Busan is home to glistening beaches, rugged mountains and killer seafood. South Korea’s second largest city is a port town with a more laid back atmosphere. From casual street bars to chic designer cafes to fish markets and food markets everywhere, Busan is a perfect seaside escape in South Korea.
We spent three days in the city, fitting in a number of the key attractions, wandering and eating our way through many of the markets and also spending a day just hanging out on Haeundae beach.
Gamcheon Culture Village
Dubbed as “Lego Village” for its boxy, colourful homes on a terraced hillside, it’s fun to stroll through the labyrinth-like alleyways and visit the small art installations, museums and shops, all interspersed with graffiti, and it also has an impressive history.
This village originates from the ascetic religious community, Taegeukdo, a religion from the 1900s. The village’s multi-tiered layout was meticulously planned according to the Taegeukdo teaching. The belief was the meaning of the universe can be found through a philosophy of “great polarity” which incorporates yin and yang. The symbol of swirling blue and red is what is now found in the South Korean flag.
In the 1950s, the village became filled with refugees from the aftermath of the Korean War. Then in 2009, the slum hosted a public art project and invited art students and artists to “decorate” in the village and lure visitors up the steep slopes nestled in the mountainside.
Jagalchi Market is South Korea’s largest fish market and the place to check out the fresh catches and endemic shellfish. You can even select a fish on the first floor to cook or sashimi on the second floor. We had a delicious seafood lunch just upstairs.
Just across from the fish market is BIFF Square, Busan’s modern movie district and once the official venue for the International Film Festival. It’s now a bustling street full of movie theaters, shops, and food stalls.
And just beyond that is Gukje Market, an enormous market where you can find everything under the sun – from clothes to second hand goods, and of course, street snacks.
Located in Yongdusan Park, Busan Tower is 69 meters above sea level and a height of 120 meters. The tower has a stunning view of all of Busan, and once at the bottom, there is a cool art exhibition as you make your way out.
Songdo Marine Cable Car
Another great view point is at Songdo beach. On the sea is the SkyWalk, but if you want a nicer view, ride in one of the glass bottom cable cars, or the crystal car, to take in the view over the water.
Sunset Boat Cruise
In order to get a glimpse of Gwangandaegyo Bridge during both the day and the evening, we took a sunset cruise on Tiffany 21. The bridge is equipped with the world’s largest LED lighting and sound facilities for bridges and even holds a laser show a few times each evening. We brought snacks and drinks aboard and it made for a perfect evening before heading off to dinner.
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
This temple is rare for Korea in that it is sitting on the sea, whereas most are located in the mountains. The temple was first built in 1376 by Naong. The main sanctuary of the temple was reconstructed in 1970. Given the popularity of the temple, we decided to go at sunrise, so not only did we get to enjoy the majestic sunrise, but we got to see the temple in a peaceful surrounding, without any other tourists.
Given we were staying here, we spent a lot of time visiting the restaurants, cafes and market in the area. We also had a great day at the beach – there were loads of Korean tourists hanging out on the beach as well, many with inner tubes, riding the waves. We joined in the fun, and also took a “flying fish” ride on a raft, where we were pulled by a jet ski along the water.