To travel to Busan was one of my Korea Bucket list items. And I got to do it shortly after arriving in Korea. Here is a list of things to do, and places to visit. Many things I did during my 11 days did not make the list, simply because they are popular all over Korea and not just Busan related. Try to do as many things as possible during your visit, Busan has a lot to offer and is a truly great City.
- Beomeosa Temple
Beomeosa is one of Korea’s most known urban temples. This 1300-year-old temple is located on Mt. Geumjeongsan and offers breathtaking views of Busan and is any nature lover’s dream. To get the temple take the subway to Beomeosa Station (Line 1) and take exit 5/7. After exiting look for the sign that says Beomeosa Temple, 3km.Follow the direction of the arrow until you reach the Bus stop for BUS 90 – Beomeosa Temple. You may feel lost, but just keep going straight until you cross the roundabout/traffic circle. The bus ride cost about 1500Won. The temple is absolutely beautiful, the staff is friendly and helpful and you can even eat some rice and drink some juice after taking a free guided tour. Remember to support the temple by buying something from the gift shop, since there is no entrance fee this is one of the only sources of income to sustain the temple.
Hint: Take hiking shoes/comfortable shoes with. The temple itself is quite big, and there are numerous mountain paths to explore.
Hint 2: You will have to wait approximately 20-30 minutes for the bus, depending on where in the schedule you arrive at the stop. Keep yourself occupied by eating some delicious steamed Mandu buns. The lady is very helpful, and three large mandu will cost you about 5000Won.
2. Haeundae Beach
Coming from South Africa I will easily admit that there’s not a lot of beaches that’s going to impress me. Haeundae Beach was no different. The beach itself was moderately busy but clean. The sand is quite rough and sticky, and the water was shallow compared to what I’m used to at home. It was also extremely annoying (not to mention dangerous), that small water crafts were allowed to be this close to the beach. I constantly felt that I have to watch out for some jerk on a Jet ski trying to impress his girlfriend. Most people sat on the beach watching the two guys on their Jet skis. It was not a fun swimming/beach experience. If you want to do people watching, go for it! The Korean kids are cute (as always), and it is quite interesting to see the women beautifully dressed and fully make-upped on the beach.
Having said all that- Haeundae itself was amazing! The Sea Life Aquarium was an absolute bliss, and for a change, it felt as if the animals were actually getting helped/rehabilitated. There were no dolphin shows, only animal feeding times and educational talks. Each animal exhibit shows where the animal was rescued from, and under which circumstances, as well as the full rehabilitation plan. Be sure to check it out. Support the aquarium financially through the ‘adopt and animal’-campaign, by purchasing something from the gift shop, or having your caricature done.
Haeundae main street is also filled with foreigner-friendly bars, pubs, and restaurants. Traditional street food and foot long ice creams can also be found here. The vibe picks up at around 18h00, and street artist and other entertainment start appearing out of nowhere.
I would recommend Haeundae for a late afternoon beach walk, followed by some local entertainment and a fun night out.
To get there: Take the subway to Haeundae Station (Busan Subway Line 2), Exit 5.
– Walk straight for about 500m.
3. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
This is a must see. Haedong Yonggungsa, or Water Temple, is one of the most beautiful man-made things I have ever seen. The temple is built on the cliffs of the East Sea. It boasts two beautiful Buddha statues, one on the cliff next to the sea, and a larger one on top of the cliff. Both statues are unique and unlike anything I’ve seen at the other temples. Around the temple are numerous hidden coves and gardens with other statues. It is truly amazing, and the beautiful sea view and far away cityscape of Busan just add to the charm.
To get there: Haeundae Station (Busan Subway Line 2), Exit 7.
Take Bus 181 and get off at Yonggungsa Temple Bus Stop. It is a bit of an uphill hike to reach the temple, but well worth it. To take a taxi back to the City will cost about 10 000Won, should you be too tired to walk back to the bus stop.
4. The Red Bus (The Busan City Tour Jumbo Bus)
Busan is no exception to the ever popular hop-on-hop-off tour bus. The Jumbo Bus leaves from the Busan Station Square and is easy to locate. The tickets cost about 15000 Won p.p, which includes the entire looped course. Following the course; this is what we ended up doing:
i. Taejongdae Park
Koreans, as I have mentioned before, are absolutely hike crazy. Never in my life have I seen old people with severe arthritis, osteoporosis and just plain old age, walk this fast. Our first stop on the Red bus tour leads us to Taejongdae Park. Here we had to undertake a rather steep hike towards the ticket booth to buy a pass for the Danubi Train Course
(Platform→ Taejongsa Temple → Yeongdo Lighthouse → Observatory → Gumyeongsa Temple → Taewon Jagal Madang → Platform). Beware, you will have to stand in line for about 15-30 minutes. This ride is very popular, since it circles the whole park, and you can get off/on at any point. People take the train to reach the temple, lighthouse, observatory, or their favorite hiking paths. The temple is rather small and hidden away in the mountain. At the foot of the temple is a beautiful terrace garden.
It is worth the experience, super cheap and as always, the scenery does not disappoint.
ii. Gamcheon Culture Village
This, by far- has been my favorite spot in Busan. Yes, it is very touristy, and yes, it is busy and crowded. The things I liked: There are 80 points of interest located in this colorful cultural village. Most of them are very artsy or linked with food, coffee, and curios – All things I love. Start off by buying the ‘Stamp’ map. This is a self-guided tour through Gamcheon, and at every point of interest, you get a stamp. Collect all the stamps and get a free postcard. This way you know you did not miss anything, and even if it’s not on the map you will pass it on the way to whatever does appear on the map. Beware, you are going to take a lot of photos so have a power pack for your phone, extra memory for your camera and a fully charged camera battery. I cannot possibly tell you about all my favorite things in Gamcheon, you’ll have to go experience it for yourself.
A quite beach with nice water statues, a beautiful walkway, and lovely seafood restaurants. Be sure to pop in at one of the beachfront restaurants for Jeonbok-juk (abalone rice porridge), fresh mussels and seafood hot pots. Beware of ‘foreigner menus’, if a place has prices ranging between 20 000 -50 000Won, move on and find a more local spot.
iv. BIFF Square (Nampo-dong Plaza) and Jagalchi Market
A little tribute to the movies. A lovely busy market-like vibe, live music, plenty of street food, handprints of famous directors, actors and actresses and an array of cute shops can be found here. It is also a stone through away from Jagalchi Market, famous for their fresh seafood and sashimi.
v. Oryukdo Sky Walk
This stop is called Oryukdo Island. It offers a nice coastal walk and the skywalk. This was extremely overrated in my humble opinion. The line for the skywalk was 100’s of people long, and people just walked like sheep on the glass platform hanging from the cliff and overlooking the ocean. Being that busy, photos were not permitted, so people literally just walked on and off the platform, no stopping, no enjoying the view. We opted out of this one but still enjoyed to scenery and rugged coast.
Busan offers a wide selection of shopping options. For me, the most enjoyable experience was Shinseagae Centum City. I loved this for two simple reasons, the clothes fitted and the brands were familiar. I bought new Superga’s and got to do some much-needed winter outfit shopping. Living in rural Korea we do not get to go to big centers with popular western brands often, so this was a bonus for me. If you are looking for a more Korean shopping experience check out Seomyeon Underground Market and Bupyeong-dong Night Market.