PLANNING A TRIP TO BUSAN? YOU'RE GONNA WANT TO READ THIS!
Finally, you've booked your dream vacation in the beautiful city of Busan, South Korea. Smart move! However, now comes the dizzying task of hotel searching, site discovering, and restaurant hunting. Have no fear, we've done the work for you and found out where to stay in Busan for your next trip!
At first glance, Busan seems like the perfect place to indulge in some rest and calm. Its oceanside city atmosphere is a welcoming break from the relentless energy of Seoul. You can smell the soothing salty air from miles away, providing promises of relaxation and rejuvenation.
However, Busan is a city of many faces. Despite its laid-back chill vibes, Busan is anything but boring. Busan's beaches are lined with the hippest restaurants, cafes, shops, and bars. Its vibrant nightlife is sure to make even the most seasoned night owl beg for a bed.
At the center of Busan, the city reveals a different face. Like its sister, Seoul, Busan illustrates the South Korean experience: resourceful, lively, energetic, and full of options.
Relaxed or vivacious, rustic or cosmopolitan—regardless of your individual preferences, there is a Busan neighborhood perfectly tailored to your suit your vacation needs.
Now, check out this neighborhood guide and find out where to stay in Busan.
The Five Areas to Stay in Busan, including Hotel Recommendations
Location, location, location! You can’t get any more centrally located than Seomyeon. Containing numerous restaurants, bars, cafes, and shopping (above and underground), this area is known for its nightlife. It’s South Korea’s “city that never sleeps.”
The Seomyeon train station connects subway Line 1 and Line 2, meaning that you can jump on the train to several locations. Some locations include: Busan University, Beomeosa Temple, Kyungsung University, Gwangalli Beach, Haeundae Beach, Dongnae, Centum City, and Nampo-dong). No need to change trains!
The disadvantage to staying in Seomyeon is access to both beaches (Gwangalli and Haeundae) require a lengthy subway ride--a minimum of ten subway stops.
A true luxury hotel with 4 restaurants and spa, this facility has 850 guest rooms, casino, pool and so much more. Rooms have standard bedding options and the hotel accommodates adults and children. Each night’s stay comes with free breakfast for two, free wifi, housekeeping and complimentary toiletries. There is a 24-hour front desk and polite staff members at every turn to offer assistance. An airport shuttle and VIP service is available and the hotel is located a short walk from Seomyeon Station. This is the place to stay for luxury, comfort and convenience.
A bit more homey than the hotel listed above, this location has 28 smoke-free rooms with free WiFi and complimentary breakfast for two. The rooms are distributed over eight floors and each has a private bath. Bedding varies from bunk beds to King. Amenities include most hotel services such as housekeeping and concierge services as well as computer stations and in room appliances. Serving adults and children, the B&B is located just 0.3 miles (10 min walk) from Seomyeon Station. A good choice for those who want the comfort of a hotel stay but an experience that is a little more Korean in feel.
Just two tenths of a mile (7 min walk) from Seomyeon Station, this hostel is located in the entertainment district within the city. Favored by guests, it is not what one might call a luxury hotel with all the amenities but a small friendly atmosphere with just 9 smoke-free guestrooms. Serving adults only, the inn offers a free continental breakfast of Korean favorites and free WiFi as well as limited housekeeping, small toiletries and self-serve laundry. This option is for those who are more interested in experiencing the real Busan and Korean culture.
If your idea of the perfect vacation is lying on a white sand beach surrounded by beautiful people, staying within walking distance to South Korea’s most famous beach front—Haeundae Beach—is a no brainer!
The white sand beach is approximately one mile long (1.5 kilometers) and over 131 feet wide (40 meters). This creates a beautiful coastline which opens up to a shallow bay, making it perfect for swimming and sunbathing.
Haeundae Beach features a significant number of hi p restaurants, cafes, and bars. It is also home to many affluent residents; Haeundae Beach is a playground for South Korea's rich and famous as well as luxury travelers (think South Beach in Miami, Florida).
Haeundae Beach is the perfect place for shopping aficionados. The beach is only three subway stops away from Centum City (Shinsegae), Korea’s first department store and the largest department store in the world. Dalmaji-gil, known as Korea’s Montmartre, is also in the Haeundae area. The street is famous for its many coffee shops as well as its stunning views of the blue ocean, white sand field, Camellia forest, and pine tree forest.
Gwangalli Beach, another very famous beach in the area, is only six subway stops away. Another area frequented by tourists and featuring shopping, eating, and entertainment is the Kyungsung University Area, which is only nine stops via subway away.
Accommodations from luxury hotels to private guesthouses make Haeundae Beach an area to which thousands of people flock each summer. The area is also famous for various cultural events and festivals held throughout the year. Besides the beach, other points of interest in the area include Dongabek Island, Busan Aquarium, driving courses, and more.
The only disadvantage of staying in the Haeundae Beach area is the fact that, although you could spend your whole trip here without getting bored, it is not necessarily close to other main areas; getting there would require a substantial subway ride or taxi ride.
Located on the Bayfront and within walking distance of the Busan Aquarium, this hotel has 29 smoke-free guest rooms with free continental breakfast and free WiFi. Each room comes with a private bathroom and combinations of double and bunk beds that sleep 2 to 4 people. A terrace offers outdoor downtime for residents and the hotel is just a 15 minute walk from many attractions in the beach area. While the hotel may not have many of the amenities of larger structures, its highly complimentary guest reviews speak to a well run establishment.
Self-described as a ‘No-Frills Hotel’, the large rooms with private bath, vintage decor and reasonable price are what get this place its great guest reviews. With free WiFi and parking, amenities also include in-room refrigerator, 24-hour front desk, cable tv and daily housekeeping in its 41 guest rooms. The beach is just a short walk from the hotel as are many other attractions. Reasonable expectations and charming accommodations are available in this older hotel.
Feel right at home in this quiet but modern hostel near the Haeundae Beach area. The 11 smoke-free rooms offer home style access to laundry, computer, refrigerator and microwave use for the traveler who wants something basic. The rooms are equipped with twin and bunk beds for one or two person occupancy. A Women-only floor offers those women who are traveling alone a sense of privacy and security. Everything on Haeundae is just a short walk away.
If you want to have easy access to both the city and the beach, staying in the Gwangalli Beach area may be the best fit for you. Both Centum City department store and the Kyungsung University area are only three subway stops away, which is super convenient. Trendy Seomyeon is also relatively nearby as well.
Gwangalli Beach is an awesome place with a popping nightlife yet a laid-back vibe. There are tons of coffee shops, stalls offering authentic Korean food, and various restaurants to appease whatever cravings you may have. This area is also perfect for meeting fellow travelers as well as locals.
The Gwangandaegyo Bridge (Busan 66, also called Gwangan-daero) is over four miles long (7.4 kilometers) and stretches from Namcheon-dong to Centum City. It is the longest bi-level bridge over the ocean in South Korea. Equipped with thousands of LED lights, the bridge features a stunning nightly light exhibition that changes with the seasons. This beautiful bridge is a sight to see both during the day and at night and attracts many locals as well as tourists.
While South Korea’s rich and famous and more affluent travelers flock to Haeundae Beach, Gwangalli Beach is a lot more chill and relaxed. It's where the average mortals go.
The beachfront is a little shy of one mile (1.4 kilometers) and is famous for its fine sand. After undergoing an intense water cleaning program, the beach is pristine, drawing the affection of many young tourists. The Gwangalli area features many romantic restaurants and cafes as well as various stores selling well-known fashion brands.
This area does not offer as much shopping as Seomyeon or Haeundae Beach. If shopping is your primary goal, you probably be better off staying elsewhere. Also, if you are not particularly fond of the beach, you may want to consider staying somewhere else as beach vibes define this area.
With 269 smoke-free guest rooms, 2 restaurants and an onsite spa, this is luxury at its best. Everything that could be provided is done here. Childcare, WiFi, fitness room, pool as well as upscale decor and a location that is in the middle the city is under one roof. Rooms generally come with 1 King Bed or 2 twin beds. Cribs and Rollaway cots are available. Ocean or park views can be seen from each room. A wonderfully modern and pleasing place to stay while in Busan.
This small hotel of only 14 smoke-free guest rooms is located near the beach. It offers many amenities such as private bath and daily housekeeping as well as a free continental breakfast and free WiFi. All rooms include one double bed and sleep two people with options for an additional child. Each room includes desk, flat screen tv, refrigerator and bottled water. Located near most attractions, the setting offers a small Korean feel with little extras such as an in-lobby copy of the newspaper and tourist assistance.
With just 3 guestrooms, a stay at this house is like a stay at an private residence. A rooftop terrace and garden are there for a quiet respite. The shared dormitory style accommodations paired with outside amenities such as picnic are and barbeque grill attract outdoor types. The excellent guest rates and fair price mean these spaces fill up quickly. Just a short walk or subway ride to many attractions. Private vehicles are welcome with a surcharge.
Nampo-dong Market is perhaps the #1 tourist attraction in Busan. It is known for its wide variety of shopping--high fashion brands to imported goods to local discounts--and its many street food vendors.
Nampo-dong is also the theater district of Busan and is packed with movie theaters and playhouses. Every year, the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) is held in the area, and to commemorate the BIFF, each year's winners contribute copper plates imprinted with their hand and footprints (similar to Hollywood's Walk of Fame). These copper plates are stretched across the plaza walkways.
Across the street from Nampo-dong is Jagalchi Fish Market, which is arguably the best fish market in South Korea and definitely the best in Busan. You can easily walk through the entire fish market in not much time, and depending on where you stay in Nampo-dong, you can walk there in less than five minutes. Jagalchi Fish Market is the place to go if you want to eat some fresh seafood or snack on some of South Korea's best street food.
You can also get a birds-eye view of Busan from the Busan Tower in Yongdusan Park for only 5000 won (USD 4.50), or if you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, you can visit the Choryang Arcade for Foreigners.
Plus, Nampo-dong is only two subway stops away from Busan Station, which is great because you can just hop on a train and literally travel anywhere in South Korea from Busan Station.
One of the downsides about staying in Nampo-dong is its considerable distance to the beaches. You are also required to switch subway lines if you do go to the beach. Also, if seafood is not your thing, then you ought to consider staying somewhere else as the Jagalchi Fish Market contributes significantly to Nampo-dong's appeal.
A restaurant, business center, and health club serve the 51 guest rooms in this moderately priced hotel on Nampodong Street. The multilingual staff provides services for business travelers as well as tourists. Rooms typically have 1 double bed or 2 twin beds but there are special accommodations for families. In room services include flat screen tv, coffee maker and private bath. The decor is modern and inviting. BIFF square is just a short walk from the hotel. Guests also received complimentary WiFi and continental breakfast.
With 132 guest rooms, this large city hotel offers free WiFi and continental breakfast to its guests. Room include one double bed or 2 twin beds and are equipped with a refrigerator, flat screen tv and toiletries. Daily housekeeping is available and a small work area is located in each room for the business traveler. The hotel is just a short walk to BIFF square and accessible to any number of attractions from the subway station nearby.
An older hotel from a time gone by, the hotel still provides good service and accommodations. Its 30 guest rooms are supported by a multilingual staff that can provide room service, airport shuttle service and assistance with travel arrangements. The rooms may be smaller than newer hotels but each comes with either 1 double bed (2 people) or 1 double bed and a large twin bed (3 people). Each room as a small sitting area and access to free WiFi and premium tv channels. Complimentary breakfast is available.
If you’re seeking a university party vibe but aren’t really into beachy atmospheres, come to Kyungsung.
Haeundae has the class, Seomyeon has the downtown vibe. However, Kyungsung has the people, bars, and restaurants to keep you entertained for all seven nights of your week.
This university-centered neighborhood has a pretty vibrant nightlife thanks to its many bars and restaurants. Most of these locations are kept upbeat by stimulating university students and expats. There are loads of shopping opportunities in the area. If you have a soft spot for cheap antique and vintage shops, awesome cafes, and charming boutiques, this is the place for you.
If you’re up for streets crowded with trendy-looking students during the day and drunk-looking students during the night, Kyungsung will feel like paradise to you.
The Kyungsung area is also relatively close to Igidae Park. This beautiful park is one of Busan’s lesser-known scenic trails. It can be trekked inland or around the coast, teetering precariously over jagged boulders. Look straight, and you can see Haeundae Beach, and to the left, you'll see Gwangalli Bridge.
Igidae is made to be a relatively short, easy, and beautiful casual hike, and that it is.
Just a half a mile for Kyungsung University, this medium sized hotel has 52 smoke-free guestrooms with large private baths and multiple coffee shops and cafes nearby. It offers free WiFi and free parking and comforts such as daily housekeeping, 24-hour front desk, premium TV channels and access to microwave and refrigerator. The management offers two types of accommodations - a premium twin room which sleep 3 and a VIP family room which sleeps 6. Rooms include combinations of twin and double beds as well as sofa bed. Several attractions are within a short walk.
This guesthouse of 20 smoke-free rooms is located in the center of everything. Just a mile from Kyungsung University, the facility has free continental breakfast and free WiFi. Private bathrooms and laundry facilities complement the rooms which include a mix of twin and double beds for 2 to 4 people occupancy. Rooms are not large but the hotel is a short walk to Gwangalli Beach and the subway which can take you to many other attractions.
This hotel of 24 guest rooms offers a bar/lounge and deli for your convenience. In the morning be ready for an English Style breakfast while enjoying a quick look at the TV in the common area. Each room is individually decorated and has 2-3 twin beds. Rollaway beds are available for children. A full sized refrigerator and freezer is located in each room and other guest amenities such as iron and ironing board are included. It is located near some of the most interesting and unique sites in Busan.
If you're looking for a more authentic and less touristy experience in South Korea, you may consider visiting and staying in southern Nam-gu.
Nam-gu features a cluster of grand buildings and well-groomed parks. It is one of Busan's top tourist destinations. However, the south portion of the neighborhood is less frequented.
The road to Dayeon-dong’s main intersection is speckled with several chicken restaurants and upscale cafes. If you are into nature, Peace Park or Igidae Park are definitely must-visits. You can also pay a visit to the Busan Museum, which traces Busan's vast history in detail.
Located in Nam-gu and less that a mile from the Kyungsung University, this 32 room hotel has modern decor and a multilingual staff to greet guests. Daily housekeeping, premium tv channels and separate bathtub and shower are some of the comforts offered. Guest have free WiFi and free parking. Each room offers one queen bed. Children are welcome. In room amenities include bathrobes, large screen tv and computer desk.
This small guest house may be more like staying with friends than in a hotel. The couple who runs this has four room and provides free continental breakfast and free WiFi. On of the few locations that are actually listed as being in Nam-gu, guest have access to a microwave and refrigerator in the common areas and the comfort of a home setting. Attractions are nearby and the owners are available 24/7 for assistance. Beds are typically twin bunk beds and rooms can sleep 4 or more people.
The ideal 2-day itinerary for Busan
Places you must visit in Busan
As with any place as beautiful and interesting as Busan, a bit of planning can make for a much more enjoyable experience. Here are recommendations for a 2-day itinerary that will make sure all the highlights of the area are covered. If you have an extra day, spread the 14 attractions into a three or four day time frame.
1. Songdo SkyWalk
Located on Songdo Beach, Busan’s first official beach, the skywalk is well known as a romantic place of young people to stroll and see the night time views of the city. More of a meandering promenade than a bridge, the 365 meter long skywalk is intended to represent the curves of a dragon’s back as if he were flying across the sky. Open all year round, the skywalk is free and open to the pubic.
2. Gamcheon Culture Village
This identifiable setting of stairstep houses is nicknamed the “Machu Picchu” of Busan. Once a slum, its pastel colored homes that resemble a chaotic arrangement of LEGO blocks, is now one of the most popular and active tourist spots in Korea. Visit the village anytime to take pictures and just enjoy its architectural anomaly or check in at the information Center that includes a small museum, art shop, gift shop, cafe and restaurant. With a map and activities, visitors can collect stamps and experience some amazing street food on the walking tour. The Center also provides workshops for visitors (reservations required). When visiting the community, tourists are asked to be respectful of the residents rights in their own community.
3. BIFF Square, Gukje Market
A place to enjoy food and artistic endeavors, BIFF (Busan International Film Festival) Square is the home of the festival from which it got its name as well as a menagerie of food vendors and street merchants that create a delectable environment for the taste buds. Easily reached by subway, bus or on foot, one of the specialties in this Gukje Market area is a Korean style sweet pancake that is filled with seeds, known as a Ssiat Hotteok. Long lines can form as locals and tourists alike wait to taste this unique Korean snack. Entertainment and artistic performances are common around the square.
4. Jagalchi Market (Fish Market)
Recognized as Korea's largest seafood market, the market gained popularity following the Korean War and through the local women who were the primary vendors. Jagalchi still has several female vendors who supply the area with fresh and dried fish. Located along the shoreline of Busan, all types of exotic seafood can be purchased including whale meat, mackerel and other delicacies. The market is typically open the first and third Tuesday of every month beginning at 5 am.
Representing the true local culture in Busan, each October, the market holds the Jagalchi Cultural Tourism Festival during which the lifestyle of the community is remember and celebrated. Transportation to and from the market is available by subway.
5. Yeongdo Bridge
Restored in 2013 to its original glory after 47 years of disrepair, the Yeongdo Drawbridge now connects the mainland and Yeongdo Island. Originally built from 1932-34 during a period of Japanese occupation, the structure was the first bascule bridge, one with a pivoting section that allows larger boats to travel under it, operating in Korean. The bridge, associated with refugee efforts during the Korean War, is now a popular tourist attraction with as many as 1,000 visitors each day.
6. Samgwangsa Temple
Meaning “Three rays of light from Buddha”, the Samgwangsa Buddhist Temple is an ornately carved, pagoda style structure that includes a nine story high (100 ft) Dabotap tower and extensive grounds. It is considered the largest stone pagoda in Asia and can accommodate 10,000 believers at once. Each year the temple hosts a traditional Buddhist Lantern Festival (Buddha’s birthday) during which approximately 50,000 lighted lanterns are displayed. Located on the side of Beakyangsan Mountain, the temple is reachable by mini bus and is reportedly open 24 hours a day for those who wish to pay tribute to Buddha.
7. Mountain Hwangnyeongsan Observatory
Located in the heart of Busan, the Mountain Hwangnyeongsan Observatory sits at 427m above sea level. The mountain itself is the second highest peak in the Geumnyeon mountain range from which visitors have excellent views of three districts in Busan. Considered an older mountain range, the area is made up of small hills, plateaus with rock outcrops that are bisected by gentle river valleys.
Before heading to the summit, visit the public recreation and visitor center to get more information about the trails and how to reach your destination. Hiking and rock climbing are options as well as taking a winding drive up the hillsides.
For those interested in the rich history of the area, a trip to the Bongsudae (Beacon Fire Station) is recommended. The station was an important means of communicating with other communities along the mountain range. Messages often warned of invading armies and times of distress. In 2015, the Busan Tourism Organization opened a viewing lounge that provides casual dining and safe viewing from an area just below the Beacon Fire Station. A city tour bus is available to transport tourists to and from the observation area. Annual events such as the Sansinje (Ritual to the Mountain God) and the Beacon Lighting Ceremony are held on Hwangnyeongsan Mountain.
1. Dalmaji Road
Considered one of Busan’s eight scenic sites, Dalmaji-gil Road is a beachside walkway that is known for its views of the water and white sand field. A site that includes native Camellia groves and pines, it is often called Busan’s Montmartre. The site is open all year round and it is accessible by car and public transportation. Admission is free. A 10-15 minute walk for most, the small walkway is located just beyond Haeundae Beach near the corner of Songjeong Beach.
2. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
(Situated on the coast of the north-eastern portion of Busan.)
A rare site in Buddhist temples, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is situated on the coast of the north-eastern portion of Busan. The three-story pagoda design was first built in 1376 during the Goryeo Dynasty and is part of a compound that includes other structures and four carved lions as it overlooks the ocean. The animals symbolize the emotions of joy, anger, sadness and happiness.
The main sanctuary, which had fallen in disrepair was rebuilt in 1970 and sits just behind the pagoda. Other special areas of the site include the 108 steps and multiple stone lanterns that line the rocky landscape. Often visited on New Year’s Day to wish for a good year, the location is also frequented in the month of April when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Considered a special time of year to celebrate the birth of Buddha, this temple is often illuminated by ancient and new lanterns used as part of the celebration. The temple is open all year round with parking available and free admission.
3. Haeundae Beach
One, if not the most famous beach in Busan, Haeundae is known for its long stretch of white sand and blue water in a country of hillsides and rock outcroppings. "Haeundae" was so named by scholar Choi Chi-Won of the Silla Kingdom (57 BC - AD 935) and includes a shallow bay area that is perfect for swimming (open July 1 to August 31). With a maximum occupancy of 120,000 people at any given time, the beach provides facilities that include luxury hotels, private rentals, and attractions such as Dongbaek Island, Busan Aquarium and yachting experiences. It is also the location for any number of special venue events and festivals. Open to the public with free and specialty parking lots, the beach provides public restrooms, changing area and on staff police and rescue personnel.
4. Dongbaek Island (Island of Camellias)
An uncommon place of beauty and the sweet smell of Camellias, Dongbaek Island is located at one end of Haeundae Beach. Not really an island due to long years of sediment deposits which now connect the area to the mainland, the site is easily navigated by using the maintained walking path that winds through it. Some of the attractions on the island include the monument inscribed with a poem of scholar Choi Chi-won, the mermaid statue based on the legend of Princess Hwagok, and the Nurimaru APEC House. It also offers a wonderful treat to the nose when the camellias burst into bloom beginning in late winter and going through early spring. The area is designated a city monument and is open to the public free of charge. Parking is available and there is an observation deck with views of the harbor and surrounding area.
5. Oryukdo Skywalk
(Construction of this skywalk was with the theme of "walking over the sky")
Construction of this 15 meter long (approximately 50 ft) glass bridge was completed and opened to the public in October 2013. Known as the dividing point between the South Sea and the East Sea, visitors will be thrilled with the view of the waves while looking down through the transparent floor. The sea stretches out ahead of the skywalk, perfect for a photo op, as well as the best spot to see Daemado Island on sunny days. The bonded glass panels are bullet-proof and have been extensively tested for safety. Due to its slick surface and clarity, the bridge is closed during periods of rain and high wind. Pets are also permitted only if they can be carried. Those who cross the bridge can see waves and sea life through the bridge floor.
The five minute experience (crossing time) is on a first-come, first-served basis with a maximum number of 120 people allowed at one time. The site is free and open to the public between 9am and 6pm on most days. The bridge is nestled in the Haeundae Beach area.
6. UN Memorial Cemetery
A special place that honors those UN soldiers from 16 countries that were killed during the Korean War in the early 1950s. The site holds the graves of over 2300 persons and is the only one of its kind in the world. Grouped by nationality, the graves are distributed through 22 areas which take up 35 acres of ground. What began as a temporary cemetery and remain recovery area has since become a well organized place of memorial with several monuments dedicated to those who lost their lives. The cemetery is open to the public all year round from 9 am to dusk.
7. Busan Cinema Center
Located in BIFF Square and the home of Busan International Film Festival ( BIFF, this large arena was completed and opened in 2011. Comprised of four main buildings, the largest building (known as the Big Roof) is certified as the largest cantilevered roof in the world. An area of more than 54,000 square meters provides shopping, dining, and entertainment venues in one of the largest shopping malls in the world.