fairy Tale Village once housed dilapidated buildings that were falling apart. Soon after, the Korean Government decided to give this town a new lease of life by turning it into a fairy tale village, and now hundreds flock here every day just to get a glimpse of this magical place.
Here you will find popular Disney character murals and standees such as Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Tinkerbell, as well as other childhood classics like The Wizard of Oz, and even Korean folktales! Even if you’re not into fairy tales, you can still snap a few pictures against the bright pastel coloured buildings and glam up your Instagram feed!
Songwol-dong Fairy Tale Village is a short train ride away from the airport, so even if you’re only stopping over at Incheon for a couple hours, you can still make your way here to soak up the magic of this whimsical village before catching your next flight.
Address: 38, Donghwamaeul-gil, Jung-gu, Incheon/인천광역시 중구 동화마을길 38 (송월동3가) 일대
Getting here: Incheon Station (Seoul Subway Line 1), Exit 2. Walk straight for about 200m and turn right into the Donghwamaeul-gil road to arrive at the entrance.
2. Unravel the history behind Baengnyeongdo Island
Legend has it that during the Goryeo Dynasty, a young scholar from Hwanghae-do Province (now known as North Korea) fell in love with a district magistrate’s daughter. The magistrate disapproved of their relationship, and exiled his daughter to a faraway island to keep them apart. The young scholar was distraught by the sudden disappearance of his lover, and spent countless nights wondering where she could be. One night, he dreamt of a White Crane that revealed where his lover was. He found her on the island, now known as Baengnyeongdo Island (White Crane’s Wings Island), a name given by the locals to honour the White Crane who reunited the lovers.
If that story didn’t intrigue you, how about the fact that Baengnyeongdo is the closest island to the Northern Limit Line – the line that divides North and South Korean shores! The hiking trail is also a strategic military point with marked minefields scattered across various spots, so designated hiking trails have been carved out for visitors to follow.
If you are keen to learn more about this island and the part it played during the Korean War, visit the Korean Tourism Organisation website for guided tours or a DIY hiking adventure. Whichever you choose, you will return with a new-found respect for both Incheon and South Korea’s unwavering fighting spirit.
Address: Baengnyeong-ro, Baengnyeong-myeon, Ongjin-gun, Incheon / 인천광역시 옹진군 백령면 백령로 일대
Getting here: Take a passenger ferry from Incheon port coastal terminal to Baengnyeongdo Island. The ride will take approximately four to five hours because the ferry makes pit stops at Socheongdo and Daecheongdo before arriving at Baengnyeongdo Island.Ferry Ticket Price (One-way): KRW57,400 (~S$70.60)
3. Explore Jajangmyeon Museum
If you’re a big fan of jajangmyeon (black bean noodles), then you have to visit the Jajangmyeon Museum. The Jajangmyeon museum used to be called Gonghwachun, based on a Chinese restaurant that served up fresh bowls of jjajangmyeon back in 1905. It was the brainchild of Chinese Nationals who migrated to Korea, hence the Chinese-like name.
Recount the history of jajangmyeon from its early days to the present, and discover how you can make your very own authentic jajangmyeon. Once you’re done touring the museum, head to the new Gonghwachun restaurant, that is also located in Chinatown, and indulge in a history-rich bowl of scrumptious goodness.
Address: 56-14, China town-ro, Jung-gu, Incheon/인천광역시 중구 차이나타운로 56-14 (선린동)
Getting here: Incheon Station (Chinatown) (Seoul Subway Line 1), Exit 1. Across the street you will see an oriental-looking gate, through that is Chinatown.
4. Saunter around Songdo Central Park
Remember the dance scene in an obscure parking garage in Psy’s Gangnam Style Music Video? Or how about that legendary elevator hip thrust? Yup! They were all filmed at Songdo Central Park! But that’s not the only reason you should come here. The main highlight of the park is the art sculptures scattered all around and the huge man-made canal that runs through the entire park.
Here, you can indulge in activities like boating, cycling, and exploring the various themed meadows. The park isn’t very big, so it only takes an average of one to two hours to explore. There’s also a local coffee chain, Holly’s coffee, that is housed in a traditional building! How cool is that?
Address: 196, Techno park-ro, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon / 인천광역시 연수구 테크노 파크로 196
Getting here: Central Park Station (Incheon Subway Line 1, exit 4) Once you get out of the station, look for a canal that is on the other side of the oddly-shaped buildings in front of you. The canal marks Songdo Central Park, and if you walk to the other end, you will find the boathouse where boating activities are available.
5. Chill at Yeongjongdo Island
Located just 2.5km away from the fun-filled Wolmido Island is Yeongjongdo Island, home to Baekunsan Mountain’s Yonggungsa Temple, and the country’s Regent who has lived there for a decade. In front of the Yonggungsa Temple, you will find a 1,300-year-old Zelkova tree, which gives the place a sacred, ancient vibe.
If you’ve watched the latest Korean drama, A Korean Odyssey, you will be thrilled to know that the pathway through Baekunsan Mountain has major Suremdong vibes. All you need is your own Son Oh Gong to call! When you get to the peak of the mountain, don’t forget to marvel at the world-class Incheon International Airport and its scenic surrounding
If you’re into something more adventurous, head to the Yeongjong Sky Park to fly light planes or Mount Baekunsan Gliding Range for some wind-gliding fun. After that, visit the bath-houses located near the seashores and soak your feet in hot spring water. Perfect after a long day of travelling!
Address: 100, Unnamseo-ro, Jung-gu, Incheon / 인천광역시 중구 운남서로 100 (운남동)
Getting here: Incheon Station (Seoul Subway Line 1), Exit 1. From Incheon Station, take city bus 45, 23, or 2 and get off at the last stop, Wolmido Island. Take a ten-minute ferry ride from Wolmido Island Port to Yeongjong Island. Ferry runs from 7am to 9.30pm every 30 minutes.
6. Visit Incheon Landing Operation Memorial Hall
If you’re a history buff, or have a keen interest in war history, this is one place you have to visit while in Incheon! The Incheon Landing Operation Memorial Hall is a war memorial hall that was built in 1984 to commemorate the sacrifice of soldiers who fought bravely in the Korean War, as well as the Landing Operation, led by UN Commander in Chief, General MacArthur.
There are two indoor exhibitions which showcase armaments used by North and South Korea, as well a photos depicting both the war and life during the war. The outdoor exhibition features an 18-meter tall memorial tower, military weapons and vehicles, and a display of the national flags of the 16 countries that participated in the Korean War under the United Nations.
Before you visit this place, do watch “Operation Chromite”, a film based on the battle of Incheon so you can better appreciate the Incheon Landing Operation Memorial Hall. If you’re still up for more snippets on Incheon’s history, head to Incheon Metropolitan City Museum located just next door to learn about how this once war-plagued city came to prosper.
Address: 138, Cheongnyang-ro, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon / 인천광역시 연수구 청량로 138 (옥련동)
Getting here: Dongmak Station (Incheon Subway Line 1), Exit 1. Transfer to bus 6-1, 8 or 908 and get off at Songdo Resort Bus Stop (송도유원지). The memorial hall will be a five-minute walk away.
7. Marvel at Jeondeungsa Temple
Jeondeungsa Temple, located within the Samrangseong Fortress, was said to have been built by the three sons of Dangun, Korea’s founding father, during the Joseon Dynasty. The Jeondeungsa Temple used to be a sanctuary enshrining family ancestors during the Goryeo Dynasty.
The main building of the temple, Daeungbojeon, is decorated with intricate carvings that is a superlative example of the mid-Joseon Dynasty’s architecture. If you look closely, you will spot many sculptures and carvings hidden in the most obscure places.
If you haven’t noticed by now, Incheon is a city filled with rich history, especially pertaining to wars and this temple is no exception. Along the walls and columns surrounding Daeungbojeon, you will find the names of soldiers who fought against the French Navy in 1866. It is said that these soldiers wrote their names in Jeondeungsa to pray for good luck during the war.
Address: 37-41, Jeondeungsa-ro, Gilsang-myeon, Ganghwa-gun, Incheon / 인천광역시 강화군 길상면 전등사로 37-41 (길상면)
Getting here: Sinchon Station (Seoul Subway Line 2), Exit 4. Walk straight for 300m to the bus stop, and take bus 3100 to Jeondeungsa Temple Rear Gate (전등사후문) bus stop.
8. Refresh yourself at the Spasis Jjimjilbang
After all the history lessons and exploring, you deserve to relax and recharge at an authentic jjimjilbang (traditional Korean bathhouse). Spasis is the largest jjimjilbang in Incheon, spanning five stories, and is highly recommended by both locals and travellers alike!
On the fifth floor, there’s a roof-top pool where kids can play, and a mini-bar so parents can sip on beers while watching their children. The fourth floor houses an indoor play area, a movie theater, gym, sleeping area, and food options. You can also opt to play board games here for a minimal fee of KRW3000 (~S$3.70) per hour. Head to the third floor, and you’ll find an outdoor sauna, cave rooms, and a snack bar. The second-floor houses various sauna rooms like the oxygen room, charcoal room, and the salt room.
Whether you are only stopping over for a couple of hours, or visiting for a few days, this is one attraction you must head to. Time to invigorate your soul!
Address: 263 Gyeongin-ro, Dohwa 1-dong, Nam-gu, Incheon / 인천 광역시 남구 도화로 1-동 263
Getting here: Take a ten-minute walk from Dohwa Station (Gyeongin Line)
Incheon may be a small city, and to most of us, it may only serve the purpose of being the gateway to Seoul. But in reality, Incheon is a gem with many stories to tell that’s waiting to be discovered.
Next time you’re laying over in Incheon, or before you make that trip to Seoul, spend a few hours relishing the untold beauty this glorious city has to offer. You may just fall in love with it