Busan, Korea: Everything You MUST See, Do, Eat & Try!
Busan is the second largest city in Korea and one of my favorite places to visit. If we weren’t living in Seoul, Busan would be our home for sure…. and not just because my husband is originally from there. The city on the southern coast has beachy vibes and tons of seafood to eat along with some mountains just north and all kinds of fun in between. If you can’t live there, a weekend… week… or just any time at all should be spent in this coastal city down south. Definitely a must visit for anyone coming to or living in Korea.
This is a long post with loads of information, if you want to skip ahead to a specific section, use these links:
REMEMBER: There is a map at the end of this post so you can easily see where everything is in relation to each other. Use it to help plan what to see together so you’re not traipsing across the city, back and forth and all around unnecessarily.
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SEASIDES & VIEWS
Taejongdae Seaside Cliffs (태종대유원지)
The rocky cliffs of Taejongdae are a must see in Busan. One of my favorite spots to check out year after year, Taejongdae is the southernmost trip of Yeongdo-gu and on a clear day you can spot Daema, or Tsushima, an island of Japan. Admission to this cliff park is free but you can also purchase a ticket for the hop-on hop-off bus that goes up and around the cliffs. The walk really isn’t that bad though. If the weather is reeeeally hot or a bit rainy, it’s a good idea to get the train ticket. Do be aware, if the rain is too bad though, the train will NOT run. If you’re a go-getter like me, you won’t mind a little wet weather and you’ll make the trip out to the cliffs. Be careful when you get out there though because there are no railings or barriers between you and the sea on the cliffs. I’ve visited the area in the spring, summer, and autumn and every season thus far has been beautiful in different ways.
From the main path, take the various trails down to the cliffs. There are dinosaur tracks on some of them and an observatory you can climb up into. The observatory also has a seating area on the first/bottom floor that is great to take a rest or wait out the weather. Watch as fishermen perch perilously on the edges of the rocks in seek of a catch. You can even eat some of the seafood eats in some tents near the water on the rocks. From summer to winter, in the sun and the rain, there are some great views from this spot. Continue walking around the cliffs and you’ll also come upon a temple before the path circles back. You can’t get lost while you’re on the cliffs as all paths lead back to the main road which circles back to the beginning.
To get to Taejongdae, the best option is to hop on to the Busan City Tour Bus which you can get at Busan Station. The loop bus goes by Jagalchi Market, Songdo Beach out to Taejongdae and comes back to Busan Station. If you don’t have a car, the hop on hop off bus is a great option if you want to do it yourself or a tour is another great option to hit some of the big stops all in one day. Klook has a couple great options:
- A day tour that includes a stop at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Taejongdae, Songdo Skywalk and Gamcheon Culture Village.
- A different day tour stops at Gamcheon Culture Village, Jagalchi Fish Market, Yongdusan Park, Songdo Skywalk, Taejongdae and the Oryukdo Skywalk.
24, Jeonmang-ro, Yeongdo-gu, Busan
부산광역시 영도구 전망로 24 (동삼동)
Busan Tower (부산타워)
The Busan Tower is set 69 meters above sea level and offers great views of the seaside. Built in 1973, the observatory, which was designed and inspired from a pagoda at Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju, offers panoramic views of the city and surrounding area. There is a fee to get up in the tower, but if you don’t want to pay for it, take a seat in the cafe inside of the nearby pagoda and you can get some good views from the platform surrounding the cafe. This is an easy walk from the popular Nampo-dong area with BIFF Square and across from the famous Jagalchi Fish Market. Walk up to the park, take in the views, and then head back down to the bustling shopping district. Get your tickets online in advance for a discount here.
37-55, Yongdusan-gil, Jung-gu, Busan
부산광역시 중구 용두산길 37-55 (광복동2가)
Hours: 10:30am ~ 8:00pm
Haeundae Beach (해운대해수욕장)
Haeundae is the most famous beach in Busan and each year tourists flock to the beach to lay out, catch some waves and attend numerous events hosted here. Just take your bathing suit and a towel in the summer and you can rent an umbrella to hang out under. There are volleyball nets and food vendors set up so a whole day can be spent here if it’s warm and the water is just right. If it’s a bit chillier or off season, walk along the beach and then head to the neighborhood behind the beach to find things to do. There are cafes, hotels, restaurants and plenty to do nearby. If you stay in the area or just want a great spot to get revitalized on your trip, check out Spa 1899’s Haeundae Branch. They have great facials and body treatments that harness the benefits of red ginseng.
264, Haeundaehaebyeon-ro, Haeundae-gu, Busan
부산광역시 해운대구 해운대해변로 264 (우동)
Night Yacht Tour at Haeundae Beach
The night yacht tour at Haeundae Beach is the BEST way to see the colorful lights of the popular Gwangan Bridge. Watch as the city lights turn on, the bridge lights up and the skies grow dark. The hour-long cruise is the perfect way to end a fun or maybe romantic day out in Busan. The cruises can be pretty popular so get tickets in advance just in case. Klook has a great tour that provides transportation from hotels in the Nampo-dong, Seomyeon, and Haeundae areas and the yacht tour. Another fun option for getting out on the water is a yacht tour that INCLUDES dinner. Join BusanMate for a yacht trip with some BBQ and drinks. See all the beautiful twinkling light sights while you sup.
Gwangalli Beach (광안리해수욕장)
Gwangalli Beach is one of the most popular beach areas in Busan but less popular than Haeundae so it’s a bit more chill. Famous for its fine sand, the 1.4 kilometer long beach is popular from day into night. Lined with restaurants and cafes, this beachside area is our favorite district to stay in.
219, Gwanganhaebyeon-ro, Suyeong-gu, Busan
부산광역시 수영구 광안해변로 219 (광안동)
Igidae Urban Nature Park (이기대 도시자연공원)
Igidae was one of the first places Jae-oo took me many years back when we were just dating and he was showing me his hometown. It’s still one of my favorite places because of that. I like it because it’s rocky and for some reason rocky beaches just speak to me that much more. There are little sea water ponds when the tides are low to find sea creatures and it’s a bit moodier when there are rocks to traipse across. From the rocks, you can see across to Gwangalli and Haeundae. The area here was actually only for military use up until 1993 and was then opened to residents. There are walking trails in the area now that are between 2 and 4 kilometers so follow the signs and you could get a good walk in here along the coast.
68, Igidaegongwon-ro, Nam-gu, Busan
부산광역시 남구 이기대공원로 68 (용호동)
CULTURE & HISTORY
Haedong Yonggung Temple (해동용궁사)
This seaside temple is the most popular in the area. Translated to mean Korean Dragon Temple, it is widely known as the most beautiful seaside temple in the country. The temple was first founded in 1376. Like many others, it was destroyed during the Japanese invasions and was rebuilt in the 1930s with additions made during the 1970s and 2000s. There are twelve statues that represent the twelve signs of the zodiac as you walk up to the entrance. Then head down the lantern lined 108 steps that represent the 108 agonies of earthly desire of Buddhism. Across the bridge, visitors will come upon the main buildings of the temple and a large golden dharma smiling broadly and happily.
Walk up to the top of the cliff behind the main building and you’ll find a tall Bodhisattva of Compassion. Do be careful as you walk up to, in and around the temple. The steps that lead down from the path that leads in are rock and there are a lot so watch our step. From the steps leading in, you can also take a short path to the left that goes out onto some rocks from which the vantage point to see the temple is the best. Head back in to see the main buildings and then you need to walk up more steps. Again, be careful.
The path to and from the temple is lined with tons of street food eats. Head to the temple a bit hungry and then jump in a line to wait for some of the eats and treats. There are fried fishy treats and sweet cinnamon filled buns as well. There are even places to sit nearby and enjoy whatever you’ve chosen. Street food is always a must in Korea and this is a great spot to try some if you’re in the area for the temple and have a bit of extra time to sit and just take in the atmosphere. Vendors are kind and used to foreigners, so just walk on up and order.
Again, the best way to get out to this if you’re trying it on your own, is to hop on the Busan City Tour Bus. There are stops around the city at various highlights so it’s easy enough to get on. Another option is to join a day tour that has this temple as one of the stops. Klook has some good options:
- Join this tour that includes the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple along with the Busan Skywalk and Gamcheon Culture Village.
- Join the Busan Easy Coast Cultural Day Trip with stops at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Taejongdae, the Songdo Skywalk, and the Gamcheon Culture Village
부산광역시 기장군 기장읍 시랑리 416-3
416-3 Silang-ri Gijang-eup, Gijang-gun, Busan, Korea
F1963 was once a Kiswire factory which has now been transformed into a cultural factory. The “F” stands for factory and 1963 is the year the factory was founded. In operation until 2008, the factory produced wire ropes. Today, F1963 is an eco-friendly culture space that houses an art gallery, a bookstore, a cafe, and restaurants. This renewed space that was opened once again in 2016 is a gorgeous example of regeneration. The exterior of the factory has been almost completely kept as is, while the interior was renovated. Head to the complex to enjoy art, eat lunch, walk the premises and then sip some coffee. It’s a great all-in-one spot to spend an entire afternoon.
When you get there, check out the bamboo forest and then head into Kukje Gallery. It’s the first outpost of the Seoul based gallery that was founded in 1982 to present significant Korean and international contemporary artists to the public. The space is huge and the Busan branch seeks to interweave the arts into everyday life and provide opportunities for visitors to meet local art enthusiasts… and maybe even become one.
부산 수영구 망미동 475-1
475-1 Mangmi-dong Suyeong-gu, Busan
Gamcheon Culture Village (부산 감천문화마을)
The houses that run up and down the mountain in Gamcheon Culture Village used to house refugees from the Korean War. The neighborhood became rather dilapidated and then in 2009 the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism came in with an initiative to transform the village into a creative community. Painters and sculptors were brought in to paint and decorate the mountainside village. Now, buildings are painted in various shades of beautiful colors so that from every angle there is a lovely view to be had. Tourists flock to the area for fun and a nice steep walk.
Definitely wear some good walking shoes and be prepared to walk up up up and then down down down and then up and maybe down again to really see everything. This is still very much a residential neighborhood, so remember to be quiet and respect the residents that call the area home. Much like Ihwa Mural Village in Seoul, it’s important to respect the residents, stay quiet, don’t litter and leave before nightfall and only come at a reasonable time in the morning. If you want to make sure to see everything in the area, I highly suggest taking a guide. The area is a weave of alleyways that go up and down and all around. I was definitely happy to have a friend to tag along with who had been to the area before and knew how to cut through to see what we should see.
203, Gamnae 2-ro, Saha-gu, Busan
부산광역시 사하구 감내2로 203 (감천동)
Directions: Take the subway to Toseong Station (Line 1). From exit six, walk straight and turn right. You’ll see a small bus station board in front of the Pusan National University Hospital building (Block C, Cancer Centre, aka the PNU Cancer Centre). Hop on the market village bus en route to Gamcheon Culture Village.
Jagalchi Fish Market (자갈치시장)
Jagalchi Fish Market is the largest fish market in the country and sells live and dried seafood. Walk the wet alleys outside and you might see live octopus trying to escape from their red bucket homes and find various other fishy delights that can only be found in Korea. Want to eat here? Head inside of the main building of Jagalchi Market and you can purchase life seafood on the first floor that will be taken up to the second floor and prepped to your liking on the spot. The market is open from 5:00am to 10:00pm so go anytime throughout the day and you are sure to be impressed by the numerous seafood eats. Don’t miss having a bite here. For a great treat that has been said to exceed expectations, sign up for a tour of Jagalchi Market that includes a cooking class afterward. You can learn to make things like ginseng chicken soup, seafood pancakes, fresh tofu stew among other Korean classics.
PRO TIP: When you head to the market to see the seafood eats and treats, make sure to go all the way up to the top floor of the main building. There is a free observation deck to get beautiful views of the nearb area.
52, Jagalchihaean-ro, Jung-gu, Busan
부산광역시 중구 자갈치해안로 52 (남포동4가)
The Bay 101 (더베이101)
A hot spot in the Haeundae area of Busan, The Bay 101 is a yacht club, cafe, pub and restaurant that is best enjoyed at night. The food and drink are a bit pricier than other spots in the area, but this is definitely THE spot to go out to in the area if you’re looking for THE night out fun with an experience and all of the chic surroundings. Get dressed up and enjoy the atmosphere right on the water.
The Bay 101 also offers yacht cruises from their spot right on the bay. Jump on a premier boat to sail around Haeundae with a glass of champagne in hand. This is definitely chic experience to be had while in Busan. For something a bit faster, you can also take a speed boat ride from The Bay 101 at 11:00am, 1:00pm or 3:00pm.
52, Dongbaek-ro, Haeundae-gu, Busan
부산광역시 해운대구 동백로 52 (우동)
Let’s Eat Alley (먹자골목)
An experience you won’t want to miss is finding Let’s Eat Alley. Turn the corner to find small stools surrounding various older Korean women with huge portions, bags and tubs of food they portion out. Sit with them to sup on simple side dishes and kimbab while passerby try to get by. It’s definitely an experience eating on the street in this way and it’s super cheap too so budget friendly people be on the lookout. The food is simple but very satisfying and if you’re in the area, this is definitely a fun spot to check out.
산광역시 중구 창선동2가
2-ga Changseon-dong Joonggu-dong, Busan, Korea
Directions: Jagalchi Station Line 1, Exit 7. Turn left at the first street and then turn right on the third street Gwangbokro, it’ll be down an alley on your left.
Pork Rice Soup (Dwaeji gukbab)
Dwaeji gukbap is a quintessential Busan food if you ask my husband. This hearty soup is made after pork bone has been boiled for hours to make a milky broth. Next, pork shank, soy sauce, miso, and sesame oil are added to make a delicious filling stew. This is a stew that my husband often seeks out and there’s an entire alley of dwaeij gukbap restaurants in the Seomyeon area. Whether or not you’re staying in that area though, there are PLENTY of restaurants serving up this dish all around Busan. You wont’ be able to walk far without finding one and when you do, definitely stop in for a treat.
When you sit down, notice the various dishes on the table. Some restaurants serve the soup all in, you just stir to find the hot pepper paste and other toppings inside. BUT some, you add yourself. Add the saeujeot, or tiny brined shrimp, to get it a bit saltier. Add the chogochuang, a hot pepper paste mixed with vinegar, to make it a bit spicier. And then top it off with some of the chopped leeks and a circle of noodles to finish it off.
One of my personal all time favorite restaurants in Busan is located at the west end of the Gwangalli Beach strip. The restaurant serves up the a deliciously simple cod soup. In the north of the country, this cod soup is often served with a spicier red broth, but here the broth is simple with just simply salt and garlic. It’s the best hangover option in my opinion but is also just filling and cleansing too. Eat at Goma Daegutang (고마대구탕) where the stew is served simply with just radish and scallions added to the milky white broth. No fuss, no muss but so delicious.
부산광역시 수영구 남천동 5-3
5-3 Namcheon-dong Suyeong-gu, Busan, Korea
Songdo Cable Car (송도해수욕장 케이블카)
The cable car which originally opened in 1964 was just RE-opened in 2017 after extensions were added to make it four times as long as when it was closed down in 1988. Hop on at Songnim Park and ride the cable car all the way to Amnam Park Observatory. If you’re afraid of heights, do be aware, SOME of the cars have a glass bottom so step aside if you do NOT want one.
Admission: Roundtrip is W15,000 OR W20,000 depending if you get the clear floor or not.
Hours: 9:00am ~ 11:00pm
Directions: Jagalchi Station on line 1 and take a local bus 96, 26, 71 or 7 to Songdo Beach Parking – Namhang parking lot (near Namhangdaegyo bridge ramp). OR from Jagalchi Station, take those same buses but get off at Amnam Park bus stop to go the opposite direction.
Located at the diving point of East and South Sea, the skywalk was opened in 2013 and sits on a cliff 35 meters above the coast. Again, this skywalk has a glass floor. So, if you’re afraid of heights, do be aware that you’ll be walking on the sky if you want to get the views. It does make for a very Instagram-friendly shot though that’s for sure.
137, Oryukdo-ro, Nam-gu, Busan
부산광역시 남구 오륙도로 137 (용호동)
Sea Life Busan Aquarium
Sea Life Busan is one of the largest aquariums in Asia. If you are love aquariums or need something indoors to do, this is an amazing option. There are 250 marine species and over 10,000 aquatic animals to view. Watch from the 180 degree glass tunnel as the sharks are fed above you. And if you have kids, they’ll love the Mermaid Show. Get your tickets online in advance for a discount.
266 Haeundaehaebyeon-ro, Haeundae-gu, Busan
부산광역시 해운대구 해운대해변로 266 (중동)
Check Out Where To Stay Now!
Oedo & Haegeumgang
One of the most interesting places I’ve been in Korea was out to the island of Oedo. The ferry to get there first proceeds past Haeguemgang Island (해금강) some rocky karsts that are 116 meters tall. The islands have quite a history. They are covered in herbs and as such, more than 3,000 people visited the island at the request of the Emperor of China in search of herbs for immortality. You can’t get off on the rocks, but ferries take visitors into a central area when waters aren’t too choppy to see what has been designated Natural Asset No. 2.
The ferry continues out to Oedo-Botania (외도 보타니아) an entire island that has been converted into a gorgeous idyllic botanical garden. Oedo is the first island in Korea to be owned and developed privately in the Halleo Maritime National Park. A couple unsuccessfully tried to grow and orchard of tangerines and breed pigs on the island but then in 1976 realized the could grow rare plants and today the island hosts a successful and rather interesting garden with over 3,000 different species of plants from Korea as well as some other subtropical climates.
Take a day tour with Klook that includes easy transportation from Busan that includes a stop at Windy Hill and Oedo Island as well as a guide.
Geoje Island is the second largest island in Korea and there’s plenty to do for a day trip should you want to get out of Busan a bit. Not only does it feature the docks to catch a ferry to the Oedo-Botania and Haegeumgang karsts mentioned above, but there are things to see ON the island itself. Head to the island and you’ll find a beautiful bamboo forest. The Bamboo Theme Park or the Maengjongjuk Theme Park (맹종죽테마파크) is gorgeous and not promoted all that often so the opportunity to feel calm and relaxed and take beautiful pictures is there.
There’s also a POW Camp from the Korean War era (거제도 포로수용소 유적공원) on the island if you want to learn more about the Korean War and how it effected this part of Korea. At one time, there were 173,000 POWs at this camp that has been turned into an outdoor museum with dioramas depicting life in the camp. The camp was shut down in 1953 upon the signing of the armistice but was re-opened in 1997 to educate the public and serve as a reminder of the Korean War.
Join the Klook tour out to the island that includes stops at Sinseondae Observatory, Hakdong Mongdol Beach, Oedo-Botania and the Geode Haegeumgang River.
Tongyeong is an area that consists of Goseong Peninsula, Hansan Island, Mireuk Island and other islets west of Busan. Some popular destinations in the area include Tongyeong Jungang Market, a fresh seafood market with over 400 years of history, the Dongpirang Village that has colorful murals painted all around and more. Take a tour out to the peninsula to see all there is to see including the Hallyeosudo Ropeway for the adventurous and a Skyline Luge. A tour with Klook includes transportation from Busan’s KTX Station, Seomyeon Station or Haeundae Station, an English/Chinese speaking guide and tons of fun! Get out of the city and see the surrounding area.
North of Busan are some other great sites that are great if you’re looking for a trip out of the city. Visit Tongdosa Temple, a gorgeous complex that is 1,300 years old. From there you can head to the Eden Valley Resort and take the luge down through the gorgeous mountains and then you can take a ride on the cable car through the Miryang Alps. This is a great option to get away, get some good deep breaths in natural surroundings and relax. See all of these sites with Klook for a day trip that starts from Nampo Station, Busan Station or Seomyeon Station in Busan.
Take a trip out to Namhae to get a more rural look at life in the area. The area is a hidden gem and is definitely for those seeking a chill beach experience and just a generally quieter day out. Seek out the Boriam Temple which offers a gorgeous view from it’s mountainside vantage point. The temple is a Buddhist monastery and is high up in the mountains. For the adventurous, take the 3 kilometer medium difficulty hike up from the base of the mountain. If you just want to soak in the peace and serenity of the temple, take a car up.
From there you can head down to the Daraengi Village with terraced rice paddies and from there find the walking paths down to the coast where walking bridges will take you right out to the rocky seaside. Finally, head to the Yangmori Sheep Farm. This is something a bit different to get out of the city for.