Incheon Travel Guide
While it is best known for being home to Korea’s largest international airport, Incheon is a worthy destination in and of itself. It was here where Allied forces launched a major invasion of North Korean occupied territory, and where Korea first opened up to the world in the 19th century.
With several beautiful islands off its coast, Incheon is also a jumping off point for those looking to escape Seoul for the weekend – if you are staying in the country as an expat, you’ll want to check out Incheon as well.
Come check out our Incheon cultural travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Incheon, South Korea.
Start your time in the Incheon area by delving back into its past at the Incheon Landing Operation Memorial Hall. This sombre attraction pays tribute to the landing of UN troops during the Korean War that helped turn the tide of this conflict.
70,000 South Korean and Allied soldiers, supported by over 260 warships, took the North Koreans by surprise on September 15, 1950. It took four days, but their capture of Incheon ended a string of North Korean victories that had pushed the Allies back to a small perimeter around Busan.
Within, you’ll find a collection of weapons, photos, and other war memorabilia, as well as an 18-metre high monument that stands in tribute to the fallen.
South Korea is a mostly homogeneous nation, with over 98% of the population identifying as ethnically Korean. However, Incheon has been an outlier for generations as the only place in Korea with a sizable Chinese population.
Today, Incheon Chinatown remains an enclave for who trace their lineage to mainland China. It was founded in 1883 following the opening of the port to foreign traders – while the trading stores have long since reverted to Korean control, many restaurants here are still owned and operated by 3rd generation Chinese.
While Chinese restaurants are common throughout South Korea, many dishes have been altered to suit local tastes – this makes the establishments found here a great place to sample authentic Chinese cuisine.
Once an abandoned tract of housing dating back to South Korea’s less prosperous past, Songwol-dong Fairytale Village has become a textbook example of adaptive reuse. A couple of decades ago, local authorities came up with a plan to revitalize Songwol-dong, an Incheon neighbourhood that was losing people (especially youth) in droves.
The place was radically transformed – drab, decaying buildings were painted in storybook colours, walls were dressed with cartoonish murals, and artwork themed around childhood fairytales were installed.
The result was dramatic: word about the neighbourhood spread all around Korea, drawing scores of domestic tourists. With tonnes of Instagrammable walls, delightful sights, and mascots you can get selfies with, Songwol-dong Fairytale Village is a fantastic way for families or the young at heart to spend an afternoon.
Need to leave the city behind for a weekend? Follow locals and expats and board a ferry bound for Muuido Island. While this isle is just a three-minute sail away from Incheon, it may as well be three hours away – its beaches, thick forests, and its mountainous interior make for an exotic atmosphere.
With beach huts and bungalows available for rent, overnight stays are possible here – just don’t forget to bring the soju with you!
Looking for a marine getaway that is a little less wild? Visit Wolmido Island for an afternoon – here, you can find a variety of smaller attractions that will keep you busy. Start with the Korean Traditional Gardens, which are set up with impressive flower beds, pavilions, and water features.
Afterwards, move on to the Wolmi Cultural Center – this place will fill you in on the history of Incheon while giving you the chance to dress up in traditional Korean garb. Have kids with you? Be sure to drop by the Wolmi Amusement Park. The rides here will amuse those of all ages, but we wary of some of the more daring ones – safety standards in Korea are a bit laxer than those found in the West.
If you find yourself dreaming about beaches after coming back from your visit to Muuido Island, make a quick trip to Eurwangni Beach. A wide crescent beach famous for its white sand, it can get quite busy during the high season, so arrive earlier in the day if you hope to stake out a prime spot.
Incheon is in the process of reinventing itself – a trip to Songdo Central Park will make that clear. A stylish green space surrounded by gleaming, futuristic skyscrapers, visitors here will want to pull up a chair at a cafe and watch as the citizens of this fantastic community go about their daily lives.
Have time to kill before heading to the airport? Salvage your day in Incheon by going shopping at Hyundai Premium Outlet Songdo. This multi-floor mall is open to brands like Coach, Lacoste, and Nike, giving you plenty of options to pick from before catching your flight home.