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Exploring the city beyond Incheon’s pioneering airport

Nicknamed ‘The Winged City’, Incheon takes tech innovation to new heights. Whether you’re sipping coffee served by robots or swiping sensors in Songdo, Incheon is paving the way for ‘smart cities’ all over the world. Meanwhile, a rich historical landscape lies at its heart, with ancient temples and traditional markets, Ice Age structures and island palaces. See it all from the Art Paradiso Hotel – a boutique urban retreat that fuses the elegance of the old city with cutting-edge art and design.

Art paradiso hotel

HIGH FLIERS

Setting the scene with its state-of-the-art airport, Incheon is a hot-spot for new technologies. Step off the plane into an ultra-modern travel hub with multi-lingual assistance robots – as well as an ice rink, golf course, indoor gardens and robot café. Tempting though it is to investigate the airport spa, there are two excellent traditional alternatives in Songdo (Spasis and Blue Ocean) that are well worth the wait. Or, for truly private pampering, check in to the Art Paradiso hotel with its 24-hour fitness facilities, sauna, pool and Jacuzzi.

SUSTAINABLE SONGDO

Incheon’s waterfront is home to the pioneering business district of Songdo – where the buildings, traffic lights, and even the waste disposal systems are computerised. And if entertainment’s what you’re after, NC Cube Canal Walk and Central Park will not disappoint. For excellent shopping head for NC Cube – this unusual street is split into four passages, each representing a different season, and incorporates a seawater canal. Over at the sci-fi-sounding Dream City and Millennium buildings you can find an intriguing array of entertainment, including a bowling alley, a 5-D theatre, and noraebang – quintessential Korean karaoke.

As a nod to its New York namesake, Central Park is the green, tree-lined oasis that softens the Songdo high-rises. With a canal to canoe on, free-roaming deer and water taxis to cruise along in, the urban park is a popular spot for picnics, with views of the sparkling Smart City. Time your visit with the late autumn and winter lighting festivals to see the park transformed with bright sculptures and illuminations.

Songdo central park

FIERY FOOD AND FAIRY TALES

For a colourful afternoon, head to Jung-gu’s impressive Chinatown for mouth-watering street food and swaying red lanterns. People who like their food fiery should head to Qing Guan restaurant for hot and savoury dishes in the Sichuan style. Whilst authentic Chinese fare can be tricky to find, the Korean-Chinese delicacies are exceptional. In between stall-hopping, be sure to wander down Samgukji Mural Street, where the heroes of Chinese fables adorn the tiled walls (and provide great photo opportunities).

Skirting the edge of Chinatown is Jayu Park, a great spot for a breather among the artistic architecture. The route through the park brings you to the eccentric village of Songwol-dong – a village that’s been playfully renovated to look like a fairy tale theme park. As you walk through the rainbow gates you’re met with a sea of dazzling colour, cartoons and candy-striped awnings. Street sculptures, murals and even roaming mascots greet you as you explore this quirky part of town.

A camera is a must-have for Songwol-dong – keep a particular eye out for the inventive alterations to the drainpipes, manhole covers and streetlamps. It can be hard to remember that this is a real village with living residents as you pose for pictures next to Cinderella, but you’ll also see the villagers going about their day-to-day lives between the bright cafés and mural-clad houses.

Wind down after a day’s exploration with cocktails at the Art Paradiso’s Serasé restaurant. Or head further into Paradise City for art and entertainment including a casino, games consoles and billiards on the world’s first pool table made of glass. To finish your day, kick back with around-the-clock room service in your suite or take a dip in the outdoor pool as you watch the sun set against this futuristic city.

Korean Food