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People flock to Incheon’s Chinatown in search of authentic Chinese cuisine in South Korea and to see the iconic red lanterns hanging from the windows. In 1884, the region was leased to Qing China and is now recognized as the birthplace of the Korean-Chinese delicacy jjajangmyeon. That should give you an idea of what you’ll find there. Though authentic Korean-Chinese food is available, authentic Chinese food is more difficult to come by.
Although this is something to be conscious of, it’s still a nice place to visit to eat and stroll while learning about the port city that is still home to descendants of the area’s first Chinese settlers. Colorful gates greet visitors as they enter the tiny but lively neighborhood. Food and sweets are delivered door to door in the streets and alleys. All of this adds up to a fantastic day trip from Seoul.
How to Get to Chinatown in Incheon
By Subway: Make sure your T-Money Card is purchased and topped up. Seoul’s subway system extends all the way to Incheon Chinatown. Incheon Subway Station is where you can get on and off. Exits 1, 2, and 3 all come to a halt directly in front of the area.
The area is easy to navigate and locate, as it is directly across the street from Incheon subway station, the final stop on the dark blue line. Don’t be afraid to venture off the main roads and down the back alleys. There are parks and vibrant buildings everywhere, as well as small game shops and eateries.
Incheon’s Chinatown: A Brief History
When Chinese immigrants crossed the ocean for work, this district was founded in 1883, around the same time as the Incheon Port opened. Incheon was designated as a Ching Dynasty extraterritoriality, and the ‘Incheon Chinese Society’ was established soon after. There were over 1000 Chinese residents in the area by 1900.
More than 50,000 overseas Chinese and second and third generations of early Chinese settlers now live in the region. The city, however, fell into disrepair for a time and had a high level of poverty before the government saw an opportunity to develop the country’s only official “Chinatown,” which is now a bustling area and one of Incheon’s most popular tourist destinations. Incheon’s Chinatown is on everyone’s top ten list of things to do in Incheon, and for a good reason: it’s a lot of fun.
What to See and Enjoy in Incheon’s Chinatown
When approaching Chinatown from the subway station, the first thing you’ll notice is the lovely gold and red Paifang, or traditional Chinese gateway. Junghwamun, Seolinmun, Inhwamun, and Hanjungmun are the names of four Paifangs in Chinatown. When you walk the streets and circle in and out, you’ll be able to see them all.
The Massive Entry Gate to Paeru
Chinatown can be located directly across the subway station and welcomes all tourists. Chinese people used to stand at the gate and give prayers in the late 1800s, and locals claimed the gate kept ghosts at bay.
You should visit Wiseondang
Wiseondang is the only Chinese-style temple/shrine left in Korea. It was built in 1893 and featured a vibrant mural on its yellow exterior walls. Within the temple, remember to be respectful of the inner shrine area and refrain from photographing it.
Samgukji Mural Street
This 150-meter-long street is lined with murals depicting the Three Kingdoms tale. It’s a look at the Chinese fables you’ve probably heard about, depicting the heroes of the time. Murals and street art can be found all over the city, but this is one of the most common.
Famous Restaurants in Incheon Chinatown
Gong Hwa Chun Restaurant
Perhaps the most popular in the city, this four-story restaurant stands out along the street with its grand exterior. The original jjajangmyeon creator, the restaurant, has been serving bowls of the delicacy since the early 1900s and is still going strong.
While jjajangmyeon is popular in this region, this restaurant stands out by serving white jjambbong. The dish has been served at this small restaurant near Gonghwachun since the 1980s, and the chef is the grandson of the original chef who passed down the unique recipe.
Where You Can Stay and Spend Your Day
You COULD TRY to do them all in one day, but why not spend the night and have a great weekend getaway spot? The Best Western Harbor Park Hotel is the closest hotel to Incheon’s Chinatown and the other cool neighborhoods in the city, and it has a great view of the port.
There is plenty to do in the surrounding area. After seeing Incheon Chinatown, walk up the road to Songwol-dong Fairytale Village, which is basically the next neighborhood. Any of the characters in the murals and sculptures would be familiar to you. Don’t skip Incheon Art Platform, which is located on the same block and is easily accessible by foot.
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Don’t forget to check out these other South Korea travel posts:
- Best Places to Visit in Incheon for Nature Lovers
- Solo Women Travelers Guide to Incheon
- 8 Korean Islands For Day Trips Near Seoul and Incheon Port That Aren’t Jeju or Nami
- 10 Interesting Facts About South Korea You Need To Know!