1. Gamchon Cultural Village
Korea has mural villages in every city. They all have similar stories, although I find Gamchon’s the most fleshed out. As Korea modernized so quickly, Busan began to grow and become more affluent. People didn’t want the laborers to be living in their neighborhoods but still wanted them near enough to do things for them. So, Gamcheon, with its tiny stacked homes clustered against the hills was born. With narrow, steep streets its quite the climb. As Korea modernized the residents thought they could turn to tourism to raise themselves out of poverty and so they painted their buildings bring pretty colors. It worked! People often want to complain about the bad sides of tourism, but sometimes it can be good, too. Now tourists come to see this beautiful artsy village with its murals and handicraft shops!
2. Igidae Coastal Walk
This is still my favorite thing to do in Busan. This is a very easy walk along the ocean in Busan. It offers incredibly views of the city and water crashing against black rock. If you can’t make it to Jeju, I think this is the prettiest coastline to see in the mainland. It’s completely free but do be aware that there are paths leading from the main coastal walk that can lead to shockingly difficult climbs into the mountains. However, if you’re up for that you’ll be rewarded with vending machines containing ice cold drinks at the top!
3. Beomeosa Temple
Temples are always free for you to wander through, and so peaceful! This temple has beautiful sculptures and ambiance, with over a thousand years of history to walk through. It’s also offers a Templestay experience, the only temple in Busan that does so. It’s set up against the side of a mountain, requiring a little less hiking to get to than your typical Korean temple.
4. Haeundae Beach
There always seems to be something going on at this beach. Whether it’s live music or places to tie wishes for your future, the scene changes from week to week. The water is a little rough for more than dipping your feet, and the wind can really kick up the sand. If you want to enjoy a drink – or even a drag show – with this stunning view, head to HQ Bar just across the street.
5. Gwangali Beach
The iconic bridges of Busan are on full display at the more relaxed version of a beach compared to Haeundae. I find the beach here is often a bit more wet which means the wind isn’t blowing as much sand in your eyes. This beach is particularly nice at night when the bridges light up. Sip some Makgeolli on the shore and relax!
6. Jagalchi Fish Market
I’m not a huge fan of seafood but if you are, you’ll be in luck in Busan. Some of the best seafood in the country can be found in Busan and Jagalchi is where the wildest and wackiest fish are on full display. You can get a full meal fried up for you, and some of the stalls speak English – a rarity in these kinds of markets.
7. Shinsaegae Centum City
Now it is free to window shop but it can be expensive to actually shop here. However, this is supposedly the largest mall in the world (I’ll admit it doesn’t feel that way because it’s vertical) so it’s worth a look. The food court is particularly wonderful, especially if you live in Korea. This is one of the few places in the south where you can easily find foreign ingredients and foods.
8. Bosudong Book Alley
It’s not super big but it is charming! If you’re a reader you might be surprised at the things on offer here. Large photography and art books, children’s books, and even some stuff in English! This book market is open air, with tarps over the passageway to protect from rain in a completely old world style. It won’t take you long to visit, but the area is also worth a stroll.
9. Busan Museum
I always like to check out the city museum wherever I go. Often the insight to the local history is eye-opening. The Busan Museum is no different. It is no secret that Korea modernized rapidly in the last 40 or so years, but seeing the pictures is insane. The entire city looked like rubble and now it’s sprawling size can take over an hour to get from one end to the other! Don’t miss this!
10. Haedong Yonggungsa
This is the temple you’ve probably seen the pictures of if you’ve searched for temples in Busan. And it truly is stunning, one of the few temples almost directly on the water. It is very crowded, which is why many expats recommend Beomeosa instead. However, if you come early or in the off season you can fully enjoy those stellar sights in peace.
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