In South Korea, Busan often gets overlooked as a destination largely because Seoul, the capital city, is the most often talked about. But if you’re going to visit South Korea, do yourself a huge favor and make some time to travel from Seoul to Busan. The experiences you’ll have in Busan are quite different, plus the seaside locale is something that Seoul can’t boast about because of its own inland location.
1. Jalgachi Fish Market
You’ll find fish markets all over South Korea, however the most famous of them all is Jalgachi Fish Market. The vendors that you’ll see here have worked here their entire lives. It’s truly an art form to watch them slice and dice the fish they have proudly displayed. You’ll see them dried out and hanging on display, skinned, and even swimming away…until you pick them of course. The best part is you can pick a fish to have cooked for you right then and there are the restaurants that are just upstairs from the market. Talk about fresh to your table!
2. Beomeosa Temple
This old Buddhist temple has a rich history that spans more than 1,300 years. You’ll find it on the slopes of Mount Geumjeongsan. Built by a monk during the Silla Kingdom, you’ll discovery fascinating relics from these ancient times. The pagoda here stands three stories tall and the main hall of Daeungjeon give you an incredible peek into what life was like back then, something that is incredibly humbling as you feel the impact of the history flow through you.
3. Busan International Film Festival Square
The Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) is to Asia what Cannes is to Europe. It takes place every October, where you’ll have the chance to gawk at Asia’s biggest movie stars plus ones you know from back home that come from every corner of the world. But don’t feel bad if you come in another month. The entire BIFF Square is an interesting tourist attraction every day of the year where you’ll find plenty to entertain you.
4. Busan City Bus Tours
Are you only in Busan for a short time? Taking a Busan City Bus Tour is a fantastic way to take in as much as you can as quickly as possible. It’s also very affordable. You’ll find it just outside the Busan Station. It has three routes that you can choose from in the daytime and one nighttime tour route available too. The double-decker bus takes you to Busan’s best attractions which makes it a convenient way to see it all. The tour ticket also gets you a discount to certain attractions including some of the museums and memorials. All in all, it’s a great experience to have in Busan!
5. Haeundae Beach
When the weather warms up, Haeundae Beach is a fabulous place to relax by the sea. Everyone comes here to soak up the warming rays and stroll along the shore. Whether you’re traveling for romance or with your family, this beach offers plenty of options for any time of visitor. The hotels here along the main boardwalk are great spots to stay and also offer fun nightlife opportunities for those who just want to shake it off. This beach hosts many events throughout the year including the Haeundae Sand Festival that features sand sculptures by world renowned artists. The festivals are intensely popular so plan accordingly if you’re going to be in Busan during those times.
6. Gukje Market
In the 1950s, while the Korean War was going on, this became the spot for refugees to attempt to make money. Today, this market stands as the largest traditional market in Busan, and perhaps the most popular one for tourists to visit. The vibe here is unlike any other. You can buy things new and old here at fantastic prices and there are tons of things to browse through. Electronics, skincare, home goods, and just about everything you can think of – even tasty Korean snacks that will make for great souvenirs when you get back home – are all right here in this market. It has everything!
7. Sea Life Aquarium
Since it’s a seaside city, it makes sense that it’s going to have a great aquarium. Sure, you’ve been to many aquariums in your life, but how many of them will let you dive right in and swim with the sharks? Here, they offer a special program that allows you to swim with sharks and other sea creatures. You’ll be subjected to a short diving course and in the care of certified instructors, they’ll slap you into a wet suit and drop you into the tank where you can live life under the sea.
8. Songjeong Beach
If you want to see the sea without having to contend with gobs of other tourists, this is the beach for you. It’s far less traveled but no less beautiful. You can see a stunning sunrise at the Songiljeong Pavilion if you’re there early enough. You can also try to get the catch of the day on the northeast end by taking up some fishing. Or simply just enjoy walking along at your own pace without so many people.
9. Younggung Temple
This temple, known as Haedong Yonggungsa, was first built in 1376. Before you think that if you’ve seen one temple in Korea, you’ve seen them all, this one has a very unique difference. Almost every other temple on Korean soil is tucked away in the mountains, however this one is right next to the sea. As you can imagine, the views of the water here are sublime. With the stunning natural coastal landscape, the architecture and all of the Buddhist statues, you’ll certainly find your own inner Zen.
10. Hot Springs Paradise
We’re going to go generic with this listing of things to do in Busan simply because there are so many choices. Busan is home to 450 spas. That’s more than any other city in the country, including Seoul! It’s part of Busan culture to take in some time soaking and relaxing in the hot springs. Of course, it’s going to be a different experience than back home because it’s Korean style. For those new to Busan and the Korean way of life as a whole, it’s probably best to head to one of the bigger, more established spas like Heosimcheong Spa or Lumi Spa in the Park Hyatt. One of the biggest and most popular is Spa Land which has over 20 spas. They are all filled with natural spring water and the rooms all have different and rather interesting themes.
11. Sajik Stadium
Baseball is probably more popular in Korea than it is in America! At Sajik Stadium, you can watch the Lotte Giants play. The similarities to American culture in this regard are utterly fascinating. They love their beer on tap and hot dogs too just as much as us. The politeness of the culture coupled with the fun of the sport make it an incredible way to spend some time in Busan.
12. Meokja Golmok
Korean food is some of the most incredible in the world. In Busan, there’s food street in Changseon-dong called Meokja Golmok. This open-air market is a great place to get a taste of Korean street food for cheap. What’s really nice about it is you can wander around and try different things. Plastic chairs let you sit and take a rest while you taste things like kimbap (a Korean form of sushi rolls), bibimbap (a rice bowl with ground beef, vegetables and spicy hot pepper paste), pajeon (savory pancakes with spring onions), and odeng (Korean fish cakes on a stick). Some of it will seem weird but try it anyway. Korean food is full of fantastic surprises!
13. Gamcheon Culture Village
You’ve likely seen photos of this place for it is one of the most photographed places in all of Busan. It was established in 1918, right on top of a hill. The village here is bright and colorful, and full of quaint things to discover. Museums, art shops, cafes, and restaurants are just some of the things you’ll find here. It’s artful yet peaceful, making for a lovely place to spend a laid-back day.
This natural park in Busan features incredible cliffs that drop off into the sea. The main draws here are the observatory and the light house, perfect for amazing photo opportunities. An amusement park beckons for the kids too. Down by the rocky shores, you’ll find plenty of places to taste fresh seafood. It can be fairly romantic too, with fresh oysters and other fresh catches just plucked from the sea. The sunsets here are stunning, making this an ideal place to linger.
15. Gwangalli Beach
For a nighttime activity, you’ll want to come to this beach. What’s so interesting about it? It is arched in the same shape as a half moon. You’ll see street performers and the night really comes alive on the boardwalk, bejeweled with bars and restaurants as well as coffee cafes. On the Gwangan Bridge, you can also catch the music light show though it’s best to watch it from the sandy shores of the beach below.
You can fly directly into Busan or you can fly into Seoul and take the KTX train over. By doing this, you can see both cities which is really recommended. They’re very different from each other with Busan providing that coastal city atmosphere to it and Seoul providing a more cosmopolitan experience.
Busan is a little more of a laid-back place and with such stunning views of the sea, it’s truly a breathtaking place to find yourself. The accents are different here so if you do pick up on a bit of Korean in your travels, if you pronounce things with a Seoul accent, you may not be understood. Conversely, you might need people to repeat themselves a few times with their Busan accent in order to understand, but not to worry. People here are kind and welcoming, which adds even more pleasure to your visit to Busan.