Planning to travel to South Korea soon but torn between shopping and dining at the bustling metropolis of Seoul or escaping to nature on the idyllic island of Jeju? There is one city in the land of kimchi that seamlessly blends the best of both worlds. With its gorgeous beaches, delectable food, and laid-back atmosphere, Busan is the ultimate destination for any traveller.
While the capital city Seoul tends to be more cosmopolitan, with a mix of modern and traditional Korean culture, Busan's is heavily influenced by its coastal location, with a strong emphasis on seafood in its cuisine.
Forget about a simple day trip here. Whether you are a seasoned overseas explorer or new to this resort town, there is something for everyone in Busan. From thrilling activities to must-see attractions, this dynamic second largest city in Korea has plenty of places to visit that will leave you in awe.
Here are the top five things to do when you are in Busan!
1. Live like a local in the Nampo-dong neighbourhood, the old downtown of Busan
Enjoy Busan’s best street delicacies along the bustling BIFF Square
Immerse yourself in the glitz and glamour of Busan’s movie scene at the Busan International Film Festival Square (BIFF Square). Once the hub for introducing new talents and the latest films to Asia, BIFF Square has now evolved into a vibrant cultural complex that boasts a plethora of traditional street food and modern inventions.
Prepare to tantalise your taste buds with a unique-to-Busan street treat, the mouth-watering Ssiat Hotteok. These fried Korean pancakes are filled with a heavenly mix of crunchy seeds, including pine nuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, adding a delightful texture and a burst of flavour to every bite. A perfect blend of sweet and salty, this Busan-style Hotteok is a must-try snack that will leave you craving for more as you explore the vibrant streets of BIFF Square.
BIFF Square 비프광장
Address: 44, Nampo-gil, Jung-gu, Busan
Korean address: 부산 중구 구덕로 44
Operating hours: Open all year round
Forget the maps and explore the buzzing Gukje Market for unexpected finds
Looking for more things to do in Busan? With over 60 years of history, the adjacent Gukje Market is an iconic marketplace that offers a wide range of products and services. As you stroll through the vibrant alleys, you will find yourself seamlessly transitioning from the bustling BIFF Square to the famous Gukje Market Food Street, where locals and tourists alike flock to satisfy their cravings. If you are looking for a specialty, be sure to try the delectable Chungmu Kimbap, a Korean rice roll filled with spicy radish and boiled squid.
Unlike the traditional markets you might find in Seoul, this open-air food street offers a unique dining experience. Picture yourself seated among the hustle and bustle of the market as you savour the local delicacies. And if you are a bargain hunter at heart, you will love the wide range of products from household essentials like cookware to fashion products like bags.
Pro-tip: Get the most of your visit to the Gukje Market by planning your trip over the weekends as most of the food stalls only operate on Saturdays and Sundays. Located along Arirang Street in Gukje Market, most food stalls only accept cash, so don’t forget to bring some cash for your shopping and dining adventures.
Arirang Street 아리랑거리
Address: 35 Gwangbok-ro, Jung-gu, Busan
Korean address: 부산 중구 광복로35번길 11
Operating hours: 09:00 to 20:00 daily. Closed every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month.
Head to Gwangbokro Fashion Street for some retail therapy
Are you a shopaholic looking for the ultimate shopping experience? Look no further than Gwangbokro Fashion Street, a bustling street home to the largest shopping district in Busan. You can find a vast array of stores offering everything from sports and outdoor products to cosmetics, fashion apparel, and more. Stretching from Gukje Market to Yongdusan Park, it is a must-visit attraction spot for any serious shopper.
For families, head over to the nearby Lotte Mall or the Shinsegae Centum City instead. The Shinsegae Centum City is a shopping mall that holds the Guinness World Records for the biggest mall worldwide. This remarkable complex offers more than just a shopping experience - it is also a fun-filled paradise great for families. With a wide assortment of leisure and entertainment facilities including a Jimjilbang (Korean traditional sauna), ice-skating rink, movie theatres and golf ranges, you will find endless activities to keep everyone in the family entertained.
Gwangbokro Fashion Street 광복로패션거리
Address: 72-1, Gwangbok-ro, Jung-gu, Busan
Korean address: 부산 중구 광복로 72-1
Operating hours: Vary according to shops. Most eateries operate from 10:00am while the rest of the shops open their doors at 11:00am.
Shinsegae Centum City 신세계 센텀시티몰
Address: 15, Centum 4-ro, Haeundae-gu, Busan
Korean address: 부산 해운대구 센텀4로 15
Operating hours: Monday to Thursday from 10:30am to 8:00pm, Friday to Sunday from 10:30am to 8:30pm
Stroll along the Yongdusan Park and be mesmerised by the city’s landscape from the top of Busan Tower
Nestled within the bustling heart of Busan lies a hidden gem, Yongdusan Park. Yongdusan Park is not an ordinary park, as it sits atop one of the three famous mountains in Busan. Named after a dragon head due to its look alike shape, locals believe that taking the name of a legendary creature would protect the city from foreign sea invaders.
Discover the park’s many significant monuments including the Statue of Great Admiral Yi Sun-sin, a flower clock, and the Busan Diamond Tower, also known as the Busan Tower. This is a great place to take a well-deserved break from all the shopping and feasting. As you walk around the park, you will be treated to a glimpse of its past and present culture and a stunning panoramic view of the city’s skyline from the Busan Diamond Tower.
Pro-tip: Available from 7:00pm to 9:50pm at 10min-long intervals, catch magnificent fireworks displays against Busan’s skyline from the observatory at the Busan Diamond Tower. This is a sight not to be missed and will be the perfect thing to do to conclude your day in Busan.
Yongdusan Park 용두산공원
Address: 37-55, Yongdusan-gil, Jung-gu, Busan
Korean address: 부산 중구 용두산길 37-55
Operating hours: Open all year round
Busan Diamond Tower 부산다이아몬드타워
Address: 37-55, Yongdusan-gil, Jung-gu, Busan
Korean address: 부산 중구 용두산길 37-55
Operating hours: 10:00am to 10:00pm (last admission at 09:30pm)
- Adults (13 years old and above): KRW 12,000 (S$12.04)
- Children (between 3 to 12 years old): KRW 9,000 (S$9.03)
- Senior citizens (65 years old and above): KRW 9,000 (S$9.03)
2. Explore Haeundae, the liveliest district in the heart of Busan
Admire breathtaking coastal views along the Haeundae Blue Line Park, Busan’s latest sensation
Have you seen these mini, retro-looking sky capsules appearing on your social media feed? Among Busan’s newest additions is this iconic Haeundae Blue Link Park, a picturesque eco attraction that has breathed new life to the abandoned coastal railway. Hop aboard the colourful sky trains that are taking social media by storm, take a leisure ride on the beach train or stroll along the waterfront. Endless adventures await!
Tickets to the four-seater sky capsules sell out fast, especially during sunset and it’s no wonder why. With a 30min-long non-stop, one-way ride on a 10m-high elevated railway, you will be treated to stunning views and picture-perfect moments. The best part is that each of these private cabins can accommodate up to four passengers, so you can share the experience with your loved ones, or enjoy a solo adventure all by yourself at a ticket cost for two pax.
Pro-tip: If you are looking to capture the perfect sunset photos on your ride, be sure to book your tickets on the Mipo-Cheongsapo route. This outer route is the most sought-after for its stunning sunset views, as opposed to the Cheongsapo-Mipo route which runs on the inner rail.
Don’t forget to plan ahead too. Tickets go on sale two weeks in advance, so make sure you secure your seats on the website for the best time slot. Foreigners can check out using their email addresses and pay via a foreign credit or debit card.
The beach train is a hop-on-and-off sightseeing train that operates on-ground along the coastline, offering passengers a comfortable and convenient way to make the most out of their seaside exploration. As opposed to the sky capsules that only operate between two stations, this train stops by all six terminals along the park.
With limited seating available, try to snag a prime spot on the train if you can. Even if you do not, there will be seats available as people disembark at each station. For those who prefer to stand, there is plenty of room in the standing area behind the benches too.
Hidden in the limelight is the walking trail that runs parallel to the beach train. Nestled away from the tourist crowds, this hidden gem provides a more intimate and affordable experience. You will be amazed to find that this trail is a favourite among locals of all ages, from leisure strollers to fitness enthusiasts and furry friends too!
If you have three to four hours, taking all three options will provide you with the most holistic experience of the Haeundae Blue Line Park - ride the sky capsule from Mipo to Cheongsapo, hop on the beach train from Cheongsapo to Songjeong, and then walk back along the beachfront for an unforgettable journey. Along the way, go café hopping at Gukdekpo station or feast on some of the freshest seafood at Cheongsapo.
Don’t worry about getting tired. If your legs give way, you can always catch a ride on the beach train back. Do keep in mind that ticketing kiosks are only available at selected stations (Mipo, Cheongsapo and Songjeong stations). Unmanned ticking machines in English, Chinese, and Japanese languages are available at the other three stops so don’t fret! More information on the tickets and available packages can be found here.
Haeundae Blue Line Park Mipo Station
Address: 1019-2 Jung-dong Haeundae-gu Busan
Korean address: 부산 해운대구 달맞이길62번길 13
Operating hours: 09:30am to 7:00pm, daily
Admission fees: KRW7,000 (S$7.02) for one-way beach train ticket per pax and KRW35,000 (S$35.11) for one-way sky capsule ticket for 2 pax.
Continue your adventure at Busan’s most representative seaside, the Haeundae Beach
When it comes to the most prominent and popular beach in Busan, it is no doubt the Haeundae Beach. As the ultimate summer vacation hotspot and the seaside of choice for both foreigners and locals alike, the beach front is extremely popular for its endless water activities, just like in Singapore. Coupled with a plethora of events and festivals such as the annual Haeundae Sand Festival and Haeundae Lighting Festival, especially over the summer months, Haeundae Beach is the perfect place to unwind.
For beach lovers, you’re in luck because Busan is known for its many famous beaches.
Consider heading to Songjeong Beach, especially for those who prefer a quieter beach experience compared to the bustling Haeundae Beach. The crescent-shaped beach features fine white sand and clear blue waters, offering a peaceful retreat for both locals and tourists.
Similar to Songjeong Beach, Songdo Beach is also another less touristy spot. Fun fact, Songdo Beach is actually one of the oldest and most beloved beaches amongst the locals in Busan!
Address: U-dong Haeundae-gu Busan
Korean address: 부산광역시 해운대구 우동
Operating hours: Open 24hrs
Get a taste of Busan’s food scene at the Haeundae Traditional Market
Haeundae is also home to one of the most recognised traditional and largest seafood markets in Busan. Explore the vibrant culinary scene of Haeundae and indulge in an array of mouth-watering Korean street snacks, delectable Korean cuisine, and fresh seafood dishes. You can find the most popular street snacks and Korean staples here, from Kimbap (Korean rice rolls) and Tteokbooki (Korean spicy rice cakes) to Dweijikupbap (Pork soup with rice) and Seafood Kalguksu (seafood knife-cut noodles). It's a food paradise for all, similar to Jagalchi Market!
The market’s must try includes the fried Korean pancake stuffed with seeds from the popular Haeundae Famous Hotteok stall (해운대 명품 호떡) located at the entrance of the street. This Ssiat Hotteok is slightly different from those sold at the BIFF Square where the savoury nuts are mixed with sugar as opposed to a sugar-stuffed pancake topped with seeds. For those who love a flavour adventure, try its unique variations including cheese and cheese with seeds.
The best-kept secret along the streets of the Haeundae Traditional Market is definitely this noodle house. Nohong Mandu is where you can indulge in some of the softest and most tender handmade dumplings and pulled noodles you will ever taste.
For seafood lovers, however, Jagalchi Market is your place to be. This is Korea's largest seafood market, located on the edge of Nampo Port. Many of the stalls at Jagalchi Market also allow you to select your seafood and have it prepared right there for you to eat. It's truly a wonderful place to eat fresh seafood, explore local sea-to-table cuisine, and get a feel for the day-to-day life of the local population at Jagalchi Market.
Pro-tip: Don’t miss out on Haeundae Square (formerly known as Gunam-ro Culture Square) when you are at Haeundae Traditional Market. This bustling cultural complex connecting the Haeundae subway station to the Haeundae Traditional Market and Haeundae Beach is where you can find flea markets, lively street performances, and free events held regularly over the weekends.
Haeundae Traditional Market 해운대전통시장
Address: 42-16 Jungdong 1-ro, Haeundae-gu, Busan
Korean address: 부산 해운대구 중동1로 42-16
Operating hours: 09:00am to 10:00pm daily. However, most eateries commence operations at 11:00am.
Cruise along Busan’s coastline and enjoy captivating seaside vistas from The Bay 101
The Bay 101 is located at the tail end of Haeundae Beach. Step into this waterfront hotspot where art, culture and leisure come together to offer a unique coastal experience. Your experience will be completed with dazzling city lights, alfresco dining and breath-taking yacht tours that showcase the best of Busan’s coastline. Private and public yacht tours will take you to a few popular attractions in Busan including the Gwangan Bridge, Gwangalli Beach and Haeundae Marine City.
While you are here, capture the mesmerising nightscape of Busan and unwind with your loved ones over a delightful meal of fish and chips and refreshing beer.
The Bay 101 더베이101
Address: 52 Dongbaek-ro, Haeundae-gu, Busan, South Korea
Korean address: 부산 해운대구 동백로 52 더베이101
Operating hours: 08:00am to 12:00am daily
3. Be part of the vibrant nightlife and enjoy the stunning Gwangan Bridge lights from the coast of Gwangalli
Visit the trendy Millac the Market
Among Busan’s latest additions is Millac the Market, a trendy cultural and lifestyle complex. Fashion and art come together in this lively place, combined with the street art vibes manifested through the hip graffiti walls, this complex in itself is an Instagram-worthy backdrop for your travel photo album.
Here is where concept restaurants, trendy cafes, hip clothing stores and artisanal jewellery shops gather. The line-up is refreshed from time to time. There are also seasonal pop-up stores that lend even more variety to the permanent stores.
The Busking Square is the signature space within the complex where you can enjoy a view of the port and Gwangalli Beach. At times, visitors can enjoy live music by local buskers. It’s a nice place to unwind with good views and good music.
Millac the Market 밀락더마켓
Address: 56 Millaksubyeon-ro 17beon-gil, Suyeong-gu, Busan, South Korea
Korean address: 부산 수영구 민락수변로17번길 56
Operating hours: 10:00am to 12:00am, daily
Treat yourself to magnificent night views at the Gwangalli Beach
Head over to Gwangalli Beach for the best evening escape with stunning night views and laid back vibes. Unlike the bustling Haeundae Beach, Gwangali Beach offers a more relaxed atmosphere.
When the sun sets, get ready for a mesmersing experience at the star attraction of the region, the illuminated Gwangan Bridge. Don’t miss out on the amazing drone light shows and occasional street performances!
Pro-tip: Make sure to plan your visit on a Saturday evening to catch the 10-minute drone light show. Available from 7:00pm to 9:00pm between October and February and 8:00pm to 10:00pm between March and September, this is a show you won’t forget!
The backstreets of the Gwangan region host an extensive variety of dining and drinking options too. The main road is filled with stylish cafes, charming open terraces and trendy eateries, all of which offer exquisite sea views. Whether you are in the mood for local delicacies or fusion cuisine, the backstreets got you covered. When the sun sets, the area transforms into a buzzing nightlife hub with a plethora of hip bars to choose from.
Gwangalli Beach 광안리해수욕장
Address: 219, Gwanganhaebyeon-ro, Suyeong-gu, Busan
Korean address: 부산 수영구 광안해변로 219
Operating hours: Open 24hours
4. Must-visit iconic tourist attractions in Busan
Enter a fairy tale world at the Gamcheon Cultural Village where culture and history meet the arts
Step back in time and experience the living history of the Korean War at the Gamcheon Culture Village. Once a settlement for refugees, this charming village has been transformed into a vibrant arts and cultural hub by the locals. Get ready to be amazed by the colourful street murals, adorable cafes, art galleries and artisanal boutiques that adorn every corner of this village. Whether you are a history lover, art enthusiast or someone simply looking for some travel aesthetic, the Gamcheon Culture Village is a must-visit attraction spot in Busan.
This maze-like village is located at the foot of a hill and because of that, it is essential to keep in mind that there are several steep slopes, long stairways and twisting alleys. While there is a guided map available for those who want to make the most out of their time in the village, getting lost in this organised mess can also be a unique experience altogether.
If you are planning a visit, it is recommended to cater 3-4h to see all the key highlights in the village, including the fascinating views of the rainbow-coloured roofs against Busan’s picturesque landscape. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, bring your cap or sunblock during summer, and be prepared for a bit of workout as you navigate the hills and stairs.
Pro-tip: For a more guided experience, consider purchasing a stamp map from the Gamcheon Culture Village Tourist Information Centre. This map provides a recommended trail, making it easier to navigate all the highlights in the village.
Gamcheon Cultural Village 감천문화마을
Address: 203, Gamnae 2-ro, Saha-gu, Busan
Korean address: 부산 사하구 감내2로 203 감천문화마을안내센터
Operating hours: 09:00am to 6:00pm daily from March to October and 09:00am to 5:00pm daily from November to February
Visit the Haedong Yonggusa, a one-of-a-kind temple perched on the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea
Many temples in Korea are in the mountains, but this sanctuary breaks the mould of traditional temples with its seaside location. This beautiful temple preserves most of its unique religious traditions and harmonious presence with nature and is one of three temples that is devoted to the Goddess of Mercy in South Korea today. The temple houses a large statue of the Yacksayeorae Healing Buddha, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking good health.
As a famous landmark, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple attracts many visitors daily, so do arrive early to beat the crowd. Be prepared for a bit of workout too as there are several flights of steep stairs to conquer before you reach the temple (comfortable shoes are recommended). It is also recommended to bring along sunscreen, caps, or umbrella when the sun is scorching hot over the summer months.
Haedong Yonggungsa 해동 용궁사
Address: 86 Yonggung-gil, Gijang-gun, Busan, South Korea
Korean address: 부산 기장군 기장읍 용궁길 86 해동용궁사
Operating hours: 04:30am to 08:30pm, daily
5. Taste of Busan: indulge in the best local cuisine from the maritime city
Satisfy your taste buds with a flavourful bowl of Dwaeji Gukbap (Pork and Rice Soup)
You will be surprised that at the top of Busan’s must-eat list is a non-seafood dish. The Dwaeji Gukbap is a delicious, hearty bowl of soup bursting with history and flavour. It is a staple originating from the Korean War which features succulent pork bones, fragrant chives and optional salted baby shrimp that can be added according to one’s preference.
This is such an indispensable traditional dish in Busan’s history that there is even an alley, “Dwaeji Gukbap Alley” dedicated to selling it. Today, this light and savoury soup is a popular local meal and a must-try for all foodies and first-time gukbap-diners alike.
Songjeong Samdae Gukbap 송정3대국밥
Address: 33 Seomyeon-ro 68beon-gil, Busanjin-gu, Busan, South Korea
Korean address: 부산 부산진구 서면로68번길 33 송정3대국밥
Operating hours: Open 24hrs, daily
Geukdong Doeji Gukbap
Address: 17, Dalmaji-gil 62beon-gil, Haeundae-gu, Busan, South Korea
Korean address: 부산 해운대구 달맞이길62번길 17 1층 극동돼지국밥
Operating hours: 08:00am to 09:00pm, daily. Last order at 08:30pm. Break from 3:30pm to 5:00pm.
Slurp on a signature bowl of Milmyeon (wheat noodles)
Invented by North Korean refugees during the Korean War, the chewy, yellow-tinted wheat noodles used in this delicious noodle dish is what differentiates itself from its Northern counterpart, the Pyeongyang Naengmyeon. They are either served in a refreshing cold, clear broth or with spicy gochujang sauce. Don’t forget to pair your noodles with a serving of fresh fish or piping hot dumplings for the ultimate foodie experience. Here are some recommended restaurants for the most authentic milmyeon.
Choryang Milmyeon 초량 밀면
Address: 225 Jungang-daero, Dong-gu, Busan, South Korea
Korean address: 부산 동구 중앙대로 225
Operating hours: 10:00am to 10:00pm, daily
Halmae Gaya Milmyeon 할매가야밀면
Address: 56-14, Gwangbok-ro, Jung-gu, Busan
Korean address: 부산 중구 광복로 56-14
Operating hours: 10:30am to 9:30pm, daily
The port city that offers more than just a day trip
Busan is truly a gem that offers a unique blend of traditions, nature and modernity that is bound to captivate any visitor. I hope this guide will give you a taste of what this charming coastal city has to offer and inspire you to plan your own trip to Busan soon.
In addition, why take a train to Busan when you can now fly there directly? With direct flights from Changi Airport to Gimhae International Airport on Jeju Air, getting to Busan has never been so accessible. The flight there takes just 6h30min-long.
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Best time to visit:
The perfect time to visit Busan is through the Spring and Autumn months from March to May and September to November respectively. Busan embraces you with pleasant weather and its streets come alive with the mesmerising sight of blooming cherry blossoms during Spring and breath-taking hues of autumn foliage. However, Busan truly shines during its vibrant summer months where it welcomes one of the most visitors among locals and foreigners alike. If you are looking for heart-pounding excitement and some unforgettable adrenaline rush, June to August are the best months to visit!
The city offers a convenient and affordable transportation system with its extensive subway network and reliable public buses. However, Google Maps may not always be your best buddy when it comes to navigation in South Korea. Make sure to download either Naver Maps or Kakao Maps instead of Google Maps for the most up-to-date and accurate guidance. This is especially important if you’re relying a lot on public transport.
Busan’s currency is in South Korean Won (KRW). You can exchange your currency at Changi Recommends and collect it conveniently before checking in at Changi Airport Terminal 1 or 3.
Changi Airport is directly connected to Busan’s Gimhae International Airport via Jeju Air. Book your flight to Busan from Singapore now!