Ganghwado: The Island Getaway Just An Hour From Seoul
Ganghwado Island (강화도) is the fifth largest island in Korea and is one of numerous islands that can be found out in Incheon in northwest Korea. It seems to be the next hot spot location… though I didn’t know that the first time I headed out. When flower dreams and beach views, I was in search of an island that was easy to get to. Once I realized Ganghwado Island was just an hour west of the city, no one was going to keep me from visiting that’s for sure. I’ve gone a couple times in the past couple of months and each time I note all of the newly built restaurants, cafes and buildings. It really seems like there is some sort of big investment happening on the island and it’s in the process of being built up. It’s also getting easier and easier to access the island so add it to the list of places to check out and then head out when you find time. As always, remember there is a map at the bottom of this post with locations of all of these cool spots to find while you’re out adventuring.
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Joyang Bangjik (조양방직)
Joyang Bangjik is an old textile factory that has been turned into a very cool cafe complex. Walk through the front gate and you’re welcomed into the cafe on your right where you can buy a coffee or juice and then head into the main building to find a seat among the numerous options. Take a seat at the long benches in the center or spread out at the tables that are along the walls. There is seating upstairs, around corners and head outside to find ever more. There are hidden rooms with seats for two and cave like buildings with seats for four. It’s honestly amazing how many different parts of this complex there are.Go around the corner to find antique toys the likes of carousel horses and more. The child in all of us will be excited to see toys from the past. The complex only opened a couple months ago and is still in the process of being completed. While most of the buildings are finished and open for business, there are a couple that had construction crews coming and going. The owner of the complex says its about 70% complete. That said, they didn’t stop us from entering each building even if it wasn’t quite finished.Go with friends and have some fun. I love a location with some history and this definitely had that and more. This cafe actually reminded me a bit of Cafe Valor also in Incheon that I visited last year. This particular complex has a lot of history from when textile production was in its heyday on the island. After cleaning and clearing debris and waste for months, the owner started delving in to provide a place where locals and visitors can appreciate the history of the area.
This textile factory was built in 1933 when Japanese colonial rule was established and in the beginning was made up of just four spaces. Four more spaces were added on over time and the owner is hoping to take it back to when it was just as big. Made of Japanese cedar, the buildings are strong and the wood is now quite difficult to get a hold of.
Every space is supposed to be installation art and appreciated. The main space has great blue light filtering in from the skylights and is definitely the most complete of all of the spaces at the moment. Visit now and then head back in a few months time to see what has been added and installed. That’s what I’ll be doing.
Come spring, there isn’t anything better than finding flowers. I remember growing up and having a neighbor that just LOVED daisies. I loved seeing her daisies and for some reason I haven’t really seen them much in Korea. That all changed until I went to Mahogany Cafe on the island in spring of this year. This is the largest plot of daisies that I’ve ever seen and it was just stunning.
There is a large cafe inside to sit in, but I would say the best seating it outside in the little barn like wooden buildings with just one table and a few tables in each. This cafe sits just steps from Dore Dore, which you can find more info on down below. They seem to have collaborated a bit as they share the garden spaces between them. This is important to note if you have a child with you. Mahogany does not allow children inside though you’re welcome to take pictures with the daisies in front of the cafe like we did. If you have a child, take photos and then just head up the steps to Dore Dore where children are welcome.
Because we had Ava with us, we didn’t head into Mahogany to enjoy a cup of coffee, though I have had their coffee other places and do think it’s quite good. Have a cup there if you like and then head up to Dore Dore to eat because they have more food options.
There is so much to see and do out in Incheon. Be sure to get out to the city and see other awesome spots like Incheon Chinatown. It’s definitely a must visit and you can visit the Fairytale Village nearby too! You should definitely take a trip out to see the Tri Bowl as well. Then to wrap it all up, head up to GTower to see the sunset out over the bridges in the nearby sea.
Ganghwa Anglican Church of Korea & Yongheunggung Palace (용흥궁)
Near Joyang Bangjik, to get a little history and cultural appeal, you can head to the Ganghwa Anglican Church of Korea and Yongheunggung Palace. The church was first constructed by Bishop Charies John Corfe in 1900 and was named for Saint Peter and Paul. The church is quite interesting and the wooden interior will give you all of those old western church vibes.
Just next to the church is the palace where King Cheoljong, a Joseon ruler who reigned from 1849 to 1863, lived until his ascension to the throne. The name means palace of the rising dragon, though the palace itself is rather small and would probably not really be able to hold a dragon. The buildings are simple and unpainted much like Unhyeonggung in downtown Seoul. As we walked through the and checked out the buildings, we noted that there are really some lovely doorways and trees overhanging that will be just beautiful in the coming autumn when the colors start to burst from the treetops.
Dore Dore Cafe
Because Mahogany Cafe didn’t allow kids as I noted above, we ended up seated at Dore Dore just up the path. The two cafes seem to have a collaboration going with this location though and we walked back and forth freely. The food at Dore Dore really hit the spot as we were ready for some delicious brunch treats before we headed out to find more on the island. Don’t miss walking through the paths lined with bushes. Enjoy the sights and the natural aesthetics all around at this lovely location.
This was a pleasantly unplanned stop. As we drove around the island and followed the bends of the coast, I spotted these sandy stones that were in stark contrast to the land surrounding. I wondered what it was and so we pulled over to check it out. This is Huae Dondae. The sign explained that this Dondae is one of many built in 1679 by 4,300 military, 8000 Buddhist monks and soldiers from three provinces. The platforms held four cannons.
The site has been well preserved and was fully restored in 1998 due to a legend in the neighboring villages that claims ruining the Dondae would bring a calamity to the area. The colors were just really interesting because I hadn’t seen that color stone used in walls in Korea. There is a cafe just to the right of this Dondae which we stopped in for some tea before continuing on though. From here, you could also take steps down to the mudflats and walk along a boardwalk to get some different views of the seaside in the area.
There is plenty more to see on Ganghwado Island, but this is a good start. Take a day, or a weekend, and head out to see what you can find. There are flower fields in the spring and seaside views in the summer. See what there is in the autumn now!