10 things to do and eat in Busan, South Korea Travel Guide
Busan is a city in South Korea that has been made popular by the 2016 movie "Train to Busan". Busan's location placed it in close proximity with sea. Here, you can find beaches right beside the concrete jungle. There are many things to do in Busan and we are sharing some of them here in the blog post.
You can either visit Busan as a day trip from Seoul (4 hours via KTX with your Rail Pass) or stay over in one of the hotels overlooking the sea for a night. There are also several day tours you can join when in Busan.
Now, there's also JejuAir that flies you directly from Singapore to Busan! Why #TraintoBusan when you can simply #FlytoBusan? We took advantage of their opening sale fares and got ourselves to Busan direct for just $280. And because the train system in South Korea is so convenient such that you can pretty much get to anywhere quickly and for an affordable price, you may just want to consider Busan as your entrance into the beautiful city of South Korea.
Where to stay in Busan, South Korea?
On our first trip, we stayed at Ibis Ambassador Busan Haeundae which is located close to the Haeundae Beach as well as the Haeundae Market and Shopping Area. This area is great especially if you are travelling in the summer months as the close proximity to the beach grants you quick access.
A more central location in Busan is Nampo-dong. Here, it is one of the favourite area of Busan citizens and many flock to this area over the weekend to settle their week-long cravings for food or just to shop at the Jagalchi Fresh Seafood Market. There are also several markets in the area where locals go to so this makes a great place as your base! K-guesthouse Nampo-dong has basic rooms, some with great views of Busan.
Otherwise, you may wish to stay in another shopping area at Seomyeon, a bustling district filled with lots of shopping and food options.
We stayed at Lion Hotel on our second trip to Busan and found it to be slightly more convenient to get to the various locations as compared to at Haeundae Beach. Lion Hotel is more of a budget hotel, we got our rooms for about 60,000 won per night which includes an amazing jacuzzi tub.
Should you want a more luxurious stay, you may just wish to splurge on the new Lotte Hotel Busan.
Another vicinity you can consider is the Busan Station area. Should you be visiting Busan for just a night or if you intend to take day trips to the surrounding cities, it would definitely be more convenient to make your base here. Busan Station Popcorn Hotel is another affordable option that has pleasant rooms.
How to get around Busan, South Korea?
Public Transport - Buses and Subways
The public transportation in Busan is quite comprehensive and you can get to most of these sites by these options. When visiting South Korea, it is also useful to download the Naver Map App as some of the directions by public transport just do not appear on Google Maps. The best way to travel around is to purchase a T Money Card. It is a card preloaded with credits for you to take your buses and subways.
Taxis are another great way to get around Busan, South Korea. For those who do not want to spend that much, you may just want to pair your public transport travels with taxi rides for the difficult-to-reach regions. Once again, the Naver Map App is a helpful way to help you plan your travels as it offers the time taken to reach your destination plus gives a rough gauge how much your taxi fare would be. We've tried the taxis several times when in Busan and found that the Naver Map App estimated fares to be extremely accurate!
Since Busan is a much smaller city with many attractions located quite a distance away from each other, you may just want to drive yourselves around the city. Driving in South Korea is generally quite safe for beginner drivers as they have really strict speed limits. Although it does get quite crowded and hectic in the city area, driving in the outskirts can be quite a breeze! Plus, Busan's location near the waters create an extremely scenic drive. The best part? The drive through the Busan Harbour Bridge!
Private Car Tours
Alternatively, you could go on a private car tour. Especially for those who are short on time, a private car tour enables you to cover more in less time. Should you be travelling in a group of up to 7, a private car tour may even be more affordable than taking the public transport and shuttling from place to place.
What to do in Busan, South Korea?
1. Visit the Santorini of the East @ Gamcheon Culture Village
In Busan, you can also find the Gamcheon Culture Village which is known as the Santorini of the East. Here, like in Greece, the houses are built on the foothills of a mountain located near the coast in a staircase-fashion. Many of the facade of these houses are also filled with murals which make them beautiful instagram-worthy shots.
The colourful houses are still homes to many of the elderly in Busan so when you walk around in this area, do be mindful of that! To get around the Gamcheon Cultural Village, grab a map at the entrance of the village. The map also highlights the best viewing points in the village!
To get to Gamcheon Culture Village, you can either take a taxi or via public transport.
For public transport:
1. Take the subway line 1 to Toseong Station
2. Head to exit 6 for the bus station located in front of Pusan National University Hospital.
3. Take the market village bus to Gamcheon Culture Village
If you are tight on time, you could also join this Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan Skywalk, and Haedong Yonggungsa Day Tour.
Gamcheon Culture Village
203 Gamnae 2(i)-ro, Gamcheon-dong, Saha-gu, Busan, South Korea
At the Gamcheon Culture Village, you should also try Busan's famous ssiahotteok!
Hotteok, a popular street food in South Korea, is a Korean fried pancake with a variety of fillings. In Busan, the ssiahotteok is stuffed with sugar, honey, sunflower seeds and nuts. It is crispy on the outside and sweet and chewy on the inside. We tried several ssiahotteok in Busan and the best one we had so far was the one located in the Gamcheon Culture Village. It is a store located close to the entrance of the village, with banners displaying running man members enjoying the ssiahotteok.
2. Experience fresh seafood at the Busan Jagalchi Market
Being a port city, Busan is famed for its fresh seafood, especially the live octopus sashimi! At Jagalchi Market, you can marvel at the fresh seafood in the market at the ground floor (and outside the building of the market), or head up to the second floor to have the seafood! Do note, however, that prices are not exactly cheap at Jagalchi Market and restaurant owners tend to not be very upfront with their prices. On our recent trip, we've realised that prices are now a little more transparent where guides on rough prices are plastered all over the market. However, you should still ask carefully before you decide to eat in the restaurant!
Another interesting activity you could do at the market is to attend a cooking class! Hunt for the various ingredients at the market and whip up a delicious korean meal with your classmates and teachers in this Jagalchi Market and Korean Cooking Class Experience.
Insider tip: Head all the way to the top of the Jagalchi Market to get a bird's eye view of the surrounding area too! Here, you can see the Yeongdodaegyo Bridge!
Take Subway Line 1 to Jagalchi Station and follow the signs to the market!
52 Jagalchihaean-ro, Nampo-dong, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
3. Pretend to be among the stars at BIFF square
Located just across Jagalchi Market, BIFF square is the area where the Busan International Film Festivals were held. This 400 metre-long street boasts many interesting stores that you can roam around in.
Be sure to also keep your eyes peeled on the floor every now and then to spot handprints or footprints of famous celebrities and directors from all around the world!
There are also many street food vendors at the entrance of BIFF square. Try freshly made Korean fried dumplings with fresh cabbage and squid marinated in a spicy sauce!
We've also had one of our best Korean fried chicken tteobokki experience near the square! We chanced upon this while walking towards Nampo-dong and definitely didn't regret our choice! We paid 29,000 won for this fried chicken dish plus a beer and a glass of soft drink. The deep fried crispy chicken was placed atop a piping hot pan of tteobokki, fishcake, glass and udon noodles topped with lotsa of cheese. There was just so much food that we couldn't finish them!
However, this portion fills like the norm for the Busan people. Later on, several pairs of people came in and ordered the exact same dish!
Take Subway Line 1 to Jagalchi Station and follow the signs to BIFF square
58-1 Gudeok-ro, Nampodong 5(o)-ga, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
4. Visit Gukje Market
The Gukje market is one of the largest markets in South Korea. It stocks a variety of goods and you can find almost anything you want in the market. The Gukje market also connects to other markets such as Kkangtong Market, Bupyeong Market, and several other smaller markets. You can also find the wholesale market nearby where locals purchase almost anything, be in plastic bags, tapes, glassware, in bulk!
Take Subway Line 1 and exit at Jagalchi Station, exit 7
25 Gukjesijang 2-gil, Gwangbok-dong, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
5. Head up Busan Tower at Mt. Yongdusan Park!
The Busan Tower is located in Yongdusan Park. The tower stands at 120 metres tall, and is situated at 69 metres above sea level. The top of the tower is designed as a replica of the Baldaquin of Dabotap Pagoda in Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju. It is the symbol of Busan which offers excellent views of the city from the observatory deck. Grab tickets for the Busan Tower online to skip the queues!
To get to Yongdusan Park, you will have to ride the escalator up to the top of the hill! You can find this escalator on Gwangbok-ro Street.
Subway Line 1 to Nampo Station, exit 7 and walk to Gwangbok-ro Street
37-30 Yongdusan-gil, Gwangbokdong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
6. Visit the Guinness World Record's largest departmental store @ Shinsegae Centum City
The exterior of Shinsegae Centum City is magnificent. We couldn't stop "wow-ing" in amazement when we were in the airport bus to head to our hotel. Besides the departmental store, there are also other buildings located in this area. You can easily spend the entire day shopping here and when you are bored of shopping, there is also a SPA and an ice-rink in the store!
Don't forget to check out the basement level where there is a huge food hall and grab some food there!
Insider tip! Head up to the top floor where you can have a bird's eye view of the surrounding area. There is also a nice 'garden' on the roof of the mall!
Shinsegae Centum City
Take Subway Line 2 to Busan Centum City Station
U-dong, Busan, South Korea
Visit a Luxurious Jimjilbang @ Spa Land
When you are at Shinsegae City, don't forget to make a trip to the luxurious jimjilbang @ Spa Land