This story was created in partnership with: Incheon Tourism Organization
When you think of South Korea, your mind likely conjures up images of ultra-modern cities and futuristic skyscrapers, but there’s so much more to this destination than contemporary, cutting-edge facades.
In fact, there are plenty of places you can visit that will have you feeling as though you’re travelling through time, discovering everything from centuries-old traditions to state-of-the-art architecture all in one day.
Incheon in particular, is a city where you can find all three — past, present, and future — coexisting side by side. Home to the country’s largest airport and located an easy one-hour journey from Seoul, Incheon has managed to preserve its cultural heritage while also looking to the future — and that’s only one of many reasons you should consider adding it to your South Korea itinerary.
Read on to learn how you can experience both the modern and historic sides of this largely underrated city.
Travel back in time
From ancient traditions to fascinating museums, these Incheon attractions will help you discover Korean culture as you travel through various time periods.
Explore Open Port Area
A historically significant area situated near Chinatown, Open Port Area offers a window into the past with various architectural styles from the late 1800s.
Kick your sightseeing off here with a visit to the Incheon Open Port Museum, which is housed in a building that formerly served as a branch of Japan’s 18th Bank. Through the museum’s engaging exhibitions, you can embark on a historic journey through the city’s fascinating past.
Jung-gu Life Center is another noteworthy attraction in this area, offering a glimpse of life in Jung-gu (a district in Incheon) throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
Learn about the ancient art of hanji
Discover the centuries-old tradition of hanji — the ancient art of Korean papermaking — at Lee Dak Hanji Art Cafe-Gallery. Created from the bark of mulberry trees, hanji is widely used in a number of different ways, from everyday items to letter paper and as material for handicrafts.
Not only can you learn all about this unique practice here, but you can also try your hand at hanji and make a one-of-a-kind souvenir to take home.
Visit Ganghwa Island
Ganghwa Island (sometimes also called Ganghwado), is located northwest of Incheon’s downtown core, and is easily accessible by bus. Dotted with sprawling valleys, pine forests, and mountain peaks, this rural destination allows visitors to experience a completely different side of South Korea, away from the country’s frenetic cities.
There are so many natural and manmade wonders to see here, and you could easily spend a full day exploring historic attractions, hidden temples, beaches, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The 1,700-year-old Jeondeungsa Temple, Ganghwa Dolmen Park (which is famous for its scattered giant stones dating back to the Bronze age), and Chojijin Fortress are a few places you absolutely can’t miss here.
Step back into the present
After you’ve immersed yourself in Incheon’s fascinating past and discovered exactly what makes Korean heritage so unique, it’s time to experience the everyday destinations that make this city tick.
Incheon Grand Park
For a bit of respite from the hustle and bustle, head to Incheon Grand Park, the largest urban green space in the city. Surrounded by two mountains — Gwanmosan Mountain and Sangassan Mountain — and encompassing an area of 727 acres, this park offers visitors the chance to experience the best of Incheon’s leafy, natural landscapes.
Home to an array of fantastic restaurants and museums, Incheon’s historic Chinatown is the only one of its kind in Korea, making it a worthwhile stop for anyone interested in food and culture. One of the country’s favourite dishes, jjajangmyeon (black soy bean noodles), is a must-try here, as the dish is said to have originated right in this very spot.
Sinpo International Market
Historically a hub for international trade and popular for selling crafts and everyday items, this lively market is now a haven for foodies. If you want to fill up on mouth watering street food and Korean staples, there’s no better place to sample an assortment of local delicacies — be it the famous dish of dakgangjeong (deep-fried chicken), tteokbokki (spicy rice cake), or kimbap (seaweed rice rolls).
Get a glimpse of the future
Designated as one of the world’s first smart cities, Incheon’s Songdo boasts a wide range of innovative technologies in its infrastructure, including digitally advanced buildings and sensors built into the streets to monitor everything from traffic flow to energy use.
For a high-tech utopia, Songdo surprisingly has an abundance of green space — the largest of which is Songdo Central Park, a 100-acre seaside park inspired by its New York City namesake. This is where you can go to escape the concrete jungle and joy activities like boating and cycling.
Once you’ve explored the best of Songdo on ground level, experience the city from a completely different perspective at G Tower Songdo, a 150-metre structure with a free observation deck on the 33rd floor.