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Busan Unveiled: 12 Must-Try Experiences in Korea’s Coastal Gem

I’d never call my previous week in BEXCO, where I roamed through endless halls presenting schoolwork, a real taste of Busan. A decade ago, my visit to this second-largest city of Korea only taught me that Haeundae was a beach and Gwangalli was just another beach.

That’s why my recent road trip down south, just before winter kicked in, stands out as a top memory from my 2022 adventures. It was my first chance to truly explore Busan, and let me tell you, it left me completely awestruck.

In this post, I’ll share some of the things I got up to during my fun 3-day, 2-night adventure in Busan. I’m not just telling you about them because I think they’re worth your time, but because they’re the moments I treasured most in this stylish coastal city of Korea.

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    1. Staying in a Room with a Gwangan Bridge View:

    Back in 2012, during my first visit, I not only learned the names of the beaches but also sensed the higher popularity of Haeundae compared to other coastal neighborhoods. Haeundae was teeming with trendy coffee shops, stylish boutiques, and countless delightful eateries. However, when it comes to ocean-view accommodations, the spotlight can easily shift to the second most popular beach area, Gwangalli.

    Gwangalli Beach is conveniently located closer to the city center. Much like Haeundae, it offers a variety of food and drink options, albeit in slightly smaller numbers. What truly sets Gwangalli apart is the spectacular backdrop across the water – the iconic Gwangandaegyo, also known as the Diamond Bridge. When night falls, this waterfront area transforms into a mesmerizing spectacle as thousands of colorful LEDs light up the suspension bridge, creating the most charming views that can be enjoyed from any spot on Gwangalli Beach. This, in turn, has inspired many, including myself, to consider staying in one of the beachfront properties here.

    During this trip, we chose a location in Millak-dong of Suyeong-gu, the district that houses Gwangalli Beach. Since we were a group of four, we decided to book a room at Gwangan KCC Switzen Harbor View through Airbnb for a two-night stay. While the building’s location may pose a slight challenge for visitors relying on public transportation, it offers a spotless vantage point for admiring the panoramic view of Gwangan Bridge and Suyeongman Bay.

    Quick Info about Gwangan KCC Switzen Harbor View:
    Address: 부산 수영구 민락동 181-79
    Naver Map: Gwangan KCC Switzen Habor View

    2. Enjoying a Late-Night Feast of Dwaeji Gukbap:

    When I travel to places brimming with hidden treasures, I often find myself wandering off the well-trodden path, losing track of time, and ending up exploring late into the night. This visit was undoubtedly one of those occasions.

    While the Millak neighborhood boasts numerous cafes and eateries, many of them tend to close their doors quite early, sometimes as early as 8:30 pm. Those that stay open late often cater to a rowdy crowd of heavy drinkers looking for expensive anju, which are side dishes typically enjoyed with alcohol. Luckily, there’s a spot hidden in the easternmost corner of Gwangan Beach that caters to night owls like me.

    The place is called “수변최고돼지국밥 민락점” or “Subyeon Choego Pork and Rice Soup Millak Main Branch” if your Naver Map language setting is in English. This eatery specializes in serving dwaeji gukbap, a Korean-style pork and rice soup cooked in a hot stone bowl. The best part is that, except for Sundays and Mondays, the restaurant is open 24 hours, so you can savor this delicious meal at any time without rushing.

    Another compelling reason to try a bowl of pork and rice soup in Busan is that it has become a local specialty since the Korean War when refugees from Hwanghaedo blended the soup with locally sourced ingredients. As we visited in late October, just as the region began to cool down after sunset, a steaming bowl of dwaeji gukbap was the perfect, comforting treat for the evening.

    Quick Info about Rice Soup Millak Main Branch:
    Address: 부산 수영구 광안해변로370번길 9-32
    Naver Map: Subyeon Choego Pork and Rice Soup Millak Main Branch

    3. Capturing the Nighttime Cityscape of Busan’s Iconic Marine City:

    Comparing my recent visit to Busan with the one I had back in 2012, it’s clear that the city has undergone significant development. The skyline has been transformed by a surge in infrastructure and skyscrapers, and residential complexes have sprouted across all fifteen administrative neighborhoods.

    While the daytime view of Busan’s concrete jungle against the backdrop of the vast ocean is breathtaking, it’s at night that the city truly comes alive. That’s when the little windows in the towering buildings light up, and neon signs begin to flicker. And if you want to witness one of Busan’s most spectacular nightscapes, you absolutely mustn’t miss Marine City.

    Now, speaking from my recent experience, Milak Seaside Park is another fantastic spot to visit, especially if you’re looking to capture glamorous photographs of the cluster of multi-purpose buildings, including Haeundae I’Park and Haeundae Doosan We’ve the Zenith, which illuminate beautifully every night. The view of Marine City from this vantage point is nothing short of extraordinary!

    Quick Info about Millak Seaside Park:
    Address: 부산 수영구 민락수변로 129 수변공원(2호) 공중화장실
    Naver Map: Millak Waterside Park

    4. Experience Fresh Views of Haeundae from a Sky Capsule:

    In every comprehensive list of must-try activities in Busan published since October 2020, taking a ride in a Sky Capsule is an ever-present recommendation, and I’m certainly not going to deviate from this trendy suggestion.

    To embark on one of these colorful adventures, you’ll need to make a reservation and then head to one of the Haeundae Blue Line Park stations: Mipo or Cheongsapo. The entire facility is part of the Haeundae Special Tourist Zone development. Before it became the bustling attraction it is today, this route was a section of the Donghae Nambu railway line connecting Busan and Pohang.

    Although you can board at either terminal, the Sky Capsule journey officially begins at Mipo station, located near the Mipo breakwater at the base of a cluster of skyscrapers. It winds its way along the beachfront promenade toward the charming fishing village of Cheongsapo. The direction you choose doesn’t really matter; as long as you step into one of those gliding, vibrant Sky Capsules, you can always anticipate stunning views of Haeundae Beach as your reward!

    Quick Info about Blue Line Park Mipo Station:
    Address: 부산 해운대구 달맞이길62번길 13
    Naver Map: Haeundae Blue Line Park Mipo Station

    5. Capturing Shots of the Haeundae Beach Train:

    While the Sky Capsule journey transports passengers from Mipo to Cheongsapo, the Beach Train offers an alternative mode of travel that can take you even further, all the way to the historic Songjeong Station. Both transportation options are integral parts of the Blue Line Park.

    On Cheongsapo Road, near the Cheongsapo Station, there’s a particular spot where you can capture picture-perfect moments: the Beach Train passing by against the shimmering backdrop of Haeundae’s ocean. So, whether you plan to continue your journey to Songjeong or return to Mipo, here’s a great tip – linger around the sloping section of Cheongsapo Road, keep your trusty camera ready, and snap away tirelessly. You’ll have in your possession exactly what draws Korean Instagrammers to visit Busan.

    Quick Info about the Photo Spot:
    Address: 부산 해운대구 중동
    Naver Map: Cheongsapo Public Parking Lot Entrance

    6. Leisurely Walks Along Gwangalli Beach:

    Busan is often dubbed the summer capital of Korea, thanks to its six major beaches – Haeundae, Gwangalli, Songdo, Dadaepo, Songjeong, and Ilgwang – each exuding a relaxed and inviting atmosphere. While I haven’t had the chance to visit all of them, my heart is drawn to Gwangalli Beach, both from my personal experiences and the captivating images I found through a quick Google search.

    Among these renowned beaches, Gwangalli Beach stands out as the only one where your panoramic view is elegantly framed by the majestic Gwangandaegyo, also known as the Gwangan Bridge or Diamond Bridge. This 1.4-kilometer crescent-shaped shoreline offers a distinctive charm that sets it apart from the others. Thanks to the spectacular light displays on the bridge, Gwangalli Beach has become the prime location for hosting a variety of nighttime events, ranging from weekly drone light shows to an annual international fireworks festival.

    Whether you’re a beach lover or simply in search of a romantic spot, Gwangalli Beach beckons as your ultimate playground.

    Quick Info about Gwangalli Beach:
    Address: 부산 수영구 광안해변로 219
    Naver Map: Gwangalli Beach

    7. Savoring Haemul Buchujeon with a Scenic Backdrop:

    With its abundant supply of fresh seafood, any seafood-focused eatery in Busan is likely to be a trustworthy choice, and Nasari-sikdang (나사리식당) in Gwangalli Beach epitomizes this.

    Situated on the third floor of a building overlooking the white sandy beach and the expansive Gwangan Bridge, Nasarisi Restaurant Gwangan Branch occupies most of the floor space. This establishment specializes in seafood dishes, including garlic chive Korean pancakes, wheat noodle soup, and Chungmu gimbap, which are rice rolls accompanied by marinated radish chunks. Because their menu is somewhat limited, we were able to sample all of their seafood creations during a single visit.

    Their standout dish and a frequent favorite among diners is haemul buchujeon (해물부추전), a seafood-infused garlic chive Korean-style pancake. We thoroughly enjoyed its robust aroma and rich flavors. However, if seafood isn’t your preference, as it wasn’t for one of our fellow travelers, they also offer more traditional Korean options like dwaeji bulgogi (spicy pork barbecue) and yukhoe bibimkalguksu (spicy cold noodle salad).

    Beyond the delicious cuisine, what truly sets this branch apart is its location, providing an ideal backdrop for enjoying the view of Gwangan Bridge and Suyeongman Bay. If you’re a party of two, I recommend visiting for an early lunch or dinner when the window seats are less crowded. The delightful flavors of your chosen dishes will undoubtedly be enhanced by the panoramic vista of the beach right before your eyes.

    Quick Info about Nasari Sikdang:
    Address: 부산 수영구 광안로61번길 60 3층 
    Naver Map: Nasari Restaurant Gwangan Branch

    8. Explore the Samjin Eomuk History Museum:

    During our trip, we were joined by a true connoisseur of eomuk, the Korean fish cake. Leading our group to a must-visit eomuk destination in Busan was a priority for him, although it was hardly necessary. Busan’s fish cake had already topped my culinary bucket list long before, especially after learning that the city’s version is considered superior in both quality and cost. It turns out that over seventy percent of the pancake batter used to craft a piece of Busan eomuk consists of expertly filleted seawater fish, a specialty of this coastal city.

    According to our eomuk enthusiast friend, Samjin produces the finest fish cake in all of Korea, and conveniently, it’s also the birthplace of Busan’s eomuk. What better place to immerse ourselves in its authenticity than at the Samjin Eomuk Museum, where the brand’s rich history is showcased, and all their innovative creations are available for purchase.

    While there are numerous Samjin outlets scattered throughout Busan, the museum stands as the flagship store. It’s located near Yeongdo Bongnae Market in the Yeongdo district, an island-like neighborhood in the heart of Busan. Here, you’ll discover more than just the traditional form of eomuk – the flat, folded sheets skewered on wooden sticks. You can also indulge in a variety of delectable, pastry-like fish cake creations, the result of the company’s efforts to popularize Korean eomuk.

    Quick Info about Samjin Eomuk History Museum:
    Address: 부산 영도구 태종로99번길 36 
    Naver Map: Samjin Fish Cake Main Branch

    9. Catching the Sunset at Busan’s Santorini – Huinnyeoul Culture Village:

    Apart from the famous Taejongdae Park, the alluring beauty of Huinnyeoul Culture Village, formerly a refuge for Korean War survivors, now nestled in Busan’s Yeongdo neighborhood, draws visitors away from the bustling Busan mainland. For me, it was the perfect place to embrace the romantic ambiance of the golden hour, following our visit to the Samjin Eomuk Museum, just a short 10-minute drive away.

    This charming village has earned the nickname “Busan’s Santorini” due to its geographical resemblance to the iconic Greek island. Many homes perched along the descending coastal cliffs are adorned in brilliant white, contrasting vividly with the colorful building facades, truly deserving of the moniker.

    As this nearly 1-kilometer seaside hamlet stretches along the Jeoryeong Coastal Walk, offering westward views of the ocean, virtually any spot in the village becomes an ideal vantage point for witnessing a breathtaking sunset. Here are a couple of examples of these sunset-watching spots in Huinnyeoul Culture Village:

    Huinnyeoul Observatory Deck – 흰여울전망대:

    Located at the highest point in the village, just a few steps from the Baengnyeonsa Temple bus stop, the Huinnyeoul Observatory Deck offers expansive views of the vast ocean, dotted with industrial sea vessels. Though we stumbled upon it by accident, it turned out to be one of my most memorable sunset experiences in Korea. The sky turned into a canvas of cotton candy hues, with golden rays from the setting sun caressing the horizon behind Jinjeong Mountain. A gentle ocean breeze, the glimmering reflection on the water, it was an experience to treasure.

    Quick Info about Huinyeoul Observatory:
    Address: 부산 영도구 절영로 258 흰여울문화마을 전망대
    Naver Map: Huinyeoul Observatory

    Cupnut Cafe – 컵넛:

    Over the years, Huinnyeoul Culture Village has gained fame as a backdrop for numerous TV series and films, attracting coffee enthusiasts to set up shop in the village. Today, you’ll find artsy cafes tucked away in every nook and cranny of its winding alleyways, all vying for the title of the ultimate seaside viewing spot in the village.

    While it’s hard to single out just one cafe, as they all offer equally stunning vistas of the ocean, Cupnut Cafe is a must-visit if you appreciate a simple, minimalist, and rustic design. Situated downhill closer to the 2-Songdo Junction, it offers a picturesque view of the thousands of tiny, twinkling lights adorning the Namhang Bridge and the structures along the mainland’s edge as they reflect on the water—a true wonder to behold during the evening twilight.

    Quick Info about Cupnut Yeongdo Branch:
    Instagram: @cupnut_yeongdo
    Address: 부산 영도구 절영로 222 컵넛
    Naver Map: Keomneot

    10. Exploring the Vibrant Nightlife of Bupyeong-dong:

    The joy of Busan doesn’t call it a night with the setting sun; it takes you deeper into the heart of the city, where you’ll find a maze of shops and restaurants in the bustling Bupyeong area.

    This neighborhood is alive with a myriad of pedestrian streets and night markets, including Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) Square, Bupyeong Night Market, Arirang Street, Gukje Market, Eatery Alley, and various smaller lanes named after the foods or goods vendors sell. You can wander down Pig’s Feet Alley, Hanbok Street, or Patbingsu Alley, each offering its own unique charm.

    If you’re up for getting lost in this captivating labyrinth, hop on Busan Metro Line 1 and disembark at Jagalchi Station. From exits 3, 5, or 7, head north if your goal is to tantalize your taste buds with an array of Korean street food at Bupyeong Night Market and Gukje Market. To the east, you’ll encounter more street food vendors, lines of fortune teller stalls, and celebrity handprints adorning the plaques.

    Jagalchi Station's Location:
    Address: 부산광역시 중구 구덕로 80
    Naver Map: Jagalchi Station Busan Line1

    11. Exploring Gamcheon Culture Village:

    I’m fully aware that including Gamcheon Culture Village on this list might seem like a cliché, but I’m unwavering in my belief that this most vibrant and artistic neighborhood in Busan should never be omitted from any round-up. In fact, I’m excited to share an often-overlooked viewing spot in this listicle.

    The lively colors and an array of artistic installations that adorn the houses nestled on a steep mountainside slope in Busan’s Gamcheon neighborhood are the result of a city revitalization project dating back to 2009, and it’s safe to say the plan worked brilliantly. Before the unfortunate outbreak, this art-infused transformation was attracting over 2 million tourists annually.

    When most visitors arrive at the village, they tend to follow the road leading down from the entrance, embarking on a photo scavenger hunt guided by informative signs and maps. These will undoubtedly lead you to all the Instagram-worthy spots that have become famous on the internet: the Fish Swimming Through the Alley, Little Prince figurines, Harry Potter stairs, Haneul Maru, and many more.

    If your aim is to capture these magnificent artworks, don’t hesitate to follow the same route. However, if you’re seeking panoramic views of the cascading village, I suggest bypassing the entrance and heading further down Okcheon Road (옥천로). Here, you’ll discover the pinkest cafe of them all, Coffee It House, offering extensive vistas of this enchanting neighborhood.

    Quick Info about Coffee It House:
    Address: 부산 사하구 옥천로 115 2층
    Naver Map: Coffee Itjip

    12. Indulging in a Seafood Feast at a Fishing Market:

    In a coastal city like Busan, the abundance of freshly prepared seafood is a culinary delight that’s not to be missed. Scattered throughout the city, you’ll stumble upon several bustling fishermen’s markets nestled within compact residential areas along the coastline. For instance, you can easily find yourself at Millak Raw Fish Town and Millak Raw Fish Market while exploring the Gwangalli Beach area, at Jagalchi Market when wandering through the Nampo neighborhood after getting off at Nampo Station, or at Namcheon Fishing Market when meandering around the Namcheon area by Suyeong Bay. Be sure to dine within these vibrant markets when you visit Busan; it’s an essential experience for any seafood enthusiast

    Namcheon Fishing Market that Centers on Sea Eel BBQ (꼼장어구이)

    Gomjangeogui: Sea Eel Korean BBQ

    Quick Info about Namcheon Fishing Market:
    Address: 부산 수영구 광안해변로 31-9 
    Naver Map: Namcheon Eomin Sliced Raw Fish Store

    Map of Places Mentioned in This Post

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    Last Update: September 15, 2023