As the second biggest city in South Korea, there's a wealth of things to see and do in Busan. It is more underrated than Seoul but definitely as diverse and as interesting.
1. Gallivant in Gamcheon Culture Village
Gamcheon Culture Village
200 Gamnae 1, Il-ro
35.0974° N 129.0106° E
Daily - 24 Hours
Oh, be still my heart! I can't help but utter as I set foot in this village. I totally understood why tourists flock here. It is dubbed as the "Machu Picchu of Busan" or "Korea's Santorini". I must say though that its colorful vibe reminds me more of Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast.
The picture below is a perfect representation of Gamcheon - the window looking out the actual village looks a painter's masterpiece of pastel colored houses. The bright, multi hues of the houses is a visual treat that its actually better than the painted bottom part of the wall.
Gamcheon's history is as colorful and varied as its houses and streets. Can you believe that this village was actually a slums area in the 50's inhabited by war refugees? It underwent a Public Art Renovation in 2009 that rehabilitated the then debilitating village with colorful murals, painted stairs, quirky decors. In addition, about 300 deserted houses were converted into shops, cafes and art galleries. The transformation was stunning to say the least.
After that, tourism in Gamcheon skyrocketed. It has become a major tourist attraction especially for social media fanatics and selfie lovers. It is after all one IG spot after another.
There is just way too many photo spots to enumerate. Worth mentioning is a crowd favorite "The Little Prince". You will surely find it in your stroll but if you want to get there asap here is the coordinates 35.0977° N 129.0085° E.
Trivia: Did you know that the houses are built in systematic tier, so that no house overlap thereby blocking the view.
Tip: Go early to avoid the mad dash of tourist. We went before 8:00 am, an it was very quiet. There is no queue anywhere. The residents are very chill too, as long as you are quiet and respectful of their space. Give them a quick nod or a good morning (annyeonghaseyo), and you will be greatly appreciated.
Not a Tip, But a Notif: So sorry to inform you drone lovers, but its usage is not allowed. I know that's a bummer!
2. Soak in Spirituality in Buddhist Temples
Busan is home to some of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in South Korea. You could easily go temple hopping if that is the goal of your trip. For this particular trip, we managed to visit two temples.
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
86 Yonggung-gil, Gijang-gun
35° 11’ 17” N 00° 129’ 13’23” E
Daily 5:00 am - sunset
This temple was first built in 1376 during the Goryeo Dynasty. It is one of three temples dedicated to the Seawater Great Goddess Buddha .For Korea, whose preferred location for a temple is often by the mountains, this is quite a unique site.
It is a self-proclaimed 'most beautiful temple in Korea'. As I been to only a handful of Buddhists Temple, I can neither confirm nor contradict that statement. I must say though that for all its worth it is a beautiful temple and its coastal location adds to its disarming charm.
Buddhist devotees and even just regular tourist are made to feel that coming here is an spiritual experience.
The temple is adorned with adages that's guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings:
"Leaving through this door, you are such a beautiful person".
"At least one of your wishes will be answered here through your heartful prayers".
This temple is a sight to behold during autumn and the cherry blossom season.
If you are devout, New Year is an auspicious time to visit.
This is beautiful sunrise spot. However going here in time for sunrise has its challenges. The public transportation doesn't start early enough.So you either pick a hotel close to it or take a cab.
202 Dugu-ro, 33beon-gil
Perched on a 45m building, this 21 meter Amitabha Buddha commands attention! This is in fact the largest sitting bronze Buddha in Korea. It's so massive that we first saw it from the moving train that we took going to Busan. It literally took our breath away and just had to schedule a visit.
If you do decide to go, then buckle up! This off the beaten path is not the easiest to go to but for those who loves temples this is worth the journey.
Hongbeopsa is another temple with distinct location. Unlike the traditional mountain location, Hongbeopsa is built on farm grounds. Lush greens and colourful blooms surrounds it.
For an up close encounter with Buddha, go up to the 4th floor, where you can actually go inside the statue.
Temple stay is available. It also has a 3 level training facility for meditation practicioners.
For commuters, there is a free shuttle to and pro Nopo station every 15-30 minutes.
If you detest crowd, and can only visit one temple, then this is your best bet. It is certainly less touristy than Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.
3. Check out the Night Scene
35.1566° N 129.1520° E
A fun destination day and night but if its bright lights and night life you desire, then head to Bay 101 in the evening.
Enjoy the cosmopolitan view of skyscrapers on the waterfront. You get to enjoy the best of both skyline and waterfront.
After a busy day of exploring, this a great place to end the day relaxing. You can either chill in one of the cafes, sail on a yacht or for incorrigible photo enthusiasts like us take photos!
If you check out IG photos from this place, you have probably seen reflection photos. Well, there's several ways you can attain this.
If you want effortless reflection, go after a hard rain, then there's sure to be puddles everywhere. But as we all know, rain is never a a constant. So another way is to DIY! Make sure to bring water and create your own puddle. For best result find a spot that slightly sunken so the water stays longer and have better reflection result. Another way, is to get it done by a professional. A talented young photographer @photoby_woogie_night would sometimes have a spot there or you can send him a DM to schedule a shoot.
Dadaepo Sunset Fountain of Dreams
14 Morundae 1(il-gil,
Tuesday - Sunday (April to October: Subject to change)
This seasonal musical fountain show is a stunning spectacle of multicolored waters gushing/dancing out perfectly synced with catchy music. Since its inception in 2010,it has become is a highly anticipated event annually by locals and recently even by tourists.
The fountain is located at the plaza prior to entering Dadaepo Beach. The perfect summer combination would be to spend the day at Dadaepo Beach, catch the sunset and watch the fountain show. It sure is captivating and guaranteed to grab your undivided attention the entire show.
Most bridges are built to be functional and efficient. In Busan though, bridges are more than just a utilitarian point of connections. Instead, they are iconic landmarks. They are built with a balance between functionality and aesthetics.
There are several bridges in Busan, but for night view, I adore these two bridges:
35.1477° N 129.1300° E
This is the second longest bridge in South Korea. Architecturally delightful at daytime but when night falls it becomes a sight to behold. Certainly no lights spared to make sure these bridges are illuminated beautifully at night.
To make it even more special there is a five minute thematic dancing light show that takes place several times each night. (Schedule from Sunday to Thursday is at 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm and from Friday to Saturdays its 8:00, 9:00 and 10:00pm)
On special occasions, it has also served as a backdrop for fireworks display,even drone shows. The most enchanting of which is the Busan International Fireworks Festival which is set to have a comeback show in autumn of 2023.
Busan Harbor Bridge
35.1046° N 129.0637° E
One might infer that its just another bridge in the morning, but at nightime it is spectacular when its lit up. Thousands of LED lights continually changes throughout the night but the most whimsical is the rainbow color..
5. Enjoy an Art and Lights Installation
Immersive arts and lights installations have popped up worldwide and has found its way in Busan.
Cabinet de Poisson
268-31 Gijanghaean-ro, Gijang-eup,
Gijang-gun, Ananti Cove
Monday - Friday: 11:00 am - 7:00pm
Saturday - Sunday: 10:00 am -7:00 pm
Closed: Last Thursday of the Month
Fee: 15000 won (Adults)
Discounts apply to children, Ananti Members & Penthouse Guests
Cabinet de Poisson is a must visit for digital arts enthusiast. This is located in Ananti Cove which is a seaside leisure destination. This contemporary art that blends science and technology will take you on a ride where psychedelic dreams are made of.
Enjoy various exhibitions that are all dazzling and picturesque. Here you will find prisms of prettiness and kaleidoscope of joyousness.
My personal favorite is the infinite crystal room. Safe to say, that it is where my tiny heart thrives. Not a new concept, but it just never get old.
6. Explore Yongdusan Park
37-55 Yongdusan-Gil, Jung-gu
35.1007° N 129.0326° E
Like most parks, Yongdusan provides a respite from a bustling city. Not only does this park park have a view to boot but it is also beautifully landscaped and packed with an array of attractions that are quite photogenic.
Here you can find one of the city's iconic landmark, Busan Tower. The tower is open daily from 1000 am to 1000pm, admission fee applies. From here you can enjoy a 180° view of the city. You can also the statue of the highly revered Great Admiral Yi Sun-sin.
There are several ways to enter the park, but i would suggest using the elavator not only for ease and convenience but also because this is one of the coolest escalators. And its quite picturesque too.
It's beside Burger Almighty in Gwangbokdong fashion street close to Nampo Station exit 7.
7. Chill in China Town
Choryang China Town
1109 Choryang 1(il)-dong
35.1150° N 129.0388° E
Everyday, 24 Hours
My lifelong fascination for Chinatowns led me here. Chinatowns holds an indomitable razzle dazzle that pulls you in like a magnet. It's vibrant, boisterous and pulsating with life and colors, and Choryang China Town is exactly that.
Busan's little China is characterized by all things emblematic of a typical Chinatown- lantern-adorned establishments, traditional Chinese style buildings and pavilion, and most importantly its home to rich culinary cuisine Chinese.
This used to be predominantly occupied by Chinese nationals, currently its a mix of nationalities.
If you are looking for more photo spots, go across the Busan Station as you will also find some interesting locations.
In Busan in October? Then don't miss the Chinatown Festival
Next to it, is the Texas street, a multi-cultural area, thus a popular area for expats.
8. Eat your heart out in Jagalchi
52 Jagalchihaean-ro, Jung-gu
35.0967° N 129.0305° E
10:30 am - 8:00 pm
Closed every first and third Tuesday of the month.
Busan is the largest port city in South Korea. It goes without saying that they also have the largest seafood market in South Korea. Succinctly put, it is a seafood lover paradise. If you don't dig seafood, you can still enjoy this Busan highlight. Even my vegan husband enjoyed our visit. Jagalchi is one place where you can capture the locals going on about their daily grind. And so, he had a filled day taking photos.
Jagalchi both have indoor and outdoor seafood stalls. You can purhase your seafood and have it cooked, alternately you can just order from the restaurants. Restaurants are located from second floor up.
To sum, Busan was a pleasant surprise for us. It was a spontaneous trip where we didn't have an itinerary nor any expectations. The impulsive decision payed off, as we discovered more things each day, met wonderful people and just fell in love with this city more.
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