Incheon (Seoul), Korea
Everything about this Korean megalopolis feels dynamic and future-forward, whether it’s the latest technology in tricked-out shopping malls or the “Gangnam Style” global phenomenon. But amidst the hypermodern skyscrapers an ancient culture persists in traditional teahouses, street markets, and thousand-year-old temples. Seoul's cruise port is located in Incheon — also the site of the international airport — about 90 minutes northwest of the city center.
What We Love
Korean Day Spas and Beauty Treatments: Visitors can get a taste of traditional wellness and beauty remedies. Many day spas offer jade saunas and the famous Korean salt scrubs that leave your skin as soft as a newborn baby’s.
Nightlife: The bohemian, low-slung neighborhood of Hapjeong, especially, is full of small bars (with varying levels of divey-ness) serving makgeolli (the local rice liquor) and kimchee pancakes well into the night. The sound track is K Pop, of course.
Best Known For
Gyeongbokgung Palace: Otherwise known as the Royal Palace, this is a classic and glorious example of imperial architecture. In addition to strolling the lovely grounds, visitors can view the changing of the guard, high on pomp and circumstance, which hasn't changed since 1469. They can also watch archery rituals and military training several times a day (except on Tuesdays).
The Demilitarized Zone: The border territory between North and South Korea is not far from the city, and has started to open up to tourism.
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Who It's Best For
Spicy Food Lovers: There’s a good reason why Korean food is having a moment in the States. The cuisine is seriously good — especially once you develop a taste for fermented foods and spice.
Urban Explorers: You never lose sight of the fact that you’re in a big, modern city (except in the Royal Palace).
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Room Temperatures Can Be Higher Than What You're Used to: Many American visitors report that restaurants and other public spaces can feel a bit too hot for their tastes. Dress respectfully (shoulders and knees covered) but not in your coldest-temperature gear.
Air Quality Isn’t the Greatest: Smog and dust clouds have been blowing over from China, and on some days, residents are advised to stay inside.
Ann Abel is a Brooklyn-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Departures.