Laid-back yet bustling, Busan is a wonderful destination for sun seekers, culture lovers, and foodies.
Seeking a different experience in South Korea apart from the busy metropolis of Seoul? Consider visiting Busan, a large port city famous for its scenic mountains, golden-sand beaches, and traditional temples.
As the second largest city in the country in terms of population, it sees a steady flow of travelers, who flock here for attractions like the Haeundae Beach, Sea Life Aquarium, as well as Beomeosa Temple, a Buddhist shrine founded in 678 A.D.
Busan is also best known for hosting one of Asia’s most prestigious film festivals, the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), which sees more than 300 films from 75 countries each year.
For the curious, Busan can best be described as a more relaxed and chilled out version of Seoul. That said, it is nonetheless a wonderful destination for both outdoor adventures and cultural escapades.
Not sure where to begin? Here are five must-dos for your next visit.
1. Hang out at the beaches
The city’s sprawling beaches make Busan a popular destination for sun seekers. Laid back, yet bustling, the 1.5-kilometer Haeundae Beach is one of Korea’s most popular beaches. The white sand beach is located on a shallow bay, creating a beautiful coastline that’s perfect for swimming and hanging out. Foodies ought to make a beeline for local delicacies such as king crab, cold noodles, as well as check out street vendors peddling fish sticks and steamed dumplings. To enjoy sweeping views of the ocean, book a stay at Shilla Stay Haeundae, which is located just a two-minute walk away from the picturesque Haeundae Beach. The property features a relaxed, residential-style design with clean lines and soft hues that’s inspired by the coastal city itself.
2. Enjoy fresh seafood
Given its seaside location, Busan offers an abundance of fresh seafood. For the best finds, follow the locals to the Jagalchi Market, South Korea’s largest seafood market that’s often compared to Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji Market. Travelers will find varieties of live and dried seafood are prepared in different ways, sold by vendors who are mostly women, called jagalchi ajumma, with “ajumma” meaning middle-aged or married woman in Korean. You’ll see mackerel, sea squirts (ascidians), and whale meat displayed on wooden boxes along the road outside of the market and along the shore. Located on the shoreside road in Busan’s Jung-gu, the market features an indoor and outdoor section, as well we seafood restaurants and buffets.
3. Visit a cultural village
Love history and culture? Busan has its fair share of cultural attractions that capture the old-world charm of Korea’s rich heritage. Gamcheon Cultural Village consists of hundreds of tiny, colorful houses, shops and buildings dotted throughout a maze of small, winding streets. Built on surrounding hills with views overlooking the sea, the village rises above the city and is known as the “Santorini of Korea”. The village’s hand-drawn murals and sculptures create the ambient of a living art installation, resulting in a picture-perfect attraction for camera-toting visitors.
4. Marvel at scenic landscapes
Another scenic landmark, the Haedong Yonggung Temple is a breathtaking temple perched atop a rocky hill overlooking the East Sea. Dating back to the 13th century and built by a legendary Buddhist teacher, the temple is nestled between the sea and mountains and boasts a beautiful three-story pagoda that represents tranquil harmony. For panoramic views of the city, check out Busan’s newest attraction, the Busan Air Cruise, which offers a magnificent 1.6-kilometer journey above the sea in glass-enclosed cable cars.
5. Go shopping at the world’s largest department store
Considered one of Asia’s best shopping meccas, South Korea is home to endless malls selling clothes, accessories, and beauty products. Busan too, is known for the lavish Shinsegae Centum City, which has been listed in the Guinness World Records as the world’s largest department store, where countless local and international brands await, as well as entertainment options like an indoor golf range, an ice rink, and a spa. Most notably, the mall is designed by Italian architect Claudio Silvestrin and an American architecture and design firm Callison City under the concept of a “golden sea”.