Located in the southeast region of the Korean peninsula, Busan is the country’s largest port city and boasts an abundance of coastal tourist attractions, historical and cultural sites, and trendy shopping areas. The city has a well-developed public transportation system, but for a more convenient and all-inclusive tour, hop aboard a Busan City Tour bus, which is comprised of a variety of one-day tours that cover the area’s major attractions. The city tour routes are operated on red, blue and green lines, along with themed routes that include a history and culture exploration tour, the Eulsukdo Island Natural Ecology Tour and the Night View Tour. Themed routes must be booked in advance.
The UN Memorial Cemetery in Korea is the only UN cemetery to pay tribute to soldiers who fell during the Korean War. The cemetery was built in January of 1951 by the United Nations headquarters in order to bury those who perished during the war. In April of the same year, the cemetery was completed and all the fallen soldiers buried in temporary graves across the nation were moved here for their remains to be enshrined and remembered.
At the Busan Museum, collections of local artifacts and documents tell the history of the Busan area from prehistoric times to the modern era. The museum also runs hands-on traditional culture programs and folk classes to share the proud legacy of traditional Korean culture with museum visitors.
Although not actually an island, this land feature is one of the most famous attractions among visitors for getting a fantastic view of the ocean while taking in the island’s beautiful natural habitat. Along with Busan’s shoreline, camellia flowers burst into bloom all over the island from winter to spring. At other times, the dense population of pine trees gives visitors a great chance to relax in the shade.
It is hard to imagine, but Dongbaekseom Island once used be an actual island, resembling the shape of an iron floating on the sea. Therefore, many locals also called it “Iron Island.” Due to continuous sediment build up, the island is now connected to the mainland at Haeundae Beach, and the previous name has been long forgotten.
Sandwiched between Dalmaji-gil Road (right) and Dongbaekseom Island (left), Haeundae Beach is an expansive, white-sand beach that is one of the most popular tourist sites in Busan. The beach is easily accessible via public transportation and is an ideal festival venue, hosting various events and celebrations throughout the year.
In late fall, the beach serves as one of the stages of the Busan International Film Festival, the largest film festival in Asia. Loved by travelers for its convenient location, this gorgeous stretch of sand is particularly alluring at night when the light from nearby buildings sparkles off the black waves.
The Shinsegae Centum City Department Store is registered in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest department store in the world. The department store has countless numbers of items all under one roof. Visitors can also enjoy numerous entertainment options in the complex, even a spa and an ice rink.
The exterior of this mega complex is equally mesmerizing, both at day and night. It serves as a sort of “oasis” in the mid-town area, and it is one of the top attractions for tourists in Busan.
With an area over 54,000 square meters, the Busan Cinema Center was opened in 2011 as the main center for the Busan International Film Festival, the largest film festival in Asia. The facility houses three theaters, the BIFF executive office, a media center, and places to relax in the building. It’s particularly known for its large roof structure, affectionately called “Big Roof,” which has been registered in the Guinness Book of Records.
Along with the Busan Cultural Center and Busan Museum, the Busan Museum of Art is one of Busan’s top cultural spaces. It is equipped with exhibit halls, special collections, a training and research center, offices, and an outdoor sculpture area. The museum runs educational programs and cultural events throughout the year for the general public to become more acquainted with the arts.
Sometimes called the Montmartre of Busan, this popular street wraps around a picturesque hill at the east end of Haeundae Beach. The street is lined with galleries, coffee shops and cozy restaurants, and has been featured in Korean TV dramas and films. If you follow the road up the hill, it offers a great place to view the moon at night, which is where it gets its name; dalmaji literally means “taking in the moon.” It has become a very popular place to spend a romantic evening with one’s significant other, and even for friends to have a relaxing evening.
This two-kilometer beach is shallow with smaller waves, making it a safe place for parents with young children to come in the summer. Also, its location just outside of the main area of Busan makes it perfect for a quieter, more peaceful beach outing. There is a lighthouse next to the beach, with a park full of pine trees adding to the picturesque coastal scenery.
The Fisheries Science Museum, Korea’s first science institute of its kind, was established in 1997 in order to promote maritime science and technology to the Korean public. The facility continues to develop new displays, exhibits, and special events, and also offers experiential classroom environments for learning about sea life and the ocean.
Built in 1376, this Buddhist temple is famous for visitors to come and make a wish they really want to come true. The name literally means “dragon palace on the eastern sea,” and is fitting with the path leading up to the palace, which, built atop the rocky coast, makes you feel like you’re going into an underwater dragon palace, with dark blue waves crashing around you. The temple grounds are composed of an inner temple, a three-story stone pagoda, a 108-step staircase, a 10-meter high stone statue of the ocean Buddha, and a mineral water well.
Located in the middle of an urban environment, seeing all there is to see at Hwangnyeongsan Mountain can be done in just about three hours. The mountain was militarily significant during the Joseon Dynasty, as the summit was once used to light a fire signal beacon to send messages. Now called the Beacon Fire Station, there are still reenactments of the signal beacon being run today.
This group of small, rocky islands is one of the symbols of Busan’s harbor, where dozens of large and small ships pass every day. It gets its name, literally “five six islands,” from two of the islands of the group, Bangpaeseom Island and Solseom Island, which are connected at low tide and separate at high tide. The difference between low and high tide causes the number of islands in Oryukdo to fluctuate between five and six, hence the name “five six islands.”
In order to foster a sense of identity for the people of Busan, the Bokcheon Museum contains many exhibits featuring ancient artifacts uncovered in the Busan area, including Japan and the ancient Gaya Kingdom, a confederacy of territorial polities that existed until the year A.D. 572 in the region of the Nakdonggang River basin.
Built during the reign of King Munmu (r. 661-681) of the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. – A.D. 935), Beomeosa Temple is located halfway up Geumjeongsan Mountain, located on the northern outskirts of Busan. Its secluded natural location gives it superb natural elegance, and the temple grounds feature an inner temple, which is a registered national treasure, a stone pagoda, and other traditional structures. There is a museum displaying valuable Buddhist scriptures and paintings, and even a college for those desiring to become Buddhist monks.
Amnam Park sprawls across Jinjeongsan Mountain in Amnam-dong, and offers a spectacular view of the sea out past groves of thick trees. For a closer look at the ocean, walk along the high coastal path or stop by the observation deck to get a panoramic view of the sea. The regal combination of the park's mountains and seascapes, not to mention the free admission, make this park a highly recommended travel destination. It only takes around one hour to walk through the whole park.
Occupying part of Busan’s southwest coastline, Dadaepo literally means “large and wide harbor.” It is located at the estuary of the Nakdonggang River, giving its shallow waters a uniquely warm temperature. Due to the dam built upstream, the beach is becoming more and more like a mud flat over time, however, that is attracting more visitors to examine the diverse sea life living in the sand and the shallow water
This habitat of migratory birds of the Nakdonggang River estuary is of such high environmental merit that it has even officially been designated Natural Monument No. 179. The Nakdong Estuary Eco Center was built to display the rich ecosystem and evolution of the estuary, particularly the types of migratory birds that inhabit the area. One side of the building is made of glass and boasts a bird's-eye view of the estuary. In addition to exhibits, the center offers interactive programs such as a plant observation program, a field investigation tour of the estuary, and an activity in which participants can build a shack of reeds for bird observation.
Gwangalli Beach in Suyeong-gu is a stretch of urban beach about 1.4 kilometers in length. The crescent-shaped beach is covered with fine powdery sand and is only a few meters away from a network of side streets lined with coffee shops and over 300 restaurants selling raw fish, eonyan bulgogi, and bean sprout haejangguk. At night, the beach takes on an even more vibrant aura as the colorful lights from Gwangandaegyo Bridge flicker off the water and young visitors flock to the area for its delicious food and romantic beach.
Located in Suyeong-gu with an elevation of 415 meters, Geumnyeonsan Mountain is home to the remains of the Banyaam Hermitage and Baramilda Temple. The view of Busan Port and Gwangalli Beach from atop the mountain at night is so beautiful that many people visit the mountain for this view alone. On the mountain, you will also find a Youth Training Center, a mineral water well, and a hiking trail.
<Last updated on July 8, 2015>
* This column was last updated in July 2015, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details from the official websites before visiting.