Best things to do in Busan
Find out more about those top places in Busan
Sliced through by precipitous mountain peaks and rocky inlets, Busan is South Korea’s dramatic second-city. Perched on the country’s southern coast, Busan is also one of the world’s largest ports, which lends the city an air of nonstop energy that can be seen in the ever expanding futuristic skyline and the rapid pace of the local dialect. Unsurprisingly, Busan’s main draws showcase the city’s connection with the East China Sea. Haeundae, South Korea’s equivalent of Brazil’s Copacabana, is the country’s most famous stretch of sand, which in summer becomes Busan’s living room. What is more, Jagalchi fish market is a chaotic warren of stalls selling some of East Asia’s finest seafood while the adventurous can sample some of the world’s most unusual underwater creatures in the market’s various restaurants. The best time to visit Busan is October when the weather is still warm enough to enjoy the beach and the buzzy International Film Festival is in full swing.
South Korea’s most famous beach becomes Busan’s front room by the sea during the city’s sweltering warm summers. To get immersed in the city’s vibrant culture, head to beach early in the day, sample the delicious street food and take in the breathtaking views of skyscrapers, suspension bridges and rocky islets.
South Korea’s largest fish market is a deep-sea phantasmagoria. It is guaranteed that when exploring its buzzing alleyways, decades old wooden stalls and grand halls you will see some fish that you did not even know existed and the best part is if you see anything you want to try simply take it to one of the in-market restaurants who will prepare it for a small charge.
Set in the midst of Busan’s urban jungle is the tranquil temple complex of Beomeo Sa, the city’s most historic location. The temple itself is over one millennia old and its landscaped gardens are the starting point for hiking trails across Geumjeongsan, which provides breathtaking views across the city. For the best experience, grab a ticket for one of the temple’s predawn chanting shows, which are hauntingly beautiful.
The one-time mountainside slum of Gamcheon has been transformed in the decade since 2009 into a mecca for South Korea’s burgeoning street art scene. The once deserted streets of the area are now lined with community run cafes, quirky bars and, of course, excellent street art that bedecks nearly every surface. For the best experience, take a guided street art tour of this remarkable neighborhood.
The best time to visit Busan is undoubtedly during its annual film festival, which is Asia’s most prestigious. Held throughout October, the festival screens over 300 films from across the world and showcases the best of Korea’s home-grown directing and acting talent. To best experience this glitzy event, tickets for screenings must be booked well in advance.
When you are in the sub-tropical city of Busan it is easy to forget that little more than 50 years ago the Korean Peninsula was riven by a bloody civil war that came to involve both the United States and the Soviet Union. To learn about this traumatic period in Korean history, head to the United Nations Memorial Cemetery, which is home to nearly 2500 graves and is the only of its kind in the world.
Much of Busan’s coastline is defined by rocky ravines and plunging cliffs, which are best seen at the spectacular Taejongdae Park on Yeong Island. Various hiking trails lead towards a picture-perfect lighthouse that looks out towards the East Sea while those who do not want to walk can get there via a narrow gauge railway.