There are enough things to do in Busan that you could easily spend a month here and still feel as though you have barely scratched the surface.
Home to majestic, jagged mountain ranges, miles upon miles of pristine sandy white coastlines, natural hot springs and serene Buddhist temples, Busan is visually stunning.
- 1 About Beautiful Busan
- 2 About This Busan Guide
- 3 The Best Things to do in Busan for Foodie Travellers
- 3.1 Sample Korean Street Food at Haeundae Market
- 3.2 Try Pig Trotters at Jokbal Alley
- 3.3 Eat Dwaeji Gukbap – The Famous Soup of Busan
- 3.4 Eat a Sweet Busan Pancake for Dessert
- 3.5 Take a Korean Cooking Class
- 3.6 Visit Quaint Korean Tea Rooms
- 3.7 Hang Out in One of Busan’s Quirky Coffee Shops
- 3.8 Eat Your Way Down Seomyeon Food Alley
- 3.9 Try Bingsu at a Cute Cafe
- 4 The Best Outdoorsy Things to do in Busan
- 4.1 Take a Relaxing Stroll Down Dalmaji-Gil Road
- 4.2 Enjoy Scenic Coastal Hikes at Taejongdae Park
- 4.3 Dip Your Toes into the Sands of Songjeong Beach
- 4.4 Relax at Dadaepo Beach
- 4.5 Conquer Geunjongsan Mountain
- 4.6 Ride the Scenic Geumjeongsan Cable Car
- 4.7 Stroll Along Oryukdo Skywalk at Igidae Park
- 4.8 Trek Along the Songdo Cloud Trails
- 4.9 Relax at Haeundae Beach
- 4.10 Watch the Sunset at Gwangalli Beach
- 4.11 Watch the Sunrise at the Cheongsapo Observatory
- 4.12 Spend a Day at Dongbaekseom Island
- 5 Things to do in Busan for Culture Vultures
- 5.1 Visit Gamcheon Cultural Village
- 5.2 Marvel at the Seokbulsa Cliff Carvings
- 5.3 Try Homemade Makgeolli at Sanseong Village
- 5.4 Rent a Hanbok and Sightsee Like a Joseon Royal
- 5.5 Visit a Japanese Style Temple
- 5.6 Engage Your Inner Spiritualist at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
- 5.7 Participate in a Korean Temple Stay
- 5.8 Listen to the Gentle Chanting of Monks at Beomeosa Temple
- 5.9 Check Out Busan’s Walk of Fame at BIFF Square
- 5.10 Visit Tongdosa – The Largest Temple in Korea
- 5.11 Take a Day Trip to Gyeongju – The “Museum Without Walls”
- 6 Markets and Shopping in Busan
- 7 Things to do in Busan:Art Galleries and Museums
- 7.1 Check Out the Work of Local Street Photographers
- 7.2 Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art
- 7.3 Discover the Works of Renowned and Up and Coming Korean Artists
- 7.4 Experience the Weird and Wonderful Exhibits of the Trickeye Museum
- 7.5 Visit the Busan Aquarium
- 7.6 Get a History Lesson at the Busan Museum
- 7.7 The Maritime Museum
- 8 Things to do in Busan: Festivities and Events
- 9 Nightlife & Socialising in Busan
- 10 Spas & Wellness Treatments in Busan
- 11 When to Visit Busan
- 12 Where to Stay in Busan
- 13 Getting to Busan from Seoul
- 14 Getting Around Busan
About Beautiful Busan
The coastal city, located at Korea’s southernmost tip, is the second largest in the country and has plenty to offer travellers of all backgrounds and interests.
Busan is a city of contrasts. One moment you are strolling along tree-lined promenades enjoying the ambiance of chic, upscale eateries and tented bars. The next, you are negotiating with vendors at traditional Korean street food markets, or wandering through the stalls of Busan’s famed fish markets as locals wolf down san-nakji, live octopus drenched in soy sauce.
Whether you’re a solo female in Korea, a beach bum, a culture vulture, or a history buff, rest assured there are plenty of things to do in Busan to suit your tastes.
Busan is best enjoyed as part of a wider South Korea itinerary, however, it also makes the perfect spot for an alternative weekend break in Asia.
About This Busan Guide
As mentioned, there are so many things to do in Busan that there simply isn’t time to do them all in just a couple of days. This guide has been divided into various sections. Busan attractions are divided into various categories – foodie things to do in Busan, historical things to do in Busan, activities in nature, etc.
Of course, you can cherry-pick activities for your Busan itinerary based on your personal travel style. Since this guide is so extensive, feel free to use the table of contents above to navigate to the relevant sections.
I spent two years living in South Korea where I taught English at a Korean hagwon and wrote about Korean travel for Forbes. I went back and forth to Busan countless times and had many friends living in the city. This article is based on my extensive travels in this scenic coastal city.
The Best Things to do in Busan for Foodie Travellers
Different regions of Korea each have their own specific regional delicacies. Busan is no different in that regard. Popular dishes in Busan range from hearty stews and marinated meats to dishes that are reserved for those with only the most adventurous palettes.
Tasting authentic Busan delicacies should be high on your list of things to do in Busan, as should uncovering off the beaten path eateries that are loved by locals. Sure, you can find some of these dishes in Seoul but they are best tried in their home region.
Sample Korean Street Food at Haeundae Market
Korean street food is a huge part of Korean food culture. You will find street vendors setting up their carts on virtually every street corner across the country.
While there are plenty of excellent street food markets across Busan, Haeundae market is one of the best places to experiment with street food delicacies. Pull up a stool beneath a pojangmacha tent, and order a cup of tteokbokki – chewy rice cakes served in a deliciously spicy gochujang paste.
Alternatively, buy yourself a bindaetteok – a savoury pancake cooked with mung beans and onions. Wash it all down with a cold cup of soju. For dessert, its red bean pastries.
Sampling Korean street food is one of the best foodie things to do in Busan. Best of all, the delicacies will not set you back more than $1-$2 each.
Try Pig Trotters at Jokbal Alley
Those with an adventurous palette can consider sampling one of Busan’s famous delicacies – pig’s trotters. This dish is known locally as jokbal. The meat is seasoned and then boiled for 3 hours. Garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice wine, and leeks are added to the meat for flavour.
Busan Jokbal is a narrow alleyway in central Busan whose ramshackle buildings play host to restaurants specialising in this delicacy. Jokbal apparently offers anti-aging properties that prevent wrinkles. However, most Koreans enjoy this dish on account of how the meat melts in the mouth. If you don’t think too much about what it is/how it looks, Jokbal is actually quite pleasant.
Eat Dwaeji Gukbap – The Famous Soup of Busan
Sampling the local cuisine and immersing yourself in the food culture of the places that you visit is a huge part of travelling and in Busan, that should be no different.
Be sure to sample Dwaeji Gukbap – arguably Busan’s most famous dish. The dish is a stew that consists of pork and vegetables seasoned with soy sauce, miso, and sesame.
Dwaeji Gukbap gets its unique and special taste as a consequence of the way the dish is made – by boiling pork bones for many hours to form a broth (much tastier and more palatable than it sounds!).
For the best Dwaeji Gukbap in Busan, head to Twin Pork Soup Restaurant, or Wonjo Halmae Gukbap, both in the city centre.
Eat a Sweet Busan Pancake for Dessert
When browsing through Busan’s various street food markets, don’t miss grabbing a bite of Ssiat Hotteok – a Busan interpretation of the typical Korean Hotteok (pancake). Ssiat Hotteok is widely available and is a sweet pancake prepared with seeds.
Take a Korean Cooking Class
What better souvenir is there to take back from your trip to Busan, than a new-found knowledge of how to make Korean food? You will be sure to impress your friends and family at dinner parties when you rustle up some ttukbaegi bulgogi, rather than some bland pasta.
There are several cooking schools in Busan that offer cooking classes. The other nice thing is that before you start with the actual cooking, you are taken to Busan’s Bupyeong and Jagalchi Markets so as to source all of your own fresh ingredients.
Visit Quaint Korean Tea Rooms
There are few better ways to unwind at the end of a long day of sightseeing, than by ordering up a cup of omija tea, and a plate of yakgwa Korean sweets. Tea is a big part of Korean culture, and the tea blends that you can expect to find here are very different from those in the west.
Korean tea tends to be divided into four different categories – grain-based tea, fruit tea, medicinal/herbal tea, and green tea. Some of the fruit teas are very thick and syrupy. I personally love Korean jujube tea.
Options of places for trying Korean tea in Busan are plentiful. Tea rooms range from the cute and traditional, to the grandiose and elegant. For the former, head to Nae Go Hyeong Jun Tong Chat Jib (내고향 전통찻집) in Seomyeon. A traditional Korean tearoom, unchanged by time, and popular among Korean ajummas and ajoshis.
Hang Out in One of Busan’s Quirky Coffee Shops
Coffee shop culture is huge in Korea. All over the country, you will find dozens of quirky coffee shops with themes that range from cutesy and traditional, to the downright wacky and eccentric. While Seoul is known for its eclectic coffee shops, Busan is catching up.
Brown Hands Design Cafe is a great spot close to Busan station. It is housed within the premises of an old hospital and still retains many of the building’s original features. This spot serves artisanal coffee in a chic setting – think exposed brick walls paired with contemporary modern furnishings,
Alternatively, “In the Mood for Love” is a hidden gem that is tucked away down an unsuspecting alleyway near Gwangalli beach. Here, patrons sit on tatami mats, in rustic little private rooms. Coffees aside, a highlight of stopping by here is the milk teas infused with fruit that are served on the menu.
Eat Your Way Down Seomyeon Food Alley
Seomyeon Food Alley is one of the best places to venture to in Busan if you want to try the local foods. A seemingly infinite number of restaurants sit side-by-side here, making you spoiled for choice of what to have for lunch.
The specialty dish of Seomyeon is cold noodles (냉면 ). Unfortunately, some of the restaurants here are tourist traps, so be mindful of places that don’t display their prices. One great spot to check out is 서면 개금밀면.
There’s also a great local market (none of your typical tourist tat and clutter I promise!) at the entrance selling weird and wonderful local delicacies – seasoned snails, insects and Bondaegi (boiled silkworm pupae – yum!). Sadly I wasn’t brave enough to try but it was fun to force my friend too and watch him gag at every bite (evil).
Try Bingsu at a Cute Cafe
Bingsu is a scrummy Korean dessert that is made from shaved ice and condensed milk. Korean restaurants usually specialise in selling only one type of food, so if you want to try bingsu, you will have to go to a specific bingsu spot.
The pud is available in lots of variations – with fruit, with chocolate sauce, with rice cakes, etc. Usually, you can only find bingsu in humongous two-person serving sizes. So, you need to share it or eat your weight in shaved ice. I’m not judging, I’ve done the latter many times!
For bingsu in Busan, try Dala 100% chocolate – a bright pink dessert place that sells chocolate bingsu. The best is their “dinosaur egg” bingsu – chocolate shaved ice, decorated with small chocolate dinosaurs, and enclosed inside a chocolate dinosaur egg – wowza! For something less calorific, try the strawberry bingsu at Sulbing.
The Best Outdoorsy Things to do in Busan
The mention of a large Korean city probably conjures up images of towering hi-rises and a bustling megalopolis. The reality is that Busan is filled with pockets of nature – from idyllic coastlines to mountains and hiking trails.
Take a Relaxing Stroll Down Dalmaji-Gil Road
Dalmaji-Gil Road is a pleasant seafront walk that runs close to Busan’s Haeundae district. The route leads through forests filled with pine trees, and Camellia flowers, while providing breathtaking views over the azure ocean. This walk is especially pleasant during cherry blossom season in the spring when the trees are filled with fragrant, delicate pink flowers.
Dalmaji-Gil is often likened to Paris’ Montmartre district on account of its charming ambiance, and all of the eclectic coffee bars that line the walkway.
Enjoy Scenic Coastal Hikes at Taejongdae Park
Famed for its rocky beaches, Taejongdae is a beautiful stretch of coastline in Yeongdo, Busan. Dozens of beautiful hiking trails lead travelers through the park, past Buddhist temples, and peaceful woodlands.
As you progress along the various trails here, you can bear witness to incredible views across the sea from the craggy clifftops. Local legend has it that it isn’t just locals that enjoy the scenery here, but gods and goddesses too. It is said that these beings sit and relax on Sinseon rock, just by the lighthouse, as they look out to the sea.
For breathtaking panoramas, ascend the wooden steps to the lighthouse. The clifftop viewing platform here is situated 200m above the water and is the perfect spot for taking photos.
The hiking options at Taejongdae are not too challenging, but those short on time can opt to take the Danubi train which runs through the area and stops off at the main Busan attractions.
Dip Your Toes into the Sands of Songjeong Beach
Songjeong beach is one of the best beaches in Busan. Songjeong sits close to Hongdae, yet it is significantly less crowded. If you are looking for a tranquil place to enjoy the summer sun, this is the perfect spot. Songjeong is also popular with surfers, on account of the favourable wind conditions.
Relax at Dadaepo Beach
Dadaepo beach is a nice alternative place to relax and hang out in Busan. The beach is made up of mudflats, rather than sand. It is a popular spot for locals to bring picnics.
Dadaeopo is not serviced and the area is not lined with bars and restaurants. As such, the area has a more rugged, natural vibe.
Conquer Geunjongsan Mountain
Home to dense woodlands, jagged rock formations, hidden Buddhist temples, and natural hot springs, Geumjeongsan Mountain offers one of the most rewarding hiking experiences in all of South Korea.
This is one of the best things to do in Busan for those with a little more time to spare in the area, or who adore immersing themselves in the great outdoors when they travel.
A trip to Geumjeongsan can be combined with a visit to Beomeosa temple which acts as a starting point for the trail that ascends up towards the mountain peak. The hike is not too challenging and those who make it to the top are rewarded with incredible birds-eye views of Busan and the sea of Japan in the distance.
Another noteworthy attraction in the area is the crumbling remnants of the Geumjeongsanseong Fortress which was built as a defense mechanism against the Japanese.
Ride the Scenic Geumjeongsan Cable Car
If you don’t want to hike to the top of Geumjeongsan mountain, you can still reach the fortress at the mountain peak by opting to take a scenic cable car journey instead.
Stroll Along Oryukdo Skywalk at Igidae Park
If you’re looking for “off the beaten track” things to do in Busan then you’ve got that at Igidae park. In all, this is a beautiful 5 KM coastal walk leading past Gwangan Bridge, Haeundae Beach, Baeksan and Jangsan Mountain. The trail is a great way to cover a lot of ground in Busan, and burn off all that Korean bingsu and bulgogi while you’re at it!
The southernmost part of Igidae park is a nice spot, looking out at the five islands of Oryukdo. If you so wish, you can take a ferry across to Oryukdo. Alternatively, the “sky bridge” is free entry – a glass-bottom walkway where you can stroll out to the middle of the sea.
Due to their close proximity to each other, you can tie in a visit to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple and Igidae park in one day. The two will probably take about half a day and then you can head out for Korean BBQ – A perfect Busan itinerary, no? These two were arguably two of my favorite things to do in Busan.
Trek Along the Songdo Cloud Trails
An alternative walkway to enjoy in Busan is the Songdo Cloud Trail. This 365m curved trail leads over Songdo beach and enables you to admire some of the most unique landscapes in southern South Korea.
Revel in the views as you gaze across to Geokbukseom – a small uninhabited rock island (“Turtle Island”), and a quaint lighthouse. Some areas along the trail are made of transparent glass, enabling you to see the sea waves as they crash beneath you.
Relax at Haeundae Beach
The 1.5km stretch of sandy coastline at Haeundae beach is considered to be one of Korea’s most popular and beautiful beaches. Popular among tourists and locals alike, Haeundae is a nice place to relax and hang out – whether that be by topping up your tan or enjoying a picnic with friends.
The boardwalk that lines Haeundae is filled with plenty of trendy coffee shop and dining options for when you get bored of rotating beneath the sun like a rotisserie chicken.
Close to Haeundae station, there is also an excellent market that sells an array of classic and affordable Korean street food eats. Also nearby is the Busan Aquarium.
When night falls, the Haeundae area is one of the most happening spots to drink, party, and dust off your karaoke skills at a noreabang (singing room).
Watch the Sunset at Gwangalli Beach
Another Busan beach well worth visiting during your time in Korea’s second city is Gwangalli beach. Similar in length to Haeundae, Gwangalli is the quieter, less crowded alternative.
Gwangalli is locally adored for its incredible views of Gwangandaegyo bridge. For the best ambiance and scenery, come here as the sun begins to set and the skies are illuminated with warm hues of red and orange.
By nightfall, the Gwangandaegyo bridge is illuminated with thousands of twinkling lights in all colours of the rainbow. Many local street performers and musicians take to the beach in the evenings making this the perfect place to hang out.
Watch the Sunrise at the Cheongsapo Observatory
The Cheongsapo Observatory is the latest skywalk to be opened in Busan. This transparent walkway leads you out into the sea and provides a perfect spot for watching the sunrise or sunset. The walkway sits between Mipo and Songjeong.
Spend a Day at Dongbaekseom Island
Dongbaek Island is a place of scenic beauty that floats just off the shores of Busan. The island is connected to the mainland via a bridge at Haeundae beach, making it very accessible.
You could easily spend an entire day at Dongbaek island. Here you can follow numerous walking trails that twist and turn through the island’s natural landscapes, leading you through peaceful woodlands, past hidden beaches and along dramatic coastlines. Look out for the mermaid statue that sits on a craggy rock in the middle of the sea.
Things to do in Busan for Culture Vultures
From temples perched precariously at the edges of cliffs to artistic villages laden with street art, Busan is bursting at the seams with culture.
Visit Gamcheon Cultural Village
Gamcheon Cultural Village is one of the most unique things to do in Busan. Here, located high in the hills above the city, the various houses, coffee shops, and stores are painted in delicate pastel shades and seemingly stacked up on top of each other like lego.
The walls, floors, and stairways of Gamcheon have been lovingly decorated with all manner of quirky murals and street art and many of the local cafes and restaurants follow unique and eccentric themes.
Gamcheon is one of South Korea’s “moon villages” or mural villages. In other words, this is a district that was once very run down and essentially a slum.
Tired of the drab, disintegrating appearance of their neighborhood, the locals whipped out their paintbrushes and transformed the town into the rainbow coloured site that is so popular with tourists today.
For 2000 KRW ($2), visitors can obtain a Gamcheon map which doubles as a scavenger hunt. As you traverse around the town, you can collect cute postcards and stamps to ‘cross off’ seeing the most notable pieces of artwork.
Marvel at the Seokbulsa Cliff Carvings
Seokbulsa is one of the lesser-known temples in Busan, and also one of the most majestic. This is a Buddhist hermitage that has been built upon Mount Geumjeongsan.
The highlight of visiting Seokbulsa is its phenomenal carvings which have been carved into the face of the limestone cliff that overlooks the mountains here. The majestic carvings are over 40 feet tall!
Seokbulsa dates back to the 1930s, making it relatively “modern” as far as most Korean temples go. It is a little awkward to get to, which has its perks, as the site is never crowded. Sometimes you may have it entirely to yourself!
Try Homemade Makgeolli at Sanseong Village
Sanseong is a traditional village that sits at the foot of Mount Gongsanseong. The village is stunning – encompassed by dense forests and woodlands, and comprised of noble hanok houses.
One of the main draws of visiting the village is to try some of the local foodie delicacies, or the village’s homemade makgeolli which has become somewhat famous in Busan. Sanseong makgeolli is made using fresh spring water that is found in the area. If you are lucky, you may be able to catch locals making it. Heuk yeomso (black goat) and yeomsi gogi (grilled goat) are delicacies in Sanseong which are enjoyed galbi style.
Rent a Hanbok and Sightsee Like a Joseon Royal
One way to see the highlights of Busan is to do so while donning a hanbok and dressing up like a Korean Royal from the Joseon dynasty. It’s a little cheesy, sure, but it’s one way to get unique photos of your trip.
Rest assured you won’t attract glares or weird looks – hanbok rental stores are everywhere in Busan, and even Koreans like to dress up in this attire.
Visit a Japanese Style Temple
Daegaksa Temple is a Buddhist Temple with a very unique appearance. The temple was constructed during the Japanese Colonial rule and as such, it does not follow the traditional style. Daegaksa is tucked away from view – down a side street just away from one of the main promenades in Nampo Dong.
Engage Your Inner Spiritualist at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
On the Northern outskirts of Busan, you can find Haedong Yonggungsa temple – a beautiful Buddhist temple perched precariously atop a cliff. This is one of only a small handful of Korean temples that are built by the sea – the majority are nestled high in the mountains.
The original temple site here dates back to the 1300s after the great Buddhist teacher Naong was told to build the site during a vision. Haedong Yonggungsa has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries but remains one of Korea’s most beautiful temples – both in terms of structure and setting.
The temple also is said to have mystical links, with many unusual occurrences being reported here over the years. It is said that if you pray to the giant statue of Buddha located outside the main pagoda, you will be freed of diseases.
Participate in a Korean Temple Stay
It is possible to participate in a Korean Temple Stay program at one of Busan’s temples if you wish. This entails spending a day or two residing within the temple accommodation and either meditating alone and practicing mindfulness amid the beautiful mountain scenery, or shadowing monks to gain valuable insight into how they live.
Listen to the Gentle Chanting of Monks at Beomeosa Temple
As far as the best things to do in Busan go, Beomeosa is a must-see cultural site. The temple grounds are located in the scenic foothills of Geumjeongsan Mountain in an area surrounded by quiet woodlands and pleasant hiking trails, away from the main hustle and bustle of downtown Busan.
Beomeosa has a history dating back over 1,500 years and the site is one of the most important temples in all of Korea.
Check Out Busan’s Walk of Fame at BIFF Square
BIFF Square is Busan’s answer to Los Angeles’ walk of fame. The starred pathway was built here in commemoration of all the film stars and celebrities that have participated in the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) over the years.
Once upon a time, BIFF Square was nothing more than an area that housed a cinema after the Koreans gained their independence from the Japanese. Today, handprints and stars line the pathways, and the area is filled with lots of excellent shops and street food markets.
Visit Tongdosa – The Largest Temple in Korea
Tongdosa Temple is the largest temple in Korea, and one of the most beautiful. The temple was built in 646 AD and sits on the southern part of Mount Chiseosan, close to Yongsan.
Tongdosa has an interesting story. It is known as “the temple without Buddha”. Most Korean Buddhist temples have dharma halls that house grand statues of Buddha, whereas Tongdosa centres around an alter. Supposedly this held an “eternal flame” for more than 1,300 years.
Take a Day Trip to Gyeongju – The “Museum Without Walls”
Gyeongju is a historic city that is situated in the southwest of Korea. It is often missed out of most people’s itineraries which is a shame, as Gyeongju is steeped in culture and history. Gyeongju was the capital of Korea during the Silla dynasty.
If you visit Gyeongju, you can wander through charming hank villages, and marvel at towering statues of Buddha that are centuries of years old. It takes less than two hours to get from Busan to Gyeongju, making it a perfect day trip.
Markets and Shopping in Busan
Busan provides plenty of opportunities for shopping. Regardless of whether you want to shop for trendy Korean clothing, for street food snacks, or souvenirs, you will not be short of places to go.
Jagalchi Fish Market
A word of warning: splashback potential! Leave your flip flops at home today and make sure your feet are covered. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Being a port town, of course, Busan was going to have a fish market. In fact, Busan’s Jagalchi Fish Market is the largest of its kind in all of Korea.
‘Fresh’ is the keyword here and you can watch fishermen bringing in their latest catches and fish being sliced, diced, chopped and splayed (that’s a word? Well I like how it sounds) in ways you didn’t think possible.
Just make sure that the sea creatures are not still wriggling around when you put them in your mouth -except for the Octopus – it’s O.K. to slice off a cheeky bit of tentacle and eat them live here… in fact, it’s kinda the in thing (sannakji).
Seafood lovers can opt to buy fresh fish from one of the stalls at Jagalchi and then have their food prepared especially for them at one of the nearby tented restaurants.
Sit beside the locals beneath a pojangmacha tent and wash it all down with a glass of soju. Head to Jagalchi early in the morning to witness the market at the height of the action.
Have Fresh Seafood Cooked to Your Liking at Millak Market
Millak Raw Fish Town is another well-regarded fish market in Busan. It is situated north of Gwangalli beach. This is one of the best Busan attractions to stop by if you are in the area – especially if you are a seafood aficionado.
The Millak fish market sits on the first floor of a 10 story shopping building. You can purchase fresh fish and seafood delicacies at the market, and then have them cooked to your liking at one of the restaurants on the upper floors of the building.
Practice Haggling at Gukje Market
Traditional markets are a huge part of Korean culture and are a popular place for locals to shop for clothing, fresh produce, and street food delicacies.
It should go without saying then that one of the best things to do in Busan is to enjoy the local markets. Gukje is one of the largest traditional markets in Korea. It stocks virtually every item imaginable – from tteokbokki and other snacks, to electronics.
Gukje means “international” and the market here was originally set up during the Korean war by foreign refugees residing in Busan. From Gukje market it is just a short walk to the markets of Kkangtong and Bupyeong, both worthy of a visit.
Try Something New at Gwangbokdong Food Street
You can never visit too many Korean street food markets! When you are in the area, stop by Gwangbok Dong Street Food Market – one of the most popular street food markets in Busan.
Most of the little dishes that you can find here will set you back no more than 1000-2000 KRW, making for a great budget dinner on the go!
Experience the World’s Largest Shopping Complex
Busan’s Shinsegae Centre sprawls over 14 floors and actually possesses the title of being the largest shopping complex in the world! Those that have explored other cities in Korea will be familiar with the Shinsegae brand.
Essentially this is your typical upscale department store just on a much larger scale. Residents of certain countries can enjoy tax-free shopping inside Shinsegae Centre, and shopaholics will welcome being able to find everything from perfumes and cosmetics, to clothing and accessories.
Stock up on K-Products in Nampo-dong
One of the best things to do in Busan shopping-wise is to venture to the Nampo-dong district. Not only can branches of international apparel stores, and favourite Korean cosmetic brands be found here, Nampo-dong is also home to hundreds of kooky boutique stores.
One of a kind unique pieces can be picked up at the various shops here with stores catering to every budget. The main roads that lead through Nampo-dong are also filled with restaurants serving up cuisines from different parts of the globe.
If you’ve been travelling in Korea for a while and you want something a little different to Korean food, this is the place to venture to.
Things to do in Busan:
Art Galleries and Museums
Art lovers will draw inspiration from the many creative hubs around Busan. If you know where to look, the city is a mecca for street art and independent galleries.
Some of the most notable art, history, and culture museums in Busan are detailed below.
Check Out the Work of Local Street Photographers
If you appreciate street photography, and the works of artists who depict scenes of local life and culture in their photos, you will enjoy visiting the GoEun Museum of Photography. This is widely regarded as being one of the most important photography museums in Korea.
Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art
The Busan Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) showcases the works of various Korean and International artists. The premises are divided into both temporary and permanent exhibitions, some of which are very unique and thought-provoking.
MOCA is open from 10 am until 6 pm from Tuesday – Sunday. Best of all, admission is completely free!
Discover the Works of Renowned and Up and Coming Korean Artists
The Busan Museum of Art is an art gallery and cultural exhibition space set within a three-story, futuristic building. The exhibitions here range in style – from fine art paintings, photography, and contemporary pieces.
When the Busan Museum of Art opened its doors, its aim was to introduce the world to the history, artistic presence, and cultural heritage of Busan. Artists featured in the museum range from well-known to up-and-coming Korean creators.
Experience the Weird and Wonderful Exhibits of the Trickeye Museum
For something wacky and completely different, there’s the Trickeye Museum. The “museum” is comprised of different illusions and interactive paintings.
The main draw of visiting the Trickeye Museum is to take photos and “be at one” with the art. It’s fun if you have a little extra time, and it lets you take some photos that are comedy gold.
Visit the Busan Aquarium
For rainy days, or if you have a little time to spare in Busan, you can consider stopping by the Busan Sea Life Aquarium. These large premises are home to more than 10,000 different species of fish, reptiles, and amphibians.
The aquarium also offers unique glass-bottom boat trips that sail into the nearby waters. The highlight of this? Not only do you see colourful shoals of fish, but also sharks, who reside in the seas besides Busan.
Get a History Lesson at the Busan Museum
There are a plethora of interesting museums in Busan – reiterating that the city is more than “just” a beach destination. One museum that is worth checking out is the Busan Museum. The museum is spread across seven exhibition halls and three floors.
The exhibits display an array of artifacts that were recovered in the area. Most interesting of all is perhaps the various Buddhist statues and sculptures that were retrieved from ruined local temples.
The Maritime Museum
The Korean National Maritime Museum sits on Yeongdo island and contains more than 10,000 relics and artifacts. If you have a particular interest in ships or naval history, it’s worth adding this museum to your agenda.
Exhibitions displayed at the Maritime museum provides an in-depth look at boats and Korean history – from discussing the early Joseon boats, to modern maritime ships, and what lies beneath the surface of our oceans.
Things to do in Busan:
Festivities and Events
Festivals and cultural events are a huge part of Korean culture. Even if you find yourself in the most random, off-the-beaten-path village in winter, you will still probably find something going on around you. Busan is no different, and the city plays host to a wide array of fun events that you can take part in.
Attend a Korean Festival
The Korean calendar is jam-packed full of festivals. Regardless of when you decide to travel to Busan, it is inevitable that some kind of festival will be taking place in the city.
The Yongnam dance festival takes place every September/October and is an interesting place to go to watch traditional Korean dance performances. October also sees Busan’s annual “Jagalchi Festival” – a celebration of the namesake seafood market that sees cooking competitions and parades held across the city.
For a full list of festivals and events in Busan, you can browse here.
Participate in Buddha’s Birthday Celebrations
Buddha’s Birthday is one of the largest celebrations on the Korean calendar. Korea is a predominantly Buddhist nation, and Buddha’s birthday (also known as ‘Bucheonim osin nal) takes place every May.
The specific date at which the celebrations are held varies every year, however, if your trip to Busan does coincide with Buddha’s birthday, you should try to attend the festivities.
In Seoul, parades and lantern festivals fill the streets to celebrate the life of Buddha. In Busan, many of the temples perform fascinating rituals. Samgwangsa temple is a spot that is overlooked by most tourists to Busan, however, it is without a doubt, the best place to enjoy the Bucheonim osin nal celebrations.
Thousands of multicoloured lanterns decorate Samgwangsa during Buddha’s birthday, as the temple monks chant the 2,500-year-old Buddhist chant “om mani padme hun”. You will never see something quite like this.
Enjoy Korean Music at a Live K-Pop Show
Music is a big part of the culture in a lot of countries, and that is no different in Korea. Here, everybody goes crazy about K-Pop. You either love it or you hate it, but attending a KPop festival is a wonderful Korean travel experience.
Large cities like Seoul and Busan not only see regular concert performances from big-name Kpop stars, they also host a lot of free events where numerous Kpop stars come together to perform. To find out the shows that coincide with your travel dates, simply Google “Kpop Shows in Busan” and you will find out where you need to be.
Nightlife & Socialising in Busan
The mantra “work hard, play harder” definitely rings true in South Korea. Busan is certainly a night owl and has plenty of evening entertainment options to offer every taste.
Dust Off Your Karaoke Skills at a Noraebang.
There are few experiences that are as quintessentially Korean as flexing your singing skills (or lack thereof) at a Noraebang. While immersing yourself in Busan’s colourful nightlife scene, consider stopping by a noraebang.
Noraebangs are private singing rooms which you and your friends can rent for the evening. Singing fun aside, many of these rooms are set inside towering hi-rises and offer incredible views over downtown Busan and out to sea.
Try Busan-Made Craft Beers
In recent years, South Korea has played host to an emerging craft beer scene. One notable spot in Busan is the Galmegi Brewery – the first American craft brewery in the city, which opened its doors back in 2014. There are six locations of the branch across Busan where you can stop by to sample a tasting tray of different beers.
While Galmeji are the pioneers of the Busan craft beer scene, there are some other great spots in town too. The Wild Wave Brewing Co and Praha 993 are two other spots with great reputations.
Party Until the Early Hours at the Bars of Haeundae
Haeundae is to Busan, what Hongdae is to Seoul. This is Busan’s party district, and it is home to a plethora of bars, clubs, and shows that offer a little something for every taste.
Club Kudeta and Club Babau are two Busan clubs that are popular among both locals and foreigners. Expect dance, house, and hip-hop music that goes on into the early hours of the morning. For something a little more alternative and “rough around the edges”, head to Thursday Party – home of beer pong, classic rock music, and table football.
Make Friends with the Busan Couchsurfing Community
Koreans are super fun people to hang out with. I personally believe that it is the people that you meet, and the friends that you make that make your trip special, rather than crossing off Busan attractions from a checklist.
Busan has a large population of western ex-pats, along with fun-loving local Koreans that are eager to meet travellers from different countries. To make local friends, and to get to know some cool bars and hang out spots that most travellers don’t know about, go along to one of the Busan Couchsurfing meetings.
If there are no events set up that coincide with the dates of your trip, you can also create your own, or message individual Couchsurfers to see if they want to hang out!
Cruise Along the Coast With a Nighttime Boat Tour
From Haeundae beach, it is possible to hop on board a boat and take a nighttime cruise along the coastline. The buildings of downtown Busan look incredible at night when they are illuminated with dozens of twinkling lights.
A number of Busan boat tours are available – some include exquisite dinners out at sea, and others even take place on a yacht!
Spas & Wellness Treatments in Busan
Koreans are very big on self-care. As such, spas, beauty treatments, and pampering are all a very big part of the culture. The great thing is, not only are spas and bathhouses in plentiful supply in Busan, but they are also very affordable!
Soak Your Cares Away at Heosimcheong Spa
Jimjilbangs are a huge part of Korean culture. These are traditional bathhouses that are a little like Turkish hammams. At a Korean jimjilbang, you can soak your cares away in various heated baths – some of which are infused with different herbs and treatments. You may as well experiment with the best of the best while in town.
Heosimcheong Spa is the biggest spa in Asia. The special thing about it is that its pools are filled with water from natural thermal springs that are rumored to have healing properties.
The spa pairs traditional jimjilbang treatments with modern relaxation therapies. Soak in the baths, get a Korean body scrub, and then treat yourself to a hot stone massage.
When to Visit Busan
Busan, and Korea in general, experiences relatively extreme and diverse seasons. While Busan is a destination that can be enjoyed all year round, there are certain months of the year that see monsoon-like rains, or temperatures well into the minuses, so you may wish to avoid them.
A break down of what to expect in Busan at various times of the year is given below.
Spring (March to May)
Spring is one of the best times to travel to Busan. This is the cherry blossom season in East Asia, and trees around the city bloom with delicate pink flowers.
Weather conditions in Spring are pleasant – expect to see daily temperatures between 25-26 degrees Celsius. Many people travel to Korea for the cherry blossom season, making this the busiest time of year for tourism in Busan. Be sure to book your hotels, tours, and flights in advance so that you can secure the best deals.
Summer (June to August)
The summer months in Busan are hot and humid. Temperatures soar as high as 40 degrees Celsius. July and August are monsoon season, and constant daily rainfall can hinder your travel experience.
If you are considering travelling to Busan in the summer, try to travel in June so that you can avoid the rain and make the most of the beaches and coastal areas.
Autumn (September to November)
Autumn in Busan is pleasant. Conditions are similar to the Spring months yet without the crowds that the cherry blossoms bring.
Winter (December to February)
Winters in Korea are bitterly cold. Busan is a little warmer than Seoul, however, it still sees temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius. Provided that you wrap up and come prepared, it’s still possible to enjoy exploring the cultural sights of Busan during this time.
Visiting Busan in winter also enables you to enjoy many of the cultural events and festivities that take place in the city during this time. On the 31st December, locals gather at Haeundae Beach and Yongdusan Park where they wait for the sunrise and release beautiful paper wish lanterns into the air.
Where to Stay in Busan
When planning a trip to Busan, visitors will be spoiled for choice when deciding upon where to stay. There are hundreds of accommodation options available in Busan, and something to suit every budget – from backpackers hostels and Love Motels, to Airbnb apartments and spacious suites.
The best areas to stay in Busan, in consideration of their proximity to the best things to do in Busan are summarised below.
Those travelling to Busan with the main objective of enjoying the beaches and relaxing should consider staying close to Hongdae or Gwangan.
Hongdae, in particular, is home to a vibrant nightlife and backpacker scene making it the perfect spot for solo travellers.
Choosing to stay in Nampo places you in the heart of the action. From here, you are walking distance to all of the best things to do in Busan, and have plenty of excellent shops, restaurants, and nightlife options right on your hotel doorstep.
Gwangan is a nice area to stay in Busan. This neighbourhood is a little quieter than Haeundae though still very central. If you base yourself in Gwangan, you also have some of the city’s best beaches just minutes away.
Another great location to base yourself while travelling in Busan is Seomyeon. Opting to stay here places you in a perfect location for easily accessing the best things to do in Busan, and visiting Busan’s most important tourist sites.
Seomyeon boasts plenty of dining and nightlife options so travellers will never be short of things to do during their evenings here.
Getting to Busan from Seoul
If you are not flying directly to Busan then rest assured, it is easy to reach Busan from Seoul. The journey can be made via train or by bus, depending on your budget and preference.
Reach Busan by Train
High-speed KTX trains travel between Seoul and Busan several times a day, and the journey takes just two and a half hours. Train tickets for the KTX can be purchased online or in-person at Seoul station.
It is worth noting that it is not unheard of for Seoul-Busan train tickets to sell out, especially at weekends or on public holidays. Try and book your tickets a few days before travelling, where possible.
KTX trains are divided into First and Economy classes. From Seoul to Busan, it will cost you 60,000 KRW for an Economy ticket, or 83,000 KRW for a First Class ticket.
Foreigners travelling in Busan should take advantage of the KTX travel pass which allows them to receive discounted fares. Mugunghwa and ITX trains also operate from Seoul to Busan but the journey takes five hours.
Reach Busan by Bus
Travelling through Korea by bus is very cheap and convenient. It takes approximately four hours to reach Busan from Seoul. You can take the bus from Seoul Express Bus Terminal in Seocho-gu for just 30,000 KRW.
Getting Around Busan
Getting around Busan is easy thanks to the city’s reliable and extensive public transport network. The Busan metro stops at most major sites within the city limits, and notable Busan attractions, temples and national parks on the outskirts of Busan are serviced by buses.
Have any questions about further things to do in Busan or about Korea travel in general? Drop me a line below! I lived in South Korea for several years and visited Busan countless times. Safe travels! Annyeong! Melissa xo
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