While South Korea’s second city might not be as easy on the eyes as Seoul at first glance, its coastal location and rich cultural heritage make it a fascinating place to spend a few days. Whether you’re a beach bum, history buff, shopaholic or foodie, you’ll find your fix in Busan.
Day 1: Beaches and Buddhas
A majority of tourists, both domestic and international, come to Busan for one reason: the beach. Haeundae Beach, the most famous stretch of sand, extends for nearly a mile (1.5 kilometers) and is lined by some of the city’s top hotels and restaurants. Hit the sands of Haeundae (or one of Busan’s other beaches) in the morning before the crowds descend for some swimming, sunning or water sports. In the afternoon, head into the hills to visit one or two of Busan’s other claims to fame: its temples. If you only have time to visit one, Beomeosa Temple makes an excellent choice. Dating back to 678 CE, this complex sits near the top of Geumjeongsan Mountain and is considered one of the most significant Buddhist temples in the region. Visitors who don’t want to stray far from the sea should opt for Haedong Yonggungsa Temple instead; while this coastal complex is most famous for its stunning sunrise views, it’s also a lovely place to watch the waves crashing come dusk.
Day 2: Retail Therapy
Much like Seoul, Busan is a shopping lover’s dream come true, with everything from trendy boutiques to sprawling street markets. Even non-shoppers should plan a morning visit to Jagalchi Fish Market, the largest seafood market in South Korea. Walking among the stalls is like visiting an exotic aquarium filled with critters you’ve likely never seen before, and when you get hungry, you can buy your lunch and have it cooked up at one of the market’s many restaurants.
For a more traditional market experience, spend a few hours wandering the maze of vendors at Gukje Market. Budget-minded shoppers will find a little of everything here, and all at some of the most competitive prices in the city. If you’re looking for a new wardrobe, spend some time ducking in and out of the independent boutiques in Nampodong, Busan’s theater district.
Day 3: Journey Back in Time
Now that you’ve experienced a few of Busan’s highlights, it’s time to head out of town for some fresh countryside air and a history lesson. Located just 90 minutes from Busan, the coastal city of Gyeongju was once the capital of the Silla Dynasty and is home to UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Bulguksa Temple and the Seokguram Grotto. The Royal Burial Grounds at Tumuli Park house some 200 tombs in giant, grass-covered mounds.