Located at the south-eastern tip of South Korea, Busan is the second largest city in the country. It is also the largest port city in Korea and the fifth largest container handling port in the world. Busan is a popular tourist destination and is well known for its beaches, seafood, mountains and temples. This bustling city is bursting with fun activities and things to do so, with limited time we put together our top five suggestions.
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
While most temples in South Korea are found in the mountains, the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is located along the shoreline. This rare find means it is popular with visitors so be prepared for crowds of people. While this means you may have to be patient to get some decent pictures, it is definitely worth it. The unique temple offers majestic views of a three-story pagoda with four lions, a standing seawater goddess Buddha, a large golden Buddha and groups of small Buddha statues scattered throughout the temple grounds.
The Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is particularly popular on New Year’s Day as people make a wish for the new year while watching the sun rise across the ocean. Buddha’s Birthday celebrations in the fourth month of the lunar year also provides a spectacular view of the temple adorned in paper lanterns.
Spend time exploring this seaside sanctuary before heading back to entrance to sample some of the delicious street food or wander through the souvenir shops.
How to get there: Take bus 181 bound for Yonggunsa Temple outside the Haeundae Subway stop exit 7 (bus comes every 25 minutes). Alternatively, take a taxi from Haeundae for about ₩10,000 (about $9).
Gamcheon Culture Village
Known as the “Machu Picchu of Busan” this delightful village is an array of colorful houses built in a staircase manner on the coastal hillside. The village was built during the Korean War when some of the poorest people of Busan migrated to this area, which was free from fighting, to build their small houses.
Wander through the clusters of colorful homes and many alleyways decorated by the residents with vibrant murals and sculptures. Enjoy the charming beauty of the colorful village and stop at one of the many coffee shops with a great view.
How to get there: Take the subway to Toseong Station (Line 1) and take exit 6. Turn right at the corner in front of the hospital and take bus 2 or 2-2 to the Gamcheon Culture Village stop at the top of the hill. Alternatively, take a taxi to the top of the hill from the subway station.
Haeundae beach is the most famous beach in Korea and a trip to Busan would not be complete without a visit to this 1.5 km stretch of sand. The beach is busy year round with the summer months bringing crowds of people and thousands of umbrellas that makes catching a glimpse of the sand virtually impossible. Visiting during the spring or autumn means these dense crowds can be avoided and the weather is still pleasant enough to enjoy being by the sea.
Haeundae is famous for the cultural events and festivals held throughout the year. It is also the most popular place in Busan to watch the New Year’s sunrise with around 1000 people gathering on the beach just before dawn.
How to get there: Take exit 3 or 5 of Haeundae Subway Station (Line 2). Walk for about 10-15 minutes.
Jagalchi Fish Market
The Jagalchi Fish Market, located beside Nampo port, is the largest seafood market in Korea. The market is made up of two main sections: one for fresh seafood (indoor) and the other for dried seafood (outdoor).
The fresh seafood section is composed of daily caught fish and shellfish which is sold fresh to customers. This section provides a wide array of unusual sea creatures and can almost be described as an aquarium. You can even choose your own seafood and have the restaurants, located on the second floor, prepare it for you (usually raw).
The dried seafood section is composed of vendors lining the bustling streets outside the fresh seafood area. Here you can find dried squid, octopus, seaweed, Pollack, codfish and anchovies harvested from across the peninsula.
How to get there: Jagalchi Subway Station (Line 1), take exit 10. Turn right onto Jagalchi 3(sam)-gil street. Walk for about 5 minutes, turn left.
Gwangalli beach is a half-moon shaped beach which lies inside a cove traversed by the Gwangan Bridge. The beach is famous for its fine sand and pristine water, a result of a water cleaning program in the area. Alongside the beach are alleys with restaurants, coffee shops and various nightclubs.
For those looking for some action there are various water sports available such as Olympic yacht rentals, water-skiing, jet skiing and windsurfing. Be sure to stick around for sunset to witness the lighting of the Gwangan Bridge and experience the Gwangalli nightlife in the vibrant bars and pubs overlooking the beach.
How to get there: Gwangan Subway Station (Line 2), take exit 3 or 5. Walk for about 5 minutes.