When Aclipse helped me get placed at a Chungdahm branch in Incheon in November 2011, I immediately started doing my research. I was pleased to see that it's the third largest city in Korea and it's next door to Seoul -- meaning popping into the city for weekend adventures would be a cinch. However, I quickly noticed that there's a serious lack of Incheon-coverage in the blog world. So, I present, in no particular order, my top 5 spots to check out in Incheon!
1. Incheon International Airport
Chances are, you'll be checking out the airport whether you mean to or not, simply because you'll be flying in here. But let's be real: that first visit through the airport when you arrive is going to be a blur and you're probably going to miss all of the cool things.
What makes this airport top 5 worthy? Well, for starters, it's been rated the best airport in the world for the past seven years. Also, it happens to have a spa, an ice skating rink, a casino, a golf course, and all the duty free shops you could ever want.
And check out that architectural design! This airport just looks cool, you guys.
So, while it may seem strange, by Western standards, to hang out at an airport, my students tell me it is a thing. And honestly, an airport that boasts a spa, ice skating, golfing, and the obvious shopping and restaurants? Hard to just ignore. If you don't want to make a special trip out to the airport, next time you're flying through Incheon International - on your way to Korea, on your way to a vacation, or whatever it may be - budget a little extra time just for walking around.
2. Muuido, Wolmido, & the other surrounding islands
One exciting thing about Incheon is being right on the coast. Since my days are spent surrounded by high-rise apartment buildings, I often forget that I'm about fifteen minutes away from the ocean, albeit an area that's mostly industrial shipyards. However! There are islands! Tons of them, actually. And the best part: they have beaches.
So far I've only visited Muuido, but so, so many more are on my to-do list for the summer. Muuido is great because it's easily accessible -- you catch a bus from Incheon International Airport, grab a quick ferry, and you're there. While it can be done as a day trip, you have the option of renting a pension room for super cheap rates, or you can rent a little hut on the beach (that sleeps about four people) for as little as ₩30,000 a night!
Muuido is great for summertime beach fun, Wolmido has fresh seafood and a small amusement park, and that's just the beginning. Stay tuned for more posts on the islands around Korea -- it's my goal this summer to explore as many as I can.
3. Chinatown & Jayu Park
I'm grouping these two together because they're literally next to each other, so visiting both in one go makes an excellent day trip. Incheon is home to the only "official" Chinatown in Korea! It's at the Incheon-end of the Seoul Metro Line 1, directly across from Incheon station.
Chinatown is full of delicious restaurants (make sure you stop for some jajangmyeon -- a black bean noodle dish that the area is known for!), adorable tea and coffee shops, excellent souvenir shopping, and great photo ops!
After wandering through Chinatown, head up the hill (er, mountain) to Jayu (Freedom) Park! The park gets its name from the post-Korean war era -- there's a statue of MacArthur in the park, commemorating his landing in Incheon and important role in the war's outcome. In addition to MacArthur's statue, the park has lots of other sculptures, is beautifully landscaped, and has some great views of Incheon and the port:
4. Bupyeong Ungerground Shopping Center
My dear friend Kara already wrote of the wonders to be found in Bupyeong's Underground Shopping Center, so let me just underscore how amazing this place is.
Bupyeong has everything you've ever wanted and more. It's a confusing mess of aisles, with stall after stall packed maybe a little too full -- in short, complete sensory overload. And it's awesome. Ever look at Korean fashion longingly and wonder where you can get clothes like that? Bupyeong is your place. Clothes, bags, glasses, shoes, phone accessories, party supplies, stationery, Engrish shirts to send to folks back home... It's all here. With an extra helping of the Engrish.
After you conquer the seemingly endless maze of Engrish shirts and awesome fashion, venture above ground too: there's a neat area full of name brand shopping, great restaurants, and a lively bar scene. A little more wandering will also bring you to a traditional-style market selling everything from produce to fresh fish to blankets.
5. Sorae Fish Market
Taking full advantage of being on the coast, the Sorae neighborhood of Incheon has a lively fishing industry, including its own market. The day I spent in Sorae last fall for their annual festival was probably one of the best days I've had in Korea. Even though Sorae is minutes away from my bustling, modern neighborhood, there's something about this place that feels like it hasn't changed in decades.
Buildings and buildings full of fresh seafood -- cooked, dried, fried, and some still alive. You can stock up on groceries to take home or you can pick up what you want for dinner, head to a nearby restaurant, and they'll cook it for ya. For fans of fresh fish looking for a traditional fish market experience, get to Sorae as soon as you can.
I have to say, I'm really happy that I ended up in Incheon -- it's a great city and I'm really looking forward to exploring it more! Even if you aren't placed to work at a school in Incheon, I highly recommend spending some time here.
Have you even been to Incheon? Are there any spots in Incheon that you would recommend? Leave a comment below!
Between studying Japanese and Asian culture in university and setting her sights on a teaching career, it came as no surprise when Zannah Smreker announced that she was moving to South Korea to teach for Chungdahm Learning. In November 2011, Zannah accepted a position through Aclipse with the Yeonsu branch in Incheon, just southwest of Seoul. When she's not teaching, she keeps herself busy with exploring Korea, eating all the street food, and hunting down strange Engrish shirts. Check out her blog here for more of her adventures!