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In this article, we will discover some of the best things to do in Busan, South Korea’s second city.
Nestled on mountainous terrain, Busan is the second-largest and, quite possibly, most dynamic city of South Korea. Offering the largest seafood market and some of the most vibrant beaches in the country, it is truly a place unlike any other.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people swarm to Busan (formerly known as Pusan) in search of a bit of sand, sun and great food.
So, whether you prefer an active way of travelling or are looking to have a laid-back vacation, you are guaranteed to have a good time. With our help, discover the best things to do in Busan.
Top Things to do in Busan
Visit Gamcheon Culture Village
The first time you see Gamcheon Culture Village, you might think you have travelled to some of Brazil’s most famous neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro. Thanks to its tiny and colourful houses, it is easy to make a mistake. But this artsy area is nestled right in the centre of Busan.
When visiting the unique city for the first time, it is a crime not to pay a visit to the small neighbourhood that in some ways even resembles Santorini (hence the blue roofs).
Nowadays, Gamcheon Culture Village is a pretty touristy place, but it is still fun to see. Not getting lost in its labyrinth of streets is a challenge itself, but that is what makes the experience so exciting.
Hop on the Busan City Tour Bus
Let’s be honest – sometimes it is impossible not to worry about your travel budget. So, if you are looking for ways to save a bit of money while exploring Busan, then hopping on the City Tour Bus is a great idea.
What makes it so good is the fact you will have the chance to visit all of the most popular attractions and places in Busan at your own pace.
You can either choose between a day or a night bus. On the day tour, you can hop on and off the bus at any time you please (as long as it is from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM). Along the road, you will be able to spot Haeundae Beach, the Dongbaekseom Islands, the Gijang Market and other famous spots.
Discover the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Built by the known Buddhist teacher Naong, the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple can be found on the coast of Busan. To learn more about the traditional Korean religion, it is a fascinating sight to see. During April, the temple is lit up by hundreds of lanterns making the experience even more special.
Whenever hunger kicks in, have a snack at one of the street vendors located along the staircases that head to the temple. The extraordinary site is also the place that has one of the best views of the ocean. When it comes to Busan attractions, it is one of the best you can explore.
Visit the Busan Museum
To learn more about Korean history, including the prehistoric era, the Japanese occupation, the end of the 20th century as well as modern-day, don’t forget to discover the Busan Museum.
This popular Busan attraction was renovated in 2002, and nowadays it features fascinating ancient artefacts. This is also the place to participate in a tea ceremony, therefore visiting the museum is one of the most exciting things to do in Busan.
Take in the Views from Busan Tower and Yongdusan Park
Busan Tower was built in 1973 purely for recreational purposes (it’s not a TV or radio tower). The 120-metre-high structure has a panoramic viewing platform and a small café at the top.
The high-speed elevators are working between 11 am and 8 pm. Tickets cost 8,000 won ($6.75).
Things to do in Busan – Hit the Beaches
Spending a day at the beach is one of the best things you can do in Busan. Located on the coast of the Haeundae District, this beach is unlike any other in the gorgeous city. Thanks to its soft sandy shoreline, in recent years, it has undergone dramatic development. Since the beach faces south, you may expect waves up to 1.5 metres.
Nowadays, Haeundae Beach is a famous hang out place. During summer, many events take place here. If you are lucky, you might get the chance to see the sand sculpture festival in June or the Busan Sea Festival in August which is held annually.
Gwangalli Beach (Gwangan Beach)
This 1.4km long stretch of sandy coastline lies in a cove west of Haeundae. The beach is directly in front of the large Gwangan Bridge which connects Haeundae to Suyeong, making it very “instagramable”!
Behind the crescent-moon shaped beach is a series of alleyways full of restaurants, cafes and nightclubs making it the perfect area to explore after a day relaxing on the beach.
Songdo beach was the first man-made beach in South Korea and was created in 1913 as a place for locals to relax. This stretch of beach is 800 metres long and includes a cable car, sky tram and skywalk, plus many restaurants, bars and cafes.
Things to do in Busan – Shopping at Nampo-Dong
Visiting Busan’s main shopping area should be on every shopaholic’s bucket list. At first, it might seem quite challenging to get around. But – as you move through the streets – you will realise that each valley offers specific products.
For example, Vintage Clothes Alley is the perfect place to get your hands on one of a kind second-hand clothing. Kang-tong Golmok, however, is where you will find bargain market items. Don’t miss the Gukje Market which offers international goods.
If you are lucky enough, you might stumble upon products that are hard to find anywhere else. Shopping at Nampo-Dong is surely an unusual experience, that is why it is one of the best things to do in Busan.
You can also check out the Shinsegae Centum City, which was once the largest department store in the world at over 3 million square feet! The Lotte Department store is another flagship retail area in Busan’s shopping district.
Busan Food and Drink
Gwangbokdong Food Street
One of the best places for Korean street food is Gwangbokdong food street. With many restaurants and food stalls all vying for your trade, this is the cheapest place to get a good feed in the city (from $1 to $3 per dish). From pancakes and dumplings to stuffed octopus, you’ll be sure to find plenty of mouth-watering delicacies here!
Try street food at BIFF Square
As you may already know, every year, Busan brings together all of the South Korean movie-makers by hosting the Busan International Film Festival. Even if you are not a film fan, you can still benefit from the major event. Why? In the area of the festival, you will find an incredible market that offers some of Busan’s yummiest street food.
Whether you prefer to taste something sweet or savoury, your inner gourmand will be happy. Try the mouth-watering dumplings known as madu, or perhaps have a bite of dakgangjeong – Korea’s famous fried chicken. Whatever you choose, it is clear that tasting the street food at BIFF Square is one of the best things to do in Busan.
Taste Samjin Eomuk
Located at Busan Station, Samjin Eomuk is one of the most popular food chains in South Korea that offers a delicious yet unusual snack – fishcakes (called eomuk). Thanks to this company, in the last decades, traditional Busan street food has become a delicacy that is loved by both tourists and locals.
In Yeongdo, you may find their museum that offers to participate in workshops on making the yummy snack. So perhaps it is time to learn a new recipe for the amazing Busan food?
Visit the Jagalchi Fish Market
East Asia is known for its fantastic seafood. So when visiting Busan, making a stop by the largest fish market in South Korea is a must. The extraordinary place is located in Nampo-dong. To get your hands on whatever fish or seafood you are craving, plan your visit as early as possible.
The market starts its work at 7 AM, and already then it’s swarming with people trying to find the best pieces of octopus, lobster, squid, scallops, shrimps, eel, king crab and all kinds of fish. If your hotel or rental isn’t equipped with a kitchen, don’t worry! Simply bring your purchase up to one of the restaurants on the second floor. There it will be cooked in front of your eyes.
Of course, most people head to the Jagalchi Fish Market to have a culinary adventure. But it is also a great place to visit just to take in all the action of the local neighbourhood. The vibrant area will definitely leave an impression.
Getting to Busan
Flights from Seoul take one hour and cost as little as $20. However, when you consider the time it takes to check in and the hassle of the airport, it makes more sense to go by road or rail!
KTX (Korea’s fast train) from Seoul to Busan takes three hours and costs around 60,000 won ($50).
The Seoul to Busan Buses take around 4 hours and cost 37,000 won ($30).
If you are arriving in Korea by sea from China, there is also a bus from Incheon to Busan which takes 4.5 hours.
For more detailed information, see our Seoul to Busan Travel Guide.
Getting Around Busan
Busan has a metro system with four lines, plus a light rail and coastal service. For places that aren’t served by the metro, Busan’s bus service is comprehensive and easy to use.
Places to Stay in Busan
Busan has a temperate climate with hot and humid summers that see plenty of rainfall (Busan falls within the monsoon region). Winters are cold but with bright, blue skies. Spring and autumn are pleasant with temperatures 10 to 17 degrees Celsius.
What is the Best Time to Visit Busan?
Summer and autumn (fall) is a great time to visit Busan to take advantage of the cities beaches, though downpours can be expected.
Spring is another great option as there is lower rainfall than summer and autumn.
Is Busan Safe to Visit?
Although port cities usually have a bad rep for being seedy, Busan is a vibrant, clean and safe city with low rates of crime compared to similar cities in the west.
The city centre and areas around popular beaches are safe, but take usual travel precautions and don’t venture to unknown areas on your own at night.
It pays to ensure you have adequate cover for any trip abroad. Although Busan and South Korea are very safe places, it’s always worth having cover in case the unexpected happens. World Nomads provide the perfect policy for adventurous travellers. You can get a no-obligation quote here.
Whether it’s shopping, beaches, street food or cultural attractions, you will be sure to find Busan one of the most interesting cities in South Korea!
About the author: Steve Rohan, originally from England, has lived in China for over six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, the ancient capital of Luoyang and now resides in the tropical paradise of Sanya on Hainan Island.
He has travelled extensively across Europe and Asia, mostly by train, and has written about his travels for this blog as well as self-publishing his first book, Siberian Odyssey.