Sifting through the best things to do in Busan is a must for any first-time trip to South Korea. With its brazen attitude & coastal swagger, the port city of Busan surprises travellers. Some love it. Some hate it. Either way, Busan will make an impression!
Even if you can only carve out one day in Busan, you’ll discover that the top tourist attractions in Busan are anything but boring. On your trip to Busan, keep it simple. Dazzle at mountainside & seaside temples like Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. Relax on white-sand urban beaches like Haeundae Beach. Splurge on food and the latest fashions in Nampo-dong. Filling your days with all the best places to visit in Busan is never a challenge.
Not sure where to go in Busan? Prep for your Busan trip with this quick guide for what to do in Busan!
Top tourist attractions in Busan, South Korea
Catch a spirited sunrise at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Ready to kick-start your quest? Start with the most compelling tourist attraction in Busan: Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. This ancient Buddhist temple digs its roots as far back as the 14th century. Perched along the oceanfront, it’s got a unique maritime vibe. It slots in among the best temples in South Korea.
The approach to the heady temple complex begins on a 108-step staircase lined by atmospheric stone lanterns. As you descend towards the shoreline, Haedong Yonggungsa comes into view. Each step reveals more of the temple’s glory.
Once you arrive at this landmark, it’s best to experience the temple at leisure. Explore its nooks and crannies. Look for the colourful Daeungjeon Main Sanctuary and gilded Buddha statues. Along the way, you’ll also check out stone pagodas, stupas, and the cave sanctum.
To get the most out of your visit to this top Busan attraction, drop into the temple complex as early as possible. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple opens to visitors at 5am. This is the perfect time to visit. The morning sun bathing the temple complex in soft orange hue creates a glorious scene. Undoubtedly, this is one of the best sunrises you’ll ever catch—not just in Busan or South Korea, but anywhere!
Getting to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple: It’s a bit of a trek out to the temple complex. First, hop onto the Busan subway and make your way to Haeundae Station (Line 2). At Exit 7, transfer to Bus 181. The Yonggungsa Temple Bus Stop is about 12 minutes away. From here, it’s another 15 minutes by foot to the temple.
Colour your world at Gamcheon Culture Village
If you’ve seen postcards of Busan, you can’t escape the famous hillside charms of Gamcheon Culture Village. Once little more than a shanty town on the fringes of the city centre, this small “village” is now a full-on part of Busan. It’s one of the most interesting places to visit and top things to see in Busan.
At a glance, Busan can feel like a collection of faceless & styleless buildings stretching as far as the eye can see. Gamcheon Culture Village defies that reputation. It paints Busan with much-needed surface colour.
And the village is even more compelling at street-level. Wander in. Plying its steep alleys, you’ll uncover a slew of bright wall murals and art galleries. You’ll also swing past several small craft stores and cafés.
Don’t take it too fast. You won’t want to rush this experience.
Getting to Gamcheon Culture Village: Take Busan subway Line 1 to Toseong Station. From Exit 6, locate the bus stop for Bus Sakha 1-1, Seogu 2, or Seogu 2-2. Any one of these will take you to Gamcheon Elementary School Bus Stop. From here, you’ll be able to continue your journey through the village by foot.
Get your seafood fix at Jagalchi Fish Market
The thought of staring face-to-face with odd sea creatures (or eating one) might not appeal to you. Even so, don’t miss out on Jagalchi Fish Market. One of the most interesting tourist attractions in Busan, the bustling market is a must-have South Korean cultural experience.
Jagalchi Market is chock-loaded with the freshest seafood in the country. In the clamorous stalls, everything from octopus and squid to sea urchin and eel hangs about.
Adventure eaters should take the opportunity to test their resolve at one of the hoe (raw fish) restaurants on the second floor. Some Jagalchi Market restaurants will even prepare your market purchase on the spot; it makes for an unforgettable meal as fresh as they come!
Getting to Jagalchi Market: Take the Busan subway Line 1 to Jagalchi Station. The market lies five minutes by foot from Exit 10.
Chillax on Haeundae Beach
Even if you’re on a time crunch in Busan, there’s no excuse for missing out on Haeundae Beach. For relaxation, this popular beach is one of the best places to visit in Busan, South Korea
Haeundae Beach drapes over about a kilometre and a half of coastline. Its white-sand shoreline captures the heart of every Busanite. Full of energy and gorgeous ocean & city views, Haeundae Beach is the perfect place to spend an afternoon getting to know Busan.
Even if you’re not keen on taking a dip in the ocean, Haeundae Beach’s charms don’t end with its oceanfront prowess. Along the beach’s boardwalk, you can treat your tastebuds to some of the best restaurants in Busan.
Not hungry? Grab a pint of maekju (beer) and let the sea entrance you. On warm sunny days, Haeundae Beach becomes abuzz with artists & performers cheering up beachgoers.
While you’re in the area, be sure to stop at Dongbaekseom Island at the southwestern edge of the beach. Walk around the “island” (now connected to the mainland) for some fresh sea air. You’ll also catch some beautiful views of the coastline. Sights include Gwangangdaegyo Bridge and Oryukdo Island.
Getting to Haeundae Beach: From Haeundae Station on the Busan metro (Line 2), use Exit 5. At street-level, it’s about a 8- to 10-minute walk to the beach and boardwalk along Gunam-ro.
Balance your chi at Beomeosa Temple
The grandest tourist attraction in Busan, Beomeosa Temple is an absolute gem. It’s no wonder it tops most lists of what to see in Busan! This Buddhist temple draws upon a 1,300-year history. Over the centuries, it grew in importance to become one of the most important places of worship in Korea.
The current reincarnation of Beomeosa Temple dates back to the early 17th century. It was rebuilt in 1613 after the bloody Japanese invasions during the Imjin War.
Most impressive is the main Daeungjeon Hall. For its intricate woodcraft, it’s considered one of the finest architectural specimens of the Joseon Era.
Also worth keeping an eye out for is the ornate 9th-century Jogyemun Gate. It’s the temple’s Iljumun Gate (One Pillar Gate). The colourful tree-fringed Cheonwangmun Gate is also worth a look.
What makes visiting Beomeosa Temple one of the best things to do in Busan though is its location. Beomeosa Temple is built upon the fringes of Geumjeongsan, the most famous mountain in Busan. The temple’s unique architecture blends seamlessly with the mountainside evergreens & maples.
To see the temple at its best, visit in late spring. In late spring, delicate purple wisteria flood the area, adding a dreaminess to the scene. Visiting in fall is great, too, as the autumn colours overtake the mountain’s trees.
Getting to Beomeosa Temple: Take Busan subway Line 1 to Beomeosa Station. From Exit 5 or 7, walk up Chongnyongyejeon-ro. From here, it’s a 5-minute walk to the Samsin Bus Stop. You’ll find the bus stop just before the traffic circle. Hop onto Bus 90 and exit at the stop in front of the Beomeosa Ticket Office.
Shop & munch at Gukje Market
Queasy from the port-side “charms” of Jagalchi? You might prefer a visit to Gukje Market. For those more inclined towards consumer goods and “regular” street food, it’s a great alternative.
Gukje Market is also referred to as Nampodong International Market. The market sells just about everything under the sun. From clothing & household goods to electronics & mouth-watering Korean street food, it’s all here. It’s hardly surprising that Gukje Market is one of the top places to go in Busan for shopaholics & foodies.
The market’s history dates back to the Korean War. Escaping the worst of the fighting, local refugees assembled here. They set up stalls to peddle international goods disembarking at Busan’s port.
Today, Gukje Market has grown to the biggest in Busan. It’s swallowed up other once separate markets like Bupyeong (Kkangtong) Market.
As fun as it is to ply through all its consumer goods, the best way to experience Gukje Market is through the tastebuds. Gukje Market is a great place to grab yourself one of the top dishes in Busan. You’ll find them all among the crowded stalls of Restaurant Alley (Arirang Street). It’s located in the central part of the market.
Among the Korean specialties you can enjoy at Restaurant Alley are:
- chungmu gimbap (squid & radish seaweed rice rolls)
- bibim dangmyeon (spicy glass noodles with fish cakes)
- sundae (Korean blood sausage)
- ssiat hotteok (seed- and sugar-filled sweet Korean pancakes).
For more selection nearby, check out Gwangbokdong Food Street. This street stretches between Gukje Market and Nampo-dong. It’s home to over 20 restaurants and street vendors serving up excellent budget-friendly food.
Getting to Gukje Market: From Jagalchi Station (Line 1), take Exit 7. Swing left at the first intersection onto Junggu-ro. Crossing over to the opposite side. Walk straight for three and a half blocks. You’ll see the market streets to your right.
Admiring evening views at Gwangan Bridge (Gwangandaegyo)
Looking for the most iconic image of Busan? Peer upon the skyline with the lights of Gwangandaegyo (Gwangan Bridge) shining on. This massive bridge spans over seven kilometres between Namcheon and Centum City. It’s one of the most awe-inspiring structures in South Korea and an integral part of any Busan sightseeing plan.
There really isn’t much “to do” at Gwangandaegyo Bridge. Keep it simple. Spend your time contemplating its mind-boggling size and admiring the views.
To get the most of this top Busan tourist attraction, drop down to Gwangalli Beach. Aside from Haeundae Beach, it’s the most popular oceanside recreation spot in Busan.
Pick your perfect viewing spot from the multitude of seaside restaurants, cafés, and bars. Watch as the incredible Busan evening cityscape surfaces before your eyes.
Getting to Gwangandaegyo Bridge: The best views of Gwangandaegyo arise at Gwangalli Beach. To get here, zip over to Gwangan Station on Line 2 of the Busan metro. From either Exit 3 or Exit 5, it’s about a 10-minute walk down Gwangan-ro to the seafront.
Take in Busan from above at Yongdusan Park
Yongdusan Park sits perched upon Yongdusan (Dragon’s Head Mountain). Don’t worry: This popular park is far less meanacing than its name implies. Visiting makes for a pleasant afternoon out in the city.
This central Busan park is set among beautiful evergreens. From Yongdusan Park, you’ll marvel at satisfying vistas over Busan and its port.
Yongdusan rises up 49 metres above sea level. To extend the views, scuttle up the park’s centrepiece Busan Tower. For ₩8,000 ($7.41), you’ll get to scope out 360-degree views of the city from 120 metres higher than the mountain itself.
Getting to Yongdusan Park: From Nampo Station (Line 1), take Exit 3 and walk straight up Nampo-gil one block. At Gudeok-ro 22-beon-gil, hang a right. Walk straight ahead. You’ll see the escalators to Yongdusan Park on the opposite side of Gwangan-ro.
Chill out at Songdo Beach
Looking for a more subdued Busan beach experience than Haeundae? Head over to Songdo Beach. Located about 12 minutes south of the city centre by bus, the beach is a quick & relaxing escape from the bustle of central Busan.
The lovely Songdo Beach is fringed by pine trees and blessed with perfect white sand. For whiling away an afternoon splashing in the sea, there’s hardly a better place to hang out in Busan.
The area is also home to other attractions worth checking out. Highlights nearby include the Haneul Walk Bridge and Songdo Cable Car.
Getting to the Songdo Beach: Take the metro to Jagalchi Station. Use Exit 2. Turn left and walk straight for about 50 metres. Cross the street and wait at the Chungmudonggyocharo stop for bus 7, 26, 71 or 96. Alight at the Songdo Beach stop.
Ride the Songdo Cable Car
Built in 1964, the Songdo Cable Car has seen more than its fair share of visitors. It was the first cable car of its kind in South Korea and remains one of the most popular.
The cable car’s original fans would hardly recognize it today. The “new” Songdo Cable Car spans about 1.62 kilometres. After an almost 30-year hiatus, it re-opened in 2017. Today, the run is four times longer than the original.
The ride on the Songdo Marine Cable Car hovers over crystalline waters and sheer cliffs. It traverses the route between Songnim Park (on the east side of Songdo Beach) to an observatory in Amnam Park. Along the way, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Busan and the seaside.
Getting to the Songdo Cable Car: Follow the directions for Songdo Beach above. The cable car terminus is a 10-minute walk from here.
Spend some won at Lotte Department Store (Gwangbok Branch)
The Lotte Department Store (Gwangbok Branch) isn’t your run-of-the-mill Korean shopping experience. It’s the first department store in South Korea built on the seaside—with the views to match!
Even if you’re not planning to spend your won on the latest Korean fashions in Lotte Department Store, exploring this massive complex is a must.
The store is home to the world’s largest musical water foundation. At Lotte Department Store, you’ll also find a spectacular Rooftop Park. The park is the largest of its kind in South Korea. From it, you can soak in beautiful views over the city.
Getting to Lotte Department Store: The store is connected to Nampo-dong Station (Line 1), Exit 7.
Get retail therapy at Shinsegae Centum City
It’s official. Guinness declared Shinsegae Centrum City the largest department store in the world. So, it’s no stretch to say that Shinsegae Centum City is a must-see for shopaholics visiting Busan.
This massive shopping complex offers retail therapy at its finest. It also hosts an array of fun entertainment options for the entire family.
Besides perusing nine floors of consumer goods, be sure to check out Shinsegae Centum City’s extras. Other attractions include Spa Land and the Ice Rink. Kids will love exploring ZOORAJI. This outdoor rooftop theme park features dinosaurs, pirates, and an African village.
Getting to Shinsegae Centum City: The department store is connected to Centum City Station on Line 2 of the metro.
Marvel at the seascapes of Taejongdae Resort Park
Famous for its sheer cliffs plunging into the sea, Taejongdae Resort Park is one of city’s top escapes. Checking out its seascapes is a must for any visit to Busan.
This lovely natural park is located on the southern tip of Yeongdo Island. It delivers incredible sea views alongside dense pine forests. It’s the perfect place to catch a breather from the urban chaos of South Korea.
Besides soaking in the views, you’ll find several tourist attractions at Taejongdae Resort Park. See the park’s best vistas at Taejongdae Observation Deck. On your visit, you can also check out the Yeongdo Lighthouse and Taejongsa Temple. Sinseon Rock is currently closed to tourists.
Getting to Taejongdae Resort Park: From Busan Station, hop onto bus 88 or 100. Exit at the Taejongdae Cliff stop.
Eat street food and catch a film at BIFF Square
Both a foodie and a movie-lover? BIFF Square needs to be on your Busan agenda. The area has had its roots as a small theatre district over 50 years. In 1996, the square transformed into its current incarnation. It was set up as a venue for the first Busan International Film Festival (BIFF).
BIFF Square has since become a favourite place to go in Busan. Locals and international visitors alike flock here for its variety of entertainment options. Missed BIFF Square at its wildest during the film festival? Don’t worry: Visiting at any time of year is sure to keep you busy.
Besides movie theatres, BIFF Square hosts a barrage of interesting shops. The square also teems with vendors serving up delicious Busan street food.
Even for Korean celebrities visiting during BIFF, one of the food specialties is ssiat hotteok. This sweet Korean pancake, stuffed with seeds, is mouth-wateringly delicious. Be sure to grab a taste!
Getting to BIFF Square: The square is located close to Jagalchi Station on subway line 1. From the station’s Exit 7, it’s a five-minute walk.
Hit the waves at Songjeong Beach
Compared to other top Busan beaches, Songjeong Beach is located further outside of the city centre. It appeals to a more alternative crowd than the other more “mainstream” options.
The beach is popular among surfers and for watersports such as jet skiing. The beach is also among the only in Busan to allow camping. It’s adopted a more relaxed stance towards drinking, too. As expected, the atmosphere at Songjeong can turn “lively” at times.
Songjeong Beach also plays host to two popular Busan festivals. Both the Harvest Full-Moon Seaweed Festival and the Songjeong Beach Festival take place here.
Getting to Songjeong Beach: From Haeundae Station on Line 2, take Exit 7. Catch bus 100, 100-1, 139, or 142 and ride it to Songjeong Station. The beach is about 600 metres south of the station.
Where to stay in Busan for sightseeing
Trying to pick out where to stay in Busan is rarely easy for first-timers. Busan is a massive sprawling city. The best tourist attractions in Busan are spread far and wide. And with mountains and the sea working in tandem to break apart neighbourhoods, choosing an area to stay can be difficult.
For most travellers, the city centre is a good place to start. Narrow your search to the areas of Seomyeon, Nampo-dong, and Haeundae. They offer the best selection and the closest proximity to the top points of interest in Busan.
Here are a couple of the top picks for best hotels in Busan…
- 24 Guesthouse Nampo Station: This cheery budget hostel/hotel sits in an awesome location in Nampo. It features both shared and private accommodations. The wonderful rooftop terrace with sweet city views is a nice bonus.
- Arban Hotel: This fantastic 3-star hotel is located in the bustling Seomyeon neighbourhood. Rooms are large and well-appointed. The real star though is the calming rooftop garden terrace. Perch yourself here for excellent views of Busanjin.
- Park Hyatt Busan: This 5-star hotel is the best luxury hotel in Busan. It’s located next to the marina in Haeundae. The hotel serves up spectacular sea & skyline views at every angle. From its top-notch rooms and fine on-site restaurants, you’ll enjoy views of the iconic Gwangandaegyo Bridge. The luxurious amenities include a spa, pool, and sauna.