Incheon is just an hour outside Seoul and originally opened as a port in 1883. Its position on the West Sea helped it to flourish due to its trade with China and sea links to the rest of the world.
What to see and do
Today Incheon is a buzzing, cosmopolitan city but in 1950 Korea was torn by war between the South and North and Incheon was the site of a United Nations force landing. Led by General MacArthur, the combined UN forces landed behind enemy lines and had all but defeated the North Koreans when China entered the conflict on the side of the communist north, leading to a 3 year war and the eventual division of Korea.
The landings are commemorated by a statue of MacArthur in Freedom (Jayu) Park. The Incheon Landings Memorial Museum is in Songdo and along with relics of the Koran War shows newsreels of the conflict.
Next door is the Incheon Municipal Museum with its excellent collection of Celadon pottery.
Incheon has the only officially recognised Chinatown in Korea and as expected is full of restaurants and shops.
The waterfront area of Wolmido is also a great place to eat with its fresh seafood restaurants, promenade with views along the seafront, boats and nearby islands. It is also lively with bars and cafes, outdooor concerts and boat trips.
For shopping go to Guwoldong where there are many large depatment stores and designer shops, or to Bupeong.
Yeongjong Bridgeis a magnificant site – it is the longest self–anchored suspension bridge in the world, the 6th longest bridge in the world and links the mainland to Yeongjong Island and Korea’s award winning international airport at Incheon.
To escape the 21st century bustle and get a taste of the traditional Korea visit the 4th century Jeondeungsa Temple.
Easily reached from Incheon by subway is Seoul, Korea’s capital city and financial centre. Here the ultra modern and high tech exist comfortably side by side with the ancient and traditional.
Seoul was the capital of of the Joseon Dynasty for 500 years and there 5 perfectly preserved palaces from this era in the city, including Gyeongbokgung and the UNESCO listed Changdeokgung. Another of Koreas 10 UNESCO sites – the Jongmyo Shrine is also in Seoul.
Shopping in Seoul is an amazing experience which reflects the country’s mix of the old and new. There are modern malls such as those in the Myeondong district and at COEX selling designer goods, the fashion area of Dongdaemun, traditional markets such as at Namdaemun selling local produce and ginseng, the electronics market at Yongsan with its 5,000 stores selling state of the art gadgets, and the art, craft and antique market at Insadong.
Another of Seoul’s landmarks is the N Seoul Towerwith its restaurant and observation area offering panoramic views of Seoul.
In contrast is Bukchon Hanok Village. Situated between Gyeongbokgung and Chagdeokgung Palaces, the Bukchon area was the home to the court officials of the Joseon dynasty. The houses here have been preserved and give an excellent insight into the traditional Korean homes of 100 years ago.
Evidence of Korea’s more recent turbulent history can be found 1 hour outside Seoul at the Demilitarised Zone. Created as part of the armistice that divided Korea after the Korean War it has ironically become a major tourist attraction. From the observation areas one can peer into the isolationist communist state of North Korea and even descend into tunnels that were built by the North to infiltrate the South.
Where to eat
Incheon has many excellent restaurants. Bupyeong and the Arts Centre are the main places for restaurants. Also Songdo has many quality restaurants, mainly specialising in Korean and Japanese food. Well renowned restaurants here are Kungbokung, Nagoya or Sapporo. Chinatown also has many good Chinese restaurants as well as the Café Castle, a small leafy intimate venue that does fantastic coffee and sweets.
Where to drink
Situated in the heart of Bupyeong, Woodstock is a western bar popular among expats in Incheon. This is a small relaxing venue with pleasant decor good service and great beer.
Where to stay
Close to the airport there’s a five-star luxury hotel, the Hyatt Regency which is a smart combination of contemporary design and state of the art technology providing world-class luxury. The Sheraton Incheon Hotel has a fully equipped fitness centre and indoor swimming pool.
Incheon Fact file
- 36km west of Seoul
- Population of 2.8 million
- Climate mild in spring and autumn, cold and dry winter, hot and humid in summer, monsoon season during summer months
|Population||49m, of which nearly 11m are in Seoul.|
|Climate||Mild in Spring and Autumn, can be hot and humid in summer and with cold winters.|
|Currency||Korean Won (approx KRW1,750 = £1)|
|Time Zone||GMT +9 hours|
|Useful Websites||Read the Korean Cruise Guide here|