Mention the word ‘Incheon' and most will think of the international airport that acts as a gateway to Seoul and not much else. However, Incheon is also South Korea’s third largest city behind Seoul and Busan, and naturally has a number of attractions unique to the city.
Incheon could be a place you’d like to explore if you’re looking for somewhere to take as a day trip out of Seoul, yet is connected to Seoul’s subway network, making it an inexpensive and easy day trip; or if you’ve got some extra time on your layover.
What to Do & See in Incheon
Everyone knows about Incheon’s Chinatown, and it will be the first thing you see once you exit the subway station you’ve just sat on for over an hour to get to (more on how to get to Incheon below).
The gate of Chinatown has become an icon of Incheon, and was erected to ward off ghosts and offer prayers. It also leads to endless rows of restaurants and street food.
The most famous of which is most definitely jjajangmyeon, and there’s a restaurant here that shot to popularity after being featured on popular Korean variety show Running Man. There’s even a museum dedicated to these Chinese black bean noodles that have now become a part of the Korean national cuisine.
Continue eating your way through Chinatown with dumplings, meat skewers, mooncakes and more.
Samgukji Mural Street
If you’re familiar with Chinese folklore, you’ll have heard of the Three Kingdoms, and presents itself as an uphill wall along the street with murals dedicated to that very tale’s significant events.
The murals themselves are beautiful, however they are all written in Korean.
Songwol-dong Fairytale Village
If you’ve got kids or the young at heart in tow, they’ll love this colourful area that pays homage to famous characters from fairytales.
Streets are painted like in the cartoons, and there are many statues around where you can get plenty of photo ops.
Many mural villages you’ll find are initiated as a way to breathe new life into a neighbourhood or area, and I can certainly appreciate the idea behind art revitalising urban spaces, even if the medium of fairytale characters might not be my personal cup of tea.
Hop on buses 2, 10, 23 and 45 from the Chinatown stop just outside Incheon station to get to Wolmido Island, a harbour with a theme park, restaurants facing the sea, and a lighthouse.
Walking along the boulevard is pretty nice in good weather, watch out for the seagulls overhead though!
Songdo Central Park
This part of the itinerary I’ll leave up to you— as it takes over an hour by bus or subway to get to Songdo Central Park from Chinatown / Incheon Station.
By the time you hit Wolmido, chances are it’ll probably already be dusk, especially if you’ve spent a couple hours walking around and getting lost in the streets above.
However, I wanted to go to Songdo Central Park for the stunning cityscape.
Songdo is known as the Incheon of the future, featuring towering glass skyscrapers and futuristic looking buildings all around. Songdo Central Park is a sprawling area of greenery, complete with water taxis on a man-made water channel. I got some absolutely stunning shots of the sun setting over the city skyline as it burned orange on the horizon.
It’s a nice place to have a picnic, walk around, or have a family day out, but I wouldn’t put it as a must-see over Chinatown and the area around it per se.
Jayu Park is famous for the statue of General McArthur who liberated Incheon, which could be interesting for history buffs. The park also offers some pretty nice views as it is located on Mount Eungbongsan.
Sinpo Market is located near the port, and is where you’ll find a scene not unlike any other Korean market you’ve been to, with street food and other endless options, clothing and other products.
Sorae Fish Market offers Incheon’s freshest catch of the day; bear in mind that Incheon is a port city after all. As with many other fish markets, buy the seafood you’d like on the first floor and bring them up to the restaurants on the second floor to have them cooked.
How to Get to Incheon
From Incheon International Airport
Take the Airport Railroad Line and board at Incheon Int’l Airport Terminal 1 (or 2) Station Board where you’ll change at Geomam Station to get to Line 2, where you’ll take the train to Juan Station. From Juan Station, you’ll transit to Line 1, and arrive at Incheon Station.
The journey will take you about 1.5 hours, but use KakaoMap or Naver Map to make this less confusing for you.
A bus is a faster way to get to Incheon and requires less changing, but you’ll still have to change buses once.
Hop on bus 306 or 306A, changing at Dongincheon Station where you’ll hop on to bus 23 to get to Incheon Station.
Again, use Korean navigation apps to help you get around.
Wherever you are in Seoul, you’ll hop on the subway till you find yourself on Line 1 where you’ll take it all the way to Incheon.
Mind, even on Line 1, you may or may not have to get off the train and switch platforms due to the layout of the subway map. So do pay attention as I stayed on a train too long and ended up heading in the wrong direction multiple times even though I got on at the right stations heading the right direction at first and proceeded to just mind everything else on my phone but my navigation apps.
You’ll receive the most appropriate and timely information on Naver Map and KakaoMap.
Incheon, in a Day
Overall, whilst I enjoyed my day trip to Incheon, I only did it because I had so much time in Seoul.
Seoul is a huge city, and requires at least 5 days to hit the highlights properly, and more if you’d like to stop at some of the up-and-coming neighbourhoods or while away the time over one of many beautiful Korean cafes.
Incheon isn’t a world away from Seoul.
It is, like any other major Korean city, with the exact kind of sights you’d expect to see, with Chinatown being the sole exception.
I really wouldn’t choose to spend more than a day in Incheon, especially when it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to get from Seoul.
If you have time for only one day trip from Seoul, make it the historic city of Suwon which is South Korea’s last walled city, and a city wall that measures almost a whopping 6 kilometres. There’s plenty to see and do to keep you busy too!