The Perfect Weekend: Things to Do in Busan South Korea
Updated: Aug 3
Busan, South Korea's second-largest city, is a vibrant and dynamic metropolis nestled on the southeastern coast of the Korean Peninsula. Renowned for its pristine beaches, bustling seafood markets, and scenic mountain ranges, Busan offers a unique blend of traditional and modern Korean culture. I recently spent the perfect weekend in this southern city. With its rich history, diverse culinary scene, and a plethora of attractions, Busan is a must-visit destination.
Busan is a Seafood Lover's Heaven
Busan is a well-known port city, which means seafood is an essential part of the dining experience there. Scroll below for where to try the freshest seafood in the city, but first, check here for what to order.
1. Hoe (회): typically made with thinly sliced raw fish and served with a variety of dipping sauces.
2. Sannakji (산낙지): a dish of live octopus that is sliced and served with sesame oil and soy sauce,
3. Eomuk (어묵): fish cakes made with pureed fish, vegetables, and starch.
4. Ganjang-gejang (간장게장): raw crabs are marinated for a few days in soy sauce, making the meat soft, savory, and custardy. This is eaten with fresh rice.
5. Jangeo-gui (장어구이): freshly grilled eel with vegetables and usually served with a spicy sauce.
Getting to Busan in South Korea
Korea has spent a lot of money on building an effective, cheap, and convenient infrastructure. This means traveling by most public transportation options is easy to navigate and fairly inexpensive. Considering that Korea is only about the size of the state of Indiana, you can get to most places within the country in a few hours time.
Trains to Busan
The most common route to Busan is by KTX, which begins at Seoul Station and makes various stops throughout the country. There are two types of trains that go along this route, and depending on which one you take, you can get on from a number of stations.
KTX is a bullet train that will cover the 200-mile distance between Seoul and Busan in a cool two hours! It makes four stops in Seoul, and only a handful along the country route, which gives you fewer options for where to hop on. This means that you might need to travel a little further to get to the nearest stop.
Korail makes every stop available along the route, which makes this the best option if you’re coming from an area further from the primary stops. Keep in mind that this train also takes a lot longer.
Things to Do in Busan, South Korea
Busan, South Korea is a city with a diverse range of activities for visitors to enjoy. The city is home to beautiful beaches, such as Haeundae Beach and Gwangalli Beach, where visitors can swim, sunbathe, and enjoy water sports. Visitors can also explore the city's vibrant food scene, historical landmarks, and peaceful temples. Here are the top activities to do while visiting Busan.
Visit Haedong Yonggungsa, Korea’s Rare Oceanside Temple
Most temples in Korea are hidden along tree-lined mountain trails, making Haedong Yonggungsa temple a rare experience. The temple gets packed on weekends, especially during the spring and summer. Plus, there’s only one road and a small parking lot. Plan to arrive early, and if not, bring zen-like patience to make it through the crowds.
Address: 86, Yonggung-gil, Gijang-gun, Busan (부산광역시 기장군 기장읍 용궁길 86)
Ride the Lotte Skyline Luge
If your idea of fun involves hugging the S-curves of a hilltop in a go-cart, then Lotte’s Skyline Luge was made for you. Only about a ten-minute walk from the Haedong Yonggungsa temple makes this a great add-in to your north Busan itinerary.
One admission ticket (₩27,000) buys you two gondola lifts up and two rides down the hill.
Address: San 60-1 , Sirang-ri, Gijang-eup, Gijang-gun, Busan (부산광역시 기장군 기장읍 시랑리 산60-1)
Sunbathe at Haeundae and Gwangalli Beach
When thinking of things to do in Busan, South Korea, the beach will likely be at the top of your list. After all, this coastal city gives you a near-perfect combination of outdoorsy beach life and sleepless city nights. Busan has two primary beaches: Gwangalli and Haeundae. While they’re both right on subway line 2, and only about a 20-minute distance from each other, they have two completely different vibes.
This one is widely photographed for its direct view of the sprawling Gwangan bridge in Busan. Visitors, particularly couples, come here to take photos on the beach with the bridge its immediate vista. Besides the photo opportunity, this beach is a little more party-centric and attracts a younger crowd. This one has a lot of cheap bars lining the boardwalk.
Address: 219, Gwanganhaebyeon-ro, Suyeong-gu, Busan (부산광역시 수영구 광안해변로 219 광안동)
This one is a little more upmarket and attracts a lot of tourists and families. Instead of bars lining the beach (though there’s a party street just one block away), high-end steak houses and hotels with ocean views take over the boardwalk real estate. This beach hosts epic sand castles and is home to the Busan Sealife Aquarium.
Address: 264, Haeundaehaebyeon-ro, Haeundae-gu, Busan (부산광역시 해운대구 해운대해변로 264 우동)
Conquer Your Fear of Heights at Busan X The Sky
After having a walk along Haeundae beach, head over to the northern tip of the beach where you’ll find the Haeundae LCT The Sharp, Busan's landmark tower. You can purchase observation deck tickets at the ground level at Haeundae LCT The Sharp, followed by an ear-popping elevator ride up to the 120th floor.
Address: 30, Dalmaji-gil, Haeundae-gu, Busan (부산광역시 해운대구 달맞이길 30 엘시티 랜드마크타워 98~100F)
Stare Eye-to-Eye with Sharks at The SEA LIFE Aquarium
Sealife aquarium is home to over 10,000 species of aquatic life. It’s a three-level underground facility that will take about an hour to get through the whole thing. There are photo opportunities with hilarious scenarios (a diving cage that looks a little bit like a shark jail) throughout the tour and lots of themed rooms. The atmospheric and other-worldly environment of the jellyfish room is not to be missed.
A few other notables include the giant sea turtles, nurse sharks, transparent walkways over tanks, and dome-shaped tanks that give you an underwater experience without having to bring an oxygen tank.
Address: 266, Haeundaehaebyeon-ro, Haeundae-gu, Busan (부산광역시 해운대구 해운대해변로 266 중동)
Explore The Colorful Backdrop of Gamcheon Culture Village
Back in 2009, Busan was eyeing effective ways to draw in tourists and boost the local economy. The solution? Busan officials paid local artists and students to paint the home exteriors of Gamcheon Culture Village all varieties of rich colors. The result? A postcard-quality hillside community separated by quaint alleyways and vibrantly painted homes. Over a million tourists flock to this area each year for the wonderful painted murals, cafes, and small businesses. Consider the local economy boosted.
Address: 203, Gamnae 2-ro, Saha-gu, Busan (부산광역시 사하구 감내2로 203)
Eat Your Way Through Local Seafood
Busan has a long history of being a thriving port city, which has made seafood a staple of its cuisine. The city is known for its fresh and diverse seafood, which can be found in many of its local markets and restaurants. From traditional dishes such as fish cakes and seafood pancakes to more modern dishes like sashimi and grilled seafood, there is something to suit every taste.
Jagalchi Fish Market
The Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, South Korea, is one of the largest seafood markets in the country and is home to over 400 vendors selling a variety of fresh seafood, including fish, shellfish, and octopus. Visitors can browse the stalls, select their preferred seafood, and have it cooked on-site to enjoy as a meal.
There are also many seafood restaurants in the area surrounding the market, such as Haeundae Seafood Town and Gwanganli's Millak Raw Fish Center, which offer a variety of seafood dishes in a traditional Korean setting.
Address: 52, Jagalchihaean-ro, Jung-gu, Busan (부산광역시 중구 자갈치해안로 52 (남포동4가)
Samnak Ecological Park
Another popular seafood destination is the Samnak Ecological Park, which features restaurants that serve seafood caught from the park's own fishery.
Address: 1231, Nakdong-daero, Sasang-gu, Busan (부산광역시 사상구 낙동대로 1231)