From café in old church, Open Port’s timeless charm, to mega entertainment resort: Prepare to fall head over heels for Incheon

Incheon welcomes you with open arms to experience all that it has to offer.

By Karen Bong

FROM a quaint cafe hidden within a church facade and a humble restaurant along the highway to newly opened mega entertainment resort sprawling over an area the size of 64 football fields, visitors to Incheon, South Korea are bound to discover something to fall head over heels for.

Located approximately 40 kilometres or an hour’s drive from Seoul, Incheon is a vibrant city steeped in history, renowned for its bustling harbour and port. Serving as the country’s primary maritime gateway, Incheon plays a pivotal role in connecting South Korea to the rest of the world, serving as a hub for trade, commerce, and cultural exchange.

Incheon is a vibrant seaside city about 40 kilometres from Seoul.

From its ancient roots to its modern allure, there’s no shortage of captivating experiences waiting to be explored in this dynamic destination. Travellers are encouraged to take their time as they embark on a multifaceted journey through this captivating seaside city. For those short on time, a buggy ride provides a convenient way to explore some of the must-see landmarks and attractions.

Stepping into Incheon’s Open Port Area is like entering a portal to another era. This historic district, dating back to the late 19th century, was South Korea’s first international port and remains a bustling hub of activity today. Stroll along the cobblestone streets lined with charming colonial buildings, now repurposed into trendy cafes, art galleries, and boutiques. Here, the echoes of bygone eras mingle with the vibrant energy of modern life, offering visitors a glimpse into the city’s storied past.

Many colonial buildings have been repurposed into trendy cafes, art galleries, and boutiques.
Travellers will be captivated by the architecture bearing the patina of time and the various works of artists at Incheon’s Open Port Area.

Nestled within this district lies Chinatown, once a Qing Dynasty Concession Area, characterised by its streets adorned with colourful buildings in traditional Chinese style, adorned in hues of red and gold. The area is punctuated by four iconic ‘pai-lous’, huge traditional Chinese gates extending warm welcomes to visitors (Junghwamun, Inhwamun, Seollinmun, and Hanjungmun).

A trip to a temple in Little China in Incheon.
A huge traditional Chinese gate or pai-lou welcomes visitors to Incheon’s Chinatown.

Established in the late 19th century by Chinese immigrants, this lively enclave stands as a testament to the enduring cultural exchange between South Korea and China. Here, visitors can savour delectable delicacies like jajangmyeon (black bean noodles)—a dish originating from Incheon, explore ornate temples adorned with intricate dragon motifs, and immerse themselves in the diverse Chinese and Korean traditions that define this unique neighborhood.

For history enthusiasts, Three Kingdoms Mural Street offers a captivating journey through South Korea’s ancient past. Stretching along the walls of Incheon’s Wolmido Island, this outdoor gallery showcases larger-than-life murals depicting scenes from the Three Kingdoms period (57 BC–668 AD), a pivotal era in South Korean history marked by political intrigue, military conquests, and cultural achievements.

The Three Kingdoms Mural Street featuring 77 stories from the Three Kingdoms,
The Three Kingdoms Mural Street is located on the left side of the Qing and Japanese Concession Area Boundary stairs.

Wander along this picturesque promenade and marvel at the artistry that brings these ancient legends like Xiang Yu, Liu Bang, Han Xin and many others to life, offering a fascinating glimpse into Korea’s rich cultural heritage.

Perched atop Mount Jayu, meaning “freedom” in Korean, Jayu Park offers more than just panoramic views of Incheon’s skyline—it’s a symbol of liberation and resilience. Built on the site of an ancient fortress and later transformed into a symbol of South Korea’s fight for independence, this sprawling park is a tranquil oasis amidst the urban bustle. Take a leisurely stroll through lush gardens, admire the towering statue of General Douglas MacArthur, and reflect on the enduring spirit of freedom that permeates this historic landmark.

Visitors admire the towering statue of General Douglas MacArthur at Jayu Park.

Incheon gained global recognition for its pivotal role in the Korean War when it served as the site of General Douglas MacArthur’s daring Incheon Landing in 1950. This bold military maneuver, also known as Operation Chromite, turned the tide of the war and is celebrated as a symbol of South Korea’s resilience and determination.

For a deeper dive into Incheon’s culture, look no further than the Incheon Citizen’s House. Housed in a beautifully restored hanok (traditional Korean house), this cultural centre offers a diverse array of exhibitions, performances, and workshops celebrating the city’s heritage.

The Incheon Citizen’s House in a beautifully restored hanok (traditional Korean house).
Incheon;s Citizen House is a cultural centre offering a diverse array of exhibitions, performances, and workshops celebrating the city’s heritage.

Immerse yourself in traditional Korean arts and crafts, learn about the customs and traditions of Incheon’s diverse communities, and engage with local artisans preserving age-old crafts for future generations.

At the Museum of World Writing System, delve into the fascinating evolution of human communication through the ages. Explore interactive exhibits showcasing ancient scripts, alphabets, and writing systems from civilisations around the world, tracing the origins of language from its earliest forms to modern-day alphabets.

A display of Tower of Babel by Kim Seung-young at the Museum of World Writing System.
A museum dedicated to exploring writing systems, the greatest invention of the human race.

Gain a deeper appreciation for the power of words to connect, inspire, and shape the course of history, as you embark on a journey through the diverse linguistic landscape of our global community.

For those craving excitement and entertainment, Incheon’s Inspire Entertainment Resort is the ultimate playground. Located an hour from Seoul on Yeongjong Island at Incheon International Airport, this is the latest and largest South Korea’s premier entertainment destination spanning an area equivalent to 64 football fields.

The all-in-one mega resort celebrated its official grand opening on March 5, 2024. It features a five-star hotel with 1,275 rooms; a foreigners-only world-class casino; a year-round indoor water park; a live performance arena with 15,000 seats; state-of-the-art MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) facilities with the largest hotel banquet hall in South Korea; and the Inspire Mall that combines shopping, dining and entertainment spaces.

The 150-metre-long immersive ‘digital entertainment street’ known as the Aurora in Inspire Entertainment Resort.
Incheon’s Inspire Entertainment Resort is an all-in-one mega resort sprawled over 64 football fields.

One of the resort’s most breathtaking attractions is the 150-metre-long immersive ‘digital entertainment street’ known as the Aurora. This mesmerising feature presents a show every half an hour, transporting visitors to enchanting underwater worlds and lush rainforests.

Whether you’re in the mood for high-stakes gaming, gourmet dining, or live performances by top-tier artists, Inspire Entertainment Resort promises an unforgettable experience that will leave you enchanted and inspired.

After a day of adventure, visitors should make their way to Eunhaeng Namu Jib for its delectable saengson-gui (grilled fish), haemul-jeon (seafood pancake), rice with plump oysters, and an array of mouthwatering cuisines accompanied by dozens of side dishes including kimchi. This restaurant promises a warming, satisfying and wholesome meal.

Eunhaeng Namu Jib restaurant offers a tantalising array of delicacies, especially grilled fish and seafood pancake.

For a truly unique café experience, don’t miss Madelim Cafe housed within a 120-year-old church transformed into a cultural space located at 42 Yongyuseo-ro 479beo-gil in Jung-gu. This café preserves original features such as bricks and stained glass. Its Forest Hall houses a bakery and dining facilities. While its location may be secluded, it offers a serene environment perfect for unwinding with intriguing drinks like Winter Chestnut café, seolhyang strawberry latte, mojito cream latte, dalkom salkom lemonade, craft cola latte, and more.

A truly unique café housed within a 120-year-old church transformed into a cultural space.
While its location may be secluded, it offers a serene environment perfect for unwinding with intriguing drinks.

Reachable through just a few-hour flights with AirAsia from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, the airline’s latest route from its second biggest hub in Malaysia, Incheon welcomes you with open arms to experience all that it has to offer.

DayakDaily extends its appreciation to AirAsia, Korea Tourism Organisation and Incheon Tourism Organisation for orchestrating an unforgettable media trip.

AirAsia operates direct flight from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah to Seoul (Incheon), South Korea daily. You can easily purchase your ticket online through its website or via the AirAsia MOVE.

All nationals from visa-free countries/regions, including Malaysia, are required to obtain K-ETA before entering South Korea. — DayakDaily