Back in the summer of 2017, I remember being stumped by an invite to spend a day exploring Incheon by my friends. ‘Incheon?‘ I thought, ‘what else is there besides an airport?‘. Foolish me! I think part of the reason for my lack of knowledge about Incheon and its attractions is that being so close to the vibrant city of Seoul, I become so dazzled by the capital that I forget to look beyond it to the neighbouring towns and cities.
Picking up on my friends’ interest to go, I decided to do a bit of casual research prior to our trip. How quickly I saw the error of my initial assumptions! My computer was flooded with pictures, blog posts, and dozens of recommended attractions and activities, all of which were dead set on teaming up against me, mocking my initial pessimism.
And so, equipped with this new knowledge, I prepared to join my friends on their exploration to this seemingly new side of Incheon I had never realised existed before. From Seoul station to Incheon station, it takes just over an hour by train. For a city seemingly so close to Seoul, Incheon is a substantial distance from the capital! We spent a brief 4-5 hours in Incheon, but it’s definitely worth spending a few days here to really get the most out of it.
Our first port of call was China Town (인천 차이나타운). Incheon’s China Town was a result of the opening of Incheon Port in 1883. As you can imagine, in the past the area was filled with mostly stores trading imported goods from China.
Now, however, the area is a tourist hotspot! With Chinese restaurants and cafes thriving, it’s not uncommon to see people queuing outside establishments waiting to be seated. It’s easy to see why: the residents of Incheon’s China Town are 2nd and 3rd generation descendants of settlers from China, ensuring the authentic tastes of China in their recipes!
The buildings are exactly what you would expect to see in any China Town – bedecked in bold-red, with Chinese characters signposted along the streets and across buildings.
As well as restaurants and cafes, there’s plenty of street food to be had as well. Be sure to try the (albeit Korean) pumpkin pancakes, especially in winter!
Our next, and last, stop was Incheon’s Fairy Tale Village (송월동 동화마을), located close to Incheon’s China Town. The creation of this wonderfully vibrant village was a bid to aid and maintain the area’s development as people gradually moved elsewhere in Korea in the years following the opening of Incheon Port.
The village is literally covered in beautiful murals from familiar and unfamiliar fairy tales. If you’re a lover of Disney, you’ll fall in love with this place.
The murals come in all shapes and sizes, blending seamlessly with the shape and structure of their surroundings, across walls or along a flight of stairs, even following the edges of a building, or as separate frames placed alongside the original environmental structures.
Whatever the placement, the effect is undeniable. Children and adults alike come in their hundreds to walk the streets of this village, admiring the colourful artworks as they go.
Best of all are the food stalls selling themed treats! Dolphin-shaped toastie-like snacks immediately caught my eye. These tasty morsels come in a variety of flavours, including steak with cheese and vegetables. Yum!
Though the most popular treat, being as it was summer, proved to be the rose-shaped ice cream. On ordering, you get to choose three flavours for your own personalised rose ice cream. One flavour for the base, another for the leaves, and the final flavour for the petals. I went with green tea and chocolate for my rose. Imagine: edible chocolate flowers! It’s a great twist on regular ice cream – I LOVED IT, and I’m sure it’ll be a hit with children too!
My day in Incheon turned out better than I anticipated. I definitely plan to set aside a decent amount of time in order to fully explore the city like it deserves.
It just goes to show you even the most obvious things can surprise you, as trite as it sounds. Hey what can I say? It’s true!