When people visit South Korea for the first time, they usually head straight to Seoul. And for good reason – the capital city buzzes with an amazing energy akin to New York City. But I’m partial to Busan, the next largest city located at the very southern tip of Korea. Its vibe is totally different than that of Seoul. It’s beachy, laid back, and has enough activity to keep you busy while also providing plenty of space to explore nature, too. I loved living there while I taught English, and it remains one of my favorite cities to date. Considering a trip to South Korea? Be sure to hop on the high speed train down south, and check out what Busan has to offer.
1. Gamcheon Culture Village.
I love the Gamcheon Culture Village so much that I’ve actually already dedicated an entire post to it. It’s a little village of colorful houses that are interspersed with art galleries and funky installations all over the place. It’s like no other place I’ve ever been, and if you’re into street art, it’s a must see.
2. Igidae Park.
One of the things I love about Busan is its beautiful coastline, and nothing highlights this more than Igidae Park. Located along Jangsonbong Mountain (just south of Gwangalli Beach), this coastal trail is a haven for city dwellers seeking some time with Mother Nature. And its trail is kept with city dwellers in mind – it’s wide, flat, and perfectly maintained. If you’re tired of laying out on the beach, then be sure to spend some time strolling along this path.
3. Jagalchi Market.
Okay, so Jagalchi Market is not exactly off the beaten path. But if you’re coming to Busan, you have to check out Korea’s largest seafood market. You will find every kind of fish, shellfish, and aquatic creature under the sea here. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can even try eating live octopus. Personally, I recommend checking out one of the many stands that grill the fish before your eyes.
4. Seokbulsa Temple.
I’m going to level with you: getting to Seokbulsa Temple is not easy. It’s located on the side of a mountain, and requires a little hiking to reach. If you want the specifics, these directions are very helpful. But I promise it’s well worth the trek. I happened to visit on Buddha’s Birthday (May 16th), which was a truly amazing experience. But the views are awesome any day of the week.
5. Gwangalli Beach.
Having lived just 10 minutes from Gwangalli Beach, this is undoubtedly a point of nostalgia for me. But I actually prefer Gwangalli to Haeundae, Busan’s more famous beach. It’s smaller, cleaner, and not overtaken with umbrellas come the summer season. Thanks to lax open container laws, you’re more than welcome to lay out with a beer from one of the many 7-11s conveniently located along the boardwalk. It’s the perfect place to relax, take a dip, and savor the chill vibe of Busan.