Nestled on mountainous terrain, Busan is the second-largest and, quite possibly, the most dynamic city in South Korea. Offering the largest seafood market, this South Korean port city has some of the most vibrant beaches in the country, and it is truly a place unlike any other. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people swarm to Busan (formerly known as Pusan) in search of a bit of sand, sun, and great food. So, whether you prefer an active way of traveling or are looking to have a laid-back trip to Busan, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll have a good time. So come on and discover the best things to do in Busan.
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Where to Stay in Busan
There are a host of places to stay in Busan – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Busan, mid-range places to stay in Busan, and budget accommodation in Busan.
The Arban Hotel is not only in a great location in Busan, but it also comes with super clean, spacious rooms. There’s fast WiFi, comfortable rooms and beds, and a great shower in the private bathrooms. Excellently located near a subway station. Check rates and availability on this fabulous Busan hotel here.
The Guesthouse Dear Moon is a great space in Busan. Not only are rooms comfortable, but there’s also a shared kitchen and terrace. It’s perfectly located near the Gukje market and the included breakfast is a great addition In this mid-range Busan accommodation. You can book a room here.
The Sohostel is within walking distance of both Busan station and the port (handy if you’re heading to Japan next!). There’s great staff here and a variety of room choices too. The Sohostel is a great Busan hostel budget option – check dates and availability here.
Top Things to do in Busan
I loved Busan. It was our last stop in South Korea before we took the ferry to Japan, and we made the most of it. There’s a great foodie culture here and it’s a fabulous city to explore.
Visit Gamcheon Culture Village
The first time you see Gamcheon Culture Village, you might think you have traveled to some of Brazil’s most famous neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro. Thanks to its tiny and colorful houses, it is easy to make a mistake. But this artsy area is nestled right in the center of Busan. When visiting the unique city for the first time, it is a crime not to pay a visit to the small neighborhood that in some ways even resembles the Greek Island of Santorini (hence the blue roofs). Nowadays, Gamcheon Culture Village is a pretty touristy place, but it is still fun to see.
Not getting lost in its labyrinth of streets is a challenge itself, but that is what makes the experience so exciting.
Hop on the Busan City Tour Bus
Let’s be honest – sometimes it is impossible not to worry about your travel budget. So, if you are looking for ways to save a bit of money while exploring Busan, then hopping on the City Tour Bus is a great idea.
What makes it so good is the fact you will have the chance to visit all of the most popular attractions and places in Busan at your own pace. You can either choose between a day or a night bus. On the day tour, you can hop on and off the bus at any time you please (as long as it is from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM).
Along the road, you will be able to spot Haeundae Beach, the Dongbaekseom Islands, the Gijang Market, and other famous spots.
Discover Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan
Built by the known Buddhist teacher Naong, the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple can be found on the coast of Busan. To learn more about the traditional Korean religion, it is a fascinating sight to see.
During April, the temple is lit up by hundreds of lanterns making the experience even more special. When hunger kicks in, have a snack at one of the street vendors located along the staircases that head to the temple. The extraordinary site is also the place that has one of the best views of the ocean. When it comes to Busan attractions, it is one of the best you can explore.
Visit the Busan Museum
To learn more about Korean history, including the prehistoric era, the Japanese occupation, the end of the 20th century as well as modern-day, don’t forget to discover the Busan Museum.
This popular Busan attraction was renovated in 2002, and nowadays it features fascinating ancient artifacts. This is also the place to participate in a tea ceremony, therefore visiting the museum is one of the most exciting things to do in Busan.
Take in the Views from Busan Tower and Yongdusan Park
Busan Tower was built in 1973 purely for recreational purposes (it’s not a TV or radio tower). The 120-meter-high structure has a panoramic viewing platform and a small café at the top.
The high-speed elevators work between 11 am and 8 pm. Tickets cost 8,000 won. For those looking for things to do in Busan at night, this is the perfect spot to watch the sunset from. It’s much like visiting Namsan Tower in Seoul at night.
Spend the Day at Haeundae Beach, Busan
Spending a day at the beach is one of the best things you can do in Busan. Located on the coast of the Haeundae District, this beach is unlike any other in the gorgeous city. Thanks to its soft sandy shoreline, in recent years, it has undergone dramatic development. Since the beach faces south, you may expect waves up to 1.5 meters.
Nowadays, Haeundae Beach is a famous hang-out place. During summer, many events take place here. If you are lucky, you might get the chance to see the sand sculpture festival in June or the Busan Sea Festival in August which is held annually.
Gwangalli Beach (Gwangan Beach), Busan
This 1.4km long stretch of sandy coastline lies in a cove west of Haeundae. The beach is directly in front of the large Gwangan Bridge which connects Haeundae to Suyeong, making it very “instagramable”!
Behind the crescent-moon-shaped beach is a series of alleyways full of restaurants, cafes, and nightclubs making it the perfect area to explore after a day relaxing on the beach.
Songdo Beach, Busan
Songdo beach was the first man-made beach in South Korea and was created in 1913 as a place for locals to relax. This stretch of beach is 800 meters long and includes a cable car, sky tram, and skywalk, plus many restaurants, bars, and cafes.
Go Shopping at Nampo-Dong
Visiting Busan’s main shopping area should be on every shopaholic’s bucket list. At first, it might seem quite challenging to get around. But – as you move through the streets – you will realize that each valley offers specific products.
For example, Vintage Clothes Alley is the perfect place to get your hands on one-of-a-kind second-hand clothing. Kang-tong Golmok, however, is where you will find bargain market items. Don’t miss the Gukje Market which offers international goods.
You can also check out the Shinsegae Centum City, which was once the largest department store in the world at over 3 million square feet! The Lotte Department store is another flagship retail area in Busan’s shopping district. (and there’s a GREAT food court here inside)
Gwangbokdong Food Street
One of the best places for Korean street food is Gwangbokdong food street. With many restaurants and food stalls all vying for your trade, this is the cheapest place to get a good lunch or dinner in the city (from $1 to $3 per dish).
From pancakes and dumplings to stuffed octopus, you’ll find plenty of mouth-watering options here! There’s more on the food of South Korea here.
Try street food at BIFF Square in Busan
As you may already know, every year, Busan brings together all of the South Korean movie-makers by hosting the Busan International Film Festival. Even if you are not a film fan, you can still benefit from the major event. Why? In the area of the festival, you will find an incredible market that offers some of Busan’s best street food.
Whether you prefer to taste something sweet or savory, your inner gourmand will be happy. Try the mouth-watering dumplings known as madu, or perhaps have a bite of dakgangjeong – Korea’s famous fried chicken.
Taste Samjin Eomuk
Located at Busan Station, Samjin Eomuk is one of the most popular food chains in South Korea that offers a delicious yet unusual snack – fishcakes (called eomuk). Thanks to this company, in the last decades, traditional Busan street food has become a delicacy that is loved by both tourists and locals.
Visit the Jagalchi Fish Market
East Asia is known for its fantastic seafood. So when visiting Busan, making a stop by the largest fish market in South Korea is a must. This fabulous place is located in Nampo-dong. To get your hands on whatever fish or seafood you are craving, plan your visit as early as possible.
The market starts its work at 7 AM, and already then it’s swarming with people trying to find the best pieces of octopus, lobster, squid, scallops, shrimps, eel, king crab, and all kinds of fish. If your hostel or hotel isn’t equipped with a kitchen, don’t worry! Simply bring your purchase up to one of the restaurants on the second floor. There it will be cooked in front of your eyes. Of course, most people head to the Jagalchi Fish Market to have a culinary adventure. But it is also a great place to visit just to take in all the action of the local neighborhood. The vibrant area will definitely leave an impression.
Getting to Busan
Flights from Seoul take one hour and cost as little as $20. However, when you consider the time it takes to check in and the hassle of the airport, it makes more sense to go by road or rail!
KTX (Korea’s fast train) from Seoul to Busan takes three hours and costs around 60,000 won ($50).
The Seoul to Busan Buses take around 4 hours and cost 37,000 won ($30).
You can check bus and train timetables and reserve your tickets to Busan here.
If you are arriving in Korea by sea from China, there is also a bus from Incheon to Busan which takes 4.5 hours. The ferry from Japan arrives directly at the port here (there’s more on this here).
Getting Around Busan
Busan has a metro system with four lines, plus a light rail and coastal service. For places that aren’t served by the metro, Busan’s bus service is comprehensive and easy to use.
Busan has a temperate climate with hot and humid summers that see plenty of rainfall (Busan falls within the monsoon region). Winters are cold but with bright, blue skies, but not unpleasantly so – you’re unlikely to see temperatures below freezing here, unlike further north. Spring and autumn are pleasant with temperatures 10 to 17 degrees Celsius.
What is the Best Time to Visit Busan?
Summer and fall (autumn) is a great time to visit Busan to take advantage of the city’s beaches, though you should anticipate a few downpours. Spring is another great option as there is lower rainfall than summer and autumn.
Is Busan Safe to Visit?
Although port cities usually have a bad rep for being seedy, (and Busan is in the top 10 when it comes to the size of commercial ports!) Busan is a vibrant, clean, and safe city with low rates of crime compared to similar cities in the west. The city center and areas around popular beaches are safe, but take usual travel precautions and don’t venture to unknown areas on your own at night.
Follow all the usual precautions that you would when traveling in a busy city
- Keep valuables out of sight
- Always lock your valuables away when they’re not with you (read how we use a portable travel safe here)
- Use a VPN when utilizing public WiFi networks in hotels, hostels, and guesthouses (read about VPNs here)
- Tap water is potable in Busan, but consider taking a refillable water bottle to reduce the use of single-use plastic. We always travel with a filter water bottle, which I wrote about here.
Travel Insurance for Busan
Busan is a pretty safe city to travel to, but accidents can happen. If you’re considering travel insurance for your trip to Busan, then you can get a quote from World Nomads for your travel insurance for Busan
Travel Tips for Exploring South Korea
- Considering travel insurance for your trip? World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.
- Download and install a VPN BEFORE you travel to South Korea > discount coupon here
- Book the best South Korea tours and guides
- Save money in South Korea with a Wise debit card
- Book Trains & Buses in South Korea with 12goAsia
- Book accommodation in South Korea with Booking
Final Words on the Best Things to do in Busan
Whether it’s shopping, beaches, street food, or cultural attractions, or even if you’re using it as a hopping off point to Japan as we did, Busan is one of the most interesting cities in South Korea – and the food, well, yes the food is amazing too!
Stock images in this article are courtesy Deposit Photos.
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