MOST PEOPLE go to the airport to catch a flight or to pick up friends or family. It rarely crosses one’s mind that rather than just a point of departure, the airport itself could actually be a travel destination. Incheon International Airport, ranked the number one airport in the world for the past seven years by the World Airport Awards, is in fact an excellent travel destination. Not only does it boast the newest top-notch facilities, but it is also filled with entertaining and memorable attractions. So, why not follow along on this trip to the Incheon International Airport?
Getting to know the Incheon International Airport
Almost a decade after construction began in 1992, the Incheon International Airport opened its doors to the public on March 29, 2001. The airport currently accommodates 170 thousand aircraft, 27 million passengers and 1.7 million tons of air freight annually. The Incheon International Airport is divided into five sections - the passenger terminal, the cargo terminal, the moorage facilities, the navigation safety facilities and the transportation facilities. The as yet incomplete airport construction is expected to end in 2020, by which time the terminal will cover 1.1 million square meters and handle 740 thousand aircraft carrying 100 million passengers each year.
The Ice Forest
The Incheon International Airport opened its ice rink, the Ice Forest, in the summer of 2011. Located right in front of the entrance to the airport railroad, the rink is made of a special plastic that both reduces the force of an impact and prevents clothing from getting wet. This white, crystalline ice rink is not only free to use (except for the cost of the skate rental), but also provides its customers with seasonal shows. People can skate and enjoy exciting performances such as b-boy demonstrations and jazz concerts. True to its name, the Ice Forest is decorated with gold and silver chandeliers which bring about a winter wonderland-like atmosphere.
The passenger terminal
The second floor of the passenger terminal where airlines’ check-in counters are located, also houses quite a few shopping booths. There is a variety of shops selling products such as cosmetics, stationary, apparel and souvenirs.
Moving two floors up, on the fourth floor, is the Korean Traditional Culture Street. This “street,” which is one of the landmark attractions of the Incheon International Airport, was created as a space that would both attract tourists and as act as a rest area for passengers waiting for flights. Upon entering the street, one gets an immediate sense of the contrasting atmosphere. On one side of the space is the latest in architectural and interior design while on the other sits the traditional structures of the past. The components of *hanok* (Korean traditional house), such as wooden doors, roof tiles and stone mortars, are things that exist not only in history museums. Three women dressed in *hanbok** playing the *gayageum*** several times a day also grab the attention of many visitors. This area leaves spectators with a unique impression – this is where one can witness the integration of the old and new into a completely different environment.
The observatory platform situated next to the street is another well-kept secret. The platform provides a breathtaking view from atop the Incheon International Airport.
Most people are aware of the restaurants on the third and fourth floors of the departure zone, but they probably have never come across the restaurants situated on the first and basement levels. These floors host several cafeterias utilized primarily by airport employees. Customers may choose from various cuisines, ranging from Korean to Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese or Western. There is also a café where customers can use the computer, printer and Internet free of charge.
The second floor of the airport hosts the arrival zone and so it is naturally full of people waiting for their friends and family. Besides the waiting area, however, there is a long queue of different plants carefully placed down the middle of the arrivals level. More than a simple park, it is a place filled with a variety of exotic and unique flora including cactuses, palm trees and various species of bamboo. If the Korean Traditional Culture Street is a mix of the new and the old, this mini park is a blend of nature and the man-made.
* * *
Traveling to the Incheon International Airport is not only affordable, but also convenient. The airport is more than a port for planes, it is a tourist attraction in its own right. For anyone who would like to enjoy a day of both entertainment and relaxation, the Incheon International Airport is definitely the place to go.
*Hanbok: Traditional Korean attire
**Gayageum: Korean 12-string zither