12 Things To Do in Busan South Korea

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Looking for things to do in Busan South Korea? This post is for you! Everyone immediately wants to know about things to do in Seoul but Busan is by far my most favourite city in South Korea (possibly the world). The exciting combination of city, beach, market, temple, music and mountain culture just keeps drawing me back to this fun and vibrant city. I first lived here 10 years ago when I decided to teach English in South Korea, and I’ve been going back to visit and travel around here ever since. So if you’re ready to travel again, South Korea is definitely my first recommendation.

Things to do in Busan South Korea

What to do in Busan? In this post you’ll find my top Busan things to do. And there will be gems in here that other articles won’t mention! From intense shopping to breathtaking hiking. From glorious beach days to serene temple escapes. From exciting Korean street food to revitalising spa experiences unlike no other. Buckle up; Busan has it all!

I’ve organised all of these brilliant experiences by area so that you can choose to do one thing or all of them once you get to the specific location. Whether you’re here for 1 day or a week, I’ve got you covered. Here are my top things to do Busan style. Let’s go!

This article is sponsored by Korea Tourism. Opinions, as always, remain my own = open, honest and straight to the point. 

Street art in Busan of a young Korean child using a looking glass to inspect what is on the street
Street art along the coast of Busan South Korea in Namcheon

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Pusan National University Area

Pusan National University is my original stomping ground. As it’s a student area, there’s plenty of fun shopping stalls to explore alongside karaoke rooms, barbecue restaurants and live music venues! It’s also at the base of Geumjeongsan mountain – so go for a hike in the day, recover in the spa in the afternoon, then go out partying at night!

1. Go hiking on Geumjeongsan Mountain

South Korea is 80% mountainous, so it would be criminal to come to Busan without packing your hiking boots. I have spent so many hours on Geumjeongsan Mountains traversing its trails; discovering its gates, temples, and delicious little food stops that locals run, serving hot snacks and bowls of revitalising cold makgeolli (rice wine).

Birds eye view of Busan from Geumjeongsan Mountain

One of my favourite routes starts from Jangjeon subway station. Head for the mountain from here. You’ll make your way through Pusan National University campus and as you keep hiking up, you’ll find the trail that goes into the trees.

You’ll hit Geumjeongsan’s East Gate soon enough. From here, make your way to the South Gate via Daelyugbong viewpoint. Grab some delicious mountain dishes from the locals before making your way down on the cable car at Oncheon-dong. The views are so worth it!

Alice on top of Daelyugbong viewpoint in Busan South Korea
Hiking Geumjeongsan Mountain in Busan South Korea. This is Daelyugbong viewpoint!

2. Recover at Hurshimchung Spa

Hands down, one of my most favourite things to do in Busan Korea is visit the spa. As a Westerner you may find it a little ‘different’ as everyone is naked. But please do try. The waters are soothing. There’s so many different tubs of water to try. Some are hot. Some are absolutely freezing. Some have bubbles. Some have soothing minerals added to them.

And there’s open air spaces. Saunas. Steam rooms. And even areas where locals will vigorously scrub all of your dead skin off you whilst you lie on a table, like a beached whale, with cucumber pieces over your eyes. Well worth every Korean won you’ll spend. Be brave and do it.

Book your Hurshimchung Spa ticket here

3. Rock out at The Basement

For the ultimate dive bars in Busan experience, which is literally in a Basement, you have got to head here. This is real and raw live music, with an amazing mix of Korean and expat musicians and drinkers. There’s a tiny stage, a dubious pole in the middle of the ‘dance’ floor, a pool table and hopefully the darts machine is still kicking around in the corner. I played in a ton of bands here throughout the years. Say hello to the owner Hans for me. He’s American-Irish and knows how to show visitors a good time.

Bonus tip for bars

If you’re on Gwangalli Beach, head to HQ Bar for live music there.

Nampo-dong Area

Nampodong in the city of Busan is a brilliant area to spend a day within. It contains South Korea’s largest fish market – Jalgachi Fish Market and you can take in brilliant views of the whole area from Busan Tower. There are also endless shops and stalls to get lost in for hours here, as well as a secret Japanese bookstore alley. Film buffs will also be very excited to step into Biff Square, where handprints of famous Korean actors lie within the streets. Bonus points if you’re visiting here during the world famous Busan International Film Festival!

Jalgachi Fish Market stallholder selling dried fish outside in Busan Korea
Check out all of the fresh and dried seafood at Jalgachi Fish Market

4. Explore Jalgachi Fish Market

This is a Busan must see and one of my favourite places to visit in Busan! Start your day immersed amongst every kind of seafood imaginable, as early as you can, right here in Nampodong. Jalgachi Fish Market is a port where the freshest fish is delivered every day in Busan. You’ll have the chance to walk down row upon row of dried and fresh seafood, swimming in tanks, piled high in colourful buckets and laid out next to each other.

It’s quite an experience and you can get involved as much as you wish! If you just want to look, no problem, but if you want to buy, you can really get chomping down on all manner of things. Yes, I’ve ordered live octopus here – chopped up and served directly on my plate. It comes served with oil, salt and pepper on the side to dip it in. Delicious!

Book your Busan Jagalchi Market Tour and Korean Cooking Class here

Korean ladies eating fish soup on an outside stall at Jalgachi Fish Market
Busan locals tucking into fresh food in Jalgachi Fish Market

5. Be starstruck in Biff Square Busan

South Korean films have really become popular in the Western world in recent years and I’m so happy to see that. Most of you may know Oldboy, but there’s also some other great thrillers including Train To Busan, A Tale of Two Sisters and Parasite. If you love South Korean movies, you’ll love walking through Biff Busan Square. It contains many movie theatres but also some top-notch street food stalls. See what you can find and give the snacks a go!

Two ladies serving kimbap on the street in Nampodong Busan Korea
One of the many street food stalls in Nampodong around BIFF Square

6. Go up Busan Tower in Yongdusan Park

Take a break from the hustle and bustle by taking the elevator up to Yongdusan Park. It’s a calm and serene area with Yongdusan Temple and the 120m high Busan Tower within its grounds. The views are brilliant and well worth soaking up. You can also make your mark by locking up a love lock with your loved one.

Book your Busan Tower ticket here

7. Go down Busan’s Bosu-dong Bookstore Alley

Enticing book lovers to venture down here since the 1950s, Bosu-dong Bookstore Alley is a beautiful mish-mash of piles and piles of secondhand books. Originally left over by the Japanese, you’ll find all sorts of texts here now. You can easily get lost in these mini-mountains of literature but you’ll have a lot of fun doing it. Instagrammers and photographers – this spot is particularly for you!

Piles and piles of books next to a shutter with cool street art on it in Bosu-dong Bookstore Alley
Bosu-dong Bookstore Alley

8. Get lost in Nampodong market and Gukje Market

If you’ve made it out of all of those books in the bookstore alley, you’ll quickly realise there is a street for everything else too. Nampodong market is mahoosive, and each stretch of it is selling everything you could imagine. I recommend just diving in and seeing what you can find. But one of my favourite areas is the secondhand clothes. I’ve picked up all manner of garments here which are unique, colourful and still very much treasured. Find your way in somewhere, and you’ll get out somewhere else with some goodies in your bag.

Book your Nampo night market and food tour here

A couple shopping amongst rows of jackets in Nampodong's secondhand clothes market area
Nampodong secondhand clothes shopping

Bonus Busan Shopping Recommendations

If you’re in Busan to shop, I highly recommend Shinsegae Centum City Busan for high-class retail therapy. And if you want a really fun underground shopping experience, go to Seomyeon subway stop and check out all the underground shops there.

More Busan Activities

Yongho-dong to Jung-dong area

This stunning stretch of coast starting from Oryukdo Skywalk all the way to Haeundae Beach via Gwangalli Beach is well-worth spending time along during your Busan sightseeing. If you’re an avid walker, walking from Oryukdo Skywalk to Gwangalli Beach is a great day hike in itself.

Fisherman standing on rocks fishing off Busan's East Coast with the skyscrapers of Gwangan in the background
Fisherman along Busan’s East Coast with Gwangan in the distance

9. Walk out on to Oryukdo Skywalk

How about starting your morning by braving the elements and stepping out above the sea on Oryukdo Skywalk? It’s free admission and going out on this glass walkway will gift you with lovely views of the Busan coast and Oryukdo Island. From here, you can walk right along the coast, all the way to Gwangalli Beach.

View of Gwangan Bridge from the coast of Busan with mountains in the background
Gwangan Bridge and Gwangalli Beach

10. Soak up the vibes on Gwangalli Beach or Haeundae Beach

I love the beaches in Busan. They’re naturally one of the biggest Busan tourist attractions. The most popular two are Gwangalli Beach and Haeundae Beach. Gwangalli Beach has glorious fine sand and looks out onto the spectacular Gwangan Bridge Busan. Views are great during the day but stay here till the evening if you can too. Everything lights up and is extra magical! This is also the spot where the Busan Fireworks Festival happens in October. It’s epic.

Haeundae Beach is more crowded than Gwangalli Beach. The sand is just as good though and there’s plenty of nightlife, restaurants and entertainment happening along this stretch to keep you entertained.

Dog sculpture on Gwangalli Beach in Busan
Some of the fun sculptures and events you’ll find on Gwangalli Beach

Bonus Tip: Songdo Beach

Haeundae and Gwangan Beach are very popular spots so if you do have the time to venture further, Songdo Beach could be the best beach in Busan for you. It is absolutely glorious and well worth the visit. Songdo cable car is also here, which gives you another chance to hop on a cable car – this time across the sea.

See Songdo Beach and more on this Busan East Coast Cultural Day Tour

11. Head out to Gamcheon Culture Village

If you’re an Instagrammer you’ll be all over Gamcheon Culture Village; one of the most popular Busan attractions. Described as the Machu Picchu of South Korea, this former slum turned itself around in 2019 by getting creative and painting its houses all kinds of colours. Now this neighbourhood is full of different street art, wacky sculptures, cute cafes and enticing souvenir shops.

Just like the maze of streets in Nampodong, do the same here by enjoying not knowing where you’re actually going. You’ll find all manner of things this way. Let me know in the comments what you discover!

Book your ticket to Gamcheon Culture Village included in a day tour here

Lots of coloured houses with cafes and street art throughout in Gamcheon Culture Village
Photo of Gamcheon Culture Village courtesy of Fumiyama Akira on Unsplash

Bonus Tip: Best food in Busan

Make the most of the best restaurants in Busan! I love Korean food so much that I’ll track down Korean restaurants in other countries to try and get the ‘real deal’ that I miss so much in Busan. I highly recommend trying the following dishes whilst you’re out and about:

Kimchi Jjiggae: Served bubbling hot, this kimchi soup with pork, onions, garlic has helped many a hangover.

Samgyetang: Ginseng Chicken soup which is perfect for eating in Summer (or in my case all year round)

Dwaeji Gukbap: A Busan speciality soup made with pork, soy sauce, miso, rice wine, sesame oil, and bone broth

12. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Last but not least, the temples in Busan are such a joy to step into. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is an extra special attraction in Busan because it’s one of the only Buddhist temples on the sea in South Korea. Most of the other temples are in the mountains! Originally built in 1376, it has been regenerated many times since then and remains a marvel to look at. Soak up the spiritual vibes and enjoy taking a look at the statue of the Goddess of Mercy and the healing Buddha as you make your way along the path of 108 stairs.

Visit Haedong Yonggungsa on this Busan East Coast Tour

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Best place to stay in Busan

With the subway connecting all of attractions Busan has to offer, you will be fine staying in any neighbourhood you wish! To help you out though, here are my top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

Enjoy all of these things to do in Busan South Korea

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Places to visit in Busan Travel Guide. What attractions in Busan will you visit? Now you know where to go in Busan, I recommend making the most of the subway to get around and explore it all. They have maps in English on the public transport and out of all the subways in the world, Busan’s network is relatively easy.

And do not worry about language barriers whilst you’re looking at all the Busan points of interest. The younger Koreans all learn English at school and will do their best to help you if you get stuck at any point. Have fun!

Alice Teacake in front of a mural depicting a turtle and diver undersea
Alice Teacake enjoying the street art along Busan’s coast

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Don’t leave for your adventure without travel insurance. However careful you are, things can still go wrong. I’ve ended up in hospital in Russia, had stuff cut out of my arm in Vietnam and even when I thought eating that chicken in Poland was safe…turns out it wasn’t.

Do the right thing. Protect your health and valuables.

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