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Consistently ranked one of the best airports in the world thanks to its excellent service, safety, efficiency, and amenities, South Korea’s Incheon International Airport is essentially a destination in itself. Whether you’re stopping over for a few hours or an entire day, the facility offers so much to do and see that you might actually end up loving your layover. Here’s how to make the most of it.
With a wide variety of coffee shops, fast food joints, snack shops, and sit-down restaurants, there’s no shortage of food options at Incheon International.
If you need to grab food and go, stop by Paris Baguette, Shake Shack, Jamba Juice, or Burger King, which all have multiple locations throughout the airport. Bibigo (Exit 8, 1F, Terminal 1), a casual Korean eatery serving up various bibimbap dishes, is yet another great option for a quick bite.
For something a bit more traditional, opt for a soul-soothing bowl of seolleungtang (beef bone soup) at Gaeop Sikdang (Center of Public Area 1BF, Terminal 1) or cave-ripened kimchi stew at Botongsiktak (Gate 252 on 4F, Terminal 2). You can even sample the flavors of Korea’s most popular street foods at at K-STREET FOOD (east of Public Area 4F, Terminal 1) without even having to leave the airport!
It’s no secret that Seoul is a shopping mecca for many tourists looking to pick up all the latest fashion trends and raved-about beauty products. This also rings true at Incheon International, which boasts countless shops that teem with eager shoppers every hour of the day.
Korea’s big three duty-free shop operators – Lotte, Shilla, and Shinsegae – all have stores at both of Incheon International’s terminals and feature hundreds of brands of cosmetics, alcohol, and packaged foods. There are numerous luxury shops including Burberry, Cartier, and the world’s first Louis Vuitton airport boutique for those looking for a little bling.
For Korean beauty products, head to SkinFood (Public area 1F), Innisfree, and Etude House (various locations). Jane-art (3F, Check-in Counter G) is a go-to spot for kitschy souvenirs and children’s toys.
What really sets Incheon International apart are the countless entertainment options it offers travelers.
Even if you don’t leave the terminal, you can still get a feel for Korean culture (at no cost!) at the traditional culture experience zones where you can make Korean crafts such as fans and lucky bags or watch a traditional performance.
Or, if you’re into playing dress up, you can try on a hanbok (traditional Korean dress) and partake in a mini photo shoot. There’s also the Korean Culture Museum which provides a look into the past through exhibits on traditional art, hangul (the Korean alphabet), and royal clothing, and even boasts millennium-old historical relics.
Parents will appreciate the Kids Zones (Gate 25, 4F, Terminal 1; Gate 231, 3F, Terminal 2) that offer indoor play areas for young children as well as the Ice Forest, an artificial ice-skating rink, and movie theater, both located in the Transportation Center of Terminal 1.
Those looking to unwind have plenty of places to do so in peace. In addition to featuring a slew of airline and independent ‘pay’ lounges, complimentary offerings include showers, a library, and stylishly designed Nap Zones (Gate 231, 4F, Terminal 2; Gate 29, 4F, Terminal 1).
Tense and tight from your 14-hour flight? Why not stretch your legs at one of the airport’s Digital Gyms (Gates 231 and 268, 4F, Terminal 2), which engage visitors in jumping, stepping, and dunking challenges, or get a massage at the airport’s relaxing spa (Gate 25 on 4F, Terminal 1).
Of course, you could simply get away from it all and watch the airplanes as they take off from the observation deck (4F, Passenger Terminal 1) or be at one with your thoughts in the cactus, flower, and rock gardens (1F, Passenger Terminal 1).
If your layover happens to be more than a couple hours, Incheon International makes it easy for you to get out and explore the sites through a variety of transit tours, many of which are free.
Based on your preferences, two-hour tours can be arranged either to the nearby Paradise City Casino, BMW Driving Center, or the tourist attractions of Incheon. Alternatively, if you’ve got four or five hours, you can be transferred to downtown Seoul where you can visit the city’s most popular destinations or partake in a number of cultural activities. Stop by the Transit Tour Information Desk to make a reservation.
For those wishing to tour the city independently, the Airport Express (AREX) is the fastest and most convenient way to do so. The airport line shortens the travel time between Incheon Airport and Seoul Station to just 43 minutes for the non-stop express trains and 53 minutes for commuter trains.
Should you want to drop off your luggage while you explore, baggage storage can be found at the Transportation Center on the B1 level of both Terminals 1 and 2.
Need some shuteye in between flights, but don’t want to travel far from the airport?
Darakhyu (Transportation Center, 1F, Terminal 1; Transportation Center, B1F East Wing, Terminal 2) is a capsule hotel that offers a variety of private rooms that feature comfortable beds and a wide variety of amenities such as smart lights and thermostats that can be controlled from your smartphone. Prices start at 23,000 won ($21) for three hours or 56,000 won ($52) for an overnight stay. Alternatively, Spa On Air (Public Area, B1, East Wing End, Terminal 1) is a jjimjilbang (Korean spa) that offers relaxing baths and a public sleeping area.
Note that these accommodations tend to book up quickly, so it’s best to make reservations in advance.
No matter how you spend your time at Incheon International Airport, it’s certain that your layover will be an enjoyable one. Happy travels!