A beachfront city, Busan is the perfect weekend destination for those who want to maximize their 48 hours of freedom. Whether you are coming from a nearby country or via high speed train from Seoul, Busan is a great place to experience culture, eat great seafood, and get some sun.
Day 1 - Essentials
Gamcheon Culture Village
One of the most iconic sites of Busan is Gamcheon Village. The incredibly steep hillside was chosen to house poor Koreans in the 1920s and 1930s. Busan was one of the very few Korean cities not entirely destroyed in the Korean war, and the hillside community survived and became home to around 800 families. In the late 2000s, the government began a campaign to beautify the area and it has become a popular destination for tourists and drama shooting. Best suited as one of the first activities of the day because the steep streets will take a toll.
After a grueling morning, traversing Gamcheon Culture Village descend back into town and regain your energy eating a Busan-style Korean pancake. These fried doughs balls are filled with melted cinnamon and sugar. In Busan, they add one more ingredient: sunflower seeds. An amazing treat as well as an amazing source of energy.
A classic seafood outdoor market, Jagalchi Market is surrounded by many seafood heavy restaurants. After perusing all that the market has to offer, take the opportunity to eat incredibly fresh seafood in a variety of styles.
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Yonggungsa Temple is one of those temples that you must visit to know that it’s real. On the coastline, you enter the temple over a bridge. Yonggungsa Temple is amazing anytime of year, but in the month around Buddha’s Birthday it is resplendent with lanterns.
Coming to the end of your first day in Busan, spend the early hours of the evening traversing Gwangalli neighborhood which is filled with cute cupcake stores, noraebang spots, and terrific restaurants.
The highlight of Gwangalli neighborhood is Gwangalli beach where, cocooned by the neon lights of the hotels and restaurants, you can see lights splayed across the water. Whether you merely stroll down the beach or if you set up an entire picnic, Gwangalli Beach is the best place to end your night with an unforgettable vista.
When you only have a short time in a new place you need to make hard choices about what you want to see and do. I truly think the best way to learn about a place is to pursue your interests. For this reason I always provide two possible itineraries for day 2 in a new city.
Day 2 - Relax
A day of relaxation in Busan is still a day filled with culture and shopping. Start your day off at the Busan Museum of Art. The museum is filled with a variety of thought-provoking modern art displays permitting the possibility of discovering modern Korean artists like Gwon Osang or Kang Taehun. Afterwards shop or at the very least window shop till your heart’s content at Shinsegae Centum City shopping mall. Shinsegae Centum City’s food hall is a great place to get food for a group of people. With numerous options, everyone will leave content.
For the afternoon, head over to Haeundae Beach and the surrounding neighborhood. The neighborhood is filled with cute coffee shops while the beach is an amazing place to catch the sun. Finish your day by eating hoe (pronounced hway), which are delicate slices of raw fish.
Day 2 - Active
However not everyone prefers a day filled with art, shopping and relaxing by the beach. Many prefer to spend the day exploring. In that case check out the second option for day 2.
Start your adventure in Taejongdae Park which is on the southernmost edge of Yeongdo Island at the edge of Busan. The park constitutes beautiful wooded paths and a rocky coastline. Within the park, you can descend down to Yeongdo lighthouse for an amazing view of Busan.
After exploring the park, head back to the mainland and find lunch at Gukje Market.
Start your afternoon by ascending the long path up to Samgwangsa Temple which is located on the side of Mt. Baekyangsan. The sprawling temple also affords amazing views of the city below. Finally finish your second day by partaking in jogae-gui, also known as shellfish bbq.