Layover Challenge: Ten Hours in Seoul
Between your starting point and destination, you find yourself stuck in Incheon Airport with a ten hour layover.
While I'll admit that Incheon Airport has some pretty awesome food and activities, getting out and exploring Seoul for a few hours is not something you should pass up. So put your bags in a locker and let's head to Hongdae!
I'll walk you through the whole thing here:
1. Take the Airport Train In
After going through immigration and storing your bags, hope on the Incheon Airport Rail. You'll need a transportation card which you can pick up at the station as well as 9,000won round trip.
This takes about 75 minutes one way, and don't count on the train being ready to depart right when you want it to. I always suggest giving yourself a full 90 minutes each way and remembering to leave ample time for security and check in when you come back to the airport.
Get to Hongdae Station and come out exit 9 (the signs are very clear in English)
2. Get Some Street Food!
Hongdae is known for its street food, street musicians, and shopping. After coming out exit 9 you're probably going to be in a huge crowd of people. Hongdae is busy from around 1pm to 1am every day but its all part of the experience. Walk to this street and get ready to eat!
Most food items are around $2-3 so you'll need cash - there are ATMs in the subway station and they all have English capabilities. Or, you could change some money at the airport!
There is a lot of food to choose from so I suggest walking the whole street before deciding on what to get. There is nothing worse the buyers remorse when food shopping :)
3. Take Sticker Photos
These are always a fun keepsake and a totally fun experience here in Hongdae. This particular photo shop (Star Photo) also offers free accessories so you can get the change to dress in hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) without having to go to one of those expensive hanbok cafes. The photo chop blasts Kpop and is a fun young atmosphere.
4. See The Hello Kitty Cafe
Now this is totally optional, but why would you pass up the chance to see an entire house dedicated to Hello Kitty!? Now they have someone to seat you so you can't just wander in like you used to but you can hang out outside, visit the photo booth, and the gift shop! Here's where it is on a map.
5. Hang Out in a Local Cafe to People Watch
If this is a layover, that means you're probably traveling a lot and are going to be tired. Don't push yourself too much and instead kick back, relax, and enjoy the view. Coffeesmith is a huge cafe in Hongdae that has wifi, plugs, windows for people watching, and tons of seats. Take time to enjoy and just absorb the atmosphere.
6. Visit Hongdae Playground
This playground has been in dramas, movies, and music videos, so chances are you know this little playground already. During the weekends it is a free market and the perfect place to pick up unique handmade souvenirs from local artist. During the week it is just a fun place to hang out where people come to sit, play, and often practice music!
7. Last Minute Shopping
You're probably running short on time, so head back to the main shopping area and hit up the beauty shops for some fun souvenirs. Face masks travel really well and this particular street is filled with options.
8. Have Time? Grab Ddeokbokki!
If you still have time on your hands, head over to Gangster Ddeokbokki to try some famous spicy rice cakes served up by some ex-mafia. There are seats and room for people and bags so its a lot easier to eat there than the many ddeokbokki street carts. Just don't spill any on yourself - the person sitting next to you on your next flight won't be too pleased :)
9. Grab Snacks and Head Back
Time to head into a 7/11, grab some Korean snacks to pack for home, and get back on the subway.