A laidback port town with a side of glamour

Busan may be South Korea’s second largest city but it sure knows a thing or two about relaxation – one look at those pretty beaches and you get the idea. Busan also doubles down on that laidback vibe with a whole host of day spas and steaming hot springs, too. Things get glamorous with the Busan International Film Festival, not to mention groovy tent bars and boutique restaurants and cafes. If you want to dip into history, you’ll find the ancient Beomeosa Temple and the 14th-century Haedong Yonggungsa temple overlooking the ocean. If outdoorsy adventure is more your thing, you can hike the mountains that undulate through the city. For food and culture thrills, don’t miss the Jagalchi Market, where you can eat sizzling street food and luscious seafood plucked fresh from the waters, then head up to Gamcheon Village, a hillside maze of art-flecked laneways and unforgettable views.

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Things to do

  • Brightly painted sculptures of a boy and a rabbit look over the colourful hillsides of Gamcheon Culture Village.

    Visit a hyper-coloured village

    Once a shanty town on the side of a steep mountain, the houses of Gamcheon Culture Village were famous for their brightly painted exteriors. This enclave of vertiginous streets and winding laneways has been recently restored and transformed into a colourful and creative hub of street art. It’s a major tourist drawcard thanks to its vibrant, art-filled streets. Dip into the Little Museum, snack on sticky, sweet street food and get lost in the wonder of these intricate residential alleys.

  • Bright umbrellas line the sand of the glamorous, city-side Haeundae Beach.

    Hit the glamorous beaches

    Busan is home to some glorious beaches, but Haeundae Beach is the one people really flock to for its bright white sand, easy swimming and glamorous, summer-holiday vibes. You’ll find luxury hotels and high-rise apartments nearby, as well as stylish cafes and restaurants. Haeundae itself is a prestigious suburb famous for hosting various events throughout the year, including part of the Busan International Film Festival.

  • A plate of fresh clams at Busan’s famous Jagalchi Fish Market.

    Fish with the locals

    If you’re heading to Busan, don’t miss the enormous Jagalchi Fish Market where hundreds of stalls are piled high with all kinds of fresh, dried and prepared seafood, and crowds of locals stock up on their favourite fish. If it’s making you hungry, don’t worry – there’s a bunch of restaurants or tasty street food stalls there, so you can snack away on local delicacies.

  • Songdo Marine Cable Cars glide high above the water in central Busan.

    Take a car with a view

    If you want a view with a thrill, get on board the Busan Air Cruise, a cable car that will take you high above the beaches and up towards the mountains for an unforgettable view. Each car holds up to eight people, so grab your friends and go flying. To supersize your thrills, book one of the Crystal Cruises after dark – they have transparent floors so you can watch the city glittering underfoot.

  • Busan City Tower glows brightly amid the Busan cityscape at night.

    Speed up to a panorama

    For the best view in the city – and quite possibly the highest view in South Korea – take a high-speed elevator all the way to the top of Busan Tower where you can get jaw-dropping panoramic views from the observation deck. The tower is situated in Yongdusan Park, which is home to some interesting statues and quirky museums, including one focusing on folk instruments. Time your visit on a Saturday afternoon and catch some live performances in the park.

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Airport information

Gimhae International Airport opens in new window

Distance to central Busan 12kms

Bus Limousine Buses stop at a range of places in Busan, including international hotels, or you can catch a local city bus to the downtown area.

Light rail The Busan Gimhae Light Rail will get you into the city centre in an hour and connects to two metro lines.

Taxi There are taxis at the airport but be aware the potential for heavy traffic. Black taxis are the more expensive options.

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When to go

Busan’s winters can be very chilly and summers can get uncomfortably hot, so aim for spring and autumn for the most travel-friendly weather. April is when the cherry blossoms start to appear and May has a bumper crop of festivals, including the beachside Sand Festival, the Busan International Performing Arts Festival and the Busan Lotus Lantern Festival. The Busan International Film Festival hits town in October.

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Getting around

Busan has a comprehensive and tourist-friendly bus system that traverses the city and surrounds. Other transport options include four subway lines, the light rail and plentiful taxis (black and red deluxe taxis are more expensive). The rechargeable Hanaro card is useful if you’re using public transport a lot during your stay.

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