Spending one day in Busan, South Korea, charms visitors most peculiarly. While it’s the country’s second-biggest city, the port city itself isn’t the main draw. Instead, the fringes—from white-sand beaches and forested mountains to hot springs and remote temples—keep travelers intrigued. Not sure where to start exploring? Get a taste of South Korea’s second-biggest city on time crunch with this complete 1-day Busan itinerary!
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What to do in Busan in 24 hours: A complete 1-day itinerary
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Grab a morning coffee and a quick breakfast snack around your hotel and beeline over to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in the rugged northeast corner of Busan. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple opens at 5 am, just in time for early risers to catch one of the most iconic sunrises in South Korea.
Even if you hate waking up in the wee hours of the morning, the tremendous view of the soft glow reflecting off the stone pagodas, stupas, and statues will be well worth your while. (And, plus, you’ll have more time for the rest of the day to experience the breadth of the city.)
Exploring this large temple complex is best done at a relaxed pace. Keep on the lookout for the three-story pagoda adorned with four lions, representing joy, anger, sadness, and happiness. You’ll also want to check out the cave to the right of the temple that features the Gulbeop Buddhist Sanctum.
Getting to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple: Take Subway Line 2 to Haeundae Station. Use Exit 7 and transfer to Bus 181. Get off at Yonggungsa Temple Bus Stop, about 12 minutes away. From the bus stop, it’s about a 15-minute walk to the temple itself.
From Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, backtrack with Bus 181 to Haeundae Station. Walk about 500 meters south from Exit 5 (about 8-10 minutes) along Gunam-ro to Haeundae Beach. This fantastic white-sand beach stretches about 1.5 kilometres. It’s one of the most famous recreation spots in the city, and even one of the best beaches in Korea!
Whether you’re planning to take a dip in the ocean or not, walking along Haeundae Beach is one of the most popular things to do in Busan. The coastline and skyline views from here are incredible, all the better if swimming in the ocean is on your agenda.
Above all, Haeundae Beach is a great place to put your finger on the pulse of the city. Day and night, the beach is chock-loaded with locals looking to put their feet up and relax.
In the warmer weather, Haeundae Beach also teems with energy. Around the beach sprouts up street performers like musicians and magicians who entertain passersby with their artistry.
Built up an appetite? A whole slew of restaurants, cafés, bars, and pubs line the Haeundae Beach promenade. The eateries here serve a wide variety of Korean and international goodies.
Since you’ve only got a day here, you won’t want to spend your whole day lazing around the beach. (As tempting as it is.)
Head up to Haeundae Station and prepare to pierce into the heart of Busan’s city center…
Gamcheon Culture Village
Via subway, zip over to Toseong Station (Line 1), where it’s a 20-minute walk to one of Busan’s most compelling corners, Gamcheon Culture Village. Sure, nicknames like “Machu Picchu of Busan” or “Santorini of Korea” are a bit of a stretch. But this colorful mountain-side neighborhood is one of the city’s coolest sites to visit. Even if you’ve only got 24 hours in Busan, Gamecheon Culture Village is a must-see.
Walk into the “village” to get entranced by the colorful houses clinging to the hillside. Once a slum, the area is now an artistic enclave in an otherwise sober city. The narrow climbing streets feature vivid artwork from murals to sculptures and hide craft shops, art galleries, and teahouses.
Above all, this is one of the coolest places in Busan to wander about. The views throughout are simply arresting. At times, they even feel a little more like Mediterranean Europe or Central America than East Asia. Spend time here, soaking up the atmosphere and engaging with the shopkeepers to get a sense of Busan’s more artistic side.
Once you’ve had your fill of Gamcheon Culture Village, descend (or take a local bus) back to Toesong Station in the city center. From here, it’s a quick jump on the subway to Jagalchi Station, where one of Busan’s most important cultural attractions, Jagalchi Market, awaits. It’ll be just 5 minutes away by foot.
This isn’t your ordinary collection of Korean street vendors. Jagalchi Market is one of the most famous markets in Korea, selling a mind-boggling variety of the freshest live & dried seafood you’ll ever see. Everything from squid and octopus to mackerel and eel lines the stalls here. It’s all accented by the hollers of the ajumma beckoning for your business.
For the cultural experience alone, a walk through Jagalchi Market is an absolute must-do while in Busan.
If you’re a fan of seafood, don’t miss an opportunity to visit the second-floor hoe (raw fish) restaurants for a taste of the freshest catches you’ll find anywhere.
If the sight of the weird sea creatures of Jagalchi Market got you a little spooked, bolt north along Junggu-ro to the less “fishy” stalls of Gukje Market. This market is one of the biggest in Korea. It’s had a long history of wheelin’ and dealin’ all the goodies that pop off the ships at Busan Port, dating back to the Korean War.
Inside Gukje Market, prepare to find just about everything you’ll ever need, whether it’s electronics, clothing, souvenirs, household goods, or—like any good Korean market—some of the best food in Busan.
Indeed, along with other interconnected markets like Bupyeong (Kkangtong) Market, Gukje Market is one of the best places in Busan to eat Korean street food. Keep your tastebuds on alert for specialties like bibim dangmyeon (spicy glass noodles topped with fish cakes) and ssiat hotteok (sweet Korean pancakes filled with seeds and dark sugar), among usual favorites like kimchi and tteokbokki.
At just 49 meters, Yongdusan (Dragon Mountain) may seem like a slightly overconfident name. But that shouldn’t stop you from sticking Yongdusan Park into your 1-day Busan itinerary. Even with the smaller stature of its “mountain,” this downtown park features surprisingly good views of Busan while walking among its beautiful vegetation, pagodas, and statues.
To add a little extra oomph to the vista, scale up Busan Tower (₩12,000). The tower rises to a height that’s over two times higher than the “mountain” itself.
Getting to Yongdusan Park is half the fun. From Gukje Market, head back down to Gwangbok-ro, turning left to walk east. This street of Gwangbok-ro is Busan’s high fashion street (like Myeongdong in Seoul), where all the latest brands compete for your eyeballs and your won.
As you near Nampo Station on Gwangbok-ro, about three blocks after Gwangbokjungang-ro merges with it, you’ll see a set of escalators to your left (between K-Swiss and Gong Cha) that will take you up to the park.
Whew—that was quite the day! By now, I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you’re tired out and are looking for nothing more but a quiet evening close to your hotel to unwind. But… if you’ve got a little more gas in the tank, don’t miss enjoying an evening view of Gwangandaegyo Bridge.
Bridging the 7.4-kilometer gap between Namcheon-dong and Centum City, Gwangandaegyo Bridge is the longest of its kind in Korea and a feat of modern engineering. At night, the bridge lights up, blending with the soft evening glow of the cityscape, for a scene that’s like none other in Busan.
To dabble in the finest views of Gwangandaegyo Bridge, scoot over to Gwangalli Beach. It’s just a 10-minute walk from Exit 3 & 5 of Gwangan Station (Line 2). Besides its fine white sand and Gwangandaegyo Bridge “viewing parties,” the Gwangalli area is loaded with restaurants, cafés, and fashion boutiques to fritter away the perfect night in Busan.
Where to stay with 24 hours in Busan
Much like Seoul, choosing where to stay in Busan isn’t always easy. The city is spread far and wide, so much of the accommodations inventory isn’t necessarily perfect for travelers.
Among the best areas to stay are Nampo-dong, Jung-gu, and Dong-gu. All of these neighborhoods are well-connected to the rest of the city and offer quick access to many of the attractions we’ve listed here.
Here are a few hotels to consider when visiting on a time crunch:
- 24 Guesthouse Nampo Station: A great budget guesthouse featuring both shared accommodations and private rooms with private bathrooms. The prime location beside Nampo Station puts much of this itinerary at your fingertips.
- Stanford Inn Busan: A superb central hotel that’s minutes from Jagalchi Market. The stunning city and sea views from the rooms are far more luxurious than its 3-star label lets on.
- GnB Hotel Busan: A top mid-range Busan hotel throwing down some excellent value in an epic location steps away from Gukje Market. The large room windows, even in the economy rooms, show off incredible vistas of Nampo-dong and beyond.
- Aventree Hotel Busan: An elegant 4-star hotel showcasing impeccable modern style and awesome views over central Busan. The location just outside of Gukje Market is perfect for foodies and shopaholics alike.
Getting to Busan
Busan is served by Gimhae International Airport (PUS). All the major Korean airlines fly into Gimhae Airport, including Asiana Airlines, Korean Air, and Jeju Air. Most direct international flights to Busan are from other Asian destinations, including Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing, Manila, and Tokyo.
If you’re already in Korea, the best way of getting to Busan is by train. The high-speed KTX service zooms between Seoul and Busan in just 2.5 hours, making it one of the most popular Seou day trips. This is the perfect route to put your Korail Pass to work.
Like Seoul, getting around Busan is a cinch with its comprehensive public transportation system. The easiest way for travelers to scoot around the city is definitely by subway.
Metro rides normally cost ₩1,500 each. If you’re planning on taking four or more subways—which is likely with this itinerary—I’d recommend getting a 1-day Busan metro pass. The pass costs ₩5,000. You can purchase one at any of the ticket vending machines in the subway stations.
More 1-day Busan itinerary ideas
- In the mood to get a little silly? Pop into the 3D Trick Eye Museum on the way to Gukje Market to throw some fun optical illusions into your travel plans.
- Need a rainy-day activity for the kids? Pop into the Sea Life Busan Aquarium.
- Won burning a hole in your pocket? Watch it disappear at the glitzy stores of Centum City, including Shinsegae Centum City, one of the world’s largest department stores, or at the seaside Lotte Department Store.
- Film lover? Even if you don’t happen to visit during the Busan International Film Festival, check out BIFF Square in Nampo-dong, home to several popular theatres and some incredible street food offerings.
- Rather spend time by the seaside? Head over to less-crowded Songdo Beach, home to the popular Songdo Cable Car or Songjeong Beach.
- Want to get flashed with some epic evening vistas? Grab a rooftop dinner at The Bay 101, an oceanside cultural complex that promises incredible nighttime skyline views.
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