Built among the eponymous pot-shaped mountain range on Korea's southeastern coast, Busan is a continually expanding city that takes full advantage of its natural setting while providing all the amenities of modern urban living.
Shopping in Busan
Busan's most complete shopping experience can be found in Nampo-dong, which is just a few subway stops away from Busan's KTX bullet-train station and international ferry port. The streets are filled with stores featuring the trendiest brands from Korea and abroad. Shoppers looking for bargain products can spend hours in the Nampo Underground Mall, which features more traditional mom-and-pop stores.
For one of Busan's more unique experiences, it's just a short walk to Jagalchi Market, Korea's largest seafood market, where many go to try the fresh fare on offer. Fashionistas seeking trendy offerings in Busan should look no further than Gwangbok-ro Fashion Street in Jung-gu. This fashion hub is home to plenty of stores selling hip clothing and is considered a tourist attraction.
Another of Busan's popular shopping areas is Centum City, an urban development area that has become a hub of Busan's commerce and tourism. The centrepiece of Centum City is Shinsegae Department Store which holds the Guinness World Record for the world's largest shopping mall. In addition to its fashion shopping complex, grocery store and food courts, Shinsegae also contains a luxury spa, an ice skating rink and other cultural centres hosting activities for both adults and kids.
For more general shopping, there are a variety of options for different shoppers. Western products can be found at Costco and the other larger chain stores like Emart and Homeplus. The more discerning shopper can find deals for their fresh grocery shopping among the many outdoor markets scattered throughout the city.
Nightlife and entertainment in Busan
Day or night, Haeundae Beach is an attractive spot for both Koreans and expats. During the day, visitors can rent a parasol to relax on this popular beach, or they can check out the array of sea life at the Busan Aquarium and its efforts towards rehabilitation and conservation of the underwater world. At night, one can hop between Haeundae's many clubs, bars, and restaurants catering to both Korean and Western tastes. Haeundae also has one of Busan's three casinos that caters to foreign guests.
Offering a similar atmosphere, with smaller crowds and lower prices, is Gwangalli Beach. While this beach isn't as popular for swimming during the day as Busan's other beaches, it offers a view of Busan's Diamond Bridge, made famous in the film Black Panther. Whether it's a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop, there are many places from which to see the iconic view of the lit-up bridge against the night horizon. Gwangalli is also the location of the Busan Fireworks Festival. A million people fill the beach each year to see the hour-long fireworks show that incorporates the notable bridge.
At the heart of the city is Seomyeon, Busan's downtown area. At the junction of Subway Lines 1 and 2, Seomyeon mixes a variety of traditional bars and restaurants with modern stores and clubs. One can wander the many side streets finding whatever suits their tastes, whether it be a dance club or street-side food carts.
Outdoor activities and sports in Busan
With mountains, coastlines and everything in between, Busan has no shortage of outdoor activities. Hiking is one of the most popular activities for young and old in Busan, with countless paths that wind around the Jangsan, Geumyeongsan and other mountains. Coastal hiking trails can also be found in Igidae and Taejeongdae.
With five major beaches, Busan residents have access to many water sports. People can often be seen surfing, kayaking and jet-skiing at Haeundae and Gwangalli Beaches. Expats without a surfboard or kayak can also find rentals at these beaches.
For those looking to play sports, expats can easily find pickup games of beach volleyball or basketball around the city. The city also has clubs for sports such as Ultimate Frisbee and Gaelic football.
For those who enjoy being a spectator, attending a Lotte Giants baseball game and being among Busan's famously energetic fans is a memorable experience. There are also opportunities to see professional football and basketball, among other sports.
See and do in Busan
As the second-biggest city in the country, Busan is one of South Korea's most popular destinations and offers plenty to see and do throughout the city. Below are some of the best things to see and do in Busan.
Gamcheon Culture Village
For a memorable mix of art and the outdoors, expats can travel to Gamcheon Culture Village. This neighbourhood was initially formed by houses built into a mountainside, which have been restored and repainted to become one of Busan's most picturesque views. While exploring the steep streets and twisting alleys, visitors can find brightly painted murals, sculptures, and cafés in this artists' haven.
Busan Museum of Art
Busan is home to plenty of art galleries and museums, the largest of which is the Busan Museum of Art near Centum City. The museum showcases art from both Korean and international artists and hosts featured exhibitions throughout the year.
In 2019, Busan opened the Dream Theatre, its first mega-scale theatre to host touring international and local musical productions.
Geumjeong Mountain Temples
The Geumjeong Mountain is dotted with prominent historical sites, including some fascinating ancient temples. Visitors can either hike or take a cable car up to the mountain trails. Once there, they'll see the gates, walls, and watchtowers of Geumjeong Fortress, and on the eastern end of the mountain is Beomeosa, the largest Buddhist temple in Busan.
United Nations Memorial Cemetery
This park honours UN soldiers from 21 countries who were killed in the Korean War. There are monuments throughout the park dedicated to many of the nations and their citizens who fought in the conflict.
Busan Citizen Park
At around 500,000 square meters, Busan Citizen Park is the largest in Busan. Formerly an American military base, Busan's government converted the land into a spacious park with 29 attractions scattered around its many walking paths in 2006.
What's on in Busan
Though Busan is best known for its beaches, the city is also a vibrant cultural hub that hosts an abundance of cultural festivals, creative events and shows throughout the year. Below is just a small sample of the best events in Busan.
First Sunrise Viewing (January)
One of the most significant Korean traditions is to ring in the New Year by watching the first sunrise. Busan has a few options for those hoping to join the early morning festivities. Two of the most popular venues for this are the Haeundae and Gwangalli beaches. Events usually include cheer performances, new year's greetings and an air show. There are also vendors selling tteokguk (rice-cake soup), which is traditionally eaten to celebrate the New Year in the hopes of bringing good fortune.
Busan International Short Film Festival (April)
This was the first short film festival to appear in Korea. In the beginning, only Korean films were screened during the festival, but by 2010 the festival had become an international affair and began accepting films from across the world. The festival aims to introduce outstanding short films and inspire up-and-coming producers and filmmakers.
Joseon Tongsinsa Festival (May)
This festival symbolises the peaceful cultural exchange between South Korea and Japan. Expats can learn more about the history of South Korea and Japan through street performances, cultural exchange performances, and a peace procession.
Dureraum Saturday Outdoor Concert (May to September)
This is an outdoor music festival that takes place every Saturday at Busan's Cinema Centre. This event is free of charge and is a fantastic way to support local musicians.
Busan Fireworks Festival (October)
Arguably one of Busan's most popular events, the Fireworks Festival draws more than a million visitors each year. The festival takes place along Gwangalli Beach, and programmes include cultural events, laser light shows and colourful firework displays.
Busan Christmas Tree Cultural Festival (November)
Annually the Busan Christmas Tree Festival is held in the streets of Gwangbok-ro in the Jung-gu district. Families will be mesmerised by grand LED light displays, a giant Christmas tree, street performances and much more.