Located in the Southeast of Korea lies the lively port city of Busan. It is an incredibly popular beach destination and vacation spot for many people. So, for the Korean holiday of Chuseok (similar to that of Thanksgiving in America), my friend and I decided to make the trip down there. Since we only planned on staying there a few days, we decided to limit our adventures to the area that we’d be primarily staying at: the Haeundae District.
Needless to say, things didn’t go as planned.
My friend and I bought tickets through a company that organized our transportation and lodging for us. It sounded great, however, our 5 hour bus ride ended up being a whole 8.5 hours because of the holiday traffic. I think we spent an hour of that bus ride at a standstill in Busan, just trying to get to our hotel. So fair warning, traffic gets crazy during the Chuseok holiday- take the train instead! Also, the company promised 3 days and 2 nights in Busan but it realistically was only 2 days because of the bus ride there and back.
Other than that, it was actually an excellent trip!
So what is there to actually do in Busan?
1. Haeundae Beach
Of course, the beach itself is the main reason people come here. This area of Busan has a pretty chill and relaxed feel to it during the day, an ideal place to take it slow for a couple of days. During the day there’s plenty of time to swim in the ocean or lay down for a tan.
Things start to pick up at night. As it gets darker outside, many people come out to the beach to perform (aka busking). There will be jugglers, musicians, and singers of all styles and genres. Walking up and down the beach, it’s literally impossible not to hear music playing. And these things draw in a lot of people. On the last day we were there, I even saw people putting up signs for a Busking Festival that was supposed to happen later that day.
2. Sea Life BUSAN Aquarium
The Busan Aquarium is located right along the beach. You actually might walk past it and not even realize it because the majority of the aquarium is underground. The entrance and ticket sales are in a little aboveground dome enclosure. Once you purchase your tickets, you descend down on an escalator to the actual aquarium.
This aquarium also has a cool underwater dome that you can walk through (Sorry for the poor picture quality- there wasn’t enough light to take a good picture).
The aquarium was pretty interesting. It hosted a wide variety of creatures, including: sharks, otters, penguins, and many types of fish. In total I believe I ended spending around 1.5 hours there.
3. Dongbaekseom Island Boardwalk
Just above the sand runs a boardwalk that stretches the entire length of the beach. But the boardwalk doesn’t stop when the beach ends, instead it continues up the rocky coast and takes you around the tip of Busan. Along the way, there are breathtaking views of the coast, traditional pavilions, and cute spots to take pictures at.
Fun fact; even though this area is attached to the mainland, it was once an actual island (hence the “Island” part of the name). And it is named after the surplus of Dongbaek trees that grow there.
The Little Mermaid Statue
Gwangandaegyo/ Diamond Bridge
Along the path, you’ll eventually see this very modern-looking building peeking out from behind the trees. This is known as the APEC House.
4. Nurimaru APEC House
The APEC is actually along the pathway around the island. It’s a circular building that held the Economic summit in 2005 and then again in 2014.
There’s nothing that you can actually do there except walk around but I personally thought it was still interesting (I ~may~ be biased since I am an economics major). Plus it was air conditioned which is nice after a long walk.
5. The Bay 101
Bay 101 yacht club is also (more or less) along the Boardwalk, on the other side of island. This area has become quite popular in the past couple of years for its location on the waterfront and notable nightlife.
In the daytime, this is area is popular for water-related activities such as boating or jet skiing.
At night, it becomes popular for eating, drinking, and just enjoying the view of the city lights reflecting off the serene water (I highly recommend coming at night).
6. Food & Drinks
Now that I just mentioned food, let’s really get into the subject. For this, there are two main routes you can go.
First is the street food. During the daytime and into the night, there will be people selling anything and everything from meats to sweets and drinks (alcoholic and nonalcoholic) along the beach and on the main streets. Personally, I recommend the kebabs (not pictured since I ate it too quickly….) and fried ice cream.
Fried Ice Cream
If you are feeling a little more daring, there were more ~ exotic ~ options. One stall I saw had some sort of roasted critters and there are plenty of stalls that let you pick your own fish, while it’s still swimming in a tank in front of you, to eat.
Secondly, there are plenty of establishments a little ways from the beach. There are numerous restaurants and pubs and cafes in each direction.
Student and Traveler Tips
The ticket prices for the museum were on the more expensive side (26,000 won) but their website offered a 30% discount coupon to all foreigners. Just pull the coupon up on your phone and show it to the ticket office at the aquarium. I would also recommend trying to go to the aquarium during the week and earlier in the day. It can get quite crowded in there.
Everything along the Boardwalk (Lighthouse, APEC House, etc..) is free of charge. It isn’t that difficult to maneuver, as long as you’re fine climbing up and down stairs. It took me a couple of hours to walk around but you can take things at your own pace. Just make sure you bring some good walking shoes!
Bay 101 is a bit high end so prices for food there gets quite expensive. For those of you that are money conscious, I would recommend eating somewhere else and then coming here for coffee or a small snack.
Busan is a costal city so the weather can change rapidly. On the first day I was there, the weather was fine but on the second day the winds had really picked up and the waves were enormous. There were beach patrol officers stationed along the beach and a warning went out to stay out of the water. On the third day, there was torrential downpour. It was so bad that my friend and I couldn’t do anything that day (so techinally is was a successful 36 hours in Busan?). We ventured out to go eat and ended up being completely drentched and cold.
Make sure to bring clothing that is suitable for all types of weather; meaning take your swimsuit and a rain jacket. My friend likes to joke that we went to Busan to buy an Usan (Korean word for umbrella).
I feel it is important that I say this again, I recommend taking the train over taking the bus. Trust me on this one.