With its brazen attitude & coastal swagger, sifting through the best things to do in Busan is a must for any first-time visitor to South Korea.
Even if you can carve out just one day in Busan, you’ll quickly discover that the top tourist attractions in Busan are anything but boring. From dazzling at mountainside & seaside temples to relaxing on white-sand urban beaches to splurging on food & all the latest fashions, filling your days with all the best places to visit in Busan is hardly a challenge.
Not sure where to go in Busan? Prep for your Busan trip with this quick guide for what to do in Busan…
Table of Contents
- What to do in Busan: Top attractions & best places to visit
- Catch a spirited sunrise at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
- Colour your world at Gamcheon Culture Village
- Get your seafood fix at Jagalchi Fish Market
- Chillax on Haeundae Beach
- Balance your chi at Beomeosa Temple
- Shop and munch at Gukje Market
- Admiring evening views at Gwangan Bridge (Gwangandaegyo)
- Take in Busan from above at Yongdusan Park
- Chill out at Songdo Beach
- Ride the Songdo Cable Car
- Spend some won at Lotte Department Store (Gwangbok Branch)
- Get retail therapy at Shinsegae Centum City
- Marvel at the seascapes of Taejongdae Resort Park
- Eat street food and catch a film at BIFF Square
- Hit the waves at Songjeong Beach
- Where to stay in Busan: The best hotels for sightseeing
- Where to go in Busan: The top points of interest
What to do in Busan: Top attractions & best places to visit
Catch a spirited sunrise at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
There’s no better place to give your quest for what to do in Busan an adrenaline shot than at the most compelling tourist attraction in Busan, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.
This ancient Buddhist temple, digging its roots as far back as the 14th century, sits perched along the oceanfront giving it a unique maritime vibe that slots it 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, slowly revealing its glory one step at a time.
As you’d imagine, visiting this landmark is one of the most popular things to do in Busan.
Once you arrive, it’s best to simply experience the temple at leisure.
Explore its nooks and crannies, from the colourful Daeungjeon Main Sanctuary and gilded Buddha statues to the stone pagodas, stupas, and 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 as the morning sun bathes the temple complex in its soft orange hues, creating a scene that’s nothing short of glorious.
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, there’s no escaping 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,” now a full-on part of Busan, is 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 and styleless buildings stretching as far as the eye can see.
Gamcheon Culture Village defies that reputation by painting Busan with much needed surface colour.
And things get even more compelling at street-level.
Wander in, plying up and down its steep alleys, and you’ll uncover a whole slew of bright wall murals, art galleries, 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, where you’ll be able to continue your journey through the village by foot.
Get your seafood fix at Jagalchi Fish Market
Whether the thought of staring face-to-face with odd sea creatures (and perhaps eating one) appeals to you or not, you probably shouldn’t miss out on the experience of visiting one of the most interesting tourist attractions in Busan, Jagalchi Fish Market.
This bustling market is like none other. It’s chock-loaded with the freshest seafood in the country with a long history and cultural buzz that makes it one of the top places to visit in Busan.
In the clamorous market stalls of Jagalchi Market, everything from octopus and squid to sea urchin and eel hangs about
Adventure eaters should take the opportunity to test their constitution at one of the hoe (raw fish) restaurants dwelling on the second floor.
Some Jagalchi Market restaurants will even prepare your purchase from the market area for you on the spot 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 just 5 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, one of the best places to visit in Busan.
Draped over about a kilometre and a half of coastline, Haeundae Beach captures the heart of every Busanite.
With all its energy and its gorgeous ocean and city views, it’s 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 or simply grab a pint of maekju (beer) and let the sea entrance you.
On warm sunny days, Haeundae Beach also becomes abuzz with artists and performers trying their best to cheer up the beachgoers.
While you’re in the area, also be sure to stop Dongbaekseom Island at the southwestern edge of the beach. Walk around the “island” (now connected to the mainland) for some fresh sea air and to catch some beautiful views of the coastline including 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
Possibly the grandest tourist attraction in Busan, Beomeosa Temple is an absolute gem and tops many-a list of what to see in Busan.
Drawing upon a 1,300-year history, this Buddhist temple grew in importance over the centuries to become one of the most important places of worship in Korea.
The current reincarnation of Beomeosa Temple dates back to 1613 when it was rebuilt after the bloody Japanese invasions during the Imjin War.
Most impressive is the main Daeungjeon Hall, long considered one of the finest architectural specimens of the Joseon Era.
Also worth keeping an eye out for is the ornate 9th-century Iljumun Gate and the colourful tree-fringed Cheonwangmun Gate.
What makes visiting Beomeosa Temple one of the most compelling things to do in Busan though is its location.
Built upon the fringes Geumjeongsan, the most famous mountain in Busan, Beomeosa Temple blends seamlessly among the evergreens and maples.
To see the temple at its best, visit in late spring when the delicate purples of wisteria flood the area or in fall when 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 about 5 minutes to the Samsin Bus Stop, just before the traffic circle.
Hop onto Bus 90 and exit at the stop in front of the Beomeosa Ticket Office.
Shop and munch at Gukje Market
Those who are more inclined to consumer goods and “regular” street food will prefer a visit to Gukje Market over the take-it-or-leave it port-side “charms” of Jagalchi.
Gukje Market, also referred to as Nampodong International Market, sells just about everything under the sun.
From clothing & household goods to electronics & mouth-watering Korean street food, it’s not surprisingly why Gukje Market has become one of the top places to go in Busan for shopaholics & foodies.
The market’s history dates back to the Korean War when local refugees, escaping the worst of the fighting, peddled international goods disembarking at Busan’s port (currently the 9th largest in the world).
Today, Gukje Market has grown to the biggest in Busan. It’s practically 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.
Grab yourself one of the top dishes in Busan among the crowded stalls of Restaurant Alley (Arirang Street) in the central part of the market.
Take down Korean specialties like chungmu gimbap (squid & radish seaweed rice rolls), bibim dangmyeon (spicy glass noodles with fish cakes), sundae (Korean blood sausage) or, for the sweettooths in the house, ssiat hotteok (seed- and sugar-filled sweet Korean pancakes).
For more selection, also be sure to check out Gwangbokdong Food Street. This street, stretching between Gukje Market and Nampo-dong, is home to over 20 restaurants and street vendors serving up excellent (and budget-friendly) food.
Getting to Gukje Market: From Jagalchi Station (Line 1), take Exit 7. Swing left at the first intersection onto Junggu-ro while crossing to the opposite side.
Walk straight for three and a half blocks and you’ll see the market streets to your right.
Admiring evening views at Gwangan Bridge (Gwangandaegyo)
There’s hardly a more iconic image of Busan than peering upon the skyline with the lights of Gwangandaegyo (Gwangan Bridge) shining on.
This massive bridge, spanning over seven kilometres between Namcheon and Centum City, is one of the most awe-inspiring structures in South Korea and an integral part of any Busan sightseeing plan.
Other than contemplating its mind-boggling size and admiring the views, there isn’t necessarily anything to do at Gwangandaegyo Bridge.
To get the most of this top Busan tourist attraction, drop down to Gwangalli Beach, the most popular oceanside recreation spot in Busan aside from Haeundae Beach.
Pick your perfect viewing spot from the multitude of seaside restaurants, cafés, and bars, and watch as the incredible Busan evening cityscape surfaces before your eyes.
Getting to Gwangandaegyo Bridge: To get to Gwangalli Beach where the best views of Gwangandaegyo arise, 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
Despite a name that’s a little more formidable than its looks, Yongdusan Park and its namesake Yongdusan (Dragon Mountain) make for a pleasant afternoon out in the city.
Set among beautiful evergreens, this park in central Busan throws down some satisfying vistas over Busan and its port.
To extend the views at Yongdusan, on its own rising just 49 metres above sea level, scuttle up the park’s centrepiece Busan Tower.
For just W8,000 ($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. Walking straight ahead, you’ll see the escalators to Yongdusan Park on the opposite side of Gwangan-ro.
Chill out at Songdo Beach
If you’re looking for a slightly more subdued Busan beach experience than Haeundae, head over to Songdo Beach. Located about 12 minutes south of the city centre by bus, Songdo Beach is a quick & relaxing escape from the bustle of central Busan.
Fringed by pine trees and blessed with perfect white sand, Songdo Beach itself is a great place to hang out and while away an afternoon splashing in the sea.
The area is also home to other attractions worth checking out including 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
Originally built in 1964 and the first cable car of its kind in South Korea, the Songdo Cable Car has seen more than its fair share of visitors.
The cable car’s original fans would hardly recognize it today. Spanning about 1.62km, the “new” Songdo Cable Car, re-opened in 2017 after an almost 30-year hiatus, is four times longer than the original.
Hovering over crystalline waters and sheer cliffs, the ride on the Songdo Marine Cable Car traverses the route between Songnim Park (on the east side of Songdo Beach) to an observatory in Amnam Park featuring spectacular views of Busan.
Getting to the Songdo Cable Car: Follow the direction for Songdo Beach above. The cable car terminus is a 10-minute walk from here.
Spend some won at Lotte Department Store (Gwangbok Branch)
It’s not stretch to say that the Lotte Department Store (Gwangbok Branch) isn’t exactly your run-of-the-mill shopping experience. It’s the first department store in South Korea built on the seaside—with views to match!
Even if you don’t plan to spend your won on the latest Korean fashions in Lotte Department Store, don’t miss the opportunity to explore this massive complex.
The store is home to the world’s largest musical water foundation and to 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
As the Guinness-declared largest department store in the world, Shinsegae Centum City is a must-see for shopaholics visiting Busan. This massive shopping complex offers retail therapy at its finest along with a host of fun entertainment options for the entire family.
Aside from perusing its seemingly endless selection of consumer goods spread across 9 floors, be sure to check out some of Shinsegae Centum City’s extras including Spa Land, the Ice Rink, and ZOORAJI, a outdoor rooftop theme park featuring dinosaurs, pirates, and an African village.
Getting to Shinsegae Centum City: The department store is connected directly 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 and a must for any visit to Busan.
This lovely natural park, located on the southern tip of Yeongdo Island, 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 its views, Taejongdae Resort Park is home to a handful of tourist attractions to check out including Taejongdae Observation Deck, Yeongdo Lighthouse, Sinseon Rock (currently closed to tourists), and Taejongsa Temple
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
If you’re both a foodie and movie-lover, then BIFF Square needs to be on your agenda.
Although the area had its roots as a small theatre district over 50 years, the square was transformed into its current incarnation prior to the first Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) in 1996.
The area has since become a favourite place to go for locals and international visitors alike thanks to its wide variety of entertainment options.
Even if you don’t catch BIFF Square at its wildest during the film festival, visiting at any time of year is sure to keep you busy.
Besides movie theatres, BIFF Square hosts a barrage of interesting shops and vendors serving up delicious Busan street food.
One of the specialities here (even among Korean celebrities visiting during the film festival!) is ssiat hotteok, a sweet Korean pancake stuffed with seeds. 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
Located a little further outside of the city centre than other top Busan beaches, Songjeong Beach appeals to a more alternative vibe 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 and adopts a more relaxed stance towards drinking. As expected, the atmosphere at Songjeong can turn “lively” at times.
Songjeong Beach also plays host to two popular Busan festivals: the Harvest Full-Moon Seaweed Festival and the Songjeong Beach Festival.
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: The best hotels for sightseeing
Trying to pick out where to stay in Busan is rarely easy for first-timers. Busan is a massive sprawling city.
What makes choosing even more difficult is that the best tourist attractions in Busan are spread far and wide—with mountains and the sea working in tandem to break neighbourhoods apart!
For most travellers, the areas of Seomyeon, Nampo-dong, and Haeundae offer the best selection and 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: A cheery budget hostel/hotel that features both shared and private accommodations in an awesome location in Nampo. The wonderful rooftop terrace with sweet city views is a nice bonus.
- Arban Hotel: A fantastic 3-star hotel located in the bustling neighbourhood of Seomyeon. Rooms are large and well-appointed but the real star here in the calming rooftop garden terrace featuring excellent views of Busanjin.
- Park Hyatt Busan: Easily the best luxury hotel in the city. Located next to the marina in Haeundae, this delectable 5-star serves up spectacular sea & skyline views, including the iconic Gwangandaegyo Bridge, from its top-notch rooms and fine on-site restaurants.
Where to go in Busan: The top points of interest
Still don’t know how to sort through all these Busan attractions? Here’s a quick summary of some of the best things to do in Busan…
- Got time for some sun worship? Get out your sunscreen and jam over to Haeundae Beach to enjoy the city’s favourite seafront space.
- Craving the perfect sunrise? Gear yourself up for an early morning visit to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple on the fringes of the city to experience one of the most dramatic sunrises of your life.
- Want to add a little colour to your Busan trip? Vivid murals and quaint art galleries await in the ambient mountainside Gamcheon Culture Village, a short trip from Busan’s city centre that feels worlds away from its cosmopolitan bustle.