Busan is the perfect middle ground between and Seoul and Jeju.
What to know
- Busan covers a bit more area than Seoul at 770.04 km² (297.31 sq mi).
- There are 4,300/km2 (11,000 people living per square mile) so it’s about a quarter of the density of Seoul, but still packed.
- You don’t need to rent a car in Busan. It’s considered the most difficult city to drive in Korea.
- If you do rent a car to check out surrounding areas, don’t drive through Busan. Traffic is bad due to the narrow streets.
- Get a T-money card if you haven’t already so you can use public transport including busses, trains, subways, and taxis (this card works all over the country too!).
- Naver Map works better for directions and getting around.
Read on for all the best ways to enjoy Busan.
How to get to Busan?
You can fly direct to PUS from GMP, NRT, and KIX airport.
You can take a KTX, train, or bus from Seoul.
There’s also a ferry from Fukuoka or Shimonoseki to Busan.
Where to stay
Busan is a big place with diverse neighborhoods.
Anywhere around the Haeundae and Gwangali area is where you can enjoy the sand, surf, and sun.
Touristy and vibrant
Seomyeon and Nampo-dong are your best bet for general shopping, eating, and site-seeing. What it lacks in cleanliness, it more than makes up for in excitement.
Traditional and historic
Busan doesn’t have a super-old historic center with hanok (Gyeonju is the place for that). But, you can try Jung-gu for a 100-year-old vibe at least.
Modern and new
Centum City is the place. You can enjoy modern comforts and luxury hotels while you visit. It’s also a great shopping location.
Shilla Stay Haeundae
Shilla Stay Haeundae is a newer hotel just steps away from Haeundae Beach with an amazing Ochazuke restaurant downstairs, Giyohan.
Just ask for a quiet room away from the elevator and you’ll be golden.
46 Haeun-daero 570beon-gil, Haeundae-gu, Busan, South Korea
What to do
Busan is the perfect complement to Seoul when it comes to activities. The spas and temples are a cut above and there’s the beach of course!
There are no palaces in Busan, but there’s a very cool fort thanks to unscheduled visits from neighbors.
Busanjinseong Fortress was originally built by Koreans then demolished and rebuilt during the Imjin War. Now, it’s great place to go for a stroll and get some history in the city.
99 Jaseong-ro, Dong-gu, Busan, South Korea
Temples in Busan tend to be more fun. Especially during one of the festivals when they hang all those lanterns at night.
Beomeosa is not just a beautiful temple, it has a long history of resistance against Japanese invaders using Sunmudo, a martial art that specializes in stabbing and throwing stuff. Now they focus more on throwing one of the best lantern festivals in the land.
250 Beomeosa-ro, Geumjeong-gu, Busan, South Korea
Haedong Yonggungsa isn’t the most pious temple, but it sure is neat looking. You’ll have to travel all the way to the east coast of Busan to enjoy it, so only go if you can spare the time.
You can take a bus from Busan, but will have to walk a few kilometers to get to the entrance.
86 Yonggung-gil, Gijang-gun, Busan, South Korea
A monument to the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Originally built as a refugee camp for people fleeing the north during the Korean war. People moved out over time and the city painted it pretty colors rather than destroy it.
Gamcheon Culture Village has become a big deal thanks to Instagram’s image filtering capabilities.
I wouldn’t stay the night, but it’s a worth a visit if you have an extra day and are out of ideas.
200 Gamnae 1-ro, Saha-gu, Busan, South Korea
Busan Museum is a well-designed and well-curated space full of cultural treasures from the region. It will help you understand and appreciate Busan.
63 UN pyeonghwa-ro, Nam-gu, Busan, South Korea
National Memorial Museum of Forced Mobilization under Japanese Occupation is a somber reminder of Korea’s difficult past.
137 Seobinggo-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
MUSEUM 1 is a modern art museum that feels more like a media art installation. All the pretty lights and colors make it easy to appreciate art though.
20 Centum seo-ro, Haeundae-gu, Busan, South Korea
Haeundae is my favorite beach in Korea. This isn’t saying much, but it’s a nice option when you want a break from the city.
Joseon Hotel is the best place to grab a quiet coffee while Rendeja-Vous on the opposite end is great for seeing trendy youngsters.
13 Dalmaji-gil 62beon-gil, Haeundae-gu, Busan, South Korea
Gwangalli is special because of the bridge at night. What was once a sleepy beach that only locals knew about, is now bustling with tourists.
A private and relaxing experience that gives you an intimate view of the Busan coastline.
Perfect if you find yourself in Haeundae. It gets booked up quickly, so get your tickets in advance.
13 Dalmaji-gil 62beon-gil, Haeundae-gu, Busan, South Korea
Korean spa (jjimjilbang)
You’re in for a treat, Busan has one of the best spas in the country.
People from Seoul visit Busan just for this reason.
35 Centum nam-daero, Haeundae-gu, Busan, South Korea
Rumored to be the largest hot spring fed spa in Asia. Not quite in central Busan, but it’s worth a visit for spa enthusiasts.
23 Geumganggongwon-ro 20beon-gil, Dongnae-gu, Busan, South Korea
Busan has fewer options than Seoul for nightlife and you might not be able to get in due to your age or nationality.
I would stick with a few spots like Fuzzy Navel in Haeundae or maybe Thursday Party in Seomyeon.
Worst case scenario, head to a convenience store, grab a drink, and sit outside when the weather is nice. Totally legal.
What to eat
Here are some local dishes you need to try.
Another in the rich category of Korean hangover cures.
The soup base itself is pork bone which is mild. You can make it as spicy as you want it though by adding pepper paste.
Make sure to put all the chives into the soup, and feel free to add the little shrimp if you need more salt.
Busan’s answer to Naengmyeon.
Made with wheat noodles, it’s the ultimate people’s food in summer.
The local rule is to order either mool (cold broth) or bibim (spicy) per person, and share mandoo (dumplings).
My friend from Seoul was very impressed.
Octopus, offal, and shrimp, a match made in heaven?
It works somehow and pairs well with soju of course.
34 Gunam-ro, Haeundae-gu, Busan, South Korea
Do I need to tip here?
No need to tip in any situation. Don’t even thiiink about it.
Did we miss anything?
Let us know your thoughts about Busan!