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Busan - 10 Places to visit

Currently I'm sitting at the Busan Gimhae International Airport where I will take a flight to Jeju Island in a couple of hours. I'm reviewing the post I have been writing about the week I just spent in Busan. I have been looking back at the different spots I visited, to select my favorite ones, so I can blog about them.

It was not an easy task because Busan has a lot of different spots to enjoy the seaside and take nice pictures. There are many temples and naturals parks very close to the city and the place also offers some amazing seafood. Busan doesn’t feel like a single city but rather a collection of medium size cities glued together by bridges and surrounded by mountains.

My visit to Busan felt like a jigsaw puzzle: everyday I was taking the subway and / or the bus to visit a different area and bit by bit I was able to put all the pieces together and understand the layout of this second largest city in Korea.

There are the 10 places I liked the most:

  1. Taejongdae Resort Park.
  2. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.
  3. Yongdusan Park and Busan tower.
  4. Haeundae Beach.
  5. UN Memorial Cemetery.
  6. Gamcheon Culture Village.
  7. Beomeosa temple.
  8. Dongbaek Island.
  9. Jagalchi fish market.
  10. Busan Cinema Center and BIFF Square.

 

1. Taejongdae Resort Park.

One of the first surprises I got when I started visiting Busan was to find out there was park called Taejongdae, offering majestic views and beautiful cliffs in the southernmost tip of one the islands facing the open sea.The park offers an observation deck where some of the Japanese islands can be observed. There is also a white lighthouse with a downward path where you either eat raw fish in next to the waves crashing into the cliffs or walk to otherside to step into a natural flat platform made of stone and get an amazing view on the cliffs. I took the picture you see above when I was walking towards the viewing platform.
Tips and viewpoints:

  • The fastest way to get there is to take the bus 101 close to busan station.
  • It's possible to walk all the way up to the observatory but it's relatively long. A good alternative is to get a ticket for a "mini train" that costs 2000 KRW.
  • It's a good idea to go in the afternoon just before sunset. You get an amazing view of the light on the cliffs and the sea.
  • I didn't try the fresh seafood because I was full already, but I looked at the people eating next to the cliffs and it looked like a unusual but cool plan.
  • If you enjoy cliffs in general, this is one of the attractions you shouldn't miss from Busan. Look at the following video to get a glimpse on the waves crashing into the rocks:

2. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Most of the temples I have visited in my Korean trip are built up in the mountains, but this one is an exception. Haedong Yonggungsa is located next to the ocean in the north-eastern part of the city. The reason of this anomaly is because the temple was created by a great Buddhist teacher called Naong who apparently had a dream the Divine Sea god of the East Sea, commanding him to setup this temple on the seashore.At the entrance of the temple there are some statues of the twelve zodiac signs and a white big pagoda created for the safety of the drivers (yep, it has a tire on the bottom!). Once you go down the stairs and get into the actual temple, you realize that the location by the sea, creates a very special atmosphere, because you observe the traditional temple houses and statues and hear the traditional monk songs blended with the sound of the waves crashing into the stones.
Tips and viewpoints:

  • The easiest way to get there is by subway (line 2 to Haeundae Station) and from there the Bus 181.
  • The admission to the temple is free, but there is a parking fees.
  • There is a small store with benches where you can get an ice cream or a coffee and enjoy the view.

3. Yongdusan Park and Busan tower

 

The Yongdusan Park itself is relatively small containing only a couple of walkways and some trees, but last saturday when I visited this place there was some type of show where different performers were doing acrobatics on the stage. I spent some time there and it was interesting, but what I enjoyed the most about the park was the Busan Tower, a 118 meter high structure with a small cafe and a observatory on the top.The views were absolutely amazing! I spent easily 3 hours there because I was able to get pictures from the port, the mountains, the fish market area, the buildings in the city center and the multiple bridges glueing the city together .I took pictures during the daylight and the sunset and in both lighting conditions the view was breathtaking.
Tips and viewpoints:

  • You can get to the park using the electric stair from the BIFF shopping area. Otherwise you can walk and enter from the other side.
  • The cost of the admission to the tower is 4000 KRW and you can stay there as much as you want (believe me).
  • I'm addicted to the panoramic views of the cities I the visit to this one was definitively not a disappointment!

4. Haeundae Beach.

The first recommendation I found in most of the travel guides and books about Busan was the Haeundae beach. Since I was staying at the other end of the city, near to the Busan station, this wasn't my first choice on the places to visit, but after a couple days I was curious and I went there by subway.Haeundae is indeed beautiful with its fine sandy beach, beautiful landscape and good facilities. At this time of the year the water is too cold to get into the water, so there were only two brave souls swimming. (I saw some pictures of this place in summer and it look completely packed). In any case, even now, it's a good place to walk around and nearby there is the Haeundae market, a narrow lane full of street food options.
Tips and viewpoints:

  • There are many hostels and hotels on this area.
  • You can get by subway (line 2) and get out at the Haeundae stop.
  • From this beach you can easily walk to the Dongbaek Island.

5. UN Memorial Cementery

There is only one cementary in the world administered and maintained by the United Nations and that is the UN Memorial Cementery of Korea. The Parliament of Korea offered this land for permanent use as a UN managed cemetery in 1955 and it has been in place since then.This cemetery contains a memorial for all the countries that provided foreign troops that were killed during the war. There are tombs, statues, flags and memorial plaques across this cemetery that is maintained in pristine condition. The design and the gardens of this memorial are beautiful The entrance is guarded by South Korean soldiers wearing the same uniforms I saw when I visited the DMZ Zone. They ask you what is your nationality before letting you in.
Tips and viewpoints:

  • You can get there by subway Line 2, Kyungsung University & Pukyong National University stop
  • The guards might deny the entry if you are not properly dressed.
  • It's a cemetery, but it's also a peaceful place with a beautiful design.

6. Gamcheon Culture Village.

The cultural village of Gamcheon is not only of the most picturesque area of Busan, but it's also an important part of the Korean history. Busan was the only city that was never captured by the north and therefore it served as a refugee for thousands of people fleeing the fighting and Gamcheon was one of the areas where they settled.This area used to be the home to the city’s poorest residents, but the area have been experiencing a lot of transformation since 2009 and now it contains a lot interesting street art, cafes, traditional snacks and small souvenir shops. In conclusion it's a beautiful place worth to visit.
Tips and viewpoints:

  • You can get there using the subway (line 1 to Toseong station) and then the bus or 2-2 to the Gamcheon Elementary School. The bus stop is in front of a hospital.
  • Bring some comfortable shoes to Gamcheon because if you really want to appreciate you need to walk up and down quite frequently.
  • The photo opportunities on this place are around every corner.
  • If you feel like doing some hiking there is a nice pathway surrounding the village on the tophill.

7. Beomeosa temple.

Beomeosa Temple is one of Korea's most important temples and it's located at the edge of Mt. Geumjeongsan. The originl temple was built by the monk Ui Sang in 678, during the Silla Kingdom, but it was destroyed during one the Japanese invasions (surprise!). Currently the temple has different Buddha halls and Pagodas.
Tips and viewpoints:

  • You can reach the temple by subway (line 1 Beomosa station) and bus (90).
  • The temple is relatively close to the city, but since it's up in the mountains, it feels more far away.
  • The complex is beautiful with many traditional houses, stones and pagodas, you can easily spent a couple of hours there.
  • I visited the temple in Autumn on a sunny and this probably the best time to go. The colors on the folliage next to the ancient structures and the blue sky create a perfect mix to get some really cool pictures.

8. Dongbaek Island.

Dongbaek used to be an island in ancient times, but nowadays is more a small peninsula coming out of the Haeundae Beach. The place is a nice area full of pine trees and can be visited relatively quickly since it's a short walk from the Westin hotel.From the tip of Dongbaek there is a small lighthouse and platform where you can get nice pictures of the Haeundae area and the Gwangan Bridge.
Tips and viewpoints:

  • You can get there with subway (line 2 Stop Dongbaek)
  • An interesting walk is to go by subway to Haeundae walk all the way towards the beach and then continue right toward the Westin hotel and then finally visit the Dongbaek Island.

9. Jagalchi fish market.

Tokyo has the Tsukiji market and Busan has the Jagalchi Market, the the largest seafood market in Korea. The origin of the name is interesting: Jagal (small rocks) and ch'i (villages next to the seashore), the small rocks are long gone and they have been replaced by a concrete building, but still it's a really interesting place to eat fresh seafood on the spot.In the first floor you find sellers offering any kind of live fish, mussels, squids, crabs, lobsters and octopus. On the second floor you get the chance to eat some of these fresh food on the spot.
Tips and viewpoints:

  • You can get there by subway (line 1). The stop is called Jagalchi as well
  • It's definitively worth to go to the second floor and grab some fresh sea food. I had in Jagalchi the biggest sashimi plate I had ever eaten in my life!

10. BIFF Square and Busan Cinema Center

Unfortunately I missed the 19th edition of the Busan International Film festiva l(2th - 11th October) just by one week. This festival is apparently one of most important ones in Asia, where they introduce new films and first-time directors, especially those from Asian nations. There are two different spots in the city related to the film festival and I had the opportunity to visit both.

On one hand there is the BIFF Square, the original venue of the film festival, offering a "Star Street" where you can find the hands printed of famous actors, actresses and directors (such as the Juliette Binoche in 2010). The place also offers many stalls for food, souvenirs and clothes. The BIFF square is just across the Jagalchi seafood market.

On the other hand there is the Busan Cinema Center, located on the other end of the city, in centum city. This is the current venue of the film festival where its opening and closing ceremonies take place. This Cinema Center offers a huge open air theater covered by a large ceiling constantly displaying LED animations:

Tips and viewpoints:

  • You can get to both places by Subway BIFF Square (Line 1. Stop Jagalchi) and Busan Cineman Center (Line 2. Stop Centum city)
  • I would recommend going to the Busan Cinema Center at night so you can appreciate the LED animations in the roof.

I'm leaving Busan now, but as you can see from the previous post, I bring with me a lot of nice memories from this city.