Destination Busan: A Guide to Exploring Nature, Embracing Culture and Tasting Tradition

Advisor - Rachel Anderson
Curated By

Rachel Anderson

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  • Busan

  • South Korea

  • Nature Escapes

  • Arts & Culture

  • Food & Wine

  • Local Culture

  • Local Food

  • Sightseeing

A low angled shot of a tall maroon building with golden roof taken during daytime.
Curator’s statement

Known to me as my mother-in-law’s hometown, Busan, South Korea, is a coastal city renowned for its popular beaches, fresh seafood and vibrant nightlife. With its historic temples, scenic mountainside trails and seafront skyscrapers, Busan offers a blend of tradition, nature and contemporary life. This mix makes South Korea’s second largest city a captivating destination for those seeking dynamic and authentic experiences.

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Where to stay in Busan

Park Hyatt Busan

Where luxury meets coastal charm: Park Hyatt Busan, your gateway to refined relaxation.

Fora Perks
  • Food / beverage credit.

  • Welcome amenity.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out, whenever possible.

The Westin Josun Busan

Elevate your stay with timeless elegance at The Westin Josun Busan, where modern comfort meets Korean hospitality.

Signiel Busan

Experience unparalleled luxury and breathtaking views at Signiel Busan, where every moment is elevated to new heights.

Advisor - Rachel Anderson

Unlock perks by contacting Rachel to book your trip.

Things to do in Busan

A far view of the city with tall buildings near the beach during the daytime.

Beaches

Like many coastal cities, Busan's main attraction is its beaches. Busan has several picturesque beaches, including the famous Haeundae Beach and Gwangalli Beach, where you can enjoy the sun, sand and sea.

  • Haeundae Beach: Known as Korea’s most famous beach and beloved by visitors of all ages. Haeundae offers lots of seafood restaurants, luxury hotels, skyline views and seasonal beach umbrella and chair rentals. It’s a favorite destination for Korean families, Busan locals and international visitors. Haeundae is also the site of many popular festivals like the Busan International Film Festival, the Haeundae Sand Festival and Polar Bear Festival.

  • Gwangalli Beach: Gwangalli caters to a slightly younger crowd with lots of trendy seaside cafes, summer parties and water sports rentals like jet skis, paddle boarding, banana boats and more. What also sets Gwangalli apart is its views of Gwangalli Bridge. Previously, on Saturday nights and for holidays, an elaborate drone show would light up the skyline over the bridge.

During peak summer months, both beaches can become very crowded, so be sure to plan accordingly!

Cultural Activities

Visiting one of the many Buddhist temples is a must-do for any trip to Busan. With their ancient history, impressive architecture and serene natural surroundings, these temples provide visitors with an opportunity for spiritual reflection and appreciation of Korean Buddhist culture.

  • Headong Yonggungsa: One of the few seaside temples in Korea, Headong Yonggungsa is famous for its picturesque coastal location. Its unique ocean-facing structures and one-of-a-kind views make this temple a popular destination for tourists. It’s especially popular for sunrises, cherry blossom season and celebrating Buddha’s Birthday.

  • Beomeosa: Established in the 7th century, this mountainside temple is one of the most known and most significant in Korea. It’s renowned for its traditional architecture, rich history and serene mountain scenery.

  • Seokbulsa: A bit more off-the-beaten path, this temple is built into the sandstone cliffs of Mt. Geumjeong, the highest mountain in Busan. It features intricate Buddha sculptures carved into the cliff walls.

  • Samgwangsa: One of the largest and closest temples, Samgwangsa is known for its modern architecture, city views and vibrant celebrations during the Lantern Festival for Buddha’s Birthday.

Outside of temples, also make time to explore Gamcheon Cultural Village. This colorful hillside community is known for its rainbow-colored buildings, whimsical art installations, bright murals and narrow winding streets. It’s a must-visit for photographers, art-lovers and those interested in quirky, one-of-a-kind attractions.

For a more relaxing cultural experience, visit a jjimjilbang (찜질방), a Korean bathhouse. Choose a smaller, more traditional spa or opt to soak away your worries in style at a more luxury spa like Shinsegae Centum City Spaland.

Nature and Viewpoints

Given its location, Busan offers stunning views of the sea and nearby surrounding mountains. Hiking trails, viewpoints and parks encourage visitors to embrace the beautiful natural scenery and enjoy the outdoors.

  • Haeundae Sky Capsule: Operating between Mipo and Cheongsapo, these colorful private capsules offer a cute journey across the coastline. Each capsule holds up to four people, and tickets can be purchased for one-way or roundtrip rides. For larger groups or those looking to explore more, there’s also a beach train that stops at additional stations.

  • Busan Air Cruise: Previously known as the Songdo Cable Car, this revamped attraction carries you over the ocean to several viewpoints around the city. There’s also the option to book a cabin with a transparent floor for greater visibility.

Over-the-Sea Walkways:

  • Oryukdo Skywalk: This horseshoe-shaped skywalk has the shortest over-the-water segment of the walkways but still offers impressive cliffside views.

  • Songdo Cloud Trail: The longest of the skywalks, these twisting bridges provide a scenic walking path over the sea.

  • Cheongsapo Daritdol Observatory: Shaped with a unique curve to represent the local village’s symbol of a blue dragon, this skywalk is another popular tourist attraction for extraordinary views.

Walking trails:

  • To enjoy even more of the shoreline, hike along one of the many seaside trails in Busan. A few trails with picturesque views include the Busan Green Railway, Taejongdae Cliff Path and Resort Park, Igidae Coastal Walkway, Dongbaekseom Island Trails and Jeoryeong Coastal Trail.

  • To enjoy more of the mountains, opt for one of the Beomeosa Temple and Geumjeongsan Mountain Trails.

Parks:

  • Apart from parks associated with the walking trails above, there are also a few city-center parks for a closer escape into nature. Situated in the heart of Busan, Yongdusan Park is known for its iconic Busan Tower and historical monuments, and Citizen’s Park offers more walkways, playgrounds and gardens.

Overall, Busan provides a balance between urban life and natural beauty, making it a great destination for nature lovers.

Places to eat & drink in Busan

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Markets & Local Bites

Gukje Market: The largest traditional market in Busan, selling everything from electronics and furniture to fresh produce and street food. Each alley is named for the products being sold there.

This is a great place to try some Busan specialties and classic Korean bites like:

  • Dwaeji Gukbap (돼지국밥) - bone-broth stew with pork, rice, and vegetables.

  • Milmyeon (밀면) - cold wheat noodles in a pork broth.

  • Ssiat hotteok (씨앗호떡) - chewy sweet pancake with seeds and nuts.

  • Haemul pajeon (해물파전) - savory seafood pancake.

  • Tteokbokki (떡볶이) with odeng (오뎅) or eomuk (어묵)- spicy rice cakes with fish cakes.

Jagalchi Fish Market: Seafood is Busan’s specialty, so a trip to the fish market is a must-do experience. With rows of tanks and stalls selling practically everything under the sea, Jagalchi offers a unique experience of finding more exotic seafood. Restaurants above the market will cook anything purchased in the market, allowing you to enjoy the freshest seafood with a beach view.

If you’d prefer to skip the market crowds, opt for a nearby seafood restaurant instead. Waterfront restaurants like Mipo Kkeutjib (미포끝집) near Haeundae beach also serve fresh seafood with outdoor seating offering seaside views.

Bupyeong Kkangtong Night Market: A favorite for street food. Visit in the evening to find classic Korean bites as well as stalls serving street food favorites from Japan, China, Indonesia and Thailand.

Bujeon Market: Whereas the other markets can be a bit touristy, this market is the total opposite. With no frills and limited translations, this is where many locals do their shopping. Two popular stalls are Goraesa (고래사) for premium fish cakes and Famous K Noodle (소문난 칼국수 마약 왕김밥) for kimbab (seaweed rice rolls) and kalguksu (knife-cut noodle soup).

Haeundae Market: Located only a short walk away from the beach, this famous market also offers a wide range of Korean and international street food stalls. Given its location, this market can be more of a tourist hotspot and prices can be more expensive. However, some vendors will still offer free samples.

Pojangmacha: Covered by a small tent, these street vendors are great for enjoying late night drinks and quick bites like soju, raw seafood, seafood stews and fried foods. You could think of them as the Korean version of a small outdoor pub or Japanese izakaya. Many pojangmacha can be found in the streets behind the Lotte Hotel in Seomyeon, a neighborhood popular for shopping and nightlife.

Adventurous Eats

Some Busan dishes may not be for every visitor, but you’ll seem like a local if you do give one a try. For those with more adventurous tastes, look out for these Busan specialties:

  • Gomjangeo (곰장어) - grilled hagfish, an eel-like fish.

  • Gopchang (곱창) - cow intestines grilled over a barbecue or stewed in a hot pot. It’s a popular food to eat while drinking soju.

  • Jokbal (족발) - pig trotters braised in soy sauce and spices.

  • Meongge - sea pineapple, also known as sea squirt. It’s often eaten raw as meonggae hoe (멍게 회) or in mixed rice bowls as meonggae bibimbap (멍게 비빔밥).

Cafes & Bars

Like in Seoul, Busan also has a vibrant cafe culture. Check out Jeonpo Cafe Street on the edge of Seomyeon neighborhood to weave through streets filled with unique cafes, trendy dessert shops and specialty restaurants.

Some other cafes to visit are:

  • Waveon Coffee - A three-story cafe in Gijang with stunning views of the coastline and relaxing outdoor seating areas.

  • Suwol Gyeonghwa - A hanok cafe, serving delicate Korean desserts and teas with beautiful views of Songjeong Beach.

  • Doco Cafe - A comfortable cafe with an outdoor garden and cabanas. This cafe has all your coffeeshop favorites, including many vegan options. There are also several cats that may join you during your coffee break.

  • Gemstone - Located in an old swimming pool, this quirky cafe makes for a fun coffee break.

  • Cafe Avant Garde - A quiet cafe offering the best panoramic views of Gamcheon Cultural Village.

  • Edge 993 - A stylish seaside bar and cafe attached to a hotel that overlooks Haeundae Beach. In the parking lot, you’ll find a staircase looking out over the sea, which is a popular Instagram photoshoot location.

  • Cafe Coralani - A sleek, modern cafe with three levels, a rooftop and a unique terraced patio offering undisturbed seaside views.

  • The Lounge at Park Hyatt Busan- A lush lounge with floor to ceiling windows, providing breathtaking views of the coastal skyline. Their specialties include luxurious afternoon tea and swanky evening cocktail sets.

Nightlife

Busan also has a lively nightlife scene. Go have a barbecue or hot pot. Partake in drinking culture, having soju or beer with your meal. Soju pairs best with more oily food or strong flavors. Follow Korean tradition of having a companion pour your drink for you. Also, make sure to share your first sip together.

Make your way through the city snacking and drinking at night markets or pojangmachas, visit a noraebang (karaoke bar) or party the night away at one of the many nightclubs.

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Romance in the Cyclades: A Couple’s Guide to Naousa, Paros, Greece. This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Busan.

Advisor - Rachel Anderson

Travel Advisor

Rachel Anderson

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