20 Amazing Things to Do in Busan, Korea (2019)

Things to do in Busan

There are a plethora of things to do in Busan that we had no idea what to expect. Set on the seaside and backed by forested mountains, it’s easy to forget the scale of Korea’s second largest city.

Busan is a port town at its heart, but there is a lot more than meets the eye that will entice travelers. We booked tickets hoping to find a more relaxed coastal city with a cosmopolitan vibe, and we found a lot more.

Busan to our surprise is a city that has something to offer every traveler’s taste. Most importantly it’s a city almost untouched by international tourism.

Things to do in Busan The World Pursuit

As a note before we get started, Google Maps does not work in Korea. In this post, we will share location links to Kakao Maps. You should download the app if you have plans to travel around Korea or Busan for directions.


Things to do in Busan Table of Contents

1.) Soak up the Sun on Haeundae Beach

Things to do in Busan - Haeundae Beach

This beautiful sandy beach is amazingly clean, being located in a major metropolitan city and has beautiful golden sand. Haeundae is known for being one of the most magnificent beaches in Korea, and it’s smack dab in the middle of Busan if you’re looking for a spot to soak up the sun.

It’s Busan’s most famous beach and hosts a slew of events throughout the year. When we visited Haeundae Beach, it was during their Annual Sand Castle Competition which was far more impressive than we would have ever guessed.

Once you’re bored of laying out on the beach you can head into the Haeundae neighborhood which is filled with coffee shops, bars, and restaurants. We tried out first Korean BBQ place here called Obanjang. It’s an open-air Korean BBQ spot with charcoal grills instead of the more common grill tops.

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


2.) Find Your Zen at Haedong Yonggung Temple

Korea is full of Temples with the vast majority of them are set in the mountains for religious reasons. Haedong Yonggung is unique and famous in Korea for its location along the cliffs of the coastline. Due to the setting, it’s arguably on the list of most stunning temples in Asia. We spent a couple of hours here hanging along the coastline and exploring the temple.

The temple complex is a series of terraces that stand over a rich sea nestled along the shoreline. Its location is important because of the spiritual power of a mountain at the temples rear and the sea in the face. Haedong Yonggung dates back to 1376; however, it was destroyed some 200 years later by the Japanese Invasion in the 16th century. Its present form was constructed centuries later in the 1930s. We spent some time watching the waves roll across the seashore in this spiritual place. It’s an enchanting location and in peak season the cherry blossoms bloom for an awe-inspiring sight.

Haedong Yonggung Temple is just on the outskirts of Busan and takes a bit of work to visit using public transport, but it’s well worth the journey. The alternative would be to take a taxi from Haeundae which should cost around 11,000 KRW ($10).

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


3.) Watch the Fish Squirm at Jagalchi Market

Things to do in Busan Jagalchi Market

Busan has long been Korea’s seaport and plays a vital role in its fishing industry. The Jagalchi Market is the largest fish market in Korea. Its main floor is lined with a myriad of fish that extend from gargantuan snow crabs, olive flounder, oysters, live octopus, cuttlefish, clams, and so much more. Much of the main indoor area feels more like a weird aquarium and carries little to no smell, unlike other fish markets we’ve visited in the past.

On the side streets and the first floor of the building, you’ll find a wide variety of fish products and restaurants. Keep your eye out for ganjang gejang which is raw soy marinated crab and a signature Korean seafood dish — it’s similar to a soy sauce based ceviche.

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


4.) Explore the Art District of Gamcheon Cultural Village

Things to do in Busan Gamcheon Cultural Village

The Gamcheon Cultural Village has become an icon of Busan and no trip to the city is complete without visiting the neighborhood turned art project. It’s a unique neighborhood revitalization project in which they took an impoverished community and turned its narrow alleyways and streets into an art gallery. The buildings are painted in a series of pastels most notably blue with hundreds of murals and statues that are hidden throughout the neighborhood.

Visitors can find gift shops, cafes, art galleries, and restaurants spread throughout the neighborhood many of which offer great views of the community as it’s in a valley.

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


5.) Head to the Top of The Busan Tower

Things to do in Busan - Busan Tower

If you want to catch some awesome views of Busan head to the top of the Busan Tower located in Yongdusan Park. The view from the top of the tower gives a great perspective of Busan and the Nampo Port down below. The tower was built in 1973 and they even offer a ticket that offers all you can drink beer. (Koreans like to drink)

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


6.) Watch the Sunset on Gwangalli Beach

Things to do in Busan Gwangalli Beach

If you haven’t realized by now, Busan is a city of beaches and the best way to finish a day here is at the beach. Gwangalli is not far from the much more popular Haeundae Beach, but it draws fewer people.

Head to Gwangalli for an awesome sunset and perfect photo opportunity of the famous Gwangandaegyo Bridge. As the night falls Gwangandaeygyo bridge is lit with thousands of twinkling light that change colors. It’s a quintessential spot for photographers and a great way to end your day before grabbing a bite for dinner.

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


7.) Take a Hike in the Taejongdae Park

If you need a city escape, like us, from Busan, you should head to Taejongdae Park for a dose of nature. Taejongdae Park on the southern edge of Yeongdo Island contains a network of super enjoyable trails perfect. Trails wind back and forth offering views of the dramatic craggy coastline and passing Buddhist Temples.

It’s mystical setting, and the natural beauty of the island has birthed the legend of Sinseon Rock. Legend has it the rock is where gods and goddesses come to relax and look out to the sea.

At the end of the trail, the lighthouse sits at 200m in elevation and provides hikers a spectacular panoramic view of the ocean. We didn’t find hiking trail challenging, but a small train line runs through the resort and gives travelers a chance to rest their weary legs.

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


8.) Learn an Ancient Martial Art at the Beomeosa Temple

This one is a bonus as it’s on the outer edges of Busan and it’s location makes for an easy half-day trip from the city. Bemeosa is the head temple of the Jogye Order and one of the most urban major temples of Korea. The historic temple dates back to 661, but was destroyed during a war in the 16th century and rebuilt in the 17th century.

Don’t think that the temple went without a fight because the monks of the temples are famed for their defense of the temple from Japanese invades in the 16th and 20th century. Sunmudo, the ancient martial art of monks in Korea, was used to defend the temple. It was lost centuries ago, but several decades ago the monks of the temple used old text to revitalize the martial art.

The temple is a pleasant way to spend several hours relaxing in the mountains. If you want to get active, there is also a 9 km long hiking loop that takes about two hours to cover and passes through mature woodlands. If you’re seeking a unique cultural experience, they offer temple stays to tourists who are interested in gaining insight into the daily lives of monks.

Location: Find More Information Here

Temple Stay: Find More Information Here


9.) Wander Through the Nampo-dong Market

On any visit to a major Korean city, you’ll learn fast that the Koreans love to shop! There is no better place to understand that in Busan than the commercial area of Nampo-dong. It’s a great area to pick up a souvenir and make your head spin at the same time.

Every storefront blasts music and once the night falls, lights are glaring and flashing across the street. It’s an excellent area for street photography, and we had a fun time exploring the neighborhood on foot.

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


10.) Shop ’til Your Drop at the Shinsegae Centrum City

Things to do in Busan Cameron

The Shinsegae Centre is a massive 14-floor department store and shopping complex that is the largest in the world. There is an overwhelming amount of merchandise here that will overwhelm and make your head spin. Most items fall into the realm of luxury consumer merchandise such as perfumes, cosmetics, handbags, clothes, electronics, and accessories. If you head to the top floor, the observation deck and cafe offers a great view of the city, a favorite for photographers in Busan.

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


11.) Eat Your way Through Gwangbokdong Food Market

Within the Nampo-dong market, is Gwangbokdong a street food market brimming with vendors. Show up here hungry as you’ll find a wide swath of vendors who occupy the central walking street and then a wide variety of restaurants that line the shopfronts. There is a wide variety of food choices here, but the most prevailing is seafood.

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


12.) Drink The Night Away in Seomyeon

We found this area by accident. However, our Airbnb happened to be situated in the most popular area for Nightlife in Busan. Korean’s love their nightlife that involves lots of Korean BBQ with copious amounts of Soju before heading out to a club. Seomyeon is the hub to do this, and if you’re interested in the nightlife of Busan, this would be the place to head. We’re past our clubbing days, but we did enjoy wandering the area, grabbing a bite to eat, and having a few bottles of soju.

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


13.) Watch a Film at BIFF Square

This isn’t the most exciting thing to do in Busan, but it should at least make the list. Busan is the beating heart of Korean Cinema, which is a thriving film industry responsible for an international phenomenon. Every year, the Busan International Film Festival takes place where Korean and International films premiere. It’s a massive event, and the center stage is BIFF Square. Biff Square has several large cineplexes that screen films and significant Hollywood films year round.

Biff Square is the Korean equivalent to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The street and square have several famous Korean actors and directors hand prints with dedicated plaques to each year of the Busan International Film Festival.

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


14.) Get Caffeinated on Jeonpo Cafe Street

If you’re in the mood for some shopping and restaurants Seomyeon is the perfect place to start in Busan. Once, that afternoon lull hits you can head to the cafe street in Seomyeon for a coffee and sweet treat. Most of Asia is not crazy about coffee shops like the West, except in Korea. They love coffee shops and you can find them throughout the country. We loved the coffee and baked goods at Matin Coffee Roasters.

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


15.) Drink, Drank, Drunk on Soju

Have you been to Korea, if you haven’t had soju? This alcoholic beverage was traditionally produced with rice, but modern versions use any form of starch. Koreans go crazy for Soju and drink around 3.6 Billion bottles of the spirit a year. It’s well worth a try and best paired with Korean BBQ.

A lot of this has to do with the culture of hoesik, which translates to drinking with co-workers. It’s not just a hoesik, but a mandated policy of encouraging workers to enjoy meals and drinks with coworkers and bosses after work. The policy is not as prevalent these days after a backlash against excessive drinking and sexual assault. However, go out on any weekday, and you’ll likely find any coworkers and friends in suits and professional clothes enjoying soju along with Korean BBQ.


16.) Chow Down on Korean BBQ

If you’re going to drink soju in Busan, you’re going to have it to pair it with Korean BBQ. Korean barbecue centers around a table with a gas or charcoal grill in the center where patrons grill their meat which is usually pork or beef. To find a place to eat, we followed our nose and sought out places popular with locals because reviews in English are almost non-existent in Busan.

Once seated, you can order drinks and various cuts of meat to grill on your table. It’s a family-style meal, so everything is meant to be shared. Along with the grilled meats come a selection of side dishes. Everyday things to accompany the meat is kimchi, peppers, garlic, scallion salad, noodles, and dashi eggs. The side dishes made the meal for us, and things like mixing the scallion salad, pajoeri, or kimchi with the meat is delicious.


17.) Try A Regional Specialty Such as Hoe, Ssiat Hotteok, or Eomuk

There are a number of classic Korean dishes that are worthy of a thing to do in Busan. Busan is well known in Korea for having delicious food and a number of specialties that originate from the city. You can seek out specialties such as hoe (raw fish), dwaeji gukbap (pork soup), milmyeon (wheat noodles in beef broth), eomuk (fishcakes), and ssiat hotteok (seed pancakes).

Another delicious specialty found throughout Korea is a pajeon (Korean Pancake). They cook the pancakes using an egg-based batter that is spread across a copious amount of scallions and in Busan fish. My favorite is always a sweet so you’ll have to find ssiat hotteok, the seed pancake filled with spiced nuts and cooked in a ridiculous amount of butter.


18.) Take in the Sea From the Oryukdo Skywalk

Busan is a city by the sea, and it’s compared to the like of San Francisco with hip restaurants, bridges, colorful neighborhoods, and a impressive sea. The ocean plays a significant role in the Busan, and you’re never too far from some form of a waterway. However, one of the best things to do in Busan is to watch the sea from the Oryukdo Skywalk.

The Skywalk is a glass observation bridge perched on a cliff that provides views of the coastline, sea, and the five island of Oryukdo. We found the experience to be very mild, but the reactions of some people stepping on the glass walkway to be comical. The skywalk is close to Haedong Yonggung Temple so you should probably combine the two if you have time in your Busan itinerary.

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


19.) Relax on Songdo Beach

Yes, we saw a pony miniature horse walked on the beach…

Not far from the Gamcheon Cultural Village is Songdo Beach. You won’t find this on a ton of lists for things to do in Busan because it’s not as big as Haeundae. However, it’s a lovely beach and the perfect place to spend some time soaking up the sun. It draws far less a crowd as the more popular hotspots in Busan so you can find a quiet place. It’s also right next to a wonderful glass pedestrian bridge and has a nice boardwalk for a walk.

Once finished walking along the beach, head to the Busan Air Cruise. It’s a gondola ride that stretches across the bay and ends in Amnan Park where you’ll find a pleasant coastal park with food vendors. It’s not cheap, but a great way to take in some great views of the area.

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


20.) Learn A Bit More at the Busan Modern History Museum

We aren’t big museum people, but the Busan Modern History Museum is a great place to learn more about Busan. The museum covers the Korean War, Japanese Influence, and critical historical events throughout the cities history. There are English panels so you won’t be confused and wandering around the museum. It’s not massive either, so you’ll have plenty of time for other things to do in Busan.

Location: Kakao Map Location Here


How to Get A Tour Guide in Busan?

We love using a local guide to glean a better understanding of a destination. In Busan, our budget did not have the room for a tour guide, but not everyone is on our budget. You can book day tours and tour guides through Viator.

Busan Tours on Viator


Things to do in Busan

How to get around Busan?

If you’re going to travel around Busan, it’s best to pick up a Busan Hanaro Card. They have a kiosk and machine at both the Airport and Train Station when you arrive in Busan. You can use a Hanaro Card on the subway, light rail, taxis, local buses, and even toll roads. The card costs ₩6000, and then you top up the card with money using kiosks or some convenience stores.

While you have to pay for the card you may save money in the long run as it provides a discount on subway and bus fair typically around ₩200. Then if you transfer between a bus and train within 20 minutes, you can pay a reduced fair of ₩200, down from around ₩1000. The convenience of having a Hanaro Card also saves a lot of time on buses as it’s not always straight forward to pay in cash. You simply scan your card on entry to the bus and then again on the exit for a seamless transaction. We got custom ones with our photos at the airport light rail station.


Where to stay in Busan?

You have a wide variety of options for places to stay in Busan. You can pick between resorts, hotels, Airbnb apartments, and hostels that are spread throughout the city.

We stayed in the heart of Busan which is Seomyeon. In the neighborhood was a wealth of shopping, coffee shops, and restaurants. Plus the central location made it easy to get to do all of the various things to do in Busan.

Hotels in Seomyeon

If you’re more interested in beach time, you should look for a hotel or apartment in the Haeundae Neighborhood. It is the most popular area to stay in Busan and it is the location of the majority of hotels in Busan. Many offer gorgeous views of the harbor and beach. With a wide variety of budget option ranging from Hostels to the Park Hyatt, you should find what you’re seeking.

Hotels in Haeundae


What to Pack For Korea?

Delsey 24″ Spinner

Delsey makes my favorite hard side luggage and after five years of travel around the world, they have yet to let me down. Plus their bags look extremely stylish, have heavy duty wheels, TSA approved lock, and two full packing compartments with tie-down straps and a zippered divider. If you want something different check out our other favorite carry on luggage pieces. http://www.jdoqocy.com/click-7939854-13720058

Shop Delsey’s Top Bags

Carry on Backpack

Knack Backpack

As far as design the Knack Expandable Backpack is one of my favorites in the travel world. Everything about this pack has been well thought out, and I’m impressed by the organization of the pockets and the ridiculous amount of features in such a small layout. Serious kudos to the designers of this pack. There are a lot of travel backpack companies popping up these days, but the vast majority of them are lacking in terms of build quality — not the case with this pack.

Knack Large Expandable Backpack

Travel Water Bottle

The tap water in Busan is clean, so there is no need to buy plastic water bottles and contribute to our world’s plastic problem. We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well and also keeps drinks warm. See all of our favorite water bottles here.

Hydro Flask Water Bottle

Smith Lowdown 2

If you’re visiting during the summer, you will want sunglasses in Busan. Smith makes my favorites. The Chromapop lens technologyis like seeing the world with a fresh set of our eyes. They enhance contrast, reduce glare, and reflection for grand vision while driving, walking around town, or out on the water. We also love the style of glasses for anyone who likes to live an active lifestyle.

Smith Lowdown 2

Slippers

It is considered rude to wear your shoes inside in Korea so most places will give you slippers to walk around with once you take your shoes off at the door. However, I never found these slippers comfortable and would rather have my own from home.

Shop Slippers on Amazon

Walking Shoes

You’ll be doing a lot of walking in Korea especially if you are hanging out in cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Sapporo, or Osaka. Make sure your feet don’t want to kill you and get a pair of good men’s walking shoes or women’s walking shoes.

The Best Women’s Travel Shoes

Travel Pillow

Korea is likely a long way from where you live and I can’t stress the importance of a good travel pillow for that long-haul flight.

Shop Travel Pillows on Amazon

Camera Gear

Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Busan. Our favorite pocket-sized point and shoot camera for quick trips are the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and video and is the size of your palm. To up your photography game a bit consider the Fuji X-T3. We just bought that camera and find the images out of unbelievable. Check out our other travel cameras here.

The Best Cameras For Travel Blogging

Kindle Paperwhite

Check out some of the best sellers right now and pick up a copy. There’s nothing better than enjoying a good book when relaxing on a beach in Busan. I’ve recently upgraded to the Kindle Paperwhite and absolutely love it. It’s small, has touchscreen functions, and a backlight so that I can read at night without a harsh glare.

Shop Kindle Paperwhite

Adapter

Korea mainly uses the Type A plug like North America, but there is generally no socket for the grounded portion. Make sure you find a good universal adapter like the one I have to keep you charged. Otherwise, you may struggle to find one once you land.

Travel Insurance

We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans for Korea!

THANKS FOR READING!

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About the Author

Cameron

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Cameron Seagle is one of the creative forces behind The World Pursuit. He is a writer and photographer for the travel website. Cameron has been traveling for the last four years. He found a passion for conservation and safari while living out of a truck in the African bush. Obsessed with finding the best gear and travel products, he loves to research new product releases. In his free time, you can find him shooting photographs, summiting mountains, and snowboarding. Cameron currently lives in Banff with his partner and blogging co-conspirator Natasha. Cameron's favorite countries are Ireland, Scotland, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Japan. And he can never resist an excellent beach destination.


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